Small Front Yard design for privacy and interest

bahia(SF Bay Area)May 15, 2012

This photo illustrates several themes useful in garden design. Form and foliage can be high impacts without blooms, but can also be enhanced with a bit of color. Contrasting textures of coarse succulent foliage is made more dramatic when layered against fine textured backgrounds.

From a design standpoint, this planting scheme was also intended to scale down a privacy wall for a small courtyard off the front yard family room behing the wall. Plantings were also used to soften the walls, growing both up against the wall with the Black eyed Susan Vine, and trailing over the lowere raised planter wall, with the Parrot's Beak Lotus berthelottii. Verticality is provided by the Windmill palms anchoring the stairs at the entry to the house.

The total scene is pretty much static the year round, except that the Coral Aloe blooms are seasonal for 2 months in spring only. The rest of the colored foliage and blooms are pretty much year round, or lasting at least 6 months in season.

Here is a link that might be useful: Small Front Garden Design

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deviant-deziner(Oh zone)

good gawd,
I love the layering, colors and textures in this garden.
The tiered scale works in harmony with the protruding courtyard wall and the 2 story house.

great inspirational horticultural craftsmanship.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2012 at 2:55PM
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Mouthwatering David absolutely fabulous I second the above "great inspirational horticultural craftsmanship.

BTW: what software did you use?

    Bookmark   May 15, 2012 at 3:41PM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

Not sure what the question about software is about? I shot the photo with a digital 35mm camera and the photo wasn't retouched or edited in any way, I use ACDsee for downloading the photos onto my laptop and then upload to the web by putting them on Flickr.

This front garden has gone through a few changes over the past 7 years; the plants have grown in tremendously, of course, but my clients also preferred to obscure the walls more. Therefor I added a curved piece of welded wire mesh forward of the wall for the Thunbergera vine to climb up and hide it, and added the Lotus berthelottii between the Foxtail Agaves to cascade over the wall. The double palm planting replaced a Satsuma mandarine tree to give much more eventual height without blocking the views of the bay from the front living room windows at the entry level floor above the garage. It helps to be able to garden in a SF Bay Area banana belt climate that hardly ever sees any frost, so I can count on spectacular color and lush growth even in the dead of winter. I try to get up to this garden every 3 or 4 months to give it some TLC, but the rest of the year it is maintained by my clients.

I'm including another photo of a spectacular horticultural wonder plant/tree from the backyard. This Wigandia caracasana is rarely planted in SF Bay Area gardens, but provides high drama when in full winter/spring bloom here with 3 foot long leaves the rest of the year. It is exceptionally fast growing and also has foliage with stinging hairs like Stinging Nettles, and can tend to spread widely from the roots and take over a garden. I decided to use one here because its vices could be made virtues for the purposes of screening out the neighbors view into the backyard. I keep an eye on its spreading nature, and groom it periodically to keep it from taking over. It also provides vivid blue-purple eye candy for all the neighboring houses...

Here is a link that might be useful: Wigandia in bloom at back garden

    Bookmark   May 15, 2012 at 4:52PM
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It was a joke David, 'member that? Time for me to ride off into the sunset I think. I have retired and there is a sense of relief that I shall take to the funny pages. You do beautiful work and I had meant to point out the gap between what you do and some of the more banal offerings here beyond that I can't be bothered.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2012 at 6:03PM
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LOVE the foliage color and texture, and the height contrasts! Wonderful work.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2012 at 9:52PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

I love the hellstrip!

Ink, your contributions, especially to problem analysis, make the difference for me between gaining something from a thread vs. feeling like I am being used as a convenient alternative to someone cracking open a book/google.

Not that you've been contributing often lately, but when you do the thread automatically goes to a higher level; becomes a design discussion rather than pragmatic problem solving (when you don't merely exercise your sarcastic muscle, that is :-))

Not all of us have the capacity to raise pragmatic enquiries to design discussions, which is why it doesn't happen that often any more. I feel like I'm flailing around a good bit without someone to nail the design challenge or guide the discussion toward really elegant solutions.

