Below are “Before and After” photos of a recent rear yard and side garden renovation design taken shortly after installation. Design by owner/designer Leslie Peluso of L. A. Peluso Designs. Each “Before” photo is above the appropriate “After” photo. The captioned gallery at the end contains closeups after installation. The plant palette includes California native plants Salvia clevelandii (commonly known as Cleveland Sage), Heteromeles arbutifolia (commonly known as Toyon), Rhamnus californica ‘Mound San Bruno’ (commonly known as Mound San Bruno Coffeeberry), and Achillea millefolium (commonly known as Yarrow). A lush, no-mow and low-water native sod from Delta Bluegrass was included to add a resting place for the eye and a lusher look. For photos of the front yard landscape design of this renovated Mid-Century Modern home, please see the Portfolio tab of L. A. Peluso Designs located here. Photography by Jewel Photography of Sacramento.
This garden design by L. A. Peluso Designs, located in the neighborhood of Willow Glen, San Jose, qualified for a landscape rebate from the Santa Clara Valley Water District. The homeowners, originally from the south of France, wanted to feature lavender in a big way, to evoke their memory of a favorite villa. As a result, this low-water design called for six different lavenders allowing for extended bloom time and subtle color variety: Lavandula x intermedia ‘Grappenhall,’ Lavandula x intermedia ‘Provence,” Lavandula x intermedia ‘Super,’ Lavandula x intermedia ‘Grosso,’ Lavandula angustifolia ‘Munstead,’ and Lavandula angustifolia ‘Blue Cushion.’
Gaillardia grandiflora ‘Goblin,’ also known commonly as Blanket Flower, adds a complementary pop of hot color. Autumn Royal apricot is visible in the upper left corner of the photo.
Autumn Royal and Blenheim apricot trees provide a bounty of fruit for an extended period of time, and surprisingly, still qualified as low-water plants for purposes of the landscape water rebate! (You can have your rebate, and eat it, too!–Sorry, we couldn’t resist). Shown here in the background on the right is the Blenheim apricot. Dymondia margaretae fills in between flagstones.
Thyme begins to fill in as groundcover (Creeping Thyme and Woolly Thyme).
This front garden was designed for a historical home located on a palm-lined street in the quaint neighborhood of Hanchett Park in San Jose, California. The fabulously flexible clients reduced their old lawn for a much smaller, low-water native sod lawn, and added low-water groundcovers, such as Ground Morning Glory (Convolvulus mauritanicus) and Silver Carpet (Dymondia margaretae), in addition to a water-wise no-fruiting olive tree as a focal point. The color palette selected leaned toward silver/blue/white to repeat the house colors. The energetic homeowners did an amazing job installing this garden themselves, with the help of the owner’s brother.
Plant selections included in this garden are Lavandula intermedia ‘Provence,’ Lavandula stoechas ‘Otto Quast,’ Rosa floribunda ‘Iceberg,’ and Salvia clevelandii ‘Alan Chickering,’ Achillea millefolium, Carex divulsa, and Cycas revoluta (Sago Palm).
An unusual selection unfortunately not pictured close up, but much beloved by the lady of the house, is Aristea inaequalis which is both lovely and tough, and available through Annie’s Annuals & Perennials. Lomandra longifolia ‘Breeze’ and many of the other plants found in this garden were ordered for the client through Capitol Wholesale Nursery.
The garden above was created as a private test garden in San Jose, California, and features California native plants in a wild, naturalistic design, according to the client’s wishes. Featured in the photo from left to right are Ceanothus ‘Yankee Point,’ Western Redbud, California Wild Rose,* and Ceanothus ‘Dark Star.’
There was no tilling or soil preparation for this site (other than weed clearing), and no fertilizers were added to the soil prior to or after planting in the late spring of 2010.
Planting holes were dug no larger than the plant containers to encourage the roots to grow through native clay soil. During planting, no attempt was made to loosen the soil around the rootballs and the soil surrounding the rootballs was not disturbed except to briefly and lightly brush the soil with gloved hands. Six inches of redwood mulch was added to the site to suppress weeds and retain moisture. Surprisingly, the mulch has not needed replenishing!
Below, blooming California Native Wild Lilac ‘Ray Hartman’ blooms spectacularly above California Native Ceanothus ‘Diamond Heights’ Variegated Carmel Creeper underplanted as groundcover.
Immediately after planting, each plant was watered in for approximately 15-20 minutes, thoroughly and deeply saturating the rootball and surrounding area. Following the initial watering (during their first summer), plants were watered every few days if needed, tapering off to watering twice a week in the cooler weather of fall, at which time plants were watered once a week until winter rains arrived consistently enough to rely upon. Since the plants’ first year in the garden, there has been no supplemental irrigation to this site! Pruning and weeding is performed just twice a year, making this garden fairly low maintenance. Weeds are hand-pulled to avoid the use of pesticides which would harm the environment and creatures (including humans) enjoying it.
Amazingly, these plants bloom beautifully and reliably each spring. Native butterflies, birds, and lizards are happy in this habitat and iridescent native bees frequent the garden. Photos were taken in the Spring of 2017.
*California Wild Rose (Rosa californica) can be utilized as a barrier to intruders as it spreads freely by runners when happily situated, forming a dense thicket over time if left unchecked, so plant with caution!
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.
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.
Dwarf Plumbago offers seasonal color in the fall and lovely blue flowers (close-up below).
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.’
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.
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).
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).
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!
Tired of planting the “same-o, same-o flowers” for fall color? Mums are wonderful, it’s true, but how about a less thirsty change of pace? Try these California Native plants needing less water:
Helianthus annuus (Delta Sunflower or Common Sunflower)
Eriogonum giganteum (St. Catherine’s Lace) in the spring with a happy bee! And, below in the fall, a close-up of this buckwheat’s back side and rusty fall color. It turns pinkish in-between! I’ll have to remember to add that photo next year.
Helenium puberulum (Autumn Lollipop or Lollipop)* *Warning – Poisonous if ingested*
Bees flock to any of the above bloomers. Here is one now:
What are your favorite fall-blooming natives (California or otherwise)?
Stuffed in a wood planter box and blooming for weeks now on very little water just once a week, is succulent Echeveria ‘Encantada’. A show-stopper, measuring 21″ across at the base of the rosette! USDA Zone 9b.
Here is the “Before” pic taken months ago:
“Encantada’s” name (in Spanish) fits. Are you as “delighted” and “enchanted” as I am with this beauty? Bonus: This is a hummingbird magnet and takes little maintenance. Gotta have it? You can order through your local nursery or online here: