Design your Texas backyard landscape for the activities you and your family enjoy. The backyard is your private space, unlike the front yard that is for visitors and passersby. Do not confine your backyard design ideas to turf grass and border shrubs; make the area a pleasant place to relax, entertain, and play. Except for the worst of summer’s heat, Texans can enjoy their backyards throughout the year. Depending on the size of your backyard, you may choose a single landscape theme or set up distinct areas.
Texas can be a harsh mistress that challenges plants with environmental conditions that include sustained summer heat, alternating rainy and dry seasons, winds, and occasionally cold, snowy winters in the northern part of the state. Selecting native plants for your area of Texas gives your landscape a better chance of survival without extreme soil preparation and plant care measures.
Sally Wasowski in her book, “Native Texas Plants—Landscape Region by Region” divides Texas into 10 regions to accommodate the trees and shrubs that grow well in the acidic soils and high humidity of east Texas or are drought tolerant desert plants for west Texas and water-wise plants for the arid mountains in southwest Texas. For example in the humid area near Houston, she suggests trees like the swamp chestnut oak, bald cypress, and southern magnolia. But for El Paso in the Trans Pecos region, she recommends drought tolerant trees like the desert willow and the downy aromatic sumac.
Enhance a backyard landscape designed around Texas plants by adding hardscape features that are native to your area. Limestone rocks in central Texas provide a focal point with visually attractive lines softened by surrounded low growing flowering plants and ornamental trees. In the arid areas of west Texas, complement the native plants with large brightly colored pots. Water features including fountains and ponds accent the lush foliage native to east and southeast Texas.
In west and central Texas, water is a precious and often limited resource. The concept of xeriscaping applies seven basic principles of landscape design and plant selection to minimize the amount of needed supplemental water. The principles that guide xeriscape landscapes require planning and design, soil analysis, practical turf areas, appropriate plant selection, efficient irrigation, use of mulches, and appropriate maintenance as described in the Texas A&M article on xeriscaping.
A xeriscape landscape design does not need to be dull or uninteresting. Water-wise plants encompass categories of colorful grasses, vines, shrubs, and flowering perennials. These plants work well when clustered together in areas where a gardener may combine low-growing textured plants with small trees like the Texas huisache, Acacia greggii, or medium-sized trees such as the Texas hawthorne.
Use the entire backyard as a palette for landscaping. Create visual divisions using plants and hardscape features like pathways. If your yard needs an activity area for children to play, xeriscaping permits areas of turf grass.
Adding a water feature to your Texas backyard landscape creates a beautiful visual and promotes restful ambiance. Moving water from a fountain or waterfall does not encourage Texas mosquitoes that can become a problem with static water features like ponds. Use the water feature as a focal point or as a backdrop for a sitting area. Backyards with a slope are ideal for adding a waterfall terraced with a variety of native flowering plants.