a CA cottage garden instead of lawn

jkom51(Z9 CA/Sunset 17)May 8, 2011

I admire nice neat lawns, but have no interest in having one for myself. We have a remodeled 1940's cottage with absolutely no charm or architectural distinction, so I hide it, literally, with a plethora of interesting plants.

I posted two threads of some of the plants in bloom right now, in the Gallery section of the Cottage Gardening forum. The link is to the Gallery itself, and the threads I posted are titled "March flowers NorCA garden" Pt 1 and Pt 2. Enjoy!

Here is a link that might be useful: Cottage Gardening forum-Gallery

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tropical_thought(San Francisco)

Why not post the photo link here? I click there could not find it. Cottage gardens are asking for problems. There is no where to walk to get all the weeds that come up around the plants. It may look good at first, but in a year will it still look good, without needing constant attention?

    Bookmark   May 8, 2011 at 7:12PM
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jkom51(Z9 CA/Sunset 17)

I didn't think either thread was that hard to find. But I'm happy to post both links.

FYI, my cottage garden beds were installed between 2003 and 2005. There is extensive hardscape dividing 15 different beds, mostly all rectangular. It takes time - I have over 2000 sq. ft. under cultivation, but averages out to three two-hour sessions monthly, and that includes the summer watering on soaker hoses. I grow all this for $20/month EBMUD water cost.

Designed properly, it isn't difficult at all. I spend more time working in the garden because I WANT to (I'm a rabid plant mover and am often changing plants out), not because I have to. I've had several injuries over the years where the garden was left alone for three and four months at a time, without problem.

Front yard, RH side of front door walkway:

Front yard, LH side of front door walkway:

South side of house (sunny), looking downwards towards back:

Same south side, but looking upwards towards street instead of downwards:

North side (shady):

Upper part of the back yard:

Here is a link that might be useful: May 2011 Pt 1

    Bookmark   May 8, 2011 at 10:51PM
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jkom51(Z9 CA/Sunset 17)

And here's Pt 2 if you need it. Again, these are only the flowering plants that are different than the photos I posted earlier in March 2011 titled "Photo heavy: March flowers in NorCA garden" and "More photos: March flowers NorCA garden".


Here is a link that might be useful: Pt 2 photos

    Bookmark   May 8, 2011 at 10:55PM
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I found both threads easily this morning. And as usual I was very happy to see everything. Everything is just beautiful of course...as usual.
Jkom, it's always so nice to see your photos. Thanks for sharing...again.
I still think you and Renee are related or at least your green thumbs are.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2011 at 10:57PM
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loribee2(CA 9)


    Bookmark   May 9, 2011 at 8:59AM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA

Oh!!! Oh, oh, oh!! Gorgeous, stupendous, breathtaking! My gosh, I surely hope a magazine does a nice spread on your place, it is just so picturesque and fantastic! You've done a lovely job, thank you for sharing your photos with us! Do I see a wee little lemon tree tucked into your garden in the second photo? Very clever.

Patty S.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2011 at 7:44PM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

My favorite parts are the side gardens. It's so difficult to get anything to grow in those narrow spaces, and you have done it masterfully!

It doesn't look like you have a weed problem. They probably can't find their way up through your dense plantings!

I love the irises too. My favorite flower, and great looking foliage.
Thanks, jkom.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2011 at 12:49AM
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jkom51(Z9 CA/Sunset 17)

Thank you!

hoosierquilt, yes that it is a Meyer lemon. We have three - two were purchased as grafted trees, one sprouted from a neighbor's Meyer.

hosenemesis, we have the usual weed problem with Oxalis pes-caprae in the spring that needs to be yanked out to try to keep the stuff under control. And both neighbors on either side have Bermuda grass, totally evil stuff that keeps trying to creep in from the edges in addition to reseeding itself around.

We got rid of our Bermuda, but I have to be vigilant about watching for it. Fortunately I mulch so it's easy to get rid of when you stay on top of things. Weeding doesn't take that much time; I spend more time on pruning and clean-up. There's two mature deciduous trees in the backyard that drop a ton of leaves every fall which have to be raked up - whether on lawn, shrubs, or patio, wouldn't matter.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2011 at 1:44AM
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jo_pyeweed(z9 SF Bay Area)

Jkom - your garden is simply stunning! Thank you for posting. Besides taking a great delight in seeing the pictures, I found them very educational.

I have a few questions, which I am hoping you will take the time and trouble to answer.

Regarding the picture titled "South side of house (sunny)...":

1. The roses. What cages are you using to confine the roses in the narrow space? And, is that nasturtium that's climbing the cages?

2. Would you be so kind as to name some of the plants in the side yard? Is that clematis in the foreground on the south-facing house wall? What is the tallish shrub on the right past the canna? Are the plants on the on the right mostly shade-lovers since they'd be in the shadow of the fence and neighboring house for a good part of the year?

3. How wide are the beds on the two sides of the path?

Perhaps you'll forgive my many questions when I tell you that, after waiting for many years, we have bought our first house and I can now finally begin on the garden that I have been dreaming of for a long time now. Your garden is inspirational.

