Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Current Availability

Our summer schedule has filled up with designs and consultations, and a few speaking engagements. Look for us Sunday, August 20th, at Rohde's Nursery in Garland. We'll be speaking to the monthly meeting of Native Plant Society, Garland Chapter, about gardening in autumn with native plants. September 16th we'll be speaking about landscaping with native plants at the annual wildscape workshop; details to follow. Other requests for our speaking services have come in recently and we'll be sure to post that info as soon as it's finalized.

With all the flurry of activity, we thought this might be a good time to update our availability for the remainder of 2006. We are unable to meet with any new clients, regardless of the type of desired services, until September. You will notice specific dates of availability listed below, but generally speaking, we have filled our installation schedule for 2006. We will begin meeting again with new clients interested in installation in mid-February 2007.
  • Consultation Only services: next available appointment is September 11th.
  • Design services: next available appointment is September 11th.
  • Installation services: next available meeting is February 14th, 2007; planting will occur March - May 2007, and September - October 2007.
  • Speakers' services: available after September 11th.
  • Fall Maintenance: November 1st until Thanksgiving.
  • Winter Maintenance: mid-January through February (specific dates depend on severity of winter)
  • Summer Maintenance: June 2007.

This week and next we are finishing another batch of designs. We're also refining those changes I keep hinting about. Sneak peek -- we will expand some services and scale back others; we'll roll out a few new services specially designed for busy people who want our creative input, but haven't the time for face-to-face meetings. (Think 'online design!') There are many exciting opportunities ahead of us and we are eager to share our joy with you!

Friday, July 21, 2006

Looking Ahead

Drought conditions persist, and it looks like many communities in our area will soon be under Stage 4 watering restrictions. NO OUTDOOR WATERING. Period. I've heard many people complaining about government dictating their water consumption behaviors. Obviously, not everyone understands the seriousness of our water crisis. Lake levels are plummetting, rainfall is well below normal, yet we continue to consume, consume, consume. Something must change.

Since we can't exactly force nature to deliver buckets of rain (unless someone out there is quite skilled at rain dancing), the only possibility is to mandate residents use less water. If we could all eliminate waste -- in the form of runoff or unnecessary, excessive watering -- we could slow the rapid depletion of our water sources. The target set by North Texas Municipal Water District is a 5% reduction in consumption -- easy. That equates to approximately one less load of laundry per week or one minute less per zone on your irrigation system.

But David and I would like to challenge our readers to do more. Drastic times call for drastic measures, as the saying goes, so we are asking you to aim for 10% (or more) in your reduction. Let's make it fun. Try water-conserving techniques for one month and then let us know the percentage by which you reduced your consumption and measures that were successful. We'll post your comments to this blog. Here are some water-wise suggestions:

  1. Run your irrigation system only 10 minutes per zone, once per week.
  2. Hand-water 20-30 seconds per plant, twice per week, or as-needed.
  3. Wash one less load of laundry per week -- maybe two!
  4. Run one less load of dishes per week; try hand-washing a few times per week. Wash in a bucket, then use the 'grey water' to water your landscape.
  5. When showering, turn off the faucet while lathering up your body with soap, rinse. Turn off water while lathering shampoo, rinse. Repeat when applying conditioner, as well.
  6. Share these suggestions with your neighbors.
  7. Nobody likes a tattle-tail, but report water-wasters. We are in crisis mode and all must work together!

Server Down

We're not able to receive emails today because our webhosting provider's server is down. If you have sent a message, not to worry. Our email should be up and running later today -- we'll respond as soon as possible!

UPDATE as of 1:11pm Central Time: The server should start delivering our email messages within the next 2-3 hours. The webhosting company apologizes for any inconvenience this may have caused you or us. Hope to speak with you soon!

GRR, Update as of 7:21pm Central Time: Allegedly, the webhost's email server is fully functional again and we are to begin receiving emails this evening and throughout tomorrow. I don't know. If you have sent a message Thursday afternoon through now, I haven't received it and most likely won't until Monday (not sure what time.) If your message is urgent, please give us a call at the office: 972-596-3889. We don't keep regular office hours on weekends, but if you'll leave us a message, we will get back to you as soon as we receive it. Again, sorry for the inconvenience that is out of our control.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Natives in the 'desert'

Yesterday David checked up on the project at Innisbrook in Fort Worth. Electricity and water were finally available, and the plants needed a drink post haste. The installation was completed about 2 weeks ago, there has been little to no rain, it's been hot and dry as the Mojave, and the irrigation system was inoperable until electricity had been connected. We expected to find a wasteland where our beautiful landscape once stood.

