Living trees, shrubs, vines, groundcovers, annuals and perennials are usually the most important materials in landscaping. Their selection, placement and maintenance are the main criteria the layman uses to evaluate landscape work. It is extremely important, therefore, to select plants that will serve the function as dependably as possible. For every landscape need there are numerous plants to choose from.

Native Plants. Native plants are rightfully gaining a prominent place in the landscape. Although we have seen an increase in planting and preserving native plant species, we are still a long way from maximizing their potential. Often the native plants are more resistant to drought, insects and disease. If species are selected that are native to the immediate vicinity of the home, there is an additional bonus of visually relating the new landscape to the natural environment.

Unusual challenges for landscaping with native plants can be found in some of our more densely populated areas. Subdivisions around Austin and San Antonio, for instance, are often located in hilly areas to take advantage of views. The ecology of these sites is very delicate with a thin soil layer over rock supporting a few small trees such as Texas persimmon (Diospyros texana), live oak (Quercus virginiana), agarita (Mahonia trifoliolata) and sumac (Rhus lanceolata).

If the property owner has a stereotyped concept that landscaping should consist of planting various broadleafed evergreen trees and flowering shrubs, he may clear the site of all the "brush." Then, after spending considerable time and money trying to provide topsoil, irrigate adequately and reduce soil pH as well as deal with insect and disease problems, the property owner wonders why maintaining the landscape is such a big and expensive job.

With some careful thinning, pruning, transplanting and a few well-placed groundcover areas, the property owners could have an attractive and functional landscape. Builders, developers and homeowners need to evaluate natural growth on the site before destroying it.

Diverse temperatures, topography, soil and rainfall in Texas give every part of the state its own unique character. We can develop more functional and attractive home landscapes by utilizing native plants.

Plant Grouping. Plants are basically used as specimens, in lines, in groups or in masses. Each method creates a different effect. Most landscapes will use all four types of groupings.

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