Nationally acclaimed landscape architect Christy Ten Eyck shares her tips for transforming your home’s yard into a green haven.
By Courtney Runn, Photos courtesy of Ten Eyck Landscape Architects
When Christy Ten Eyck moved to Austin 13 years ago, she thought she had discovered heaven on earth. With its expansive parks, natural springs and endless trees, Austin was the ideal playground for the landscape architect. The founding principal at Ten Eyck Landscape Architects, Ten Eyck is responsible for a handful of Austin projects, in addition to her statewide work, including South Congress Hotel, Pfluger Circle at Lady Bird Lake, Lone Star Court and the ongoing Pease Park renovation. She’s received national recognition for her environmentally conscious work and is fighting to keep Austin green.
“We are losing our tree canopy and that’s what makes Austin so special and what sets it apart from so many cities,” Ten Eyck says. Along with a shrinking tree population, Ten Eyck is concerned about the growing traffic and expanding downtown infrastructure leading to an urban-heat-island effect. But locals can help offset Austin’s growing environmental concerns.
Ten Eyck shares her best tips for homeowners wanting to build and renovate environmentally friendly homes to do their part to keep our city green.
CHOOSE NATIVE PLANTS
“We really need to be picking plants that can take both drought and water, and luckily, there’s a bunch of Austin-native plants that do great here and can take both.”
“A lot of people think you need to have a great big tank. … The way I do it in my own yard is what I would call passive rainwater harvesting and that is simply making a place for the water that comes off your roof and falls on your property, making a place for it to go, [and] creating slight depressions where water can hit and soak in versus just running straight off into the street. … If you were to dig a slight depression, it only needs to be 4 to 6 inches deep. We’re not talking a major pit. … If you can’t do that, you can build check dams.”
DON’T CREATE TOO MUCH HARDSCAPE
“I’m sort of anti circular driveways because, to me, circular driveways take up the entire yard. … I always encourage people to have the smallest footprint for the car as possible and don’t go overboard with tons and tons of hard surface. Certainly, use what you need to use for your outdoor spaces but don’t go overboard where you’re covering your whole entire property with hard, impermeable surface. And that’s part of also letting the rainwater soak in. We want as much permeability as possible.”
“I see all the time people overwatering plants, so I think having an efficient irrigation system [is best]. And if you do use native plants, remember that they don’t need very much water once they’re established. … Trees like deep waterings but infrequent waterings. They don’t like to be watered every other day; they want to be watered once every two weeks.”
“If you have shade on the west sides and south sides, it really helps with the energy bill, not to mention shady, wonderful outdoor spaces. I think trees are the biggest and best investment anybody could make in their homes.”
USE LEAVES AS MULCH
“[Don’t blow] all the leaves up out of your garden beds. … Let those leaves stay. They make the best mulch ever. People have turned into total neat freaks. … I can understand; even I blow them off my patios and things or rake them off, but I let the leaves stay in my garden beds and it’s a wonderful mulch and helps build soil. It’s the No. 1 thing people can do. … Use the leaves that naturally fall. … Those native shrubs love the leaves.”
CHRISTY TEN EYCK’S FAVORITE AUSTIN NURSERIES
Barton Springs Nursery, Sledd Nursery, The Natural Gardener and Shoal Creek Nursery
HILL COUNTRY NATIVE TREES
Eastern red cedar
Escarpment live oak
Texas red oak