Welcome to the website of Mary Irish

Horticultural Information and Communications Services

Consulting | Speaking | Horticultural Writing | Teaching

Gardening in the South Texas is as much a delight to me as gardening in the desert once was. I want to share my enthusiasm for all the great plants, native and otherwise, that can be grown in Texas and the Southwest.

For 25 years, I lived, worked and gardened in the Phoenix metropolitan area. The building of that garden and all the lessons learned there are the subject of my book A Place All Our Own (University of Arizona Press). Arizona and that garden, as well the gardens of good friends there, gave me a strong appreciation for how many exquisite plants there are that are tough enough to thrive with the twin challenges of drought and heat.

In 2012, I moved just west of San Antonio to Castroville, Texas at the tail end of the greatest drought Texas had ever recorded. This part of Texas marks the eastern end of what I have long considered the warm, low elevation portion of the Southwest; a region that extends from the southern California to Central and South Texas. While the western end, where I lived for many years, is drier and hotter than the eastern edge where I now live, the entire region shares a wide array of species that thrive in gardens and landscapes in the region. For years, I have worked with horticulturalists, designers, nursery owners and gardeners throughout this region, and three of my books were written for use throughout the entire area. Now my husband and I are building two gardens here - one which is composed of strictly local natives, and the other blends both natives and well-adapted species. Both gardens are telling us a lot about what drought tolerant means here and which plants are best suited to this area.

I strive to provide through my writing, teaching and consulting work quality information on the plants that thrive in this large region, as well as in my own garden.

Enjoy the site and visit often.

The Tex-Mex Border

The Tex-Mex border is a project that my husband and I are undertaking at our home garden in Castroville Texas to develop a traditional mixed perennial and shrub border utilizing plants native to Texas and few native to Mexico, hence the name. While border planting has been a traditional garden design feature in English and American East coast gardens one rarely sees this planting style utilized in drier climates such as those in central Texas and the Southwest. We have incorporated more than 80 well adapted perennial and shrub species in the Tex-Mex border to great success, proving that such borders work perfectly well in our environment in South Central Texas. A number of the plants are those common in horticulture in this region. Since we like to experiment with plants not common in horticulture to evaluate their use for various purposes in our environment. Because of this interest the Tex-Mex border contains many unusual or "hard to find" plants. To see an annotated plant list of all the species we are utilizing for the Tex-Mex border click here.

I was fortune enough to have the opportunity to present the Tex-Mex border on the PBS program Central Texas Gardener. To see the interview about the border watch the You Tube clip below.

Texas Getting Started Garden Guide - From Cool Springs Press - 2013

The Texas Getting Started Garden Guide was designed to give Texas gardeners a set of plants well-adapted to the vagaries and range of Texas’ many growing conditions and fickle climate. With profiles of 170 species, the book includes traditional regional specialties, as well less commonly seen choices. Many are native, but all are well-suited to their zone. Each profile includes a photograph, information on where to plant, tips on care as well as icons to indicate Texas natives, drought tolerance, preference for sun or shade and attraction butterflies and humming birds. The book also includes sections on coping with deer, dealing with invasive plants and the location of public gardens in the state. With the increasing emphasis on water conservation, Texas Getting Started Garden Guide offers help to both new and experience gardeners on water saving strategies in the garden as well as how to reduce or replace a lawn. I hope Texas gardeners find in this book a mix of plants that help them save precious water and still create an exuberant garden.

A Place All Our Own - From The University of Arizona Press - 2012

For twenty years my husband Gary and I tended a garden in Scottsdale, Arizona. Over the yearswe transformed it into a lively and lovely spot that reflected both its place in the world—hot, dry, and often hostile to gardeners who don't understand its ways—and our particular passions. Of course, noteverything went as planned, and the garden talked back as much as it obeyed. But for us, the unexpectedoutcome is one of gardening's great pleasures. A Place All Our Own was awarded 2013 best Gardening Book for New Mexico and Arizona by the New Mexico Book Co-op

A Video Interview with Mary

Mary talks about planting in the fall on Central Texas Gardener at KLRU, Austin Texas

October, 2015 - For other video interviews with Mary go to the In the press page

Mary Irish part of Award Winning Design Team -

Honor Award from the American Society of Landscape Architects

The design team for the Sunnylands Center and Gardens in Rancho Mirage California won the 2012 Honor Award for Design from the American Society of Landscape Architects. Mary Irish was the Horticultural Consultant on the team lead by the firm of The Officeof James Burnett of Solana Beach California. The team developed a world class garden at theVisitors Center, adjacent to the 200 acre desert estate of Walter and Leonore Annenberg. The ASLA awards jury recognized the stunning design developed by the team but also the extensivehorticultural knowledge and experience required for the design and development of the Gardens.

“This is all about the plants and they are spectacular, adding texture

and color to the desert and lawns. This shows a real knowledge of

plants. The feeling is lush and the colors are fabulous.”

—2012 Professional Awards Jury

For More Information - and to view a slide show of the projectsee the Project Profile on the ASLA Website

A secluded spot in the Garden Photo by Dillon Diers, Office of James Burnett