February 23, 2023
Dry Creek Hillside Design: Clay Soil and Shade
For over a 12 months, backyard designer Leah Churner’s Instagram footage caught my eye as she carved a dry creek mattress right into a rocky, gumbo clay hillside. She and fellow Delta Daybreak Gardens designer Holly Gardovsky steadily added crops—native and tailored—that get together with shade and heavy soil.
Dwelling to Lori Najvar, documentarian and artist, and architect Glen Chappell, we headed out in late November. Onerous-hitting rain and bone-chilling chilly minimize that go to quick. After we returned in early December, crops have been unfazed with the nips, however we donned wooly beanies!
When Lori and Glen fell in love with the view over Barton Creek, Glen designed the home to tuck in gently between a rugged cliff and mature stay oak bushes. “We each love nature and love the creek a lot that we wish it to really feel extra like that as an alternative of like a sculptured formal yard,” Glen stated.
However till they met Leah in 2021, it was a failed wildflower meadow and erosion made worse by rainwater that sluiced down the slope.
“Along with constructing the dry creek, we additionally added some terracing with Jap cedar logs. However they actually assist to stabilize the slope as a result of they’re very, very gradual to disintegrate,” Leah stated.
In a pandemic challenge, Glen and pals had already constructed the boardwalk for simpler navigation and views from all angles. Leah and Holly softened the sides with native and tailored crops, younger now, however promising the look of a collaborative pure surroundings inside a number of years.
The pond is one more Glen pandemic challenge. With decide in hand, he excavated a 7’ x 2’ vast gap, a formidable feat in rocky clay soil. Fortunately, stuck-at-home neighbors cheerfully jumped in. Glen decked round a plastic inventory pond, deep sufficient to discourage fishing raccoons. Rapidly, toads and Leopard frogs joined the nightly wildlife refrain that Lori and Glen treasure.
Leah constructed on his designs to have a good time the views from inside, elevating some vantage factors and screening others.
Like Glen and his pond, she wielded a decide to work her means by way of the soil to plant. Watch our video.
The rocks she unearthed did come in useful, although, together with a mound for sedums, graptopetalum, Euphorbia rigida, Nolina texana, and Agave virginica/Manfreda virginica. Evergreen bearded iris don’t thoughts the heavier soil in any respect, and get sufficient mild since Glen had the bushes limbed up. Past, shrubby boneset (aromatic mistflower) continued to bloom for pollinators.
Rocks round new crops deter armadillos and doggie armadillo imitators, like sweetie pie Grover, right here watching Ed Fuentes and Doug LaValliere for any indicators of a deal with.
Earlier than Leah put in crops, she sheet-mulched for months with a layer of cardboard, compost, and mulch. With each planting, she provides extra compost to enhance aeration. Right here’s a fast clip about amending clay soil.
She selected crops that work in dappled to heavy shade. Native and tailored crops embrace evergreen and seasonal bloomers to feed pollinators. “There’s something to say about Central Texas, with the much less formal strategy gardens: I believe it’s much more attention-grabbing since you actually do expertise how they adapt to climate,” Lori famous. Right here’s a partial plant listing.
Pure magnificence engages Lori and Glen year-round, from flowers to berries and seeds.
Since their Texas mountain laurels produce bountiful crops of seeds, Lori gathers a number of to show in intelligent designs from salvages.
In one other salvage challenge, Glen created a moon gate from classic wrought iron porch posts. Coated with ardour vine in summer time, it’s a whirl of bee and butterfly motion for them and their neighbor.
He engineered a classic teapot to slowly drip into the birdbath.
The hose runs again to a spigot turned down very low, simply sufficient to maintain the water softly transferring.
Within the hall between the home and cliff, Glen constructed an out of doors bathe. “They’re actually a pleasure to make use of. I like being on the market to observe the moon rise,” he stated.
Cliff chirping frogs serenade them by night time, and by day, they watch little canyon wrens educating their younger to fly.
He designed a stained glass door that leads exterior. On this little hall, they harbor varied container crops and some of Glen’s staghorn ferns.
“I believe they’re residing sculpture. I consider myself as an artwork collector with them. The primary one I noticed was in a public botanical gardens years and years in the past. And I simply thought it was essentially the most lovely factor,” he stated.
His assortment ranges from the large to the miniscule, every one a fascination. Since they have to be protected in winter, he transformed the unique display porch off the lounge right into a greenhouse.
“So there’s one other factor about two artists coming from completely different views in our homestead,” Lori defined. “We merge a number of the collections that I do accumulate and his construction that he supplies. It’s sort of enjoyable.”
In Lori and Glen’s “campground,” pals collect for music jams or simply to hang around—an actual bonus in the course of the pandemic. I don’t know if Debra Peters and Jay Hudson ever joined them across the fireplace pit, however I thank them for generously sharing their spirited music “Zydeco Shuffle!”
Right here’s our valiant crew: Doug LaValliere, director Ed Fuentes, me, and Robert Moorhead.
Watch Lori and Glen’s story now!
Thanks for stopping by! Linda