Urban funky garden design

bahia(SF Bay Area)November 4, 2012

This garden had to be cheap to install, easy to care for, and tolerate both summer baking and occasional winter flooding. Plus, it needed to grow in fast enough to help sell the property which was being converted from a duplex owner/renter situation to condo's. Amongst the other problems to be dealt with was a huge infestation of Oxalis pes-capri, Bermuda grass and Himalayan blackberries.

Amongst the solutions to create more interest in a dead flat back yard was to berm up soil to create a seating area using recycled concrete slabs salvaged from another job, and lots of fast growing succulents and Euphorbias for quick growth. We ended up planting the lawn as a low frequency mowed/watered(just once a month for both) lawn of Berkeley Sedge, planted out from divisions as if it were a rice paddy. It literally looked like a rice paddy when after the first week of planting it was flooded with several inches of water for 3 days!

I thought this garden stayed true to the slightly funky vibe of this flatland garden, which the owners had named "El Rancho" and had hammocks strung out to get into the spirit, and also an old existing well in the very back of the garden next to a creek that has been filled in and culverted.

Hope you enjoy the set...

Here is a link that might be useful: Urban Funk Garden with recycled concrete

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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

A remarkable garden in 6 months. Does the grass that floods in the winter tolerate regular vehicular traffic, or is this only for emergency or occasional use? The need for regular maintenance has been greatly reduced, good job. Al

    Bookmark   November 4, 2012 at 10:08AM
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jkom51(Z9 CA/Sunset 17)

Superb creative design as usual, David! You do such amazing work.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2012 at 1:23PM
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jenn(SoCal 9/19)

Love it! 'Funky' designs are very appealing to me.

What is the small silvery tree with cinnamon-red trunk in the first photo?

    Bookmark   November 4, 2012 at 7:01PM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

The "driveway" across the lawn permits driving over it, and was a necessary accommodation to city codes per converting this to condos and a future third unit where the existing garage was located. As the housing market was already looking a bit iffy at the time this was installed, the owner elected not to build the third unit. As a result, the driveway and the rear garages at each duplex unit facing this garden weren't really used as garages any more, but as office or living space that opened up onto the garden. So cars seldom really enter this backyard, but could, if desired. I used the driveway myself while building out the garden, and it worked just fine. That Berkeley Sedge, Carex divulsa is really one incredibly tough grass substitute, and works great for meadows.

The garden was full of recylced elements from other jobs and gardens, including many of the succulents which were just planted out as cuttings. The tree with the silver foliage is Eucalyptus pulverulenta, which is commonly used by florists as cut foliage. We wanted a fast growing tree to screen neighboring apartment buildings and create a sense of privacy. We also added reed fencing panels at all the surrounding cyclone fences to give immediate privacy at ground level. Mulch came from a giant Monterey Pine tree that had been removed in another client's garden, and rather than haul it away to the dump, we used it here. It was fun working with a 10,000 sf lot, but we had to really be creative to plant the whole area on a very tight budget. We didn't import any new topsoil for amending soils, as one example, and the irrigation valves were cheap versions rather than professional grade that I would prefer to install. I'd expect the valves will need replacing within the first 8 years, and the low voltage lighting system was also basic budget stuff.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2012 at 9:48PM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

Beautiful. I love the colors on the house, too. The first photo is divine.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2012 at 11:39PM
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It's lovely, David. The urge to reproduce the classic "English country garden" in California persists, even as we all look for ways to lower that monthly water bill. It happens less often now, but you can still hear folks complain that drought tolerant landscaping is "boring," or "stark." I wish everyone who still believes that could see this garden.


    Bookmark   November 6, 2012 at 8:03AM
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Suzi AKA DesertDance Zone 9b

You did a wonderful job! I love the seating! I just don't love the fact that if I sat there, insects from the plants hanging over the back of the seat could invade my hair.. YIKES! Other than that, wonderful!!


    Bookmark   November 10, 2012 at 9:55AM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

Kay, unfortunately too many gardens that are installed as xeriscapes can tend to be boring and sterile, but it isn't the plants' fault, but lack of imaginative design. I suspect that if I were doing designs in southern California or Arizona, I would be using more desert habitat plants rather than Mediterranean climate habitat plants, as a way to trim those water bills even further. I have nothing against more spare garden designs with drought tolerant plants, but those wide expanses of gravel to set off individual plants doesn't seem to fit architecturally with small urban gardens up here; it doesn't leave much room for actual plants! Plus, we get so much more winter rain, that gardens full of decomposed granite surfaces get as many if not more weeds over winter than mulched garden beds, and may even require more work to keep blown in leaves, etc from turning it back into soil.

On the other hand, there are plenty of great examples of Drought tolerant gardens in southern California as well, not all of them look sterile.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2012 at 1:18PM
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