A before and after of Rajesh J.'s Dallas, TX area homeA before and after of Rajesh J.'s Dallas, TX area home

A Q & A with High Country Gardens' customer Rajesh J.

How would you describe your garden?

I call it an English garden with a Texas twist. I would estimate it’s around 1000 square feet, about 80 feet long x 12-15 feet deep.

What inspired you to create it?

In the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, most people just have huge lawns—Bermuda grass or St. Augustine grass. They use sprinklers.

My water bills were a lot higher than my neighbors, so I decided to cut down on the water usage. I happened to stumble upon your website and picked up a few ideas there. Most of the plants are from High Country Gardens.

Before: Water Loving Bermuda Grass
Before: Water Loving Bermuda Grass
After: A Water-Thrify Perennial Garden
After: A Water-Thrify Perennial Garden

If someone wanted to create a similar transformation to their landscape, what advice would you give them?

Invest in good soil. We have clay here; people call it ‘black gumbo.’ It is highly alkaline. None of the plants would have survived if I hadn’t amended the soil. It’s a one-time investment. Follow good practices.

Learn about the plants before planting them. I lost a lot of plants that looked good in catalogs but weren’t suited for the conditions here.

If he could do it over?
If he could do it over? "I wouldn’t put in a lawn to start with," said Rajesh.
Rajesh J.'s freshly planted garden.
Rajesh J.'s freshly planted garden.

If you could do it over, is there anything you’d do differently?

I wouldn’t put in a lawn to start with. I should have just started with getting good soil and began from there. Instead of a regular sprinkler system, I would have put in a drip irrigation system at the start.

This is what I’d do in hindsight. As it was, I had to kill the grass that was there. I don’t like to use chemicals, but Bermuda grass is hard to kill, I had to use Roundup, three times. The best time to do it is when it is growing.

How long has the transformation taken you?

The first year, all my plants were from High Country Gardens; they were premium plants in 5-inch pots. I expected magic to happen, but some did not grow more than 10 inches that first year. I remember calling one of the HCG agents to ask, “What am I doing wrong?” She told me that I need to remember that perennials take some time—first they sleep, then they creep and then they leap. That’s what happened the third year—they came together. So you have to be patient.

The second year of growth, when the plants 'creep.'
The second year of growth, when the plants 'creep.'
The perennial garden in May with swaths of Catmint (Nepeta) in bloom.
The perennial garden in May with swaths of Catmint (Nepeta) in bloom.

What are your favorite plants?

Agastache is my favorite –I just like it because it is low maintenance, the hummingbirds love it, and the rabbits don’t eat it. My second favorite is penstemon. I also like salvia/sages and ornamental oreganos, because they are low maintenance and easy to grow.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about your garden?

The other thing I find satisfying and interesting and look forward to are the random plants that just start happening. For instance, the Salvia farinacea that is in the middle of the photo. I did not buy it and I did not plant it.

The same goes with one of the Agastaches. It showed up last year and I let it grow. It bloomed this year. Something crossed with it, similar to the ‘Desert Sunrise’ that I planted. It is pinker and has a different smell to it, with a hint of turpentine. The rabbits don’t bother it.

What benefits have you seen by creating this garden?

The biggest benefit I see is a lot of wildlife activity. Before I did this I never saw a hummingbird. Now they hang out nine months of the year and only go home for the winter.

We’ve got birds, bees, toads, frogs, an occasional snake or two, and lots of bunnies. At first, I would plant things that would be gone the next day, so I would look for rabbit resistant plants. Everything I plant is rabbit resistant or has a fragrance or smell that rabbits don’t like.

My backyard is shaded, so I have to follow a totally different strategy there, but overall, I try to use less pesticide and more organic fertilizer and create a better environment.

The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department has designated my yard as a certified backyard wildlife habitat.The program is affiliated with the National Wildlife Federation, where people can fill out paperwork, send photos in and get Texas Wildscape Certification.

To learn more visit: http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/huntwild/wild/wildlife_diversity/wildscapes/best_of_texas_certification.phtml)

  1. Blanca Peak™ Rocky Mountain Beard Tongue, Penstemon strictus ‘WWG06’

    Blanca Peak™ White Penstemon (Penstemon strictus) is an award-winning white-flowered selection of our native Rocky Mountain Penstemon. Large, tubular flowers are a favorite nectar ...

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    Blanca Peak™ Rocky Mountain Penstemon Blanca Peak™ Rocky Mountain Beardtongue Penstemon strictus 'WWG06'
    Sale Price I Save 5%
    $10.99 Sale $10.44
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Blanca Peak™ White Penstemon (Penstemon strictus) is an award-winning white-flowered selection of our native Rocky Mountain Penstemon. Large, tubular flowers are a favorite nectar source for bumblebees. Plant this easy-to-grow beardtongue for a sturdy, long-lived late-spring bloomer in your xeriscape. This beauty thrives in most well-drained soil with full sun exposure. A 2021 Plant Select® Winner. A High Country Gardens Introduction.
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  2. SteppeSuns® Sunset Glow Beard Tongue, Penstemon pinifolius ‘P019S', orange flowers

    A soft orange-flowered selection of pineleaf beardtongue, SteppeSuns® Sunset Glow Penstemon (Penstemon pinifolius) is a native cultivar that starts flowering in late spring and attr...

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    SteppeSuns® Sunset Glow Penstemon SteppeSuns® Sunset Glow Beardtongue Penstemon pinifolius 'P019S'
    Sale Price I Save 5%
    $8.99 Sale $8.54
    Per Plant - 2.5" Pot
    A soft orange-flowered selection of pineleaf beardtongue, SteppeSuns® Sunset Glow Penstemon (Penstemon pinifolius) is a native cultivar that starts flowering in late spring and attracts numerous pollinators and hummingbirds. Reminiscent of Colorado summer sunsets, its long-lasting blooms add a warm glow to dry area gardens. Finely textured evergreen foliage forms a compact mound for year-round interest.
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  3. Purple Beauty Creeping Phlox, Phlox subulata Purple Beauty growing in rock garden as groundcover

    An easy-to-grow groundcover, 'Purple Beauty' Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata) carpets the mid-to-late spring garden with starry lavender-purple flowers. Whether you are looking for a ...

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    Purple Beauty Creeping Phlox Purple Beauty Creeping Phlox Phlox subulata Purple Beauty
    Sale Price I Save 5%
    $10.49 Sale $9.97
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    An easy-to-grow groundcover, 'Purple Beauty' Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata) carpets the mid-to-late spring garden with starry lavender-purple flowers. Whether you are looking for a water-thrifty addition to flow through a rock garden, or a beautiful way to highlight a spring-blooming bulb collection, 'Purple Beauty' will add pollinator-friendly, drought-tolerant spring beauty to your garden.
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  4. Arrowleaf Buckwheat, Eriogonum compositum, clusters of creamy white flowers

    Arrowleaf Buckwheat (Eriogonum compositum) is a lovely Sulphur Buckwheat with large, showy clusters of creamy white or light yellow flowers and low-growing rosette of large heart-sha...

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    Arrowleaf Buckwheat Arrowleaf Buckwheat Eriogonum compositum
    Sale Price I Save 5%
    $12.99 Sale $12.34
    Per Plant - 2.5" Pot
    Arrowleaf Buckwheat (Eriogonum compositum) is a lovely Sulphur Buckwheat with large, showy clusters of creamy white or light yellow flowers and low-growing rosette of large heart-shaped leaves. Beautiful late spring blooms add playful texture to the garden. Native to the dry areas of the Pacific Northwest, this buckwheat is an essential habitat plant for butterflies, beneficial insects, and wildlife.
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  5. Littleleaf Mountain Mahogany, Cercocarpus intricatus

    A native shrub from the southwestern US, Littleleaf Mountain Mahogany (Cercocarpus intricatus) features attractive silvery evergreen foliage for year-round interest and bird habitat....

