Oh goodness! What to do with this yard!??

soozAugust 13, 2013

Hi, everyone!

This is the little ranch-style house we have that is now rented out. The tenants are not interested at all in caring for the outside of the place and watering, although they do keep the inside neat and clean. The lawn has since all died out.

We're in So Cal and would like to re-do the front yard so this wouldn't be the most unattractive place on the block, yet be we'd like it pretty, water-wise and easy care for us.

Putting in a dry creek bed of rocks wouldn't fit with the neighborhood, nor would a front yard of gravel interspersed with rocks, boulders, or plants placed willy-nilly. Artificial turf looks too...well, artificial. We'd like to avoid having it look like a desert landscape.

We go over there to water about every 7 to 12 days. The europys daisies in front of the one window have all been taken out and not replaced with anything. The plant off to the far right is hardy rosemary.

Any help, ideas, or suggestions are welcome!



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Here is another photo. The front yard does NOT have a sidewalk in front of it.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2013 at 8:28PM
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Roger's Gardens in Corona del Mar sponsored a "California friendly" landscape contest a few years ago that focused on low-water use, low maintenance but very attractive landscape designs. I understand the contest is still ongoing with participation encouraged by various water districts. The point of this is that there are photo galleries of winning landscapes that address the exact needs you express. Very much worth reviewing to get inspiration.

FWIW, I would not necessarily be overly quick to dismiss either the dry streambed, artificial turf or a rock/drought tolerant plants approach as being out of character with the neighborhood or looking too artificial. It depends on the quality of the design and its relationship to the house and vicinity. And I've seen some artificial lawns that you would have to get down on your hands and knees to inspect to determine they were not real..

Roger's Gardens

Here is a link that might be useful: California friendly landscapes

    Bookmark   August 14, 2013 at 2:56PM
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I have no comment on landscaping but I assure you there are low water-need plants which will not remind you of the desert, even ferns. One of my favorites is Myrsine Africana. It would not suit your need but it is an example of a plant looking lush yet drought tolerant.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2013 at 4:21PM
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catkim(San Diego 10/24)

Chances are you're going to end up with a worse mess than you started with. There truly are few options lower-maintenance than lawn. No planting of low-water use shrubs is going to look good without someone doing regular cleanup.

If this were my rental, I would get irrigation installed for the front, put in some less-thirsty breed of grass, and raise the rent enough to cover the cost of a mow-blow-go bi-monthly lawn service. Keep it simple.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2013 at 9:40PM
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melle_sacto(Z9/Sunset 14 CA)

I don't have a lot to add as far as the yard; lawn is pretty basic care and mow & blow crews won't wreck it.

But I wanted to comment on the links to the Roger's Gardens CA landscapes: thank you for sharing these!!!

    Bookmark   August 14, 2013 at 11:06PM
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Thank you everyone!!!! Great advice, ideas, and suggestions!


    Bookmark   August 15, 2013 at 3:49AM
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I've really enjoyed looking at those gardens gardengal48. Do you know what that really flat groundcover is that are in a lot of the photos?

    Bookmark   August 15, 2013 at 9:54AM
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Yeah, it's always good to realize that one can have a very lush and colorful garden yet still be very xeric and low maintenance. KInda inspiring, no?

Can't see the groundcover all that clearly but I'd suspect it was either dymondia or wooly thyme - both are very drought tolerant, although dymondia is not hardy across much of the country.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2013 at 4:41PM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

Marti, Dymondia margaratae is the flat gray green ground cover, and it can make an excellent walk-on lawn substitute. Works best IMO if installed with automatic irrigation, but needs much less irrigation than any type of lawn grass commonly used here in California. With Dymondia, initial weed prep is critical, because dealing with Bermuda grass or Oxalis pes-capre is a real pain if it isn't eliminated initially or grubbed out as an invader.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2013 at 1:48PM
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Before you get carried away Marti, dymondia is only hardy to about 25-30F. Doubt it will make it long-term in the DFW area. Woolley thyme would be a decent substitute however and a lot more drought tolerant.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2013 at 3:24PM
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Maybe consider adding some ornamental grasses (Mexican feather grass, e.g.) and one or two eye-catching drought tolerant plants (Protea Banksia, e.g.) to liven up the space a little...

    Bookmark   August 21, 2013 at 6:32PM
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thanks for the suggestion of the ornamental grasses (Mexican feather grass) ... that I will try in my yard too!!

    Bookmark   August 21, 2013 at 8:02PM
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Lily777 _8PNW(8PNW)

You could make a front courtyard for entertaining with pavers that fit your budget. Imagine a bistro set or a couple of adirondack chairs in the middle. then have a border on the front and side that includes the mexican feather grass.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2013 at 4:19PM
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Agree with Lili777. Some kind of paved courtyard made private with screening; panels of some kind of fencing perhaps topped off with hogwire and climbing vines...and/or border of xeriscaping plants. Lots of Mediterranean, Australian, so. African plants to choose from.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2013 at 3:28AM
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