Being a Houston gardener, I’ve dealt many years with the particularities of landscaping in the Houston, Texas area – and I’ve seen the best and the worst of it.
What people fail to understand sometimes is that successful landscaping is much more than the sum of its parts. Knowing the plant species that thrive in Houston, for example, does not guarantee that they will grow to their full potential in just any Houston garden, and there are numerous factors that may play into this shortfall.
Although the following does not claim to be a comprehensive list, it certainly outlines some of the major particularities of the wider Houston area that affect our choices in creating and maintaining a handsome landscape.
Those of you, who have been residing in Houston long enough, know it well by now. Newcomers soon find out, inevitably: humidity is our permanent companion here. And this is a major factor that all landscaping plans should take into account.
Landscaping in the Rain
Climate in Houston can be divided into two main seasons: cold and humid, or hot and humid. Wet. Rainy. Sticky.
The warm southerly winds blowing in from the Gulf of Mexico, heavily saturated with moisture, are responsible for this sub-tropical tinge of our climate. On the other hand, cold, dry air masses descending from the North will bring in the low temperatures that characterize our winters – with, perhaps, some occasional days of frost.
When the two wind masses collide, rain pours down, often for days on end. Combined with the flat Houston landscape, water tends to pool, either on the surface or below the ground. This is why proper drainage is a crucial element in Houston gardens; otherwise, a whole lot of problems may occur, such as:
- root rot
- deterioration of hardscaping elements
- soil erosion
Landscaping in the Dry
Then again, we can’t always be sure that it will actually rain. Extended periods of drought are also a trait of our unique climate. In order to amend for this whim of Mother Nature, a combined drainage and irrigation system, with aptly installed basins and pipelines, will channel excess water from where it may be harmful, store it, and direct it to where (and when) it is most needed.
Bay Area Gardening in Texas
While coastal areas benefit from a milder climate, with mostly warm winters and cool summers, at the same time they’re at the mercy of salty sea winds that can be very damaging to non-native plants. Lawns and tender-leafed plants are the ones running the highest risk.
During wet seasons, rain will adequately rinse out the salt layer overlaying plant surfaces. When drought settles in, though, and rain cannot naturally perform this essential task, it is absolutely necessary that you carefully wash this salt layer off from time to time. Or, better yet, you could plan your landscape in such a way that those sensitive species are protected from exposure to sea winds.
In addition, soil in Houston coastal areas is usually sandy – which means that adequate care should be given to provide the proper mixture of ingredients (e.g. humus, well-aged manure, pine bark, etc) that will improve the nutritious content of your garden soil.
Houston City Codes for Landscaping
Besides having a good grasp of the basics of landscaping (and much more, if you really want your garden to turn its full potential), you must also be aware that Houston City has set a detailed legal framework for what is allowed for gardening and landscaping projects. Did you know, for example, that removal of trees and shrubbery is governed by strict development regulations?
Plus, you will have to deal with all the usual permits from utility companies when digging, building, and performing other works that may interfere with the permanent structure of the ground and its subsurface are involved.
These are essential steps to take, if you want to avoid ulterior problems and additional expenses that may rise way beyond your initial budget.
Whether for hardscaping (building permanent structures such as pavements, swimming pools, pergolas, patios, drainage, retaining walls, etc) or for softscaping (creation of flower beds, planting), you will need the appropriate materials with which to execute your project.
Finding the most cost/effective solution or the best quality for your exact circumstances is a time- and effort-consuming process, and nothing guarantees that what you pay for is what you’ll ultimately get – unless you are a dedicated amateur and a deep connoisseur at the same time.
Additionally, certain items (from plants to construction materials) cannot be found even in the best retail stores and are only available to professional landscaping firms and contractors – simply because they are not distributed through regular commercial channels.
Bottomline for Houston Landscaping
As I mentioned before, successful landscaping is a complex affair, with its constituent parts working together as a well-regulated whole. If one part goes wrong, it is more than probable that it will start a chain reaction affecting the entirety of your garden.
Finding an experienced, licensed, responsible Houston landscaping company or contractor is the safest way to go. You may be utterly surprised to find out that your initial plans had not taken into account several critical elements… or that you don’t have to pay as much as you imagined in the first place!