Building a garden is like building a house.
Designing, creating and nurturing a garden, particularly in the unforgiving climate of the Texas Panhandle, requires thorough assessment, realistic planning and careful judgment. All environmental aspects must be incorporated into the design of your new gardening project.
If you think about it for a moment…
… are vital factors.
There is planning, research and looking around aplenty to be done prior to executing any physical plans and tossing the first spadeful of soil. One of the most important aspects of all is knowing the characteristics of the environment, especially in Amarillo, because not all plants will flourish in the area.
There are multiple considerations prior to planting anything in your garden or coming up with a landscape design. You may use either graphing paper or an online program to scale the garden and plot all the features you want on the property. Sooner or later, however, you must scope out the actual dimensions of your garden.
Most landscapers use some form of measurement, a simple measuring tape will work. Take the time to determine the perimeter and measurements to interesting sections where you can place some highlight or point of interest.
While surveying with a fresh eye, it is also important to take note of the areas that have the greatest sun exposure and the most shade throughout the day.
Then you know how much space you have to work with for perennials and plants that love to bask in the sun while setting aside an area for ornamentals like orchids that cannot stand over-exposure to sunlight.
It is important to visualize what you want on the garden. One could, of course, gather images of gardens, flowers and trees (like those near the end of this article) for inspiration. Decide what features of your garden you’d like to highlight or be subtle about.
Naturally, you must have a goal in mind and work within any budget limitations you might have.
After finishing the initial sketch, continue with proper planning by roughing out a schedule. Recognize in your plan which activities should be done first. Gardening is supposed to be edifying and relaxing. So it won’t do to rush this way and that trying to do everything at once.
One could set off the major beds and paths with stakes and surveyor’s string then proceed with planting those that will take more time to mature or flower. If purchases and the planting process itself are not organized, it may take more time and prove to be an arduous task.
But if you have time aplenty and are willing to make changes as you go along, by all means indulge your creativity and you’ll be happier for it.
Like designing your own house, consider the different elements of your garden before proceeding. It is advisable to start with a good foundation or ground-level components before you start moving up. This is like putting in a good, sturdy basement because it should last and support everything else. First to be considered is the floor or lawn area, and the current grass present.
Pavement and soil component should be noted. Next, the walls, fences, and hedges should be planned for. The furniture, shading, umbrellas and lights which will beautify and set off the garden should be noted and planned for as well.
Texas Climate and Landscaping in Amarillo
Amarillo is known as the Yellow Rose of Texas and Rotor City of the USA. More relevant to the plans of a budding landscaper is the reality that, according to the Koppen Climate Classification, the city has a steep or semi-arid climate, which can make landscaping a challenge at times. This means that the region receives precipitation which is below what is called potential evapotranspiration thresholds. Simply put, the climate straddles humid and dessert climates.
Amarillo has marked temperature variation as evidenced by the National Weather Service stating that the average temperature ranges from 78.3°F during summer down to 37 °F in winter months.
In winter, cold air flows in from the north and west of the city towards the warmer areas further south. Average annual precipitation or rainfall is 20.4 inches. Rainfall mostly occurs during late spring and summer.
Since Amarillo is a dry environment, it is more prudent to choose a dry climate garden and conform to a more natural layout. Using dry streambed or stone pathways is therefore advisable. The weather puts a premium on plants which can survive or thrive under the heat of the sun.
However, this does not limit your planting options to dessert varieties. You have to choose plants that can survive humidity and heat and, at the same time, are hardy enough to survive the cold season.
Amarillo is nearly dead center in the Panhandle. The surface is mainly flat and has minimal soil drainage. The area also lacks developed drainage. Rainfall is as likely to evaporate as to be absorbed by the soil or drain toward the small “Playa” lakes.
The Perfect Plants
The climate that fluctuates between warm summers and generally mild winters is more conducive for growing grass, lilacs, azaleas, perennials and edible items such as vegetables and fruits.
For novice gardeners, one of the best options is Dracaena (pronounced dra-si-na), which ranges from fleshy shrubs to full-blown small trees with fairly broad leaves.
They come in a range of colors, from yellow, yellow green to deepest green. Occasionally, this group of plants even boasts leaves of three different colors in each leaf. The “corn plant” (Dracaena fragrans) is pictured above. This group of plants is able to withstand a wide variety of ambient climates. Dracaena does very well in the shade or indoors since it thrives in even low sunlight.
Succulents (above) are delightful choices for both indoor and outdoor planting. Since succulents are used to desert environments, they thrive with minimal watering and attention. In fact, succulents survive mishandling and heavy-handed gardening.
Much like the cacti, these plants absorb groundwater from their roots, transport it to their leaves, and store it within their leaves. This makes for an efficient water conservation adaptation.
Bridal wreath spirea blooms with white spring flowers. It can withstand ordinary winter temperatures down to minus 5 degrees Fahrenheit and can tolerate mildly hot temperatures.
It is rich in nectar, hence it attracts butterflies. It is an elegant plant that gives a garden a more feminine and graceful form. Spirea is a deciduous shrub which can grow very fast, as fast as 4-6 inches a month.
Every aspect of a new garden project bears careful examination. The goal is not just to create a visually stimulating environment, but also to ensure that the chosen plants will do well in the climate, soil characteristics, humidity, and water conditions prevalent in Amarillo.
There are many eye-pleasing choices for a personalized garden, certainly not limited to cacti. Local gardeners have a great variety that can be used to make your garden more elegant and pleasing to the eye.