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landscape design budget

Landscape Design on a Budget

Winter doldrums may have you thinking about how you would like to transform your yard this spring.  And with that another thought you may be having is, ‘How will I afford redoing my yard?”  Landscape design does not have to break the bank.  With a bit of ingenuity and a little inspired thinking you can create a lovely yard that will make you proud.

cold weather crops

Recipes for Cold Weather Crops

Our most recent article talked about planning and planting your cold weather crops. After that hard work is complete and you are ready to harvest, turn those crops into mouth-watering dishes for the family.

cool weather plants

Cool Weather Plants for Texas Gardens

It’s getting to be that time for Texas gardeners to start prepping for their cool weather plants to go in the ground. We don’t have long winters in Texas where you can forget about gardening for several months. So put away that mystery novel, get gardening groove on and you will be enjoying some lovely greens on your dinner table soon. Cool overnight temps offer prime growing conditions for some of your favorite garden delights.


Tips for Growing Succulents Indoors

Yes, those sweet little succulents are all the rage these days. So many cute varieties to choose from and they are notorious impulse purchases as you wonder through gardening departments. Because of their sun requirements they don’t always make the best houseplants, but with a little love and good care you can very successfully grow succulents indoors.

compost and mulch

Compost and Mulch: Secrets and Tips

Most every gardener knows that mulch is spread on the soil around plants, but beginner gardeners aren’t sure why and many can be confused about the difference between compost and mulch. Let’s talk about some secrets and tips concerning both compost and mulch.

cold frames winter

Cold Frames: A Winter How-to Guide

It is officially winter, but that doesn’t mean your gardening efforts need to come to a halt. You can use cold frames to extend your growing season and to get an early start on your spring garden.


Evergreens Add Year-Round Beauty to Your Garden

At this time of year as deciduous trees are shedding their leaves you may become wistful at the idea of having green trees or shrubs in your yard all year long. Evergreens are popular because of their green foliage throughout all four seasons and also because of the many beautiful shapes and sizes that are available.

sprinkler system protection in winter

Protect Your Sprinkler System This Winter

Hopefully your sprinkler system has served you well during the growing season. Now is the time to winterize so you will get many more years of good service. A little TLC before the freezing months will help prevent damage to seals and cracked pipes. While taking the time to winterize may seem daunting to you please know that fixing a broken underground system can be quite costly. That should provide enough incentive to protect your sprinkler system this winter.

shady areas

Beautiful Plants for Shady Areas

A common misconception is that you need bright sun to grow beautiful plants but that’s not really true. There are many lovely specimens that do quite well in shady areas. You can find a full range of options including annuals, perennials and even robust shrubs. So this fall while you are huddled in front of the fireplace, do some thinking about your spring planting and consider the following to add to your garden.

Perennials for Shady Areas

Bleeding Heart

This old fashioned favorite has inch-long, heart-shaped flowers that suspend from arching stems. Blooms can be sweet pink or a delicate white. It tolerates heavy shade, is one of the first spring bloomers and looks great in a woodland garden.


Lush plumes of flowers shoot above fern-like foliage in a wide range of dazzling colors including pink, lavender, red, white and salmon. Astilbe is one of the most common perennials for shade, working well in borders, along paths or for a pop of color at the back of shady areas. It can also be quite striking in containers.


These opulent shade perennials are chosen for their stunning leaves. They come in a multitude of shapes, textures and colors, ranging from cool blue-green to vibrant chartreuse. Some varieties can become quite large growing to be a several feet in diameter while others produce tiny leaves that add a gentle touch to shady areas.


Typically called monkey grass, liriope will tolerate full sun to light shade making it one of the most versatile choices for any garden. It will develop 12-18” tall clumps of slender leaves and produces shoots of violet flowers in late summer. Liriope makes a terrific option for borders.

Lenten Rose

Officially known as hellebore, this is one of the most stunning perennial flowers for a shady area. Its shape is a clump of dark green leaves that produces large, unique cup-shaped blooms in white, pink and a lovely rosy purple.


Columbine has wildly exotic flowers that cover the full color spectrum. It will do well in full sun or full shade, and prefers moist, well-drained soil. The perennial is known to self-seed, so be sure to deadhead if you want to control the spread.

Heuchera (Coral bells).

There seems to be endless variations in leaf color for the heuchera: silvery, burgundy, purple-black, chartreuse, salmon and rusty orange. With this shade lover it’s the foliage that provides the visual enjoyment, though some varieties also have feathery flowers that shoot out from tall stems.

Digitalis (Foxglove).

Many foxgloves are biennials, which means they spend their first year growing foliage, their second year flowering and then they die. This may sound bothersome, but the plants usually reseed so you wind up having flowers every year. And the result is a spectacular showy bloom that is like no other in shady areas.

Ground Covers for Shady Areas


This common groundcover has smooth leaves and tubular, purple flowers that pop up early in the spring garden. It spreads by creeping on the ground, putting out roots as it goes. Plant it with your perennial shade plants and it will help to prevent weed growth.

Dead Nettle (Lamium)

Dead nettle is prized in the shade garden for the silver green foliage that makes an excellent groundcover. But it’s not only a lovely foliage plant; it is also popular for the flowers look like snapdragons and bloom in May/June.

Annuals for Shady Areas


This shade lover brings a touch of elegance to your garden. Fuchsia produces dazzling pendulous flowers, making them perfect for hanging baskets. The petal-filled blooms appear in a number of shades of red, pink, and purple. Bonus — hummingbirds love fuchsia.


Sometimes called wishbone flower, torenia is a charming garden shade plant with beautiful trumpet-shape blooms in a range of shades from blues and purples to pinks and yellows. Versatile torenia is also available in both upright and trailing varieties, making it perfect for beds and borders as well as containers.


