Need help with landscape design

ceegroFebruary 22, 2013

Hi All,

Long story short, I finally finished a nightmare project of building my new home, and I really some nice landscaping to complete the elevation. I'm going for a modern contemporary look. The garage is a side load, and the driveway is stamped concrete (yet to be sealed).

Thanks in advance for any assistance.

Greatly appreciated,

Here is a link that might be useful: More pictures

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Custom home?

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 4:11PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Yes, custom home.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 4:14PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

When you were picking out the home's plan, did they have drawings with some amount of landscaping included? If so, if you liked it, can you use it as a start?

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 4:54PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

No, the plans didn't include any landscaping.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 4:56PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

A custom designed home needs a custom designed landscape - especially on a lot that appears to be as conspicuous as yours. I'd seriously look into hiring a professional landscape designer to assist. CA has a plethora and you will get much better, more detailed and site specific suggestions than an online forum could hope to provide. It is well worth the investment, given the obvious quality of the home.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 5:51PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Here are some landscape ideas that could be adapted to your conditions. Details are not meant to be taken literally. They are suggestions, the main points being:

Beds below trees

Maintain open view of entrance

Color (annual, perennial or shrub) around entrance area

Plant form silhouettes @ blank wall spaces

Tall "spike" forms @ background

    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 10:18AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
catkim(San Diego 10/24)

California has many different climate zones. Do you know your Sunset planting zone?

    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 3:39PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

According to, I'm in zone 14, but also pretty close to zone 9.

The photo attached is an example of a design that I saw that I liked.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 12:36AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Ceegro, now that you add a picture of the flavor you're after, here's how you might go about transferring that "look" to your yard. (I think a better description of what you're after is "desert" or "tropical desert," instead of "contemporary" (which is open to many interpretations.)

A sizable portion of the picture you show has 50% of the glass covered with plant material. Hopefully, you don't wish to replicate that scheme. Also, do you mean to convey that you intend NO LAWN at all? If that's the case, do you expect to cover sizable square footage with mulch, or plants alternative to turf?

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 9:39AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
deviant-deziner(Oh zone)

I would suggest looking at the work of some California based landscape designers. They'll have images of plants in the landscape and the general 'feel and look' that a contemporary California house and garden emits, which rarely includes the use of large turf lawns due to our climate and water costs.

Your landscape would look great with some palm and or Olive trees, phormiums, yuccas, succulents and some ornamental grasses.

Check out the Houzz and Sunset websites. Using the search button type in modern california garden and you'll find some great looking designs.
Some of the designers on Houzz whose work you might like are Huettl, Margie Grace, Arterra,Studio Green, Randy Thueme, Jeffery Gordon Smith.
Also, check out Flickr's photo hosting site and the work by David Feix.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 4:55PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

"...which rarely includes the use of large turf lawns due to our climate and water costs."

Precisely why I bring the issue up. While we don't have the same water scarcity as the Californians, we have water issues and always, the costs. While the word "lawn" might have once meant grass/turf only, this word is adapting to contemporary issues and now many use it to mean those areas of the yard in which a low, uniform, carpet-like planting--but not necessarily turf--covers the ground and appears as if it was meant to be walked on. Here in Florida, while I would not say that turf is yet being edged out, there is a lot of interest in alternatives to it. For us, a Brazillian legume, among a few other plants, is already in use and holds great promise. Surely, in California there must be similar interest in living lawn alternatives. Not everyone wants tall plantings or some sort of "gravel" covering the bulk of their yard.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 12:53PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Brad Edwards

As usual I agree 100% with diviant and yardvark. I think two espaliers would look great along either side of the front garage, maybe even bouganvilla. I don't think it would be worth it to do a grass lawn either in the front. There isn't going to be enough bang for buck out of it and its just one more thing to take care of, why have to mow a 3ftx5ft strip.

On the far right I would do a very small pergola with climbing rose and bench behind it, and lay some pavers creating a mini courtyard. I really like the tree yardvark put in in front of that. I also think the brick wall is so close to your home you should find a way to utilize the space. Behind the current tree I would have the most important focal, something like garden art, an overly large pot water feature, or something unique adding to the modern feel. I think it would give privacy and add intrigue via depth.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 2:18PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Great points, everyone! This has been really helpful. I made this drawing last night before the suggestions regarding grass. I'll play with it some more and see where it goes.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 6:13PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
catkim(San Diego 10/24)

Tasteful. If you want palms and are anywhere near San Luis Obispo, I can hook you up with someone who can recommend and supply appropriate species. You are in a marginal climate for palms, so it's important to select the right plants.

Here is a link that might be useful: SLOPalms

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 10:11PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Ceegro, I'm impressed with your attempt at using a paint program to help you visualize your thoughts. Maybe you have experience with it for some other reason. Your picture looks quite precise. Even though we disagree on some points of landscaping, it's helpful to see some of your thoughts in pictorial form. One suggestion I'd make is to think and draw it as if the plants were fully grown. It would help one to see how plants work in future years ... if they "fit," or if they become maintenance problems. If I have a main objection to your view it would be that there is not enough large scale plant material to make the house look nestled in and connected to earth. It still seems "new" and as if the house is still sitting large on the ground. The one existing tree that you didn't draw larger would help, of course, but it still needs more than that in my opinion. The points I made earlier, I'm not sure you read as I don't yet know where you agree or disagree.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 11:36PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

katkim - Thanks. I'm actually closer to Modesto, and the junior college there has a nursery with palms. I'm sure they can recommend the right ones.

yardvaark - Thanks. Actually, I don't have any experience, I'm just such a very visual person that I have to be able to see something to know whether I like it. So, I tend to draw things to help me visualize (and get my right brain working).

