A Garden You Can Live In

This Texas garden is made for relaxing with plenty of outdoor living options, including a comfy deck and patio.

Easy-Care Front Yard

Forgoing grass, the Schroeders created a beautiful, low-maintenance front yard on their West Texas lot. Note how they used a flagstone path to enhance their landscape's rustic feel.

Test Garden Tip: Use billowy grasses to help soften the cold, harsh feel hardscaping can have in your landscape. To make the yard truly low-maintenance, select native plants or those adapted to your region.

Leave a Space to Relax

Make sure you leave a spot to enjoy your garden. The Schroeders put in a perfect little patio by building a simple pergola off the side of their house.

Test Garden Tip: If you create a path that leads to your patio, use the same material for both surfaces. It'll help integrate your patio into the landscape, bridging the gap between indoors and out.

Use Color Effectively

The Schroeders learned that low-maintenance doesn't have to mean low-color -- even in the Southwest. Here, tan stone makes a great backdrop for a golden Tecoma, blue lead plant (Plumbago), and orange butterfly weed (Asclepias). Farther back, purple Mexican sage stands tall in a container.

Test Garden Tip: It's especially important to pick tough plants for container gardens in hot climates. Look for heat-loving tropicals from arid regions; they can take hot, dry conditions.

Charming Nooks

Give your landscape a more intimate feel by creating little nooks. Here, the Schroeders planted wild petunia (Ruellia) to create a beautiful (and easy-care) focal point for a mixture of stones, lavender, and rosemary.

Test Garden Tip: Selecting plants that have fragrant flowers or foliage helps your garden feel even cozier and more intimate. And by growing plants that appeal to more than just your sense of sight, you create a more exciting garden.

Plan a Perfect Deck

A raised deck off the back of the house gave the Schroeders another place to enjoy their landscape. The roof over the deck provides protection from the hot summer sun.

Test Garden Tip: A traditional tin roof is one good way to provide cover for Southwestern landscapes. But you might also try adding a pergola and planting it with vines such as grapes or orange-flowering trumpet vine for a more organic feel.

Use Furniture That Fits Your Style

An easy way to make your deck a showcase in your landscape is to select good-looking furniture. Choose from a wide range of outdoor-friendly styles that match your architecture and personal tastes.

Test Garden Tip: While this teak furniture is beautiful, it's also expensive. Consider purchasing less-expensive furniture and dressing it up to fit your personality. Great-looking pieces don't have to cost a lot -- especially if you decorate them yourself.

A Clever Way to Stop the Sun

Summer days can be hot and uncomfortable -- especially in the Desert Southwest. In addition to covering their deck, the Schroeders put up sheer white curtains to help block the sun. An added benefit: The curtains help create additional privacy.

Test Garden Tip: There's a wide range of outdoor fabrics on the market. Choose from funky to traditional -- and everything in between. For a more put-together look, match your outdoor curtains with your chair cushions or outdoor rug.

Add More Privacy

Simple sheets of lattice create a perfect deck-side wall. Lattice casts more welcoming shade for the Schroeders, while still allowing cooling breezes to move through the deck area.

Increase the shade and privacy potential of a lattice screen with vines. For extra effect, grow hardy or annual vines on the outside of the screen and tender or annual vines such as passionflower or lead plant in containers on the deck to give a flowery view from the inside.

Create Excitement with Color

Bright pink bougainvillea is a perfect hot-weather plant for the Schroeders' deck. Bougainvillea is one of the best tender vines for containers in hot-summer areas such as the Southwest.

Test Garden Tip: Bougainvillea blooms in a variety of shades from reds and pinks to lavender, apricot, and white. For extra excitement, select varieties with variegated foliage that look great even after the blooms fade.

Keep the Views Open

Because of building and safety codes, the Schroeders needed a railing around their deck. They chose a trellis-style wire railing. This railing style doesn't distract their views of the Texas landscape beyond -- and it works as a design element, echoing the trellising along the deck's far side.

Test Garden Tip: If you use a wire rail like this, pay attention to the details: Different types of wire fit best with different styles. Also: Check your local building and safety codes for the height requirements of the railing.

Tuck in a Water Feature

The Schroeders incorporated a small waterfall (which they built themselves) off the end of their deck. The water flows down the boulders and is sent back to the top with a recirculating pump.

Test Garden Tip: Water features add to the overall ambience of your deck or patio because of their great looks and pleasant sounds. Plus, water features like this are a magnet for birds.

Provide Plenty of Entertaining Space

Just down the hill from the Schroeders' deck, they installed a gravel patio in a shady spot. While the gravel patio and Adirondack chairs have a different feel from the other patio and deck, they still fit well with the landscape's rustic style.

Test Garden Tip: Site a gravel patio under the shade of a large tree to create a cool, relaxing haven. Keep in mind, though, that autumn cleanup can be tricky since it's harder to rake up fallen leaves from loose gravel.

Make the Most of a View

With a breathtaking vista like this, it's no wonder the Schroeders created so many outdoor entertaining spaces. Even if you're not lucky enough to look out over beautiful open countryside, our landscaping tips can help you add and frame beautiful views in your own garden.

Test Garden Tip: Check out our Ultimate Garden Planning Guide for the best tips, tools, and ideas for your yard.

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