a back yard landscape

5 Best Ways to Enjoy Ecological Landscapes

So you’re thinking about replacing your turfgrass or other conventional landscape with native plants and features that provide ecological function.

Gray Hairstreak butterflies flicker between bluebonnets. Limestone boulders harvested from the crust of quarries just 30 miles north of Austin create shape, character, and retention. Rain gardens grow Webberville sedge and Big Muhly at warp speed and help recharge underground aquifers.

But you’re also thinking, “what should I do out here?” There’s nothing to mow, you can’t exactly picture a backyard barbeque or kids’ football game, and you know that your hearty native plants don’t need much from you except a little water on a modest schedule.

So what do you do in the kind of landscape Maas Verde creates? Maas Verde’s got a few ideas.

Have a Backyard Barbeque

The idea may seem strange at first, and I know we already panned it — but bear with me. A native planted landscape can create a grounding but curative impression at any gathering.

First, consider adding seating areas and walkways among your natural landscape features. Maas Verde can consult on grading and impervious cover requirements to create the right plan and aesthetic.

A wide, flat outdoor seating area with shade

Landscape installed by Maas Verde, designed by @colab.workshop; (photo/Adam Barbe)

Add a little outdoor lighting and you’ll be all set for safety and cool vibes after dark.

Elements like decomposed granite paths can make a property more walkable for anyone who’s less mobile or visually impaired.

round gravel seating area among garden beds and grass walkway

Broad, flat surfaces with wide walkways can help access. Add a ramp or remove cut stone borders for an even easier experience; (photo/Maas Verde)

And don’t worry about the kids. They’ll have a great time exploring boulders, gardens, and plants — and most native species will like it back. Agitation and even trampling are natural for prairie grasses, shrubs, and perennials.

Set up a Wildlife Camera

By now, it’s a familiar Texas two-step. Step one: start monitoring wildlife in a native landscape. Step two: become a citizen scientist.

To see why, check out Texas Backyard Wildlife. To start monitoring, use a Nest cam. Any more specialty equipment is up to you.

Wildlife is awesome. Enough said.

Create a Shady Grove for Happy Hour

Think about your current landscape. Maybe there’s a naturally shady spot where you can hang out on a summer evening. Maybe it faces west, so you can catch Austin’s signature blazing winter sunsets; maybe it’s secluded for better concentration or intimacy.

a stone patio and walkway amid a rain garden

A 1,980-gallon rain catchment system also functions as a shady outdoor seating area; (photo/Marc Opperman)

If you don’t have one of these, you probably want one. Have you noticed almost every restaurant in Central Texas has a patio?

There’s a reason for that, and the good news is, it’s not hard to create one (at least a small one) in any landscape. A simple pergola or even a well-placed new tree can provide shade and shelter without adding hot, reflective surfaces.

From there, choose your seating and surfaces. For a finishing touch, climbing plants like evergreen wisteria (millettia reticulata) or coral vine (antigonon leptopus) can add flair and flavor to any happy hour.

Enjoy it with Your Pets

A dog with a loving home and its own backyard is a happy dog — so imagine what a great dog mom or dad you’d be if you gave them even more nature to enjoy!

A monoculture landscape only offers a fragment of the fun a pet can receive from a biodiverse, sustainable landscape. Spaces with more natural elements help trigger a wider range of senses for better mental stimulation.

And just like us, pets can get bored and irritable if they’re cooped up. Bring nature to them, get outside together, and let them live their best lives.

Get a Native Habitat Certification

This one’s for the hardcores! With this National Wildlife Federation or Texas Parks & Wildlife certification, you’ll stand out as a native landscape steward — not only fostering but also promoting the well-being of Texas wildlife.

a sign proving one landscape is a native habitat

(Photo/Maas Verde)

“The program promotes the creation and conservation of wildlife habitats through community-wide collaboration and public education and helps bridge existing city initiatives that encourage a well-balanced and healthy urban environment for people and wildlife,” the City of Austin says.

How? It’s easy; just apply. Most sustainable landscape designs are only one or two tweaks away from eligibility. The certification process is straightforward.

Featured image: Maas Verde added a landscape to this deck and outdoor kitchen installed by Eischen’s General Contracting, LLC; (photo/Maas Verde)

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