Springbrook HOA Xeriscaping Guidelines
First Draft Date 06/02/2013
Revision 1.0 Date: 07/31/2013
Revision 1.1 Date: 05/30/2014
Always check HERE for the most recent revision (and to download a copy).
Click HERE for a recommended plant list.
In light of frequent and persistent drought conditions in the area, and recent legislation regarding HOA’s and Xeriscaping, the Springbrook Board has formulated the following guidelines to assist homeowners who wish to adopt water conservation friendly landscaping methods. We believe that it is in the best interest of the Association and our fellow homeowners to follow these guidelines as closely as possible to preserve both the beauty of our community and the value of our homes. Please be advised that all Xeriscaping plans must be approved by the ACC BEFORE beginning any work on the project. The Springbrook HOA Board, the Springbrook Architecture Committee (ACC), and our contracted management company are available to answer any questions you may have and will work carefully with each homeowner to approve designs that further the underlying concept, while still maintaining the appearance of the neighborhood.
Xeriscaping means using native and adapted plants which grow and sustain themselves with low water requirements, and that can tolerate heat and drought conditions. The City of Austin is vigorously promoting Xeriscaping for resource conservation and environmental protection.
The advantages of Xeriscaping include:
About Our Pre-Existing Landscaping Guidelines:
- Cost savings on water bills.
- Conservation of diminishing water resources during drought periods.
- Prevention of pollution of surface and ground water from environmentally harmful runoff.
- Reduced yard maintenance requirements.
- Reduced need for costly fertilizers and pesticides.
- Attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and other wildlife into your yard.
- Pride in knowing you are doing something substantial to protect and beautify our community.
In the past, Springbrook HOA has always required full and green turf areas to cover the vast majority of our front yards. While many of us have been able to adhere to this requirement, we also understand that it is becoming unrealistic for a selection of homeowners due to several concurrent years of inhospitable climate conditions and the resultant city-enforced watering restrictions. Many of the Xeriscaping Guidelines are consistent with our Pre-Existing Landscaping Guidelines (ACC Rules and CC&R’s – linked at the bottom of this document for reference). The turf amount requirement is the only substantial change required to begin the transition to a more environmentally friendly landscaping policy. As such, Springbrook intends to manage Xeriscaping proposals as “Requests for Variance”, but NOT a replacement of our Pre-Existing Landscaping Guidelines. The Xeriscaping Guidelines represent a new and un-tested policy for considering variances. As such, over the course of the next few years, there may be conflicts found between the two guidelines sets. These will be reviewed by the HOA Board, ACC, contracted management company, and the homeowner on a case by case basis, and any resolutions will result in a revised policy document. Please notify us if you find any conflicts so that we can schedule a meeting to discuss the issue and make any needed determinations. We believe that we can work together to provide a fair and even application of the requested variances.
About Requesting Variances:
All Xeriscaping plans must be approved by the ACC
beginning any work on the project. Failure to gain approval in advance of doing work on the project may result in fines being assessed and may necessitate the return of your property to previous condition at your expense. Approval may require up to a month of research and multiple site visits (depending upon the extent of the proposed changes), so it is best to begin the approval process 2+ months in advance to avoid excessive project delays. The winter months are the best time to plan these changes and improvements (which is also true in standard landscaping). The variance request should be submitted using our Request for Architectural Approval form, which can be found
. You may mail the form, or email it. Again, please allow time for us to review and approve your request, but feel free to contact us to verify that we have received it and to check on the status.
You MUST Include the Following in Your Request for Variance:
Notes: If you are making any changes to your easement/sidewalk strip (strip of sod between the public sidewalk and the curb), please show this on the main drawing, or add it as its own separate drawing. See last page of this document for examples of drawings. It is not permitted to replace the grass in this strip with mulching substrate due to runoff concerns.
Turf Grass / Sod
- An overall written outline of your project (a synopsis of what you intend to do). This should draw special attention to any major changes that you plan to make (structural, drainage, etc.), and should reference the size and type of any trees and/or shrubs that you wish to remove.
- A drawing or photo(s) of your existing landscaping, with details about the size and type of your existing plants. Include any structural elements already on site (retaining walls, large rocks, etc.). Use an “X” or some other method to indicate in your existing drawing or picture which plants (of any) you plant to remove.
- A drawing of your Xeriscaping plan, clearly showing the existing plants you intend to keep as well as which plants will be added. The more details here the better. Though we know it will be subject to availability at the time of the installation, please try to include estimates of the type, size, and placement of any new plants. If any structural elements will be added (retaining walls, large rocks, etc.) you will need to sketch them to the best of your ability and add details about the materials you will be using, the dimension of the elements, their color, and their placement. If you will be adding a mulching substrate (bark, pebbles, etc.), indicate the type, color, and placement.
