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"Star Bed" Showcases Grounds Division's Xeriscaping Designs

 

July 2, 2013

 

The "Star Bed", the raised planting bed located at the main entrance of the Health Science Center, was constructed to feature vegetation arranged in the pattern of the Texas star, hence its name. It would reward seasonal color to visitors and members of the University highlighting the unmistakable state symbol.

 

In the spring of 2011, in an effort to support the San Antonio Water System's (SAWS) water conservation guidelines, the Facilities Grounds division started reducing the use of seasonal plants on campus. After successfully using a diverse assortment of cacti and other drought-tolerant plants all around campus, it was decided that the Star Bed will be used to highlight the aesthetic use of Texas native and adapted plants. And while the bed may no longer feature the Texas star, it has remained as the center of attraction providing color and sculptural interest to the courtyard in addition to bringing attention to the use of xeriscape design.

 

Xeriscaping, to David Brahm, Assistant Director of Facilities for Grounds Management, means "not having to plant or re-plant three times a year", which is great for his 10-man groundskeeping crew charged with maintaining over 300 acres of Health Science Center property. "Once established, xeriscape plants require minimal maintenance aside from the pulling of weeds and need very little supplemental irrigation", he says. Knowing the correct plants suited for xeriscaping is no different from selecting the right plants for other types of landscaping or gardening. "You need plants that are able to adapt to the environment", Brahm says, "knowing the type of soil that's in your landscape and how much sun the vegetation needs".

 

The Star Bed is just one of many in the Health Science Center that feature xeriscape designs. The cactus bed by the Forensic Science Building was one of the first installed on the main campus and contains over 30 different varieties of cactus. The main entrance of the Medical Arts and Research Center (MARC) is lined with Texas native plants as well as plants that are indigenous to the arid regions of South America, Africa, Mexico and other parts of the United States.

 

Some of the plants used in the Star Bed are:

 

'Agave Parryi' - Artichoke Agave

Water: low
Hardiness: 10 - 15 °F

Sun: Full

Height: 2 - 3'

Width: 2 - 3'

'Brakelights Red Yucca'

Water: low

Hardiness: 10 - 15 °F
Sun: Full/part shade
Height: 1'
Width: 2 - 3'

'Echinopsis Hybrid'
Water: low

Hardiness: 15 - 20 °F
Sun: Full / part shade
Height: 2'
Width: 2'

         
   
'Thelocactus' - Glory of Texas
Water: low
Hardiness: 10 - 15 °F
Sun: Full
Height: 8"
Width: 4"
'Ferocactushamatacanthus'
Water: low
Hardiness: 10 - 15 °F
Sun: Full / part shade
Height: 2'
Width: 1'
'Queen Victoria Agave'
Water: low
Hardiness: 10 - 15 °F
Sun: Full / part shade
Height: 1'
Width: 2 - 3'
         
   
'Yellow Tower Cactus'
Water: low
Hardiness: 20 - 25 °F
Sun: Full
Height: 2'
Width: 1'
 
'Yucca Rostrata' - Beaked Yucca
Water: low
Hardiness: 0 - 10 °F
Sun: Full
Height: 12 - 16'
Width: 6 - 8'
 
'Euphorbia milii' - Crown of Thorns
Water: low
Hardiness: 20 °F
Sun: Full
Height: 2'
Width: 2'

 

 

(This is a first in a series of articles to be contributed by David Brahm. He has served as Facilities Grounds manager for 25 years, has a Masters of Science degree in Horticulture, and is a licensed irrigator in the State of Texas.)

 

 

 

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