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Last year’s February Yard of the Month was in print just before severe freezing weather, as San Marcos residents struggled with power outages and water issues, and again in 2022 Spring Lake Garden Club’s yard of the month has avoided a devastating freeze. At the intersection of Martin Luther King Drive and Wilson Street, the home of Amy and John Thomaides features hardy green yuccas and blooming irises near the entry, and even a patch of bluebonnets near a clump of chile pequins in the sunny side yard. Having lived in San Marcos for almost 30 years, Amy is savvy about the trials and triumphs of gardening in Central Texas and tends a landscape suited to our climate. The Thomaides’ front yard and parking area is separated from side yards by a sturdy seethrough fence of wood and hog panel.
A large oak dominates one side of the front yard, where an amazing variety of native plants make their home in the shadier area under the tree, including penstemon, pigeon berry and red columbine. Horse herb covers areas which will receive new plants as the weather warms. On the sunnier half of the yard stands a tall yucca surrounded by smaller twist-leaf yuccas and hardy grasses, as well as blooming purple iris, lilies, and narcissus. A tall natural sculpture of eroded limestone, otherwise known as Texas holey rock, provides a central focus point for this sunny area and is surrounded by Gregg’s mist flower. Deep-rooted grasses, including Mexican feather grass and Texas bluegrass, direct rainwater into the soil and slow runoff from this area.
Water management was one reason Amy decided five years ago to construct a low concrete block wall between the front porch and yard, directing water into a deep gravel-filled filtration bed topped with pea gravel, leading to side and back yards and toward Purgatory Creek. The other purpose for the wall is an art project, facing the wall with a tile mosaic. Amy is a San Marcos employee in resource recovery as well as manager of community enhancement initiatives, so she has her eye out for useful discarded materials such as the flat decorative tiles stored behind the wall for the mosaic. She notes that like the landscape, this hardscape project is “a work in progress.” Meanwhile the unadorned wall defines a private area which extends the front porch seating area.
One completed project is the see-through fence of wood-framed hog panel along the side street, allowing sunshine to reach raised beds just inside the fence. Bedded crops were harvested at the end of last year, but garlic and chile pequins in the ground remain ready for use. Other plants inside the fence are spikey green palmettos, two Arizona cypresses and a Mexican mountain laurel with gray-green leaves. The fence partially screens the street view to a flagstone patio and water garden behind the house. Installed last June, the pond is not for fish but a site for mosquito hawks and dragon flies to lay eggs so the nymphs can eat mosquito larvae. Both patio and pond are further screened by decorative iron panels from Amy’s parents’ home in Houston, which serve as trellises for blooming vines in warmer weather. Trees near the patio are Mexican plum, Texas persimmon and a date palm with long dark green fronds.
Other palms line the side garden on the opposite side of the house, where the a tall blue fence of corrugated metal is a backdrop for Amy’s collection of decorative metal flowers. Trees planted in this area include native anacacho orchid, flame sumac (for fall color) and sweet olive (an alternative to invasive ligustrum). Choosing native plants in place of common nursery cultivars is one way to support pollinators — one of Amy’s priorities — and ensure that a landscape can better withstand the extremes of weather in central Texas.