Savannah. Charleston. New Orleans. San Antonio. These colonial-era cities inspire the courtyard garden ideal: green and lush, with beautiful plants, pools and fountains, paved with stone, tiles or bricks, & protected by sheltering walls with gates that reveal a table and chairs for cocktails or an al fresco meal...

Gardening Prinicples

I believe in "sustainable gardening," and by that I mean gardening in a way that will sustain our environment in a safe and responsible fashion, and sustain the beauty of my yard & courtyard in the fashion that I desire. Learn more here & here & here.

I don't routinely use pesticides or 'weed and feeds.' My favorite bug spray is the end of my hose. If there ever is a really severe infestation, I will spot treat only. I never collect my grass clippings, because I use a mulching blade and leave the clippings as free mulch on the lawn. Sometimes, in February, when the live oaks drop all of their leaves at once, I will bag, but then apply the leaves to my acid-hungry fern garden. (I've been known to poach bags of live oak leaves from neighbors, too.) Ironite is the only thing I will spread on the lawn, to help prevent chlorosis from our alkaline soil which prevents plants from absorbing iron properly, and it contains no phosphorus.

I have converted several areas of my lawn to non-lawn alternatives which require less water. There just isn't a reason to continue to try to grow grass in deep shade! Gravel beds or groundcovers! High traffic areas? Permable Pavement! A little swath of grass can be left as a mini lawn and is much quicker to mow and maintain, too. Check out LawnReform.org.

For potted plants on the patio, cacti, succulents, and other desert plants really do make more sense. I haven't completely changed over, but started several years ago out of sheer desperation from watering. Cycads and some true palms also tolerate pots and provide a more lush appearance.

For example, don't bother with boston ferns in our climate - use Epiphyllum anguliger in a hanging basket. Much less water and copious neighborly complements. All of the "night blooming cereus" relatives are great for this treatment.

As far as water goes, I don't have a "rain garden," that is, a place where overflow from the roof gutters collects into a marshy low area. It would look more like the Sonoran Desert here. It would be a great idea in an area of the country with a little more rainfall. All of my downspouts direct water out and into the garden on all sides of the house, none goes directly to drains and the sewer. I try to group plants together with similar watering needs. I have an in-ground sprinkler system which I maintain regularly and don't over-use. I hate to see people's systems sprinkling in the rain!

I would like to have a compost heap or one of those barrels which rotate. I need to check to see if I could put one on the East side of the house. I like Mrs. Greenthumbs' (Cassandra Danz) idea of composting in situ, that is, burying weeds under your mulch right where you pull them up - it saves time and steps. I miss her by the way. She was hilarious. I think I'll re-read her book.