Designer's Sketchbook: Courtyard Studies

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:

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Plant Palette: 3 tough native beauties

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. 

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Tree Care: 5 Ways to Keep your Mature Trees Healthy

Mature trees are a valuable commodity in the yard because they take a long time to establish and then become gorgeous specimens that provide shade and year-round benefit to wildlife. Protecting them by keeping them in great health is an effective way to invest in the long-term look of your landscape. 

It’s easy to take mature trees for granted since they often do so well, and provide great beauty and enjoyment, without much help from us. And yet, intense weather events can take their toll. Follow these five steps to ensure that your trees are healthy, resilient, and will survive harsh wind, heavy rain and extended drought for generations.

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