Our New Water-wise Garden!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

I've been waiting 4 1/2 years to replace our crummy, crappy, wasteland of a yard.  Not typically one to hire outside help, I've made a few half-hearted attempts to spruce it up in the past.  Every few years, I'd spend a few hundred dollars to plant a couple trees or plants or even a veggie garden, but since I had no real vision or horticultural experience, my meager attempts looked downright silly. And then I'd forget to water,  and then they shriveled up and died an aphid infested death.  Not super encouraging.

This was the magical year we decided to hire an actual landscape designer and invest in a nice garden.  Someplace serene and inspiring, where our toddler can walk around barefoot on grass that isn't dead.  Then maybe she wouldn't end up crying and screaming, "Ouchy grass!!!"  

In my dreams, I've always pictured a "Secret Garden" type of retreat, with tons of hydrangea, bright flowers in window boxes, rambling roses and picket fences.  As you will see, that's pretty much the opposite of what we actually did. So Cal is semi-desert, and water is a luxury (or so it should be), so we can't have a lush garden that needs water all the dang time.  I also wanted something easy to maintain and hard to kill, because I stink at gardening (I'm really good with flowers in vases though!)  So my picturesque secret garden will have to wait until we trade in our generic stucco track home for a quaint Oregon cottage after we retire.  Someday... sigh... 

 I put together a pinterest board of garden inspiration which I showed to our wonderful designer, Yvonne. With her encouragement, we decided to embrace the natural climate of California, and chose water-wise native plants.   Native California plants are not necessarily the lush, romantic flora of my dreams, but they are definitely beautiful in their own funky and understated way. I'm so enjoying watching our succulents, grasses, and native wildflowers bloom and grow day by day.  I'm so thrilled with our decision to hire a designer.  It's like hiring a wedding planner- you can probably get by without one, but you won't regret it if you do.  In fact, you will probably enjoy your wedding more, hire better vendors, and maybe even end up getting better deals if you hire a planner.  I'm pro-wedding-planner, can you tell?  


Our blah front yard... doesn't our brown, weedy lawn just scream "Welcome!"

 Walk through the gate, and you've entered our lackluster courtyard (which actually looks better in this picture than it did in reality)...

Here is the random space between our house and garage. We did nothing with this space besides put Sisi's poopy diapers in it.

Speaking of poopy, this was our backyard... weedy "ouchy" grass, fruit trees that rarely bore fruit, and a planter filled with aphids.  Yum! (These pictures are actually quite flattering, must have been taken during the rainy season.)


Front yard!  No more lawn, just a variety of water-wise plants, including bamboo, jasmine, papyrus, flax, grasses, and succulents.  The plants are not mature yet, so I assume it will look a lot more filled out in a few months.

Walk through the garden gate, and enter our courtyard... 

 Courtyard.  How cool is that modern bench?  Custom built for us by our incredible carpenter, Mark. Any O.C. or L.A. peeps thinking about buying wooden furniture, arbors or fences from big generic stores should consider hiring Mark!  He'll do it better, maybe even cheaper, and you'll feel good about buying handmade.

The spider-infested ivy in the window box was replaced by lime green heuchera.

I'm obsessed with the passion flower vines growing all over our walls.

They produce these purple blooms! Soon they'll be covered with them.

We replaced our diseased roses with papyrus.

  The random space between our house and garage is now an outdoor sitting room.  Thanks to clever wood screens, wooden outdoor wall art, and a vertical garden, it's a cozy area to relax.  All we need is a sofa and outdoor rug to complete the look.

I told you I suck at gardening.  The fuchsias were really pretty before I literally watered them to death.

The side of our house is flanked by a beautiful gated arbor, handmade by our carpenter. Perfect for keeping the dogs in the backyard.


We've got soft "non-ouchy" grass and easy plants like penstemon, senecio, flax, kangeroo paw, and salvia chiapensis.  Also, our carpenter built us this 8 foot picnic table in one afternoon.  I've always had a thing for picnic tables!

I should mention that we recently built a sunroom on top of half our patio, which now serves as our dining room and frees up space in our tiny kitchen.

How amazing is our table, modeled after the Big Sur table from Crate and Barrel, but handmade by a local carpenter on Craigslist for half the price!  Seriously, handmade is the way to go.

We've got a banana tree and Johnson's blue geraniums...

We've got a new planter bed that will one day be filled with veggies and herbs.

And last but not least, an adult jungle gym for my monkey-of-a-husband.   Still in progress.

So, I did experience a bit of sticker shock when I realized how much the garden and sunroom would cost.  Basically, the price of a super nice SUV.  Gulp, that's expensive.  But here's how we justified it.  We like our house and our down-to-earth neighborhood, but the house is pretty tiny.  We would rather add a sunroom in order to free up some space in the kitchen (where we spend most of the day) than pick up and move to a bigger house, which always comes with hidden costs.  We also feel that a beautiful landscape will be enjoyed by every member of our family for years to come.  We've already had picnics, a bbq, and daily wrestling in the grass.  That is worth way more to us than a nice SUV. Plus it all adds value to our home, and blah blah blah.  

Hope you enjoyed  my little garden tour!


Angel @ loveandsplendor.com/blog September 16, 2013 at 2:12 PM  

Krissy!! I can't get over how beautiful it all looks! What a transformation. ;-) I can't wait to see it in person!

Lacey September 17, 2013 at 2:53 AM  

How amazing to have someone design it for you and help you make those decisions. We also struggle in the garden department :) in Australia, we talk a lot about the "outdoor room" because the weather is probably similar to Cal, and we use our outdoor areas almost year round. It's always seen as a worthwhile investment to spend money on that.

My favourite part is all the beautiful handcrafted wooden furniture. Love.

Kristin @ Petal and Thorn September 17, 2013 at 9:45 PM  

@lacey- coincidentally, a lot of the native garden inspiration i found on the net is from Australia! i hope you are doing well!!

Rachel September 27, 2013 at 4:48 PM  

I *almost* resisted looking, so that it would be a complete surprise when I see it in person, but I couldn't help myself. It looks amazing!

And really, investing in making your living space more useable is a great use of funds. If you own a yard but rarely use it because it isn't set up well then you're wasting so much space! Can't wait to see it in real life. You guys are going to get so much enjoyment out of this.

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