OK, gardening snob that I am, I only did a quick scan of the other posts and I think there's good advice in there. I'm a big lover of courtyard gardens, you can often eliminate grass and create an intimate living space. Chai, since you are in Texas, I suggest you do a little research into Arabic or Persian style gardens, the climate is similar and courtyards were/are common. I stronger recommend a solar fountain that recycles water as a cooling feature. It can be both functional and beautiful.
We've discussed xeriscape gardening around here before so I won't go into details, but if you look up "xeriscape plants texas" on the web you should find plenty of info and you will not need irrigation. If a plant needs watering beyond it's first year, it' the wrong plant for you. I attached a rather formal version of what we are talking about. If you want to see more pictures go to Google, hit "images" and type in things like "courtyard gardens","persian gardens" or "alambra gardens".