November 2015

Ten Small to Medium Landscapes Part III

Welcome to our November edition and our final article about small to medium sized yards. It has been a pleasure to share the challenges with these jobs as well as the results. As we wind down the year with the holiday season fast approaching, I want to remind you of a few things. In December   we take a break from discussing landscape to the topic of our soul.  It is an open hearted article, the hardest one that I write because it represents the core of who I am.  In January we do our yearly article on landscape care. It is important to have at least some basic knowledge. Lastly, we continue to landscape through the winter months knowing that the plants are much warmer and better shielded from winter’s cold in the earth than remaining in the can, especially considering that bark is added on top for extra insulation. Now for our topic.

In concluding the articles about small-medium spaces we will discuss our smallest yard in this series. The home, like my home, is on a cul-de-sac and the front is small with a large backyard. The owners of this yard, Cris and Laurie, wanted a new yard; however Laurie was the active one expressing to me the features she wanted. Having read our articles for some time she was well acquainted with our work and with Kurapia. She liked the green of the Kurapia and its water conserving tendencies; however how to incorporate Kurapia in a smaller yard was a challenge. I needed to balance it with the plants to make both the Kurapia and landscape complement each other. To my surprise Laurie also wanted a dry stream bed and a cement walkway/steps. Now, this was going to be fun. Landscape, Kurapia, dry stream and walkway all in a smaller yard. Hmm. This would take some thought.  I knew that a dry stream bed could not be done;, there was not the room to have a stream bed exit to the sidewalk and have enough Kurapia. So instead we designed a dry pond, which worked nicely with the space limitations and gave Laurie the sense of design that she wanted from the stream bed. In determining the Kurapia space the question I always ask the client, “what percentage do you want as a green space?” Laurie in particular liked green and requested 50% space for Kurapia, but I could only give her 40%.  After explaining to her why and what would be lost at 50%, she agreed. With this job in particular I was glad the homeowner was so engaged because every square foot mattered and at the end of the job I wanted them to be happy with the outcome. With this main decision made and the dry stream bed figured, the rest of the space belonged to the plants and the steps.


Visually looking from the street, the steps’ width should match the porch’s width, but again because of the small space the walk would become too dominant. To make it all work we decided that the width of the steps would start at 2 1/2 feet and gradually widen to 3 feet once we were within 5 feet of the porch. The goal would be to fool the eye by lining up one side to the porch and gradually widen the other side. Using boulders to help interrupt the eye from detecting the widening of the walk was very helpful.

The plants, as you know by now, are my favorite part. The right combination of plants makes all the difference. I’ve mentioned before that I have been in backyards with very expensive pools and hardscape with poorly/ ordinary plant selections and there was no “invitation” to come out and enjoy the yard.  The challenge with this yard, as you can guess, was to pick plants that when mature were moderate in size or could be pruned and maintained. (We will be discussing how to maintain larger growing plants at smaller sizes without looking boxy in February’s article.) Therefore, the selections of plants were left to me, with the only request that they would be colorful and have low water requirements. Where have I heard that before? This has been the mantra for this year. Plants selected varied from moderate shade plants to full sun. Normally there is some space for transitioning plants, to tie the shade and sun plants together by using sun/shade plants but because of the yard’s size and the shade caused by the roof line, the line between shade and sun was distinct. To help with this defined difference we separated them by the dry cobble pond – giving space between the variety types.


In conclusion, and our reason for doing this series, was to show that  though size is a factor in landscaping,, creativity and thought can give a smaller yard a larger presence.

Lastly, we completed another video on Kurapia. I would encourage you to view it, as it has been mowed (only once), which removed the runners that the Kurapia in last month’s video had. If Kurapia is mowed at least once a month, it will be a beautiful lawn alternative.

Gardeners: Have your cold frames ready and/or lights for our frosty nights. Bugs/ insects for these winter months or powdery mildew should not be an issue, if you water in the mornings. The organic fertilizers slow down quite a bit at this time because they work with the soil biology. If your garden is still young I suggest mixing 1/2 organic with 1/2 winter fertilizer, which I never recommend, except for in this particular situation.

Until next time, Good Gardening.