Landscapes by Design/ Medium to Small Yards with Big Impact


Welcome to our September edition. I have been receiving a lot of positive response on our Kurapia series as well as our articles overall.  I am very grateful and appreciative that we are well read and that our writings are beneficial.Eight years ago when I decided to write forHouse2Home Showcase, the goal was to educate and show that landscapes can be very inviting and enjoyable, as well as functional –  that they can also simultaneously  solve  problems.  I have not varied from that stated goal and have found that my personally held belief that an attractive landscape is also beneficial to one’s soul has been proven many times over by the testimonials of clients. Even with me, I have found a great way to wind down from a hectic day is to take a few minutes to enjoy my own backyard. With the night lights accenting the various trees and plants everything is so beautiful and peaceful. It feels good to my soul.

In completing our series “Changing with the Times” you might have noticed the yards were sizable.  With this next series the goal will be to show that more important than size is the need for creativity. With each month the front yard will become smaller, with November’s yard being the smallest, yet having an area for Kurapia.For the “before” picture of our featured yard this month I decided to show a mid- point photo.  Since we all see plenty of front yards with dead lawns. I felt this mid-point shot to be  more interesting. The front yard was a typical tract home landscape with shrubs against the house and trees in the lawn. However, because of the type of trees used by the builder surface roots were abundant. (A typical problem with tract landscaping.) Aside from the roots the project also had other unique challenges. With this particular yard the client really liked big boulders, yet the “face” of the house being a single story didn’t warrant such large boulders. Unlike two-story homes that have a large vertical front that could complement large boulders, single stories do not.   Therefore I wanted to be sure that I didn’t “over weight” the house with the combination of a wider than normal walkway that was necessary because of the size of the boulders, a block wall and the actual boulders.  To offset all this hardscape I needed to rely on plants that were not rigid or structural in nature, but flowing and soft to “relax” the overall appearance. It’s like the yin and yang where opposites work together to accomplish the end goal that neither one can do separately. The plants and flowers soften everything yet you can still appreciate the hardscape without being overwhelmed by it. It is as if an attractive veil has been placed over the hardscape and together they achieve what I would consider some awesome curb appeal.

Everything in landscape has to do with balance, proper proportions and alignment. For a front yard, the positioning of the house plays a huge role. The view from the house outward, what the clients see when they are looking outside, and especially in this case the location of the front door were all considerations in determining the direction I would take the walk. Once I had this figured out the placement of the boulders was not difficult; though critical because once cemented they were not moving. Another concern was the wall. As you study the wall you see it becoming higher the closer we get to the driveway until at the driveway we are five blocks high, which is unusually high compared to most of the ornate walls we build. The only way to lessen the height was to stair-step the wall to maintain the same height throughout. However in discussing this with the clients they felt very strongly about wanting a level wall. Therefore to help offset this tall corner we positioned two of the larger boulders at the entrance so that the eye does not focus on the wall. The eye sees the wall but then the eye goes to the boulders and then the steps and travels upward viewing the landscape, the pots, and then the front door. Goal achieved.

Next point: because of the amount of hardscape I felt it necessary to incorporate a dry stream bed. I did not feel right just using all plants. The dry stream bed marries the landscape to the hardscape and makes it one cohesive design. As a designer I am working with all these elements that are unique in themselves. Therefore for the final result I need to figure out how to use them together to give one single picture. The process is much like a fine artist with all his paints. In the end he gives you one single painting, but to do that he has used many distinct and separate colors.

Lastly because of the continuing drought I find ourselves as a company reinventing landscaping.  We use Kurapia instead of lawn and instead of offering multiple-themed landscapes we can really only offer two: Mediterranean and Northern Californian. Most people are not ready for a desert theme, though I would enjoy doing it. The drought could be with us forever as our climate changes or it could be just a cycle that might even end this year if you believe the reports of a coming El Nino. Regardless, we need to do landscaping in such a way that no matter how much rain we receive, or not, we will have attractive, ecologically -wise landscapes with the greatest amount of color, design and wildlife using the least amount of water to maintain it healthy and beautiful.

Gardeners – You garden should be lightly tilled and fertilized, ready for your fall crops. Sweet chard, spinach, beets, lettuce of all types, kale, broccoli (though I don’t get the thick stocks as in the market with mine), a round of radishes (matures in 30 days – be sure to thin them), plus several other veggies, all do well with the cooler temps.

Good Gardening.