December 5, 2010

Texas Cottage Style Gardening

Garden and Gun is an odd title for a magazine, but it works.  The magazine is a Southern lifestyle magazine with articles on food, hunting, fishing, gardening, decorating, etc.  There are an unfortunate number of advertisements in the magazine which is a plague throughout magazines generally, but the articles are lovely and delightfully photographed.

"The Lake Effect" is one such article that features a farmstead in the Texas Hill Country, but I worry about the author's qualification to write articles with regard to gardening since lavender, Lombardy poplars, and blush roses are not indigenous to Texas or even the Americas although all three grow beautifully in Texas.  Perhaps she could have remembered Shakespearean references to lavender and roses or recognized Lombardy as some sort of clue about the poplar's origin.  However, you can find local granite and limestone.  Regardless, the pictures are definitely worth viewing.  The composition and use of materials definitely fit within, what I call, the Texas cottage style.

Canyon Daisy and Barrel Cactus
The style is a rustic mixture of stone, weathered wood, rangy plants, minimal punctuation points, stark contrasts, and dense planting.  Walking along wide paths, you can find thickets of perennials and wildflowers, a pillow of black foot daisy resting on decomposed granite, and the filtered sunlight of Mexican Feather Grass highlighting a neighboring agave.  Central Texas is known for its own contrasts ranging from heavy rain and wildflowers to drought and jagged stone, and the style is born from an aesthetic and out of necessity.

The architecture of the garden and the plants must be able to endure and thrive through wet winters and dry summers.  Rarely does the style exclusively involve truly native plants.  The plants may all be native to Texas, but there are a few stretches of the imagination when it comes to its native status.  There may be yuccas from the border of Mexico and trees from the border of Louisiana.  The style depends upon a blend of plants, and occasionally the blend ranges the globe including rosemary and aloes which are immensely popular plants in Central Texas. Some of the most common and best adapted plants are native to the Southwestern US, Mexico, Chile, Western South Africa, and Mediterranean countries.  Some of the most popular plants are rosemary, lavender, bluebonnets, oaks, sage bushes, salvia, aloes, agaves, poppies, barrel cactus, ornamental grasses, sunflowers, iris, lantana, and daylilies.

Raindrops on Santolina
Thankfully, there are a good number of plants to select as fillers and as punctuation points.  For the punctuation points, it's hard to go wrong with a big agave or maybe some sky pencil holly.  Perhaps the punctuation points are architectural.  For garden ornamentation, you might find stock tanks, limestone boulders, rusty metal sculpture, driftwood, and pots in the shape of a cowboy boot.  You will also likely find retaining walls and dry creek beds to help control erosion.  Then there are the variety of fencing from iron and sheet metal to cedar slats and boards.  Often you will find a combination of fencing materials which adds a bit more cottage charm.

Gopher Plant and Purple Fountain Grass
Dense planting helps to cover the earth, retain moisture, and control weeds, which makes cottage style gardening perfect for Central Texas gardeners.  It's hard to muster the motivation to weed in 100F weather, and the weeds don't stop around here during the winter which makes weeding a year-long chore without respite.  It might slow down a bit, but it never really stops.  Retaining as much moisture as possible is also critical because rainfall is heavy and infrequent.  This dense planting style is also encouraged by the San Antonio Water System to help protect water.

Rustic charm with a little twang is Texas gardening at its best, and what style better suits a Texas gardener with a plant addiction?  I don't think I could ever be able to have a formal, minimalist, desert, or meadow garden without starting to itch and rip everything out for some change in scenery.  So long as other people have those types of gardens, I'll be content to see theirs and meddle in mine. 


  1. What an informative post. I have friends in Texas, but I know very little about gardening there. Will try to read up too before I visit this winter.

  2. You should be writing for Gun and Garden. What a great description of Central Texas gardens. I love it.

  3. I liked your description of Texas gardens. Twang and all. Nice photos.

  4. I second what your commenter, Webb, really should be writing for Gun and Garden!!! Excellent post...wonderful writing! I have a female neighbor who would love this publication...I will have her check it out for sure! She's a gun toting gardening mama!!! :)

  5. Ficurinia - If you want to check out some videos, we have a local gardening show called Central Texas Gardener that covers all sorts of gardening styles, tips, and techniques:

    webb - What a nice thing to say!!

    GWGT - Thanks, darlin'!

    Julie - Thanks and glad to be of help!


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