A Landscape Design Challenge

Winter is the perfect time to take on a landscape project in San Antonio. It’s comfortable to work outside, and plants will get a chance to get their roots started before hot weather returns.

Several years ago I pledged to remove many of the aggressive non-native plants in my home landscape. These are species that tend to spread to natural areas pushing out plants that benefit wildlife. It took persistence, but now a big area has been emptied of noxious vinca, nandina, and pyracantha. While it is exciting to contemplate the many options for replacement plants, I used this opportunity to pull together a more unified design for the entire front yard.

Luckily I have some talented friends in Heather Ginsburg and Brad Wier and an extensive resource in that provides just about everything I need to design.

Heather and Brad promised to help me overcome some of the landscape challenges in my neighborhood: deer, exposure and thin soil.


It’s difficult to find plants that will not be decimated by my hungry neighborhood deer. Every herd of deer has a different notion of what they will and will not eat. I have a good sense of which plants will be unharmed based on what is still thriving in nearby neighborhood landscapes, but I look forward to trying some new, hardy native, deer resistant plants.


It is wonderful to have enormous live oak and cedar elms shading much of my front yard, but while some plants will thrive in the dense shade, others will suffer. An adjacent section of the driveway receives a full blast of direct sun from the West, requiring plants that can handle the punishing heat. Choosing plants that can meet both conditions will keep things interesting. Look at our Find a Plant.


There is very little native organic matter in my neighborhood on the edge of the Texas Hill Country. While I have added compost and mulch over the years, the truth is that I will get best results working with a palette of plants suited to thin soil conditions. Anything needing constant moisture or deep soils will not thrive in my yard.

Winter is the perfect time to take on a landscape project like this. It’s not too hot to work outside and my plants will have a chance to get their roots started before hot weather returns.

Visit for the designs that our staff propose.

Picture of Karen Guz
Karen Guz
Karen grew up taking family vacations to national parks and scenic rivers. A one-time kayak river guide in her home state of Pennsylvania, she got herself to Texas as fast as she could. Now as the vice president of Conservation for SAWS, she is responsible for meeting San Antonio’s long-term water conservation goals by leading a high energy, creative team of conservation planners. She first worked for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service providing a variety of horticulture and 4-H educational programs to the community before joining SAWS in 2000. When she’s not helping San Antonio live up to its reputation as a national leader in water conservation, she enjoys the outdoors as an avid hiker…continuing the tradition of luring the rest of her family to national parks and ranger talks.
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