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Elements of the Attractive Yard

By Debbie Roland and Emmy Ulmschneider, Master Gardeners

Have you ever stood in your yard and thought “I need to do something in here.” Well, you can!

When thinking about designing or changing your landscape or garden, it is helpful to think about the rooms in your house. Just as in a house you have a room to eat, a room to store cleaning supplies, a room to play and a room for refuge, so too does a yard! What do you need from your yard? A place for your kids or grandkids to play? A place for your dogs? Flowers and veggies? What about a barbecuing area or a place to eat outside?

Your garden should be a magical place and it should have at least one little escape area. A table with a comfortable chair or a bench will invite you and your guests to sit and listen to the birds and watch the plants grow. Once you know what you want you can move forward. Don’t make your landscape too fussy. There is elegance in simplicity.

In the best of all possible worlds, draw out your thoughts or designs on paper, a landscape plan. Think about where you want to place your “rooms”, what you already have in your yard and where are the sunny and shaded areas of your yard. That will help you decide on the shape and location of your beds or where you might want to sit.

Hardscape, non-plant features, are just as important as the plants you want to grow. And don’t forget to plan for irrigation so your plants can thrive! Fencing is both for privacy and aesthetics. If you have a 6’ fence putting tall plants against it will brighten it up. You can always give your landscape a lift by adding tall hardscape. The idea is to lift your eye up. Tall metal sculptures or pillars create a striking element of surprise. In West Texas we usually have access to rocks. A short curved stacked stone wall that outlines beds or walkways is an eye catcher. Allow a 4’ width for your walkways. There should be enough room for two people to walk side by side. Always have curves in your garden. It creates intrigue and will make people wonder what’s around the next turn. You don’t need a lot of space to achieve that!

Lighting at night creates a mood and helps one get around. You can use solar lights, electrical lights or even battery powered lights in your garden. Some irrigation controllers can be partnered with lights so that they are on a timer also. Whatever kind of light you use, remember that light interferes with insect life cycles, so put lights on timers or use yellow bulbs.

So finally, plants…. When planning bear in mind we are in a Stage 5 drought. There are a host of native plants that will help you with texture and color. Installing window boxes and containers are perfect for growing herbs. Large containers close to your grill give you fresh herbs for adding to meat and vegetables. It will be a feast for your eyes and your palate. If you like wreaths on your gates, buy or make them with plants that will grow in our climate. Using grasses and blooms that grow here will blend better and be more pleasing to the eye.

In the words of Scott Ogden and Lauren Springer Ogden in their book, Plant Driven Design: Creating Gardens that Honor Plants, Place, and Spirit, “The single most essential element in any garden is not some particular object, plant, or tool. What’s vital is a gardener who loves it. Unfortunately, much of what is promoted as or called a garden in North America is nothing more than a landscape installation. Love has nothing to do with it.”

--Scot Ogden and Laura Springer Ogden, Plant Driven Design, p. 9-10. So, get out there and garden; share the love!

If you have questions, please call the AgriLife office in Odessa at 498-4071 or in Midland at 686-4700 for more gardening information. Additional information is available at and


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