November 13, 2023
A few weeks ago in Dallas, I met up with Jay of NewTexasGardens at his home garden. It was great to meet a fellow Instagrammer whose photos I admire and who posts interesting content, like measuring the temperature of artificial turf on a hot summer day and comparing it to concrete, mulch, black gravel, and St. Augustine grass. (Surprise! The faux turf measured hotter than all of them.) Jay isn’t a purist about it, but he believes in the intrinsic value of growing native plants. He’s challenged himself to plant his front yard in a central Dallas neighborhood “almost exclusively with natives…but to maintain a tidy, almost minimal look.”
And it looks great! Along the sunny side of the yard, ‘Shenandoah’ switchgrass, coneflowers (gone to seed), and ‘Raydon’s Favorite’ fall aster add color and movement, as well as food for pollinators and seed-eating birds.
Yucca pallida stays small while providing evergreen structure and a starburst shape that contrasts with billowing grasses and asters.
‘Raydon’s Favorite’ fall aster in full bloom
By the front porch, Webberville sedge (Carex perdentata, also called meadow sedge) makes a soft groundcover that can handle bright shade. Twin potted Agave scabra frame the front steps.
The agaves are not winter hardy in Dallas, Jay points out. He says he meant to buy Agave americana but picked these up by mistake. Since both species are cold tender in pots, I wonder if it might work to pull a few pups during the summer and over-winter those for replanting each spring. That would keep them at a reasonable size too. Alternatively, a small yucca like pallida, rupicola, or ‘Bright Edge’ would be an option, having a better cold tolerance than agaves. I’ll be interested to see what Jay decides, come winter.
A gentle S-curve path defines the shady foundation bed. Here, Jay is growing coralberry (Symphoricarpos orbiculatus) as a low hedge — an inspired choice! — with a few Turk’s caps, flowering bulbs (I think), and Webberville sedge.
In the challenging, skinny strip between the driveway and fence, Jay has a mini-meadow of little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), pale purple coneflower (Echinacea pallida), paleleaf yucca (Yucca pallida), pitcher sage (Salvia azurea), and tall liatris (Liatris aspera).
The bees were going for the sky-blue pitcher sage.
Muscling it out for space
In back, Jay is pondering a redesign using more natives, but I had to admire this nonnative shade combo of prostrate Japanese plum yew and purple oxalis.
One last look at the fizzy flower spikes of ‘Shenandoah’ switchgrass. Thanks for the tour, Jay!
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