Show us your garden: Burleson couple goes with the flow

Posted Friday, Sep. 06, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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As with the forces that carve out a real river, “Rio Raley” evolved over time as nature had other plans than the Smiths did.

When Jo Anne and Raley Smith purchased their Burleson home in 2009, the back yard was a blank slate except for six mature post oak trees that sprawled across the center of the lawn. Relocating from a smaller home in California, the Smiths were excited to create their very own outdoor space around the shady oaks.

They researched. Attended Neil Sperry’s annual landscape school. Explored home and garden shows. At one show, they found Ideal Landscape of Fort Worth, which designed a garden for them with the oaks as the focal point. Ideal Landscape expanded the patio area, painting the concrete in varying hues of the same red color to define three spaces. It built a cedar pergola to mimic the woody oaks, and added beds of juniper, yucca, Texas sage and roses along the house’s foundation, all of which created a relaxing space from which to admire the oaks.

Then, the oaks died. Clearing them out, the Smiths found other stumps around the yard, indicating that trees had been dying off for a while on the property. Today, only one post oak remains in a far corner.

“Now we had this nice patio but nothing really to look at,” lamented Jo Anne.

So it was back to home and garden shows. This time, the Smiths enlisted Nature’s Reflections of Richland Hills for its talent with water features. Perhaps the two stunning river birches planted by the first company served as inspiration for the pondless waterfall and 45-foot stream that courses along the patio.

Nature’s Reflections surrounded the 3-foot waterfall with evergreen plants like cleyera, nandinas, junipers, a Chinese fringe flower and a Carissa holly for vertical interest. The streambed was dotted with reliable standards, like Stella d’Oro day lilies, rosemary, coreopsis, Knock Out roses and large African iris with their dainty, waxy white blooms. The Smiths add more color with heat-tolerant annuals, like purslane, angelonia and zinnias.

Rocks patched with lichen delineate the stream’s edge, and two flagstone bridges allow guests to safely cross the stream.

The water is constantly recycled as it falls through a grate into a holding tank at stream’s end, where it’s pumped underground back up to the waterfall. Raley estimates that the water feature adds $70 a month to his utility bill, but the payoff is priceless. Maintenance is low. Birds splash around in the flowing water. Best of all, Jo Anne says, “our grandkids [who named the stream] love standing on the little bridges and splashing their feet in the water.”

Forward-thinking as they are, the Smiths consulted Weaver Plant Nursery in Cleburne and planted several shade trees behind the stream that will eventually provide shade for the west-facing patio. Behind these trees, a row of magenta crape myrtles softens the wood privacy fence and adds color.

Overall, the red and yellow floral palette pops against all the green foliage. Jo Anne accentuates the scheme with red cushions, a red umbrella and red chili lights on the pergola.

Raley, a Corvette enthusiast, puts the landscaping project in perspective like this: “In the back yard, I’ve got a really nice used Corvette,” he chuckles. But that’s OK, because he has a real one in his garage.

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