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The McClintocks have transformed a sunny corner lot in the Franklin Square neighborhood into a shady retreat full of rich color. They are this month's Spring Lake Garden Club's Yard of the Month. Photos by Sharon Lockett

Planting with change in mind

December Yard of the Month
Sunday, December 1, 2019

Few homeowners get to start at square one with seeing their house built on an empty lot and surrounding it with their choice of landscape, but Dick and Margo McClintock had that option 12 years ago as the Franklin Square neighborhood was developed. Their home on the corner of Meadow View and Hearthstone is Spring Lake Garden Club’s yard of the month for December.

The McClintocks moved to San Marcos from Dripping Springs, so they understood the challenges of climate in Central Texas and based their landscape planning on what grows successfully here. In addition to the two trees a builder is required to plant — both live oaks in this case — the McClintocks added two cedar elms, now showing fall’s brilliant yellow leaves, as well as two lace bark elms. A red bud on the corner by the street is accompanied by a variegated ligustrum and a mountain laurel. An anacacho orchid tree and desert willow also joined the collection. No wonder the lot is now an unusually shady and private retreat for a corner lot. In fact, the ample shade now proves a challenge for some plants such as dwarf crape myrtle and golden ball lead tree at the boundaries of the corner side yard, although a fig tree near the back fence is perfectly situated for enough sun to provide a plentiful supply of fruit in season.

Abundant sages line driveway of McClintock entry.

Replacing struggling turf grass under the trees with Asian jasmine has proved successful, but as with any landscape, evolution depends on the changing environment. Dick’s basic advice on gardening is simple: if you have money to spend on landscaping, spend 10 percent on plants, 10 percent on amendments, and 80 percent on good soil. Twelve years ago the McClintocks brought in soil from Gardenville to establish their plants in a healthy environment, and free mulch from the City of San Marcos is still added as needed. The McClintocks have laid several flagstone walkways, one leading from the side street to their front door, and they still have some building stones garnered from original neighborhood construction sites.

Purple cenizo blooms and red yaupon berries frame side entry of McClintock home.

Although deep shade has discouraged grass in mid yard, baby bluebonnet plants are already popping up in sunny narrow areas beside the street. Margo says the blooms were almost overwhelming last year, but few homeowners would complain about two many bluebonnets. As for color in the yard, reliable sages are still blooming white and red on both sides of the driveway. Framing the rock walk from the side street to the entry are the purple blooms of a large Texas sage or cenizo and the red berries of a yaupon holly. A bed at the corner of the two streets includes a trailing lantana with lilac flowers, and a nearby oleander will offer pink blossoms in season. Finally, a lime green asparagus fern under the front window is thriving in partial shade.

Sages thrive in sunny entry area of McClintock home.

As this landscape transitions from its sunny origins to more shade, some existing plantings may be exchanged for others that are better adapted to the changed environment, with shrubs like beauty berry and perennials including liriope, Turk's cap, and cast-iron plant. Meanwhile, the mountain laurel, fragrant sumac, persimmon and yaupon holly will continue to benefit from tempered sunshine. Having established a rich and colorful landscape, the McClintocks are now more concerned with maintenance than adding plants, but like all successful gardeners, they are ready to analyze and adjust to changes in the environment and in their plants.

San Marcos Record

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