Complete and full removal of grass/sod/turf will NOT be allowed. You must continue to maintain at least 50% of your front lawn as turf grass. This may be difficult to measure and may require site visits to verify compliance. However, you may choose to re-seed your lawn with less “thirsty” varieties of grass such as Buffalo Grass, Zoysia, and Bermuda. There is not any one “perfect” turf grass for every situation, so you may wish to consult with a professional to determine which grasses are likely to do best with your soil and light conditions. You may choose any combination of turf grasses that work best for your site. Keep in mind that all grasses require regular watering when they are newly establishing themselves, and will require some amount of watering thereafter to remain healthy. The goal is to
the total amount of water and fertilizer needed each year to maintain them.
There are some who advocate using a spread of low profile plants (such as Dutch Clover) as an alternative to a turf grass lawn. They maintain that the plants are more resistant to trampling and climate conditions than traditional lawns. However, some others feel these plants are really just invasive weeds. Because many of these alternative plants scatter seeds or creep into neighboring lawns, we generally do not recommend using them. Some of them also attract bees in great numbers, so they could potentially create a threat to individuals passing by on the sidewalk. Another issue is that they may die back too much during the winter, which could cause your lawn to become a muddy swamp after winter storms. A final concern is that some non-traditional plants used as turf require growing fairly tall before they can go to seed (to re-seed for the next year). With our mowing requirements, they may not reach sufficient height, and so would need to be manually re-seeded each year. If you have a good idea for a low profile alternative lawn, feel free to propose it in your request for variance along with as much information as possible about your suggestion. You may wish to have a backup option ready if we are unable to approve the alternative lawn choice.
Ground Covers / Mulch / Pebbles/ Pathways
Non-turf areas can contain a substrate of decomposed granite, ground or chipped hardwood mulch, crushed limestone, paver stones, flagstone, and pebbles of varying sizes (pea gravel). Colors should be in earth tones (white, tan, brown, etc.). Materials to avoid are colored glass mulch, nut shells and husks, rubber mulch, red or black lava rocks, concrete or cement spans larger than a paving stone, and anything that may be sharp or toxic to animals. Ground cover style, color, design, or arrangement must not be offensive or pose a distraction to passing motorists. Keep in mind that any large spans of ground cover material affect drainage because there are no grass root systems to prevent erosion of the soil. For this reason, we request that there is at least one plant used in each 4 square foot span. This may be difficult to measure, and may require site visit(s) to verify compliance. The City of Pflugerville is concerned about the potential for mulching substrate to wash away causing a negative impact on the sewer system. For this reason, we do not advocate using any such material in the sidewalk strip (between the sidewalk and the curb).
Structural Elements / Retaining Walls / Raised Beds / Large Rocks
These elements can reflect a lot of creativity and bring a design vision together. Retaining walls and raised beds must be crafted using mortared masonry units. Masonry products include stone, clay brick pavers, or concrete masonry units manufactured as edging and retaining wall shapes. Cinder blocks (also known as common concrete blocks) may not be used. In general, red bricks may not be used (but an exception may be made for lawns in front of red brick houses). Individual stones can be “dry-fit” (do not need to be cemented together) as long as they do not exceed three (3) feet in height, and are positioned in a way as to maintain stability if kicked, nudged, or run into with a lawnmower. Any retaining walls or raised beds in excess of three (3) feet in height must be engineered. If the ACC determines there is any safety risk in your design OR finished project, you will be required to modify or remove your structural element / retaining wall. Keep in mind that soil frequently erodes out through the cracks between individual stones, so you may want to line your raised beds with landscaping fabric, and top up the soil level once or twice a year. Be careful if creating a raised bed around an established tree, because raising the soil level too high around the trunk can be very harmful (and potentially deadly) for the tree. Large rocks should be used sparingly and positioned as focal points in your design, not the entire attraction. This will depend on the size of the area you are Xeriscaping, and can be a matter of taste to some extent. However, designs involving twelve large rocks in a bed of pea gravel, for example, are very unlikely to be approved. Avoid causing trip hazards and impeding visual sight lines. Large rocks used in the sidewalk strip may not exceed six (6) inches in height.
Borders / Edging
Xeriscaped areas must be surrounded by a border to clearly define the Xeriscaped areas from the Turf areas. A Xeriscaped area entirely enclosed within a retaining wall or raised bed qualifies as sufficiently defined. You may use metal edging in colors of green, black, brown, tan, and terra cotta (brownish red) as long as it is properly staked in place, and set with the top edge not more than two (2) inches above grade. Metal edging should be replaced if it shows any signs of rusting, or if sharp edges are exposed at any point.
Any plastic-based edging must be high quality, staked appropriately, set with the top edge not more than two (2) inches above grade, and monitored frequently to ensure that it is in good condition.