What I was trying to accomplish in this rough draft drawing, was that I thought the height of the right side of the house needed some tall trees or shrubs to go next to it. I'm also trying to cover the base of the house, but I'm trying to be careful not to cover the nice slate accents that I have under the windows. So I had thought to put something small there that would not grow very tall. It's hard to see the slate in the picture above, but it has charcoal, orange, and greyish brown colors in it. I'm also not sure, as far as color palette, what accomplishes the simple, modern, minimalistic look. I guess I'm afraid of having too much color, and I'm afraid of not having enough. While I like yardvaark's picture above, I think it might have too much color, while my drawing probably doesn't have enough. I'm also trying to research and learn plant combinations, because initially, I didn't think that desert and palm trees went together - desert I think of being inland and hot, and palms I think of beach and cool. But the example I found in LA blends them together nicely.

Regarding grass, I wasn't sure how to fill that whole area with plants. The area in front of the garage is roughly 25 feet deep, and 50 - 70 feet wide. I'll look into the turf alternatives in use in California.

Again, thanks for the help!

    Bookmark   March 1, 2013 at 1:55AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

"I guess I'm afraid of having too much color, and I'm afraid of not having enough. While I like yardvaark's picture above, I think it might have too much color, while my drawing probably doesn't have enough." What? ... you think my Thomas Kinkade inspired color palette may be overdoing it...?? Keep in mind that I'm trying to convey ideas, not realism. If I show you realism, it would be difficult to explain all the possible/likely places you might put color (if that's what you wanted) in a single view. I'd need to show you several views in different seasons. So it wouldn't happen. You must interpret. If you prefer minimal color, you'd select plants for some of those locations that do not produce as much color. The flavor of the yard would depend on the ACTUAL plants used. I'm mainly trying to show you forms, shapes and sizes more than anything else. By implication, I'm showing you where to leave vacant space and not have plants obscuring what would better be seen. I'm just trying to get you into the ball park--as a starting point--where you can tweak and modify to your heart's desire. Regarding color, I think it's especially useful to signify the entrance area and to offer a cheery greeting to those who approach. I'm showing maximum color possibilities encircling the entire automotive and pedestrian entrance area. But you might wish to have a small spot of annual color only at the pedestrian entrance. It's up to you. Keep in mind that in real life, if you planted color areas and decided that it was too much, in a heartbeat, at an opportune moment, you could covert it to less colorful perennials, shrubs or groundcover. It would be more difficult or expensive to go in the other direction and convert tree/shrub areas to color.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2013 at 10:38AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
deviant-deziner(Oh zone)

There are quite a few possibilities for turf alternatives.
Using the Sunset western gardening book or website type in 'groundcovers' .
If you are looking for 'walk on' groundcovers just further the search. An alternative that may work in that instance is dymondia.
If you decide that you do want a grassy look you might find that the UC Verde Buffalo grass would be a good option for your climate. I hear that the best results for this new introduction is being experienced in inland hot areas.
Out at the coast we are having great success with a turf called Eco-lawn and California Native No Mow mix by Delta. It is basically a long red fescue that requires only once a year mowing and is left to grow long, much like a golf rough. Watering requirements vary with the location. Right on the coast we are watering it once a month during June - Sept. to keep it deep green.

Also John Greenlees book on creating meadows has some great info. His newest book on the American Meadow Garden is full of great info. He's a native Californian who understands our climate and soil conditions very well.

Photo attached is a relatively new Eco-turf installation on the coast. This grass will grow long and then fall over itself. It will be mowed once a year and due to its coastal location will not be watered unless there is a summertime oceanside heat wave. It stays green all year long.

Here is a link that might be useful: John's American Meadow info

    Bookmark   March 1, 2013 at 2:35PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Landscape Advice Needed | New Homeowners
We just purchased our first home in the southeast and...
Sarah Bain
Feedback on my design/plans?
In a previous thread I asked for general suggestions...
Privacy Trees For Zone 5 (US)
We live in zone 5 on approx a 1 acre lot. Our neighbors...
Help for shade
I need some advice . I have recently moved into a house...
Chris Cousineau
Sponsored Products
Big Nails Plus 80 Outdoor Bollard by SLV
$458.00 | Lumens
Shaggy Vibes Juniper Hot Fudge Rectangular: 5 Ft. x 8 Ft. Rug
$238.40 | Bellacor
Furniture of America Espresso Finish Bicast Storage Bench
31" Red Cedar Curved Bench
Mushroom Fresno Eclipse Blackout Curtain Panel
$29.99 | zulily
Solid Brass "Dogs Please Close the Gate" Sign
Signature Hardware
Smoky Blue Cleo 16" Wide Pendant Chandelier
Lamps Plus
Blue Medallions Rug 3'9" x 5'9"
$189.00 | Horchow
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™