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Texas drought conditions, apathy to result in 'millions of dollars' in landscaping losses, experts say

"Millions of dollars have been lost by commercial landscapes and home landscapes that have not been tended," said gardening expert Neil Sperry.

COLLIN COUNTY, Texas — No one is immune from the drought. 

Even horticulturist and well-known gardening expert Neil Sperry will admit he lost a couple of plants lately. 

The drought, combined with two bad winters, has grass, shrubs and trees reeling. Sperry told WFAA he'll drive around large swaths of North Texas and be disappointed with the lack of care for many commercial and home landscapes.

"This one is past the point of no return, you can tell by the color of it," Sperry said, pointing to a dying Nellie R. Stevens Holly along Parkwood and the Sam Rayburn Tollway.

Gardening may have taken a backseat for most of North Texans, and it shows in the yards. Lawns are turning brown, and trees and shrubs are growing limp and void of color. 

Sperry feels many have used the drought as an excuse to not to tend to yards. He says even the slightest uptick in watering could save a number of shrubs and trees.

Lake levels across North Texas are still relatively healthy. There are no severe water shortages like a decade ago. No major cities have strict water enforcement at this time. Some cities have only recommended water conservation.

"I think there's something inside all of us that calms you," said Marvin Olson, describing his backyard. Olson is with the Collin County Master Gardeners. The group helps people and organizations with their gardening questions and offer advice.

 Many of the latest questions have dealt with the drought. 

"What's wrong with this plant? And they'll show you a picture of a dead plant," Marvin recalls being asked. "Will my lawn come back? Is it dormant? Is it going to come back?" Sperry recalled being asked.

His answer is often the same: Bermuda grass, which is mostly drought-resistant, that is drying out will likely survive, but St. Augustine will most likely not survive. 

Sperry and Olson said what people don't realize is that the condition of plants and trees comes at a price. 

"Millions of dollars have been lost by commercial landscapes and home landscapes that have not been tended," said Sperry.

They're not saying waste water, but use it effectively. 

Sperry advises the use of a bubbler to help water any plants, but especially new plants. Gardening is about protecting your investment, the money and the time it took to grow.

"It's kinda hard to bring things back from dead. It's happened once, don't know how many more times it's gonna happen," Sperry laughed.

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