“The Normandy Phase”

by ESP on June 20, 2014 · 5 comments



Here is a front garden in South Austin I spent a few days beating into shape and these are the visuals I generated to communicate the design to the client.

The first one incorporates pavers for a more formal look:


This one introduced flagstone for a preferred meandering, organic look.


Both designs called for the existing linear sidewalk to be removed.


And removed it was, expanding exponentially with every tooth rattling blow from the 18lb sledge hammers.

This concrete expansion phenomenon is explained in detail in…


The concrete expanded so rapidly it had filled a dumpster up in the time it took to say “why did my design have to call for the removal of the sidewalk?”


Saving Ryan


I refer to this part of the installation process as the ‘Normandy’ phase and it can be a little unnerving for the home owner should they come home in the middle of it.


Next came turf removal, grade reduction, flattening and sprinkler capping.


Here is the area almost prepped.

The hedge in front of the porch was removed to open up the view from the front porch. Removal of the sidewalk made the space feel much larger.


Final Implementation:


Grey Tejas black aggregate, Mexican beach pebbles and Silvermist flagstone blend up to the grey lower story of the house.


No more sprinklers or lawn cutting required here.

A solar powered art installation by Melissa Borrell


called Glowave is designated for the rectangular area to the left of the front porch.



The existing spineless prickly pear cactus and agave were pruned up and a couple of large limestone boulders were brought in to pull down the white of the house.




Three sculptural whales tongue agave are given plenty of space to spread their spiny wings.


And spread they will.

The rest of the plantings combine rosemary, basket grass, compact sage, gopher plant and a few muhly grasses that will fill in and soften the scene over time.


It is very rewarding to see a space transform like this one. The final result is almost enough to mentally fade away the ‘storming of the sidewalk’ and the battered nerves of the Normandy phase…

images (3)



Back in the Patch:

Talking of transformations,

IMG_0039 (3)

it seems like only yesterday that he was a small man trapped in a box,

and she was only a few feet shorter than the first cypresses that I planted in the Patch.


Nothing gives you a better appreciation of the passage of time than children and Arizona ‘blue ice’ cypress trees.


Plants and trees have matured over the years, the neighboring house has now receded behind a tall wall of foliage yet

battles rage on and on in the Patch…


…like the stand of Bermuda grass that insists on growing in the safe haven around the base of my barrel cacti



and this huge vitex that constantly strains and leans to scrape the roof of my front porch.



The dollop of silver in the middle is ‘Silver King’ artemisia,

Artemisia ludoviciana



a rapid spreader.

I keep mine in check by surrounding it with five rosemary bouncers.


It pairs well with Gregg’s mist flower.




The cone flowers have apparently liked the deep soakings we have received this spring.


Stay Tuned For:


“A Change of Scenery


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1 TexasDeb June 23, 2014 at 6:53 am

Such an amazing transformation of that SAustin space. I do hope you’ll get back to it after some time has passed and give us followup shots of the plantings as they mature. And that solar installation – really impressive! I’d have a hard time getting anything done other than standing and staring at that one (mostly from the safely cooled confines of the A/C space indoors for the time being). How great to take the death star’s ministrations and render them into “Art”. Take that, ol Sol. Shine all you want!

I will certainly take some shots when the plants have filled in and I look forward to seeing how the Glowave looks at night – all lit up. It is nice that the death star’s blasted heat rays can be harnessed into a cooling marine blue glow…ssss

2 Rock Rose June 23, 2014 at 6:13 pm

As usual wonderful design and implementation. I am sure the homeowners are thrilled with their new landscape and their new water bill. But surely you need to rent a jack hammer.

Thanks RR and yes, no more thirsty lawn here.
A Jack hammer?…I was thinking a skid steer with this attachment…

Christmas? :-)

3 Kate S. June 24, 2014 at 12:15 pm

Gorgeous installation. Felt like I could actually breathe easier after seeing the ‘after’ from the ‘before’. Really nice.

Thank you Kate. Removing the existing claustrophobic hedge and dividing sidewalk was key to making the space feel larger.

4 Pam/Digging June 26, 2014 at 12:10 am

Very nice installation, Philip. I like the formal design too. Yes, kids do grow up fast, just like Arizona cypresses. I’ve ended up having to prune mine up to allow passage in a narrow space. A minor tragedy, but I still love it.

Thanks Pam.
Yes growing fast…just like the weeds this year. So many weeds!
The cypresses do get enormous and grow fast especially with a little extra water. I have three now around the Patch perimeter.
They smell good too!

5 Emma November 19, 2014 at 3:35 am

Wow! Amazing design! I wish that I had such e beautiful front yard. I hope that I will find time to make something like this for my house. Thanks for sharing!

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