Landscapes of the Month: Crafting a Ranch for Retirees - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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Landscapes of the Month: Crafting a Ranch for Retirees

Photo: LandPatterns, Inc.

Soil is a crucial part of any landscape, and this home near Dallas is no exception. The owners of the newly constructed Westlake Ranch desired a unique landscape they could enjoy during retirement, so they called Neil Bales, president and CEO of LandPatterns Inc., and his team to install the new landscape and provide future maintenance.

The soil was a vital part of this project, as the area is known for its red clay, making water penetration difficult.

Photo: LandPatterns, Inc.

 “When we performed the initial installation, soil preparation was of the utmost importance for future growth, drainage, and performance of the plant material,” Bales says.

As construction of the home was nearing completion, LandPatterns began installing the new landscape. The process started with grade work and laying out the turf and beds. An irrigation system was installed to keep the property always looking its best. According to Bales, grading was one of the challenges of this project.

“The difficulty with the grade work was that most of this had to be done by hand,” he says. “Heavy machinery, like skid steers, was not permitted by the homeowner as the lot is peppered with native Post Oak trees that suffer easily from root compaction, machinery, etc.”

Because the oaks are an essential piece of the property, Bales and his team had to be creative with pulley systems and hand dollies while installing the plant material.

After the grading was complete, LandPatterns worked with the irrigation contractor to ensure all new plants would receive adequate water. Another factor was the existing Post Oaks, which are prone to damage when overwatered, making it critical to provide the correct amount of water without saturating the drip line of the 30–50-year-old Post Oaks.

Photo: LandPatterns, Inc.

One of the owners, who is a master gardener, took great interest in making sure the team properly amended the existing soil to ensure it would support future plant growth. LandPatterns brought 50 cubic yards of compost and bed prep for the new plants. Soil amendments are still added as needed to keep the landscape in good shape.

Many landscapes in this area have a formal, manicured look, but these homeowners wanted something different. After working with an outside landscape architect, they chose native-looking plants that would provide a variety of textures, contrast, and year-round color. To reduce the ongoing maintenance, they decided on drought-tolerant plants like agave and several types of yucca and grasses.

Evergreen shrubs, including Pittosporum, wintercreeper and boxwood, were added for their year-round appeal. LandPatterns installed a combination of shrubs, annuals, and perennials that were used for continuous color during the growing season, including azaleas, lantana, and salvia.

Photo: LandPatterns, Inc.

While many of the plantings had a less formal look, some areas of the property retained the manicured style of the local area. A palisades zoysia lawn was installed leading up to the home’s main entrance.

Other features of the new landscape include a grassland prairie mix under the established post oaks. In addition to plants, other items, such as moss boulders, river rock, and gravel, were used in the planting beds. Several containers are planted near the front patio for seasonal color, with the plants being changed out each season. This front patio also has small boxwood beds with annuals in front of the boxwoods.

In areas with heavy shade, you can find Encore azaleas, lirope, and mondo grass that transition to sun-tolerant native grasses away from the shady areas. On the back patio is an antique armillary sphere surrounded by Knockout roses and seasonal colors. Gravel beds of yuccas, sedge grass, agave, and mixed succulents surround a pool in the backyard. These back patio beds are often raked to keep the gravel out of nearby drainage boxes.

Photo: LandPatterns, Inc.

The homeowners spend most of their summers at a vacation home in North Carolina, but they’re able to control the irrigation system remotely. LandPatterns audits the system monthly and spot-checks the property weekly to ensure the system is running smoothly. Communication has been a vital part of this project.

“It was a lot of fun to work with a client so knowledgeable about plant materials, soils, etc., and kept us as an organization on our toes making sure we are communicating every step of the way,” Bales says.

The homeowners wanted a landscape they could enjoy and spend as little or as much time as they wished working in it, and that’s exactly what they received.

LandPatterns’ work earned them a Gold Award in the 2022 Awards of Excellence. Receiving this award has been meaningful for Bales and the LandPatterns team.

“Winning the highest honor of a Gold Award is very satisfying and great validation for our team,” Bales says. “We enjoy passing it along to all of our company, especially the team & crew that did the work. It allows us to commend them for the job well done, and our peers and colleagues across the country notice it as well.”

Interested in participating in the Awards of Excellence? Be sure to enter your projects when entries open in February 2024.

Matt Olson

Matt Olson is a freelancer for NALP.