Relentless drought put the heat on gardeners last year, and memories of the dried brown yards have led to small first steps toward an altered landscape across Texas.
The first casualty: color.
Popular but thirsty annuals like impatiens are giving way to hardier perennials that don't have to be replaced every year.
Drought-dinged gardeners are also choosing tougher native trees, reassessing their lawns, doubling up on mulch and switching to drip irrigation systems to conserve water.
Master gardener Gay Larson of Annetta says she has changed her ways, starting with getting a jump on sprinkler maintenance in February.
"I was smarter this year because I know I'm going to be restricted on water. I'm not planting as much color. I've decreased container plantings, and I'm using hardier plants," said Larson, who, besides her own garden, tends the landscape at the Union Gospel Mission in Fort Worth as well as projects at Aledo's City Hall and community center.
Arlington gardener Jerry Young, whose yard is dominated by drought-tolerant perennials, recently installed a drip irrigation system in his planting beds.
"It's going to save me a lot of water," he said. "It's not evaporating, it's going into the ground."
They're not alone in mending their ways, said Steve McLaughlin, whose Greenscape landscape company maintains yards in Fort Worth.
"For the most part, we are altering landscapes. People are being smarter. They aren't going in with the same things that did not survive last summer."
But McLaughlin thinks it would take a two-year drought to really change the garden view, noting that some people are clueless.
"Some of my customers have been as stupid as they ever have been in plant selection. And then Mother Nature has fooled us as well in regards to how well plants have performed in the last few months with all the rain," he said.
Last year was tough for the state's $16.5 billion nursery industry.
It got worse when people started returning dead plants, said Kenny Dougharty, assistant manager at The Plant Shed nursery in Benbrook.
"After the drought, we changed our guarantee from 12 months to six months and then to three months. We had to tell customers we aren't responsible for an act of God," he said.
Now, many nurseries, tree farms and sod sellers across North Texas report strong sales as gardeners scramble to replace dead trees, shrubs and lawns before summer.
"This spring, folks looked at their losses and then did replacements," said Sam Weger of Calloway's Nursery, chairman of the Texas Nursery and Landscape Association.
Winter and spring rains "saved us; it saved a lot of the industry," said Larry Bishop of King Ranch Turfgrass in Benbrook.
The drought killed an estimated 5.6 million trees in urban areas of Texas, and growers say replacing the trees has kept them busy since fall.
"We've replaced a lot more large trees than we normally do, replacing main trees in yards," said Denise Spitler, who owns Brazos River Trees in Weatherford. "We were really busy until mid-May. But our season has shortened because people don't want to take a chance once it gets hot."
Keith Johansson, who owns Metro Maples in Fort Worth, said he absorbed "miserable losses" last year in his stock of shade-loving Japanese maples. He lost many canopy trees at his nursery, and he's now using more sunscreens to protect his maples.
"We're setting sales records this year," he said.
Still, burned by water restrictions, some homeowners are wary.
Some have switched from St. Augustine grasses to more drought-tolerant varieties like zoysia, buffalo grass and Tiff Bermuda, Bishop said.
Mike Cook, who owns Mike's Garden Center, said that while spring sales have been strong and more people are interested in xeriscaping, he and his customers remain worried about water restrictions and costs.
"People are reluctant to put in a full yard when they are not sure about water. Some people got out of putting in gardens, and that's contagious. When the neighbors see that, they start thinking the same way," Cook said.
Another problem: the economy. "They aren't building new housing," he said.
Scott Metcalf of Lawn Arrangers in Fort Worth said many of his customers are "a little reluctant to pull the trigger. They want to put in the yard, but they are afraid to water it. I think some people decided to wait a year."
Dragging water hoses around last summer also persuaded some folks to add sprinkler systems.
"Last year scared a lot of people. They said they can't do that again," said Alan Garcia, sales manager at Fort Worth Lawn Sprinkler Co.
The drought, he said, also taught the company something.
"It made us a lot more mindful of trying to conserve water. We learned how much we were overwatering. It has made us smarter."
Steve Campbell, 817-390-7981