New homeowners requested a fresh perspective for their backyard landscape which better blended with their aesthetics and offered the opportunity to accommodate a miniature garden railroad. The owners expressed interest in clean, modern lines in a traditional landscape while taking advantage of the Southern California lifestyle.
The backyard was spacious, in a great neighborhood and the lot was large enough for trains, but the landscape was a disaster. Upon moving into their new home, these Southern California transplants faced an underutilized entertaining space and a back slope overgrown with invasive volunteer plants (weeds). The large shade-less lawn area required too much water and weekly mowing. The swimming pool and spa were outdated and misplaced.
Who says you can’t have it all? The close collaboration between the clients and the landscape designer enabled ideas and creativity to flow -- resulting in a beautiful unique garden, blending modern and traditional forms. Inspired by casual resort-style layout with carefully selected climate-appropriate plants, the garden is picture perfect for vibrant, Southern California living -- landscaping as art.
Plants and hardscape work hand in hand in this striking California backyard landscape. The complete renovation presents a strong architectural design statement while still creating a serene and refined living space. Both setting and plants are controlled, each item selected to play its part for the overall design. The backyard uses simple, natural materials made interesting by varying textures and hues.
Without plants a landscape is simply lifeless hardscape. Plants focus the attention in this multi-layered landscape. It is critically important to use the right plant material to fit the design style, always in consideration of the homeowners’ preferences.
Entry to the garden from the street provides a preview of the expansive miniature railroad, which will be installed by the homeowner, but is already carefully planned into the landscape. You sense formality tempered with whimsy as you walk along the pathway, laid with colored concrete linear pavers set in a herringbone pattern. The garden beside the path is full of collector succulent plants with fascinating shapes and colors. The bed is raised Corten steel, providing drainage for the tender succulents.
This controlled walkway opens out to an expansive backyard entertaining area where viewers are surprised to see elongated concrete liner pavers laid on the diagonal in a multi-toned seemingly random pattern. This kind of attention to customized detail provides interest and delight throughout the garden. A formal streamlined planting of Palo verde and purple pennisetum separated by colored mulch repeats the linearity with the interesting combination of contrasting plant materials in contrasting forms and color and defines the edge of the entertaining area.
The steep slope landscaping is now planted with beautiful California native plants which will assure stabilization and provide beautiful seasonal color and texture. The viewer’s eyes are immediately drawn to a striking natural rock water feature spilling down the hill into the swimming pool. A petrified rock log accents the waterway and the same stone is repeated across the patio in the succulent garden. The redesigned and refurbished pool and a masonry retaining wall create the transition from the native slope to the thoroughly modern diagonal lines of the patio. It is as if the home backs up to the beauty of nature providing a sense ease and relaxation. The homeowners will benefit from its attraction to native birds and butterflies.
Set to the side, the clean curving line and striking color of the shower make it a sculptural accent piece in the landscape without distracting from the water feature and planting. The semi-circular orange color outdoor shower wall, sleek stainless steel shower fixture and recycled glass tiles give a clean yet visual beauty in an artful way. Repeating the curve of the shower, the tiled bar and grill area assure opportunity for outdoor entertaining.
The multi-layered and multi-dimensional landscape includes both formal and intimate spaces even a shaded corner is covered with round pebbles for easy maintenance and accented by several planted containers which can be changed out seasonally. This back yard is envy of neighbors.
A key benefit of this beautiful landscape is that it is also designed to be sustainable. Plants were selected for low water use. Keystone pavers from the original landscape were recycled to build a terrace for erosion control. Other materials were selected for their longevity and ecological nature including the large sized linear permeable pavers, composite deck, alumawood patio cover, tiles and artificial turf. Both pool and spa are heated by a solar water heater, powered by photovoltaic panels and use saline, not harmful chemicals. Low voltage LED lighting makes night entertaining more enjoyable by illuminating the water feature, sculptural agaves and planting.
Low-water drip irrigation system and MP rotator sprayers are adjusted according to the water requirements for the plants. Artificial lawn and Zoysia tenuifolia (Korean grass) provide greenery with no need to mow and minimal water use.
The climate-appropriate planting including California native plants, succulents and xeriphytic (low water use) plants provide year round interest. These plants have lower water demands, are fire resistant, have fewer pest problems and need less fertilizer than other plants.
Plants in this garden include:
Xeriphytic plants: Arbutus ‘Marina’, Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’, Lagerstroemia indica ‘Natchez’, Palo verde ‘Desert Museum’, Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Harley Botanica’, Pittopostorum tenuifolium ‘Silver Sheen’, Vitex trifolia purpurea ‘Fascination’, Geijera parviflora, Acer palmatum, Cycad revoluta, Anigozanthos flavidus, Carissa, Gomphrena ‘Itsy Bitsy’, Cordyline ‘Electric Pink’, Polygala fruticosa ‘Petite Butterfly’, Lomandra longifolia ‘Breeze’, Pennisetum setaceum ‘Fireworks’, Myrtus communis compacta, Cuphea llavea ‘Tiny Mice’, Gaura lindheimeri, Stachys lanata, Ceratostigma plumbaginoides, Cyperus, etc.
California native plants: Quercus agrifolia, Juniperus communis Montana, Satureja chandleri, Arctostaphylos ‘John Dourey’, Arctostaphylos ‘Sunset’, Agave shawii, Baccharis ‘Pigeon Point’, Ceanothus ‘Concha’, Cupressus forbesii, Ceanothus ‘Ray Hartman’, Ceanothus ‘Snow Flurry’, Ceanothus ‘Yankee Point’, Ceanothus ‘Joyce Coulter’, Eriogonum arboresens, Erigeron glaucus ‘Bountiful, Galvzia speciosa ‘Firecraker’, Myrica californica, Prunus lyonii, Salvia clevelandii, Heteromeles macrocarpa, Ribes viburnifolium, Agave deserti, Penstemon parryi, Dudleya brittonii, Hesperoyucca whipplei, Fremontodendron ‘Pacific Sunset’, Ribes biburnifolium, Aristida purpurea etc.
Succulents and cactus plants: Euphorbia, Aloe, Agave, Senecio, Cotyledon, Crassula, Echeveria, Aeonium, Portulacaria afra, Lampranths, Dyckia, Kalanchoe, Kalanchoes ‘fantastic’, Agave ‘Cream Spike’, Agave gypsophila, Pachypodium lamerei etc.