Houston to Austin Design Adapt | Kathy Payne and Greg Wise |Central Texas Gardener


– [Narrator] When Kathy Payne and Greg Bright
moved to rocky Lago Vista from Houston, they could still grow some of their favorite plants. The rules had changed, though, while Kathy’s
design vision simply adapted. – To me a garden is a work of art and cooperation
with nature. So when we lived in Houston, I enjoyed doing
that very much, but Houston’s a different kind of environment. It’s moist and the soil is soft. – [Greg] There’s basically no soil here, it’s
caliche. – When we moved here, it took me two hours
to dig a hole this big to plant my first plant. – You have to bring in soil, bags of it, and
supplement, and then the deer and the drought were issues. – [Narrator] Until 2015 the lakefront home
was their part-time getaway. When they settled in full time, they updated
the house with Texas contemporary style. – And then we took what was in the front yard,
not very much, a hill basically, in a circular drive, and we just excavated that and decided
to build that retaining wall and put levels in it so that we could really enjoy the garden. But I had no hope of building such an intricate
thing without the talent of Greg, he’s the one who really knows how to build things. – We had pretty much given up before we finally
discovered what worked and the rock garden was all part of that. But it wasn’t my first rodeo either. I used to own some garden centers. We had two Ace Hardware stores in Houston
that I grew up with in my family, and we had horticulturists that worked there. We had professional landscapers that worked
there, and so growing up, I got to learn a thing or two observing these guys and then
going on to manage the family stores with my dad. – [Narrator] Greg’s limestone tiers block
runoff from the street. After filling in with soil, Kathy layered
plants of various heights and forms. Textural foliage companions with pollinator
perennials, including salvias and alliums. Succulents, culinary herbs and other fragrant
ground covers resist browsing deer. – Any time I’m looking at a space, even if
it’s a very small space, I back away from it and I think of what, if we were painting
a painting, what would we do with the space? You would look for a balance of color. If you have a little spot of red here, you
might look for a couple of other spots of red there, look for a balance in the textures,
and it’s the same thing with leaves to me, or even with flowers. You’re looking for a nice variety of something
that has very large leaves next to something that has very small leaves. It’s Austin so water is very expensive and
scarce so you’re gonna really try to pick more of a xeriscape landscape, something that
will maintain and withstand a drought and the heat. – [Narrator] To embellish the front porch
with the essence of water, Kathy presented Greg her latest drawing. – I was trying to draw something that I thought
would look interesting as a piece of art on the ground that would withstand the elements
and the deer, but also keep a low profile. We wanted to create something that looked
a little bit like a river. We wanted to use the nice cool color of gray
like you see in the Mexican river stone. If it were a river, then it would have beaches,
wouldn’t it? So you’ll notice we’ve got some lighter tone,
smaller rock, smaller pebble, which looks like sand. So that comes on the either side of the swirling
river rock and you have to have a pop of color. If I can’t do it with a flower of some kind,
then that’s how the idea of having the red glass came in. – [Narrator] They turned a chunk of backyard
limestone into a disappearing fountain. A 15-gallon basin recirculates the gently
flowing water to attract birds, pollinators and lizards. – She’s out there with one of those rock breakers,
those long bars and she’s out there. I’ve got a picture of her digging that hole. – I can’t weld but I can dig a hole. It’s about 18 inches round and 18 inches deep
and the only good thing about caliche is when you dig a hole, basically the sides stay. – [Greg] It was a nice hole. – [Kathy] We had to run electricity too, to
run the pump, right? So he figured out the electricity. – [Narrator] Greg analyzed the size of hole
to drill into the limestone for a gently cascading plume of water. – [Greg] And did I make the hole the right
diameter, ’cause the smaller diameter hole, the more it’s just going to squirt up straight,
right? So I kind of guessed on the size and it was
about a one inch diameter vinyl tubing. – [Narrator] He also calculated drip irrigation
flow and pump size to regulate the waterfall’s output. His biggest installation challenge was the
borders to corral Kathy’s rock swirls. – We thought about that standard four inch
tall metal border you can get anywhere, landscape border, and then I realized, well you can’t
really form that, you can’t really, you can bend it, but you can’t bend it easily and
we really needed the slow arcs that curved into infinity really. So we decided on two inch, one eighth inch
thick metal banding, two inches tall, and I could actually use a metal bender to form
that, if you will, and then welded together. – [Narrator] Kathy’s stacking technique also
prevents shifting. – So the way you stack them, you want them
to be stacked kind of long way like this so it looks like a current. If you stack ’em like this, it doesn’t look
the same. Now that they’re packed in there, literally
you can walk across it, they’re so tightly packed. You might upset a stone here and there, but
for the most part it’s pretty stable. – They pretty much stay in place. – [Narrator] To keep the basin’s water clear,
Greg drops in a barley straw bale. – The water has stayed clear for a year. I’m blown away. – [Narrator] Then Kathy added accents and
plants. – [Kathy] There’s several different varieties
of thyme, they’re just so beautiful. We have some elfin thyme out there, which
just hugs, looks like little mountains. – [Greg] That’s my favorite. – [Kathy] That’s my favorite too, I like that
too. And the thyme flowers, beautiful little purple
flowers in the springtime, lovely. And oregano. So those seem to be the most natural ground
cover. I just love succulents and that was a little
bit of a leap of faith. We weren’t sure whether that would weather
the winter, whether it would be able to withstand some direct sunlight right around noontime. Really it gets direct sunlight and so we weren’t
sure about that. We were actually gone after we built this
garden. We left in July and August. It doesn’t get any hotter than that. We were gone for the entire two months. – [Greg] That was a real test. – [Kathy] Big test, and we came back and it
still looked great. – [Narrator] They sold the house to move closer
to family in Tennessee, but are coaching the new owners through their first seasons. Greg’s producing videos and how-to tips on
his website Fix It Wise and YouTube, including their rocky river, fun couple adventure. – We are such a great couple when it comes
to projects like that. We have very complimentary skills. It’s really fun to work together. Greg is so good at the technical, he can make
art out of a hunk of wood or a piece of metal or some concrete, all, he can work with any
medium, and I like to design through plants and shapes and things like this. So together that was a very fun, probably
our perfect project together just because it used something I enjoy doing and something
he enjoys doing. What do you think? – Well, that was something your mom said that
I picked up on, she said, “This project was the perfect combination “of both of your skills.”

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