New homeowners were looking for a fresh look for their back yard landscape. They envisioned a miniature garden railroad winding through a traditional landscape with clean, modern lines. They saw their new landscape blending attractively with the aesthetics of their home and their lifestyle.
The back yard was spacious, in a great neighborhood and the lot was large enough for trains. On the downside, the landscape was a disaster. Upon moving into their new home, these Southern California transplants faced a back slope overgrown with invasive volunteer plants, aka weeds and an underutilized entertaining space. The large shade-less lawn 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 The swimming pool and spa were outdated and misplaced.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 fresh ideas and creativity to flow. The results? A beautiful unique garden that blends modern and traditional forms. Incorporating carefully selected climate-appropriate plants into a casual resort-style layout, 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 creating a serene and refined living space. Both setting and plants are controlled, each item selected to play its part in the overall design. The back yard showcases simple, natural materials, made interesting by varying textures and hues.
Without plants, a landscape is simply a lifeless hardscape. Plants focus the observer’s attention in this multi-layered landscape. As such, it is critically important to use the right plant material to fit the design style, as well as the homeowners’ preferences.
Entering the garden from the street you capture a preview of the expansive miniature railroad, installed by the homeowner according to the carefully developed landscape design plan. 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 linear 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 of the design. An interesting combination of contrasting plant materials in a variety of forms and color defines the edge of the entertaining area.
The steep slope landscaping is now planted with beautiful California native plants which ensures stabilization and provides 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 and into the succulent garden. The redesigned and refurbished pool and a masonry retaining wall create a 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 enjoy the many native birds and butterflies that will be attracted to their back yard for years to come.
Set to the side, the clean curving line and striking orange color of the outdoor shower wall make it a sculptural accent piece that doesn’t distract from the water feature or planting. The semi-circular outdoor shower wall, sleek stainless steel shower fixture and recycled glass tiles offer a beautiful, clean and artful point of interest.
Repeating the curve of the shower, the modern tiled bar and grill area guarantee many opportunities for outdoor entertaining.
The multi-layered and multi-dimensional landscape includes both formal and intimate spaces. It even offers a shaded corner covered with round pebbles for easy maintenance, accented by several planted containers which can be changed out seasonally. This back yard is the envy of the neighbors.
A key benefit of this beautiful landscape is that it is 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.
The 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 minimal water use and no need to mow.
The climate-appropriate planting including California native plants, xeriphytic (very low water use) plants and succulents provide year round interest. These plants have lower water demands, are fire resistant, have fewer pest problems and need less fertilizer than other plants.
See more photos of this property in Portfolio - Slope and Hill Landscaping.