The Horseshoe Bay project sought to facilitate a natural, relaxed environment that would combine the outdoors with the indoors of this ranch-style home in Texas Hill Country. The clients, a family with children, joined forces with Eden Garden Design to dream up a dramatic garden feature with ease of access throughout the site. Native Texas plants, rustic granite gravel and plenty of outdoor living space tie the home into the ecology of the site.
Can you introduce yourself?
Eden Garden Design is an award-winning landscape Design + Build firm led by principals Amy Hovis and Sarah Yant. Based in Austin, Texas, Eden specializes in commercial, residential and land restoration projects.
Our designs emphasize native and adapted plants and the highest quality hardscape materials. Together we create landscapes that flourish in the central Texas area – smart designs that are new and unique, yet all based on sustainability. Sustainability informs our philosophy and is the key to every project, on every level. While each project is unique, our high standards are universal. We love what we do!
What was the overall vision – look, feel and functionality – for this landscaping project?
Given the remarkable natural features of the site and its location in the Texas Hill Country, we knew we had to create an outdoor experience that spoke to the terroir of the area.
Accessibility was the driving force behind the design + build project, and we transformed the unnavigable side yard into a dramatic garden feature.
In addition to access, we wanted to create a natural and relaxed environment for the family to enjoy the outdoors. A minimal lawn area of ‘Cavalier’ zoysia grass, buffered from the street by a stand of billowing Big Muhly (Muhlenbergia lindheimeri) grass, provides a safe place for children to play.
The lawn-free garden area in front of the home features shade-tolerant, native planting under towering cedar elm and live oak trees.
What inspired you during the project design process?
Our design direction was driven by the midcentury architecture of the home and the site, with its distinctive feature, Slickrock Creek, which creates a natural boundary along the entire rear of the property. Horseshoe Bay is part of a geologically rich area of the Texas Hill Country containing a wealth of stone and mineral resources. We designed around a material palette featuring locally-sourced stone and gravels, native plant life and modern steel elements.
In your opinion, how does this office celebrate the midcentury modern principle of integrating the outdoors with the indoors? What details were added to make spaces relate to one another?
This ranch-style home marries the outdoors with the indoors and celebrates the natural beauty and ecology of the site. Our work captures the spirit of the property, showcases local hardscape materials and native Texas plants, and gives the homeowners functional outdoor living spaces. We highlight plants such as Yucca rostrata and Agave ovatifolia as sculptural forms, and designate a small yet functional lawn area.
Natural limestone boulder retaining walls echo the limestone of the home construction, and decomposed granite gravel echoes the granite boulders of Slickrock Creek.
In addition to our landscape project, David Wilkes Builders designed and built a two-story wood deck at the rear of the home, directly overlooking the creek.
How does the landscaping tie in with the architecture of this home?
Playing off the midcentury lines of the architecture and limestone siding of the ranch-style house, we introduced steel retaining walls and steps to create an easily accessible path leading from the driveway to the lawn and garden area. The path also provides access to the creek just behind the house.
A simple seating area offers opportunities for cozy fires and views of the creek beyond. Rustic, locally-quarried decomposed granite gravel was used as the surface for the pathway and seating area. Natural limestone boulder retaining walls, an organic element countering the sharper lines of the steel and echoing the siding of the home, provide the outer boundary.
How does the landscaping fit into the surrounding natural environment?
Our Horseshoe Bay project possesses a unique feature – a beautiful creek right in the backyard. Slickrock Creek is a tributary of Lake Lydon B. Johnson, a reservoir on the Colorado River in the Texas Hill Country northwest of Austin.
The presence of this healthy riparian corridor influences every element of the experience of the property, from views to wildlife to cooling breezes. Our project creates a natural and easy transition from the landscaped area surrounding the home to the more natural creek area at the rear of the property.
Which materials and plants were used and why?
We utilized decomposed granite gravel and limestone boulders, both materials indigenous to the area. Steel provides a clean, modern and unifying element. Dramatic beaked yucca (Yucca rostrata) and whale’s tongue agave (Agave ovatifolia) provide structure and interest throughout the year.
Plantings of tough Texas natives such as basketgrass (Nolina texana), twistleaf yucca (Yucca rupicola), fragrant mistflower (Ageratina havanensis) and trailing purple lantana tumble over the limestone boulder and steel retaining walls, softening the space and attracting pollinators.
The woodland planting area at the front of the home features Turk’s cap (Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii), sedge grass (Carex retroflexa ‘Scott’s Turf’), Texas sotols (Dasylirion texanum) and inland sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium).
How long did the landscaping project last? Any major setbacks, and if so, what?
The design process for this project lasted about three months over the summer, and installation took approximately two months during the fall. Luckily we didn’t experience any major setbacks.
What is your favorite detail of the landscape and why?
The intersection of the steel retaining walls with the natural limestone boulders is probably our favorite detail of this landscape, not only because it solves an important navigational problem (in offering a functional space for relaxing and hanging out), but it also represents a tie-in between the old and the new, architecture and land, with the juxtaposition of the steel meeting the rock.
What advice/recommendations would you give to someone looking to renovate their yard?
Investing in a well-designed, cohesive Master Plan is the best start to any project. It’s also important to have an appropriate budget to do things right the first time, or phase out the installation as needed if budget doesn’t allow you to tackle it all at once.