    Learn More
    Littleleaf Mountain Mahogany (Cercocarpus) Littleleaf Mountain Mahogany Cercocarpus intricatus
    Sale Price I Save 10%
    $12.99 Sale $11.69
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    A native shrub from the southwestern US, Littleleaf Mountain Mahogany (Cercocarpus intricatus) features attractive silvery evergreen foliage for year-round interest and bird habitat. Its compact size and outstanding durability make it an excellent choice for hedging and xeric landscaping. In mid-spring, the shrub is covered in plumes of tiny pale flowers, which are pollinated by small native bees to create feathery seed tails that catch the afternoon light.
    Learn More
  6. FlowerKisser Everpink Desert Willow, Chilopsis linearis 'WWG08'

    FlowerKisser™ Everpink Desert Willow (Chilopsis linearis) is a seedless desert willow with large, fragrant pink flowers that cover the plant all summer long. This wide-growing nati...

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    FlowerKisser™ Everpink Desert Willow FlowerKisser™ Everpink Desert Willow Chilopsis linearis 'WWG08'
    Sale Price I Save 5%
    $14.99 Sale $14.24
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    FlowerKisser™ Everpink Desert Willow (Chilopsis linearis) is a seedless desert willow with large, fragrant pink flowers that cover the plant all summer long. This wide-growing native tree loves heat and full sun, making it a versatile addition to hot, dry gardens. Nectar-rich blooms are highly attractive to hummingbirds. A High Country Gardens Introduction.
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  7. Giant Sulphur Buckwheat, Eriogonum umbellatum var. devestivum, growing on mountainside

    A showy display of bright yellow flower clusters in late summer to early fall distinguishes Giant Sulphur Buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum) from all others. This durable, drought tole...

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    Giant Sulphur Buckwheat Giant Sulphur Buckwheat Eriogonum umbellatum var. devestivum
    Sale Price I Save 5%
    $12.99 Sale $12.34
    Per Plant - 2.5" Pot
    A showy display of bright yellow flower clusters in late summer to early fall distinguishes Giant Sulphur Buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum) from all others. This durable, drought tolerant shrub is especially valuable as a late season nectar source for bees and butterflies. Native to the Great Basin of the western US, this very xeric and long-lived Buckwheat can thrive for decades in your landscape.
    Learn More
  8. Little Rascal Sulphur Buckwheat, Eriogonum allenii 'Little Rascal'

    Huge, flat-topped flower clusters create a dome of bright yellow color over the large attractive gray-green leaves of 'Little Rascal' Buckwheat (Eriogonum allenii). Blooming througho...

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    Little Rascal Sulphur Buckwheat Little Rascal Sulphur Buckwheat Eriogonum allenii Little Rascal
    Sale Price I Save 10%
    $11.99 Sale $10.79
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Huge, flat-topped flower clusters create a dome of bright yellow color over the large attractive gray-green leaves of 'Little Rascal' Buckwheat (Eriogonum allenii). Blooming throughout the summer and into fall, it is highly attractive to butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds. This low-care buckwheat is more moisture tolerant than most and can be grown across much of the US when planted in full sun and well drained soils.
    Learn More

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Shown here: Salvia (pink, left), Balloon Flower (purple, left), Catmint/Nepeta (purple, right), Yarrow/Achillea (yellow), Hesperaloe (tall, background) and Apple Blossom Grass/Gaura (white, left)  Entire Plant List
Shown here: Salvia (pink, left), Balloon Flower (purple, left), Catmint/Nepeta (purple, right), Yarrow/Achillea (yellow), Hesperaloe (tall, background) and Apple Blossom Grass/Gaura (white, left) Entire Plant List

 

Entire Plant List

Perennials:

