An honest look at Xeriscaping

Archive for the "Laura’s Favorite Things" Category

Last summer’s miserable conditions and Dallas’ new water ordinance have a lot of people talking about Xeriscaping. Much has been written on this subject, but I’d like to share my own thoughts on Xeriscaping on this blog post.

When people imagine Xeriscaping they either think of this:

 or this:

Photo: Kye R. Lee/Staff Photographer for the Dallas Morning News

This from a Dallas Morning News Article:

The first picture is the ideal: an English style garden with lots of color, varying texture and everything looks perfect.  Meanwhile, some might consider the second picture to have a more “rangy” or “weedy” look and lack color.

Both are true xeriscapes, though very different, the biggest difference is most likely maintenance.  The number one request I have from my clients is a low-maintenance garden. If a wild and untamed look (like the second picture) is what you’re going for, you can get away with performing very little maintenance in a xeriscape. However, most people expect their xeriscape to resemble the top picture, and that requires a lot of maintenance to achieve.

Beyond maintenance, gardens are affected by  conditions that are completely out of our control like heat and the changing seasons.  Even the most well maintained xeriscapes are in their blooming prime for just a few weeks in the late spring and early summer. Seasonal factors are at play in a dramatic way in a xeriscape. Many of our most beloved perennials only bloom during certain phases of a single season (early summer but not late summer, early fall but not late fall, etc.), some are not evergreen and most need dead-heading on a regular basis to achieve repeat bloom periods.   In general, xeriscapes will have portions of the garden looking great during different seasons but a flashy, lush look all year is not realistic.

What is the solution?  I think what many clients are looking for is a balance of hardy lawn and hardy landscape beds.  This balance of lawn and beds will result in a more organized, elegant landscape with far less seasonal maintenance beyond some mowing.  A really great example of this kind of landscape is the Four Seasons hotel property in Austin.   Below are a couple of pictures I took during a recent visit.

Lawn and hardy landscape beds

Hardy landscape bed with custom iron planter

There are some really great lawn grasses that are very hardy for our region.  The most common are Bermuda (for sunny lawns) and Zoysia (for both sun and partial shade lawns).  As for the landscape beds, there are lots of plants that do well in North Texas that are quite tough, give a lush and colorful look, do not look weedy or rangy, and are also not “one-season wonders”. See a few of my favorites below.

For more information on the new City of Dallas watering ordinance, please visit:

My Favorite “Pretty” Tough Plants

African Iris

'Home Run' Rose

Dwarf Wax Myrtle

Harbour Dwarf Nandina

'Green Cloud' Texas Sage

After nearly three years in business, one baby and half a pregnancy later, Tyson Gardens is finally and officially at home on the World Wide Web! I am Laura Tyson, and this is my inaugural blog post.

I thought I would start off by saying that since Tyson Gardens is currently a one-woman show, and residential landscape design is a personal and direct kind of engagement – this blog will be candid and from my personal perspective. I will cover topics on garden management, update you on the latest TG projects, and share with you many of the things that inspire and excite me about garden design.

This is the place where you will get to know me as a designer and lover of all things beautiful. In that spirit, I’d like to start our conversation with a few of my favorite things.  Please, enjoy!

Paris with my husband will always top the list – even in the bitter cold.

The Arboretum with my daughter, a close second.

Snow days and our snow-white dog, Buddy.

This side of town and this time of day.

Parisian flower shops.

Variegated Pittosporum – they make any place feel cool and soft, smell like eucalyptus, and remind me of southern California.

The Walter Lamb Collection – proportion, balance, an S-curve and brass… what more do you need?


Beautifully crafted terracotta containers.

The buffet I designed and Tim Coursey built for our home inspired by French Moderne furniture of the 20’s. This was a proud moment for me as a designer.

Modern Art and the Nasher Sculpture Center – architecture, landscape architecture and art in perfect harmony.

Thanks for visiting! Please come back soon.