Shady Retreat Design

Heather Ginsburg

This shady retreat is not only a feast of foliage for the eyes, it boasts native species, requires very little water, maintenance and fertilization, and is an inviting habitat for creatures both wild and domestic.

When you walk into this garden you’ll be surrounded by a sea of green coolness. It looks green, smells green… and it is green! This garden is sustainable because it has many native species, requires very little water, needs minimal maintenance and fertilization, and it provides habitat for many creatures. (I entered this garden from the sweltering heat of the sunny street in the middle of August and it immediately felt several degrees cooler.)

What makes this garden extra special is that it’s evergreen and shady — that means it looks this good every month of the year, and it’s enjoyable to relax in every month of the year. The colors of the garden are every shade of green imaginable.

A few other things that make it extra special are the naturalistic quiet feel and the textures, colors and movement of the foliage. Also notable is the absence of grass, despite two dogs calling this garden home. If you think you need grass with dogs, think again. Instead of turf, Mark Word, the designer of this garden opted to use mass planted Berkeley sedge (Carex divulsa) which makes this garden look bright and soft, and require minimal irrigation. Sedge also grows well under trees in deep shade where turf thins and dies.

Low-voltage lighting in this garden illuminates the path beautifully and has a low impact on wildlife that call this garden home. The Leuders limestone slabs make a generous, flat, stable and modern walk easy to navigate to the front door. Because the slabs are so wide, it makes this smaller garden appear grander and formalizes the entrance as well.

Design Key

Texas Sedge An evergreen grass substitute for slightly shady areas. Great for sandy or well-drained soil.
Bamboo Muhly Playful, billowy foliage on a xeric bunchgrass. Despite the name, no relation to bamboo.
European Olive A drought tolerant and low maintenance evergreen for the home orchard.
Texas Persimmon Silver and black. A tough, adaptable ornamental great for native plantings or a simple small tree.
Sandankwa Viburnum A rustic woodland viburnum for a shady evergreen edge.
Inland Sea Oats Beautiful, drooping seeds heads are a clean and bright green during the growing months and a warm, toasty brown in cooler months.
Path Lights Low-voltage lighting in this garden illuminates the path beautifully and has a low impact on wildlife that call this garden home.

For other perspectives and a sneak peak of this garden before tour day see Central Texas garden bloggers Pam Penick’s and Shirley Fox’s well done posts. Also, look for this garden on Central Texas Gardener next spring!

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