  • Mounding Rosemary
  • Agastache "Desert Sunrise"
  • Agastache "Blue Blazes"
  • Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii (Flame Acanthus)
  • Aquilegia species (Columbine) 'Swallowtail'(R)
  • Aquilegia (Columbine) Chrysantha
  • Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly milkweed)
  • Achillea 'Paprika'
  • Achillea 'Terracotta'
  • Achillea filipendulina 'Coronation Gold'
  • Artemisia abrotanum 'Tangerine'(Wormwood)
  • Clematis
  • Caryopteris cladonensis (Blue Mist Spirea)
  • Centranthus Ruber (Jupiter's Beard)
  • Chrysanthemum maximum (Shasta Daisy)
  • Coreopsis lanceolata 'Sterntaler'
  • Coreopsis grandiflora 'Early Sunrise' (Similar to Jethro Tull variety)
  • Echinacea pupurea
  • Geranium 'Rozanne' (Cranesbill)
  • Geranium 'Johnsons Blue' (Cranesbill)
  • Gladiolus
  • Guara Lindheimeri 'Cloud of Butterflies"
  • Guara Lindheimeri 'Pink Cloud"
  • Guara Lindheimeri 'Whirling Butterflies'
  • Hesperaloe parviflora (Red Yucca)
  • Iris
  • Kniphofia 'Wayside Flame'
  • Lantana
  • Lonicera sempervirens 'Major Wheeler'
  • Monarda hybrida Lambada (Bee Balm)
  • Nepeta "Walkers Low"
  • Nolina texana (Bear grass)
  • Nolina microcarpa (Bear grass)
  • Origanum 'Amethyst Falls'
  • Origanum Libanoticum
  • Origanum Rotkugel
  • Oenothera Macrocarpa
  • Oenothera missouriensis
  • Pavonia lasiopetala (Rock Rose)
  • Penstemon 'Red Riding Hood'
  • Penstemon mexicali 'Red Rocks'
  • Penstemon strictus (Rocky Mountain Beard tongue)
  • Perovskia atriplicifolia ‘Blue Spires’
  • Perovskia atriplicifolia 'Filigran'
  • Phlox 'Drummond'
  • Platycodon grandiflorus Mariesii (Balloon Flower)
  • Physostegia virginiana "Miss Manners" (Obedient Plant)
  • Poliomintha maderensis (Lavender Spice/Mexican Oregano)
  • Roses
  • Salvia farinacea 'Texas Violet'
  • Salvia greggii 'Black Cherry'
  • Salvia greggii 'Cherry'
  • Salvia greggii 'Maraschino'
  • Salvia nemorosa 'Marcus'
  • Salvia nemorosa 'May Night
  • Salvia greggii 'Raspberry Delight'
  • Salvia greggii 'Rose Pink'
  • Salvia greggii 'Ultra violet'
  • Salvia greggii 'Wild Thing'
  • Salvia reptans - West Texas Grass Sage
  • Scutellaria resinosa 'Smokey Hills'
  • Scutellaria 'Violet Cloud'
  • Stachys byzantina (Lamb's Ear)
  • Stachys coccineus 'Mountain Red'
  • Stachys lavandulifolius (Pink Cotton Lambs Ear)
  • Stachys officinalis Hummelo
  • Thalictrum flavum glaucum (Yellow meadow rue)
  • Verbena tenuisecta (Moss Verbena)
  • Yucca recurvifolia (Soft Leaf Yucca)

Ornamental Grasses:

  • Nasella tenuissima (Silky Thread Grass)
  • Blonde Ambition Blue Grama Grass
  • Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster'
  • Panicum Virgatum Northwind (Feather Reed Switch Grass)
  1. Buzz® Hot Raspberry Butterfly Bush , Buddleia davidii 'Hot Raspberry', raspberry-pink flowers

    Buzz® 'Hot Raspberry' Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii) wakes up summer’s doldrums with splendid raspberry-pink flowers. Blooming from early summer to late fall, the sweetly scent...