You may also use mortared masonry units such as stone, clay brick pavers, or concrete masonry units manufactured as edging shapes. If you choose to utilize bricks as a border, they must be solid units, not those with holes.
You may not use wood materials like pressure treated 2x4’s or railroad ties to enclose your Xeriscaped areas, due to potential toxicity. Railroad ties are allowed in our CC&R’s, however the EPA has identified that they may contain Creosote which is a toxic compound that should not be used in a residential environment. As such, we feel this portion of the CC&R’s is out of date, and do not feel that railroad ties have a place in our community. Please read the EPA information below and contact us if you have any questions.
Weed Barriers / Landscaping Fabric:
Any materials used to restrict weed growth in your Xeriscape must be hidden from view (covered by mulch or other acceptable substrate). Homemade weed barriers such as old newspapers and cardboard may be used, as long as they are non-toxic and not visible.
Items such as urns, pots, birdbaths, statuary, and other man-made ornamentation may not exceed four (4) items in public view. If any such items are to be used, they must be approved in advance. Indicate the items on your request for variance using inserted pictures or links to the items online so that we may review the size, type, and color to ensure it meets with the standards of our community. Rain barrels, if used, must not be visible.
Plants / Trees
Your local plant nursery, or a landscaping professional, can assist you in making a determination of which plants to use in your design. Many nurseries provide a free booklet called “Grow Green” which has an extensive list of suggestions of drought tolerant, non-invasive, and wildlife friendly plants and trees. You may also download the booklet at
. Try to steer clear of using any invasive plants listed on page 50 of this booklet, like the berrying forms of Nandina, running varieties of bamboo, Ligustrums (Privet), Photinia (Red Tips), Vitex, and Chinaberry trees. We have posted a Springbrook Xeriscape Preferred Plant List on our website (also linked at the bottom of this document).
All plants have different light and soil requirements, so your first choices may not survive. Tall and excessively bushy plants (many shrubs and ornamental grasses) usually require pruning to keep them healthy. They can also hide evidence of pest invasions (like termites) so it is best to plant them a little further away from the house. Spiky and thorny plants pose a risk to people and animals so they should not be planted near sidewalks, driveways, or easements (place at least 6ft away from these areas). Some plants like Oleander and the Caster Bean plant are toxic to animals and humans and should be avoided. No plants should be positioned where they would obstruct the view of pedestrians or motorists. Plants taller than 12 inches are prohibited for use in the sidewalk strip because it constitutes a visual safety hazard to pedestrians and drivers. Plants in sidewalk strip must not run or encroach into the walking path. You must keep at least two (2) trees in your front yard. Any trees removed will need to be replaced if there are fewer than two remaining. Stumps must be pulled and backfilled with soil or ground down to below sod level so they do not pose a trip hazard or act as an eyesore.
Overall Xeriscape Landscape Maintenance Requirements:
Xeriscaped areas are subject to the same maintenance requirements as other landscaping and must be maintained at all times to ensure an attractive appearance. Homeowners with neglected lawns, Xeriscaped or otherwise, may be subject to fines. Plants must be trimmed, beds must be kept weed-free, and borders must be edged. No plants may encroach on public sidewalks. Sickly and dying plants must be removed and replaced. Perennials that die back during winter must be cut back to remove dead material. This includes most ornamental grasses and other flowering perennials that go dormant to the ground in winter. Mulched areas must have fresh mulch reapplied as needed. You should plan to re-mulch at least once per year.
Information about Designing and Drawing Xeriscape Plans
Information about Trees
Texas A&M Forest Service Info
Austin Grow Green Information
City of Pflugerville Drop by Drop Landscape Rebate Program (includes example Xeriscape plan drawings)
Springbrook Architectural Committee Rules
Springbrook CC&R’s (Covenants, Codes, and Restrictions)
Springbrook Xeriscape Preferred Plant List
Your plan drawings will likely include more information than those shown in the pages that follow, but this may give you a good idea of where to begin. To save space, you can use a geometric shape, letter of the alphabet, or numbers within the drawing and then create a “key” defining what each letter or number is. Remember to submit at least two (2) drawings: One showing your existing yard and indicating which (if any) elements you plant to remove, and one showing your goal for the finished Xeriscape indicating details about any plants, mulch, and structural elements you plan to include. The more detail you can give us, the more quickly we will be able to approve your plan.
Springbrook HOA Contact Information:
Please contact us with any questions you may have, and to submit your Xeriscape plans.
||PO Box 200145, Austin, Texas 78720
The content of this document was created, and is managed by, Jessica Leigh Johnson on behalf of Springbrook HOA.
Please contact the Springbrook HOA Board or Management Company to request changes, corrections, or for more information relating to this document.