I carry my sketchbook with me everywhere. It helps me quickly jot down visual ideas about design and I find that I learn and remember better from something I've drawn myself instead of from a photo. Lately, I have been sketching small courtyards around Houston and taking notes on how the spaces are organized and how the container plants or small in-ground plants grow within the space. These quick drawings help me learn what works and what could be done better in small urban gardens at homes, businesses, and restaurants. The best courtyard gardens feel intimate, like secret gardens, and also inviting. The trick is to use the vertical surfaces in a smart and efficient way so that the space is private and quiet. Here is a selection of recent courtyard drawings from my sketchbook:Read More
Houston is a great city for growing vines. We have courtyard walls and residential fences that are spilling over with Bougainvillea, Creeping Fig, and Passion Flower. Every spring, the walls of Jasmine perfume entire neighborhoods with their sweet white star-shaped flowers. Vines are very useful for bringing lush texture to small spaces and spaces with tight corners and vertical surfaces. Some of the most commonly used vines here include Confederate Jasmine, Creeping Fig, and Bougainvillea. There are dozens of other species that are easy to care for and bring unique flowers and textures to the garden. Here are some of my favorites for their colorful flowers, all in the red-pink-purple tones, with links to more information and photos of the flowers:Read More
Last summer, I traveled to a remote and wide open landscape of the far south southern coastal Texas range along the border between the US and Mexico: the Rio Grande Valley. The landscape there was unlike any I've experienced before and yet pieces of it felt so familiar: the white sand of the salt flats and gorgeous grasslands flowing under the Acacia trees.Read More
There is an old live oak tree, Quercus virginiana, growing outside of my studio. Miraculously, it grows in a narrow space and hosts an amazing diversity of birds. Its trunk diameter is 12 feet with a canopy spread of 50 or more feet. Its flaring trunk base has popped the sidewalk up on one side and self-truncates at the curb. It grows in a public right of way that's only 15 feet wide between street and sidewalk. 'm lucky to see the animals that live in and visit this tree each day and I'm sharing some of my favorite moments with you on the blog as the first in my "nature journal" series.Read More
Houston's soil is mucky, silty, and full of clay that's nutrient dense, but typically has poor drainage. I approach landscape design for residential gardens in Houston by selecting plants that thrive in the native soil and in the rain extremes. In 2004, Houston received 12 inches of rain in one day. Not long after, our city had a drought year with only 14 inches of rain in 12 months.
To help you choose plants for our wonderfully hot and humid climate, I am creating these short plant palettes to showcase groups of plants that work well together in the garden. This first palette of three sun-loving flowering plants are all native and tolerate clay soil, high humidity, and drought.Read More