Thanks much,

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 8:44PM
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tropical_thought(San Francisco)

It looks nice, and it seems to work, most people would get way behind on the upkeep. I am tired of my bark looks, I tired CA poppy seeds but nothing came up, only more weeds. I need to improve the soil under the bark. That is going to take years.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2011 at 7:21PM
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jkom51(Z9 CA/Sunset 17)

jo_, we're about to go on a short trip through the Wine Country so I may not be able to answer your questions for another week or so. Hope that's okay, I may even do it on a new thread because the whole issue of gardening in narrow side yards seems pretty much restricted to the Bay Area. Anyway, be patient with me and I promise I'll get to it as soon as I can!

tropical_, I did almost a year's worth of research before we ever touched the garden. Even then, the first year we only did one-third of the lot (front and sides). The back yard, which is naturally divided into two halves, took more planning and design work over another two years.

To plan an extensive cottage-type garden with a minimum of watering isn't easy, but it's been worth it. I wanted to have 'moments' in the garden - not grand vistas but instead, as you walk through, the mix of plants changes so that every few feet, a new combination of color, texture, shape and size, is revealed.

DH and I strategized on the garden design almost as much as did on remodeling the entire cottage - and although we like the way the house turned out, we LOVE the way the gardens evolved.

If we had a smaller lot or fewer beds, it would take little time overall, but it's such a permit nightmare to expand one's home - our neighbor tried it and failed, after spending $15K and over a year on the process - so we feel it's best to 'make lemonade with the lemons', literally, and make the outdoor spaces as beautiful and enjoyable to be in as possible.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2011 at 5:28PM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

Very nice!

    Bookmark   May 15, 2011 at 7:32PM
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jkom51(Z9 CA/Sunset 17)


I surprised myself and managed to get some photos of the south side yard arranged in what I hope is an understandable order. I started a new thread here in the CA Gardening forum titled "Photo heavy! Narrow Sunny Side Yard" and I hope that most, if not all, of your questions have been answered.

If you have any other questions, however, feel free to ask.

Here is a link that might be useful: New thread: Photo heavy! Narrow Sunny Side Yard

    Bookmark   May 16, 2011 at 1:58AM
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jo_pyeweed(z9 SF Bay Area)

Jkom - I cannot thank you enough! The information you provided is extremely helpful and, indeed, did answer my questions. I appreciate your generosity - both with your time and in sharing your knowledge.

Have a wonderful trip through the Wine Country. I am going back for my umpteenth read of your detailed post.

Thanks again,

    Bookmark   May 16, 2011 at 11:02PM
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Here in the wine country I have replaced the lawn on my south side two years ago, and am doing the east side this year. Not so much to save water, but to relieve the boredom and allow more exciting plant experiments. The south side is now mostly in a mix of ornamental grasses. On the east we are concentrating this year on the hardscape, paths and defined planting beds. Our septic tanks are located there and so planning must provide for easy access when needed. Al

    Bookmark   May 20, 2011 at 9:19AM
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jkom51(Z9 CA/Sunset 17)

Pictures, Al, pictures! I'd love to see what you've been doing, and I'm sure others would also.

Sure was weird to get rained on Tues 17th, but weather cleared up and was beautiful the remaining two days. Had an incredibly lovely lunch at Depot Hotel in Sonoma, right off the Square. So far it's the best food we've had in Sonoma Square and we're going back in a couple of weeks for their Texas BBQ class! Yum.....

    Bookmark   May 20, 2011 at 12:10PM
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jimnyo(8 (SoCal))

i know this is an old post, but i was SO disappointed that all the photos are gone! is there any way to get them back up again? this is exactly what i would like to do in our sunset zone 21 yard! thanks!

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 2:41AM
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Min3 South S.F. Bay CA

Yes! I'd like to see them too. Min

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 9:05PM
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jkom51(Z9 CA/Sunset 17)

OOps, sorry, just saw your request to repost the photos. I'm out of town but I promise I will get to them in the next few weeks.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2014 at 11:13PM
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I don't know if you're considering using a professional, but if you are, you might consider this guy: Rob Moore of California Native Landscape Design. I don't know him and I've never met him, but I'd hire him in a heartbeat if I could afford him or afford having the work done. Perhaps you're in a better place financially than we are. You can see this and other projects on his website and follow him on Facebook. I covet this grass-free front yard.

Here is a link that might be useful: Website

    Bookmark   August 2, 2014 at 11:39PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA

Oh good, jk! I was SO disappointed to see your stunning garden photos gone! Do re-post them, and if you have new photos I'd love to see an update. Not sure whose yard I want to move into more - yours or Renee's!

Patty S.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2014 at 7:07PM
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melle_sacto(Z9/Sunset 14 CA)

I think I've seen your yard - - STUNNING indeed! Looking forward to seeing the pics again :-)

    Bookmark   August 4, 2014 at 6:09PM
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