Soil and water

Court of the month | San Marcos record

Last year’s February yard was printed just before the severe freeze as San Marcos residents struggled with power outages and water issues, and again in 2022 the Spring Lake Garden Club’s court of the month avoided a devastating freeze. At the intersection of Martin Luther King Drive and Wilson Street, Amy and John Thomaides’ home features hardy green yuccas and blooming irises near the entrance, and even a patch of bluebonnets near a bouquet of chili pequins in the sunny side yard. Having lived in San Marcos for nearly 30 years, Amy knows the trials and triumphs of gardening in Central Texas and nurturing a landscape suited to our climate. The front yard and parking area of ​​Les Thomaides are separated from the side yards by a strong transparent wood and hogboard fence.

A large oak tree dominates one side of the front yard, where an amazing variety of native plants take up residence in the more shady area under the tree, including penstemon, pigeon berry and red columbine. Horsegrass covers areas that will receive new plants as the weather warms. On the sunnier half of the yard stands a large yucca surrounded by smaller twisted-leaved yucca and sturdy grasses, as well as blooming purple irises, lilies and narcissus. A large natural sculpture of eroded limestone, otherwise known as Texas Hole Rock, provides a focal point for this sunny area and is surrounded by Gregg’s Flower of Mist. Deep-rooted grasses, including Mexican feathergrass and Texas bluegrass, direct rainwater into the ground and slow runoff from this area.

Water management was one of the reasons Amy decided five years ago to build a concrete block wall between the porch and the yard, directing water into a deep gravel-filled filtration bed topped with gravel, leading to side and back yards and towards Purgatory Creek. The other purpose of the wall is an art project, facing the wall with a tile mosaic. Amy is a San Marcos employee in resource recovery as well as the manager of community improvement initiatives, so she has her eye on discarded useful materials such as decorative flat tiles stored behind the wall for the mosaic. She notes that, like the landscape, this hardscape project is “a work in progress.” Meanwhile, the unadorned wall defines a private space that extends the porch seating area.

A completed project is the transparent wood-framed hog-panel fence along the side street, allowing the sun to reach the raised beds just inside the fence. The litter crops were harvested late last year, but the garlic and chilli pequins in the ground remain ready for use. Other plants inside the fence are thorny green palms, two Arizona cypresses, and a Mexican mountain laurel with gray-green leaves. The fence partially obscures the street view of a flagstone patio and water garden behind the house. Installed last June, the pond is not for fish but a site for mosquito hawks and dragonflies to lay eggs so the nymphs can eat the mosquito larvae. The patio and pond are further protected by decorative iron panels from Amy’s parents’ home in Houston, which serve as a trellis for flowering vines in hot weather. The trees near the patio are Mexican plum, Texas persimmon and a date palm with long dark green fronds.

More palm trees line the side garden on the other side of the house, where the tall blue corrugated iron fence serves as the backdrop for Amy’s collection of decorative metal flowers. Trees planted in this area include the native anacacho orchid, flame sumac (for fall color), and sweet olive (an alternative to the invasive ligustrum). Choosing native plants instead of common nursery cultivars is a way to support pollinators — one of Amy’s top priorities — and ensure a landscape can better withstand the extreme weather conditions of central Texas.