For this whole year we have been featuring landscapes that are six years and older. Many times, new landscapes tend to lose their “shine” as the years wear on, when in truth, just the opposite should happen and that has been the point of this series. 

 In my first appointments with clients I have been told numerous times how they needed to start removing plants because everything started growing into each other. In all the jobs we have featured, not one plant has been removed for this reason. You can tell this by the spacing that remains between the plants. When a landscape is put together correctly, using plant maturing sizes correctly, there is no reason to remove plants.  And with proper maintenance as the landscape is maturing the landscape does become more inviting. I would even use the word enchanting when evening lights are part of the package. 

The need for relaxation and connecting to the outdoors is hardwired into many of us. And the cost of a nice landscape is not cheap, it takes money to do it, however, the payback far outlasts the cost. When looking for a landscaper to hire I always advise homeowners to be discerning.  Price is not the only deciding factor, and if it is then maybe this year is not the time to consider landscaping, or consider doing the landscape in phases. Doing it right the first time, though it might cost more will end up saving you money in the long run. Doing it twice to me is not an option, yet I have been the second landscaper many times. When I ask the clients why they did not call me or another qualified landscaper first, cost was the reason. However, hiring me or someone else now, the cost just doubled. Hindsight as we say is 20/20.    So these are situations that I encounter, and if I can save someone the frustration or cost of doing it again then these cautions are well worth saying.

Now, we are going to turn the corner with this article and begin to show some of this year’s landscapes. The one we will first feature is the home of Joe and Katy. They were great clients to work for and Katie makes killer oatmeal cookies (😊). Their front yard featured a sloped terrain, which is typical of the Rocklin neighborhood where they live. The sidewalk was lower than the house, which made it easier to give a terraced look to the landscape and give the home a more welcoming appeal.


For their landscape remodel Joe and Katie requested raised planters and a sidewalk with steps. Usually when building raised planters we normally backfill them with soil and plant high-end plants. However this was not the case with Joe and Katy’s home and though the Japanese Maples burn each summer they wanted to keep them. Therefore, there is no soil behind them and they become more decorative seat walls than raised planters. The picture might not show the upper planter well, but being that Katy enjoys feeding finches and hummingbirds, she wanted to make sure that she would have easy access to her bird feeders. Therefore in lieu of plants behind the upper planter is a flagstone patio that connects to the new steps. The joints are filled in with ornate gravel so that irrigation to the maple can continue.   The wall and the capstone need to complement each other, and there are two ways to do capstones. Premade caps that are cut and mortared to the wall or a customized cap from poured concrete. These are concrete caps which   our cement contractor did. He did a really good job with them as well as the steps/sidewalk (we do pavers and flagstone). When it’s all put together it is a very inviting look, especially with the evening illumination, it’s beautiful.   

In any job, there are always decisions to make. With this job we needed to decide on the length and height of the seat walls. As well as their facing, would we use stucco, cultured stone or veneer (real stone). Also we needed to determine how close to the Maples they were going to be. We did not want to damage the roots. Once we determined that we needed to discuss the shape and descent of the walkway, that was Joe’s department. He had his vision for them however, the angle of how the steps come out is really what determines how they are framed. So, though the steps were not placed where he envisioned them, he understood why. The main decision he needed to make for me to help him was to determine where the steps would meet the sidewalk. Once I knew that I was able to paint out the shape of the walkway which determined its descent and number of steps. 

Next, in building these types of walls as opposed to using stackable block walls, comes more cost and decisions. The cost comes from the additional steps required to build them as opposed to the stackables. The footing has to be poured as opposed to road base with rebar needed to strengthen it, and in building the wall rebar is needed again with the cells of the block being filled with concrete. Also, when built in a curved fashion mortar has go over the blocks to smooth out the edges that stick out. With stackable blocks this is not a concern because there are multiple sizes to use to facilitate the curve.    Also, there are many choices to face the walls with range of prices. It’s a great look, but it takes time and thought. 

Lastly, the title of this article says it all. When you remove everything, and have bare ground to work with your imagination, needs, and budget are what guide you. A point that I make often when I am on appointments is that cost and design go together. If the cost is too much the design needs to be adjusted. It’s not that hard to do. The other option is to do it in phases. Both work, it just depends upon the client and their expectations. 

Gardeners – my favorite garden are the fall and winter ones. I like tomatoes, green beans, etc. but I really like spinach, broccoli, sweet chard, beets etc. that are cool season crops. If you have not removed your summer crops, that needs to be done. If you have an area where you can compost it please do. It takes a bit to break down but that is the model nature gives us. With the garden bare, add organic fertilizer, cultivate it in lightly, water well and wait about a week to two before replanting. Until next time – Good Gardening.