Amazingly, not one plant was lost. All are still alive, though some are struggling. He programmed the irrigation system, so now these hardy natives will get the consistent watering they need to become established.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Natives vs. Water-Wise

Water restrictions and drought conditions have compelled many of us to rethink our approach to gardening. Residential customers are losing plants, or they fear their plants will die. Landscapers, irrigators, lawn maintenance techs -- many others in this industry are promoting drought-resistant plants or 'water-wise' methods. Municipalities and other governmental entities are doing their best to educate all these people. Growers and nurseries are shifting to meet the changing needs of the public. Hats off to everyone for their urgency during these record-breaking times.

One question that continues to pop up is why natives? There are plenty of suitable water-wise plants, like Nandina and Crepe (or Crape) Myrtle -- why do we limit ourselves to native plants and a few 'unusual' adaptable species? I guess the clearest explanation is that our mission isn't limited to just conserving water. Water is only one of our natural resources, and our approach is more of a 'big picture' perspective. Water-wise plants, certainly, will help us slow our consumption and reduce our water waste. But that's just a band-aid cure for a cultural 'ailment.'

Take Privet (or Ligustrum), for example. Drought-hardy, evergreen, grows well in our climatic conditions. Easy to grow, too easy, in fact. If allowed to grow naturally (though most in this area are sheared and clipped into geometric shapes) it will produce plentiful berries that attract birds. Another plus, right? Before you answer, consider this oversimplified scenario: the birds who eat the berries must digest and expel them somewhere. This process scarifies the seeds and promotes their germination. Often these 'volunteer plants' are started in natural areas, therefore the Privet is allowed to grow naturally, produce berries, attract birds, and, eventually, more volunteer Privet. Wow, a forest of free shrubs. Sounds wonderful, right? Wait. If this quick-growing, easy-to-volunteer evergreen shrub is not maintained, it must be enormous. What happens to the native, low-growing vegetation? This diverse food source for native birds and other wildlife? What happens to those species of animals that depend on native vegetation for their habitat, as well? Sadly, all succumb to the invasive Privet.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept includes Privet on their 'do not plant' list, yet it is still being grown, sold, planted and recommended by others within our industry. It's a beautiful plant, but in our climate it becomes exotic invasive and chokes out our natural beauty, altering our ecosystem. We do not plant it, and frankly, take great joy in making mulch of it at every opportunity.

Being water-wise is important but is only one facet of resource management. Native plantings help to achieve this larger goal. Following are just a few of the benefits, and the reasons we do what we do:
  • Not only do native plants help to reduce water consumption, they help to keep our local resources clean. Natives thrive without synthetic chemicals, most of which linger in your lawn and planting beds and are leached into our local creeks and streams by way of runoff. Polluted waterways = contaminated water source for local wildlife.
  • No chemicals means healthier soil.
  • When natives are used properly, e.g. the right plant for the right place, they require very little maintenance. Several resources are affected:
  • Air -- no geometric shapes, so a reduction in gas-powered equipment. Less frequent use of this equipment means fewer unregulated contaminants are released into the air we breathe.
  • Gas -- Also, less frequent use of this equipment means less dependence on natural gas/oil.
  • Money -- Fewer plants must be replaced each year (because the natives will either return as perennials or reseed as annuals); none will be spent on synthetic chemicals (unless you have a nut sedge grass problem, which is a post for another time) or trimming shrubs; and much less will be spent on gas and oil to operate your maintenance equipment.
  • Time -- Less time spent struggling with high-maintenance plants means more time spent picking flowers, engaging in hobbies or enjoying family and friends.
  • Natives provide food and shelter for many native species of birds, butterflies and other wildlife. Without natives, these species must adapt, move along to other communities who have embraced natives, or die. And without them, our ecosystem will be out of balance.
  • Natives establish a regional identity. Californians boast of Redwood Sequoia forests; Iowans are proud of their Buckeyes; Floridians champion their palms. Which plant screams 'Blackland Prairie'?

The Final Project

Today we're 'emergency mulching' for several clients and getting ready for our final installation for a while. Later this week we will be planting another native plant display for Sandlin Homes at their Lake Vista development in Fort Worth. To date, we have completed projects at Bedinger Place, Boling Ranch, and Innisbrook. David checked on them recently and, despite the drought, all were doing quite well. They are still young plantings, but they look beautiful. We feel confident they will survive even the hottest and driest of conditions.

Next week we will check on a few residential projects and meet with new clients. The rest of the month will be spent planning for fall and discussing those changes I keep mentioning.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Wet Stuff?

This strange liquidy stuff fell from some white, puffy things -- I think they're called 'clouds' -- yesterday and all our plants look grateful. Was that...rain? There were reports of up to 2" in Frisco. No, water restrictions haven't been lifted, but every little drop helps.