Impatiens is arguably the most popular plant for shady areas. They bloom constantly from spring to fall, offer flowers in just about every color, and are virtually maintenance free. Impatiens will really brighten your garden or container.


This shade annual is known for its fanciful foliage—there are hundreds of varieties, and they feature leaves splashed, spotted, streaked, and otherwise colored with shades of chartreuse, purple, pink, red, black, and green. You can mix-and-match a few varieties of coleus together for great results or use them to complement your favorite flowers.


Often mistaken for coleus the perilla features fabulous foliage, though in a more limited range of colors. Varieties such as ‘Magilla’ offer variegated leaves and can grow to be over two feet tall making it your perfect “thriller” in a container.


Browallia is a less well-known pick for adding rich color to shade areas. This charming annual bears star-shape flowers in blue, lavender, and white over emerald-green foliage. It’s a fast grower that does well in shade or sun. In warm-climate areas it may self-seed, but is not invasive.

Shrubs for Shady Areas

Oakleaf Hydrangea

For a nearly carefree shrub you should consider this reliable hydrangea. Its leaves change from bright green in summer to stunning red, purple, burgundy and bronze in fall, and its white flowers take on a pinkish tinge as they mature. These shrubs will thrive in morning sun with afternoon shade (especially in hot climates) or in full shade.

Virginia Sweetspire

This deciduous shrub grows 3 to 4 feet high and spreads 4 to 6 feet across. Fragrant, tiny white flowers appear in May and June, held on lovely drooping stems. Sweetspire is easy to grow and tolerates many growing conditions, including heavy shade, clay and wet soils.


These needled evergreens are valued for their showy red berries and as a variety of shrub that does well in shade. Some people find them boring or overused, but the versatility of these tough bushes makes their case for them. Common plants are common for a reason – they perform well and look good.


You will prize the beautiful spring blooms in many brilliant shades that are produced on this shrub. Rhododendron come as both evergreen and deciduous varieties and can grow in many different USDA Zones. They like acidic soil and do best in partial shade, although some varieties will tolerate full shade.

Well, don’t you agree now? These are a lot of terrific suggestions for beautiful plants for shady areas. As you begin your spring planning the hard part will be making a choice of which you will be including in your garden. Take your time, do your research and be confident that whatever you choose will perform well for you.

fall yard

Fall Yard Clean-Up Checklist

The days are getting shorter and you can feel the chill in the air. That means you need to pull yourself and your family away from the football game and dive into your fall yard clean-up. You might groan now but when April rolls around there will be a spring in your step because the basic chores have been done and you will be ready for the more fun tasks like planting flowers and veggies.

Here’s your fall yard checklist:

Remove all debris

It’s very tempting to let leaves stay on the lawn but by doing so you take the risk of the rotting matter weighing wet and heavy on the lawn killing the grass and promoting fungus conditions. Leaves only make a good mulch if they have been shredded. You should also cut back dead growth so beds are clear for new growth in spring. Make sure your fall yard clean-up includes taking away any fallen twigs or branches.

Turn over the garden

If you have or can rent a tiller that will make this chore much quicker, but if you don’t, make the effort to turn over the soil with a shovel in your vegetable garden. It helps eliminate weeds and loosen the ground. If you’ve been cultivating compost, now is the time to add a layer to the garden. These tasks will make your soil so much richer for a spring planting.

Cut back unwanted branches

All trees and shrubs will have a time when they start to outgrow their environment. Your fall yard clean-up is a good time to get them under control. Be sure, though, to know what you are trimming because some blooming shrubs should not be pruned until after their spring bloom period.

Empty out all water features

Be sure to drain all water from fountains and drip irrigations systems. All it takes is one really cold night for the moisture to freeze and crack your equipment. This includes hoses which should be completely drained and brought inside.

Don’t forget your gutters

Not all fall yard clean-up is at ground level. Leaves, twigs and bird nests can quickly clog up the gutters. While everyone is in work mode take the opportunity to remove all gutter debris. When finished rinse with a hose to make sure all matter is cleared out.

Aerate the lawn

If you want to enjoy a lush green lawn next spring, aerate your yard to break up the soil and encourage nutrients to reach into the root system. Most people don’t own aerator equipment, but it can be rented for a small cost.


You had to know this task was coming. Your yard soil has been broken up and that makes it the perfect time for a fall feeding. When you lawn is bright green in the spring you will be the envy of the neighborhood.

Spread some mulch

If you have flower beds and tender shrubs a thick layer of mulch will get them through the winter with a warming cover. Invest in a finely shredded matter or consider a rich compost that will also add nutrients into the soil.

Divide your perennials

Sure this step can be done in the spring but if you make it part of your fall yard clean-up the flowers will come up nicely without their early growth being interrupted. You are also more familiar with growth pattern and plant size at the end of the season while in the spring you’ll have to rely on memory to recall what needs divided or moved around.

Plant your bulbs

Think about it – every spring don’t you see beautiful tulips and daffodils growing in the neighborhood and thinking you wish you had thought ahead to put in some of your own? Just do it. Nothing brightens up the early spring landscape like colorful blooms.

Clean up your equipment

It’s so tempting to dump your tools in the garage after a hard day of yard work, but taking the time to clean them every fall will extend their life span and ensure good working condition. A light coat of oil will also help prevent rust over the winter.

This may seem like a long checklist for your fall yard clean-up but the tasks should go quickly and you will feel so productive when finished. Honest! Plus in the spring when you want to get out of the house to hike or play that first round of golf you will have the time to do just that. And your fall yard will be on its way to looking terrific.