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    Buzz® Hot Raspberry Butterfly Bush (Buddleia) Buzz® Hot Raspberry Butterfly Bush Buddleia davidii Hot Raspberry
    Sale Price I Save 5%
    $11.99 Sale $11.39
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Buzz® 'Hot Raspberry' Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii) wakes up summer’s doldrums with splendid raspberry-pink flowers. Blooming from early summer to late fall, the sweetly scented shrub is a magnet for many pollinators, especially butterflies. This compact habit is perfect for smaller spaces, a lovely addition to a perennial bed or large container planting. The flowers and foliage make lovely bouquets.
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  2. Buzz® Midnight Butterfly Bush, Buddleia davidii 'Midnight' with two visiting  pollinators

    Buzz® 'Midnight' Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii) is an exciting compact butterfly bush with magnificent jewel-tones of rich purple and blue flowers that shower the garden with col...

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    Buzz® Midnight Butterfly Bush (Buddleia) Buzz® Midnight Butterfly Bush Buddleia davidii Midnight
    Sale Price I Save 5%
    $11.99 Sale $11.39
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Buzz® 'Midnight' Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii) is an exciting compact butterfly bush with magnificent jewel-tones of rich purple and blue flowers that shower the garden with color and a sweet honey scent from early summer to late fall. A powerful attractor of butterflies and hummingbirds, it’s also deer and rabbit resistant. A perfect easy-to-grow upgrade for the perennial bed, container, hedge, or border.
    Learn More
  3. Littleleaf Mountain Mahogany, Cercocarpus intricatus

    A native shrub from the southwestern US, Littleleaf Mountain Mahogany (Cercocarpus intricatus) features attractive silvery evergreen foliage for year-round interest and bird habitat....

    Learn More
    Littleleaf Mountain Mahogany (Cercocarpus) Littleleaf Mountain Mahogany Cercocarpus intricatus
    Sale Price I Save 10%
    $12.99 Sale $11.69
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    A native shrub from the southwestern US, Littleleaf Mountain Mahogany (Cercocarpus intricatus) features attractive silvery evergreen foliage for year-round interest and bird habitat. Its compact size and outstanding durability make it an excellent choice for hedging and xeric landscaping. In mid-spring, the shrub is covered in plumes of tiny pale flowers, which are pollinated by small native bees to create feathery seed tails that catch the afternoon light.
    Learn More
  4. Claremont Flowering Currant, Ribes sanguineum v. glutinosum 'Claremont', clusters of pink flowers

    A stunning early spring-blooming shrub with pendulous clusters of pink flowers, 'Claremont' Flowering Currant (Ribes sanguineum) is an essential nectar source for bees and migrating ...

    Learn More
    Claremont Flowering Currant (Ribes) Claremont Flowering Currant Ribes sanguineum var. glutinosum Claremont
    Sale Price I Save 5%
    $12.99 Sale $12.34
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    A stunning early spring-blooming shrub with pendulous clusters of pink flowers, 'Claremont' Flowering Currant (Ribes sanguineum) is an essential nectar source for bees and migrating hummingbirds. In fall, foliage shifts to a warm apricot hue. Also known as Winter Currant, this California native displays edible inky black berries that attract birds. This fragrant, showy shrub is a great choice for small yards and patio gardens.
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Just out of this picture to the left are:

  • Chilopsis linearis ‘Monhews’ (Desert willow)
  • Helianthus maximiliana 'Dakota Sunshine'
  • Vitex agnus-castus - actually a tree that the homeowner maintains as a shrub

There are several annuals and perennial bulbs that are under-planted as well:

  • Allium
  • Anemones
  • Linum rubrum (Scarlet Flax)
  • Lobularia maritima (Sweet Alyssum)
  • Lycoris Radiata (Spider Lilies)
  • California Poppy
  • Red Corn Poppy/Flanders Poppy
  • Ranunculus