California Native Plants, Fall Color, Low Maintenance Plants, Low Water Plants, Naturalistic Gardens

Lawns Converted to Naturalized Living Space


In this landscape design, I encouraged my clients to take advantage of a lawn landscape rebate program and the result was an extra living room in the front yard! The lawn made way for a meandering path and seating area beneath some mature trees.

Although the landscape rebate program has been suspended due to the funding cap being reached, many incentives to replace lawn with less water-thirsty alternatives remain, including the satisfaction of knowing you are doing your part to reduce water usage and the consequentially making it easier to meet your state mandated water reduction target each month.

Below is a photograph of the yard shortly after installation.

Dwarf plumbago groundover

The primary plant used to replace the lawn and create a similar low-level visual plane is drought-tolerant groundcover is Dwarf Plumbago (Cerastostigma plumbaginoides) which is filling in nicely approximately a year later (below). We created a cozy reading alcove for two under an existing red maple.

Outdoor living room replaces lawn in naturalized setting

Dwarf Plumbago offers seasonal color in the fall and lovely blue flowers (close-up below).

Ceratostigma plumbaginoides (Dwarf Plumbago) Drought-Tolerant Groundcover

Other drought-tolerant plants added included Lamb’s Ears (Stachys byzantina) and Blue Lavandin ‘Provence’ (Lavandula x intermedia ‘Provence’) seen below nestled into the client’s existing David Austin Rose ‘Lady Emma Hamilton.’

David Austin Rose 'Lady Emma Hamilton'; Blue Lavandin 'Provence' (Lavandula x intermedia 'Provence'); Stachys byzantina (Lamb's Ears)

Below, Vitis californica ‘Roger’s Red (Wild California Grape Hybrid), to be trained along an existing fence, provides fall color and has already provided some tasty treats.

Vitis californica 'Roger's Red (Wild California Grape Hybrid)

An existing Mexican Feather Grass (Stipa tenuissima), although lovely, is considered invasive (UC Master Gardener Program Statewide Blog), so it was replaced with Lamb’s Ears for a completely different contrast with the existing Japanese Maple (L-R: before and after seen below).

Rosa Cl. Cecille Brunner (Sweetheart’s Rose, Climbing Cecille Brunner), which is actually a low-water user once established, compliments the existing Lady Emma Hamilton rose and brings a similar color to another part of the yard’s side fence (close-up below).

Rosa Cl. Cecille Brunner (Sweetheart's Rose, Climbing Cecille Brunner)

The client’s previous back lawn area is now a naturalistic and fragrant plant palette including Salvia officinalis (Garden Sage), Erigeron karvinskianus (Fleabane), Eriogonum gigantum var giganteum (St. Catherine’s Lace), Dymondia margaretae (Dymondia), Achillea millefolium californica (California Yarrow), Arbutus unedo (Strawberry Tree), Cistus Grayswood Pink (Grayswood Pink Rock Rose), and Salvia clevelandii ‘Winnifred Gilman’ (Winnifred Gilman Cleveland Sage).

White-flowered Erigeron karvinskianus (Fleabane) and Cistus 'Grayswood Pink' (Grayswood Pink Rock Rose)
White-flowered Erigeron karvinskianus (Fleabane) and Cistus ‘Grayswood pink’ (Grayswood Pink Rock Rose)

 

Salvia clevelandii 'Winnifred Gilman' (Winnifred Gilman Cleveland Sage) blooming in foreground and Eriogonum gigantum var giganteum (St. Catherine's Lace) blooming in background
Salvia clevelandii ‘Winnifred Gilman’ (Winnifred Gilman Cleveland Sage) blooming in foreground and Eriogonum gigantum var giganteum (St. Catherine’s Lace) blooming in background.

The fragrance from the salvias in this part of the garden can be enjoyed through the kitchen and dining windows, as well as from within the garden itself.

The added fragrance and seating areas entice the client out to the garden. In addition to using much less water than before, both the front and back yard have increased visual interest now that the lawn is gone. The client is out there more and enjoying their new living space!

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