Of course not all enquirers have the capacity to go there either, and not all should - your hands-on knowledge is often equally needed. But it's more fun trying than not trying. I hope you'll come that conclusion too!

Karin L

    Bookmark   May 16, 2012 at 12:03AM
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catkim(San Diego 10/24)

If design with plants can be called painterly, that is my reaction -- the garden as a living Monet or Van gogh or Cezanne.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2012 at 1:24AM
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melle_sacto(Z9/Sunset 14 CA)

It's beautiful!!!

Thank you for posting this, the garden is an inspiration, especially for someone like me ;-)

    Bookmark   May 16, 2012 at 9:54AM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

I'm pleased to hear people enjoy seeing this garden, it was one of several I designed as gardens to help sell homes being remodeled on speculation, and the fully landscaped gardens did help them sell more quickly, up until the bottom dropped out of the market in 2008. I'd agree with Kim that painterly is the description I'd give to my style of planting design, superimposed over strong architectural bones, but also allowing the plants to be sculptural elements arranged to best feature their individual
qualities. There are many more photos of this and other gardens on my Flickr site if you wanted to see more vistas of this same garden over the past 6 years.

Melle in Sacramento, I think there are particular ideas you could apply to your own garden in this front garden; seeing how grouping and repeating plants of similar forms but different heights/foliage colors and tying them together with herbaceous perennials or ground covers can give unity to a garden and give it a sense of flow. Not all of these plants would work in your zone, but could be substituted with similar hardier species. I happen to use a lot of drought tolerant succulents in my designs because they are often so sculptural, or have interesting year round foliage color and dramatic blooms. You can also see here that it doesn't necessarily mean it has to look dry and deserty or sparse. All of this garden except for the back lawn uses very little water applied by drip soaker lines hidden below mulch. This garden remains colorful year round mostly on account of different foliage colors rather than massive amounts of flowers; but the flowering plants that are used are boldly colorful and/or extra long blooming as my preference in using color.

As an aside for Kim, since the clients who bought the property have gotten more comfortable with making it their own garden and asking for changes, I've been adding many palms to the garden front and back. There are now some young Chamaedorea tepelijote and C. microspadix and a Rhopalostylis chathamica in the back, along with the stripped
trunk Trachycarpus fortunei in the front. I also think one of the
reasons a painterly planting design is easy for me to visualize is
because my mom is a painter, and also me being so nearsighted without glasses on, I see the plantings as shapes and colors with indistinct edges. This is similar to squinting to avoid getting hung up on details to early when blocking out a painting._

    Bookmark   May 16, 2012 at 12:30PM
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jkom51(Z9 CA/Sunset 17)

David, every time I think you've posted a photo of what I would want a landscaper to create for me, you post another one and top it yet again! I love your use of foliage colors and textures...not only beautiful, but sensitive to our growing need for water conservation.

I wish you could landscape Palm Springs. Every time I see a photo of their endless sea of thirsty green lawns, I just cringe (I have a friend who lives down there).

    Bookmark   May 19, 2012 at 5:39PM
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This garden is absolutely beautiful! Its a great example of making a small space work really well. Just as I was getting depressed about the state of this forum you posted wonderful inspiration!

    Bookmark   May 19, 2012 at 7:14PM
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manifest(USDA 11a, Sunset 24, CA)

One of my favorite things about the photo is not only how lush the succulents looks, but also the use of volume to create drama. I see A. attenuata everywhere in So Cal. They're usually planted in mass drifts along a hillside looking very overcrowded. Here, you highlight the plant and make it look tropical. Fantastic!

    Bookmark   May 20, 2012 at 10:25AM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

It's definitely true that these foxtail agaves require periodic thinning/editing to look like this; something I do every couple of years. One of the side benefits is that new quite large agave rosettes can be instantly replanted with no roots for instant landscaping, and smaller pups potted up for use in other gardens. So it isn't exactly a low maintenance garden, I edit the entire garden by pruning at least 3 times a year to keep it from becoming an overgrown jungle. Perhaps the one downside of using fast growing plants with long lasting color/blooms for a lush look, but it doesn't require weekly attention nor much weeding, as there is no bare earth for weeds to grow.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2012 at 7:06AM
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