What would you do with this garden?
I thought it might be fun to solicit opinions on how to tweak this front garden to best accent the house, and get a sense of how others would approach this redesign. To give a bit of information, it is in northern California with a zone 10a climate, has automatic irrigation already in place for a lawn that is more meadow than pure grass, sandy loam soils, faces northeast, and is flanked by two relatively young Coast Live Oak trees that were volunteers planted by the birds. Coast Live Oak woodland, Quercus agrifolia, are the default tree canopy in this town if the gardener doesn't keep them weeded out, they thrive here and once covered the entire town. In general, Coast Live Oaks are intolerant of summer irrigation within their canopy, but young trees that have grown up with irrigation and have good drainage generally do tolerate summer irrigation without killing them over time.
The owners recently moved into this Victorian after completely restoring another smaller Victorian in the same neighborhood, and jumped at the opportunity to have a nearly double wide lot and larger home with guest cottage in the back. They have 3 young daughters, keep chickens and rabbits in the back yard, and would like as much edible fruit and perennial veggies as possible. This would include subtropical fruits and veggies that could be expected to do well here. The entire back garden is also fenced with an 8 foot tall fence which presents opportunities for ornamental/edible vines. There is also a huge 100 year old Avocado tree in the backyard, which is almost something out of the Swiss Family Robinson book.
To the right of the driveway, this existing patch of lawn is in play for potential additional garden or edibles, but the main lawn area is sacrosanct for ball play and volleyball games, perhaps a small strip at the front sidewalk could be given over to garden, or enclosed with a low fence and gate.
Surrounding homes and gardens are a varied lot of old Victorians and newer 1930's bungalows, with lots of Rhododendrons, Hydrangeas, Azaleas and Roses in gardens here. The majority of existing plantings in this front garden are higher water usage plants, but the owners would like to reduce watering as much as possible for new plantings, but aren't necessarily onboard to remove perfectly fine plants and trees that aren't water conserving. Lots of old fashioned deciduous flowering shrubs here, including Deutzia, Spiraea, Snowball Viburnum, Flowering Dogwoods, Flowering Cherry, Hydrangeas, Wisteria, etc. The previous owner also added a Jacaranda street tree by the street, which is already blooming size.
Would you make significant changes, leave it alone; in general, how would you approach this garden redesign? Initially I was simply asked to make sure the irrigation system was operational and fix/improve it as necessary, and find spots for some new fruit trees and other edibles, and also an area for roses. I'll post some photos of what I did end up installing after a few months of growing time, things look pretty much like sticks at the moment. In the meantime, what might you do given this design program and such a beautifully proportioned old Victorian home that is the grand dame of the block?
Here is a link that might be useful: New garden for a Victorian home in California