Tuesday, September 20, 2016

From Lawn to Habitat Garden

Another quarterly visit up to Santa Cruz for work, family and play. A client who I designed a back yard for a few years back gave me free reign to transform her front yard. We used the mature live oak as inspiration creating a habitat garden with mostly natives and had a lot of fun tearing out the lawn in the process.
1.5 days of sweat- Lawn gone. Oak happy. Marking out path and seating area.
Tagging boulders for seating and dimension in the garden. The sonoma fieldstones blend perfectly with the oak and are locally harvested in cow fields.
Sonoma boulders delivered and keyed in, plants placed. Repurposing existing old bender board from removed lawn to outline and border CA gold gravel path.
Front lawn to habitat garden transformation complete! Just add chairs and wine.
Happy oak woodland with sunspot seating in friendly Santa Cruz cul de sac. Now wait for plants to grow, create layers and close in the space

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Gallery of Before + Afters: Part 2

Because a picture is worth a thousand words, here's our latest in Before + Afters. Some of these are still fresh and new and need another year or so to really shine, but I couldn't wait to show them to you- so here they are.

Mission Hills Lawn Loser
Large corner lot goes from lawn and more lawn to curb appeal pollinator haven- boulders, creek bed, flagstone path, CA natives, Mediterraneans and pollinators and color color color!





BEFORE. Side Yard.

In the side yard we kept this delicious citrus tree row but swapped out the dying ornamental plums with CA lilac, native sages and grasses and made a sweet little flagstone path to navigate from gate to front

Normal Heights Charmer

We had a lot of fun designing this project as the property and historic home already had such wonderful bones. We designed these columns and fence to tie the landscape in with the architecture and visually separate the front yard from street. We built car arbors on the new driveway and reused all the broken concrete from demolished driveway as urbanite paths and patios in the backyard. We installed a functional dry creek bed that manages the stormwater on the slightly sloped site by percolating and diverting it toward the fruit and and veggie garden beyond the fence.



We had a new deck with multiple "rooms" come off of the back door and gorgeous custom lights and columns to weave the architecture back into the landscape. Due to scale of project the planting was phased and will be completed later this Spring.


Clean + Contemporary in Point Loma


Clients have been living in this Pt Loma home for a few decades and never touched the landscape. We redesigned the entry to be more inviting and easy to navigate. On the side yard we removed the weedy pepper trees and brought in boulders, creek bed, arbutus and ceanothus along with grasses and succulents and sages. Client wanted to keep existing birds of paradise which we divided and weaved throughout and will really pop with its orange against the purple of the  mexican and cleveland sages. Note- images taken only a week after planting.


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Dirt on Artifical Turf

I'm not a fan of artificial turf. Yes, I know this subject is an exhausted one, so I'll keep it short.
Artificial turf in all it's fake plastic glory.

I came out for an arborist consult- the client wanted to know why her tree was significantly defoliated. Prior to coming out I was pretty sure the drought was a main contributor, as it is with most trees this summer. Last year the tree was in great health. Last year she also had artificial turf installed under the established tree leaving no more than a 3-4 foot diameter of soil  (also planted). The canopy (and root zone) of the tree far extends beyond this. Of course water is one of the main issues but more so the carpet of faux turf was stripping the dripline of soil life, inhibiting water percolation to the feeder roots and increasing ground heat. Plus all the prep / compaction / alkaline base rock greatly decreases the soil oxygen levels and changes the pH affecting the tree's ability to uptake nutrients while making the tree fight much harder to survive. I recommended, short of removing the synthetic turf, that she mulch and deep soak the planter weekly supplementing with recycled water from the house. She has since seen new growth. But it pains me to see a valuable and established tree being stressed out for no good reason in a small front yard space not being used, where there could easily be a mass planting of low growing carex providing the same effect. As an arborist I hate seeing already stressed trees get thrown more obstacles- especially when people think they are doing something good.
Carex praegracilis mowed. Image via SM growers.

As it was elegantly and concisely put in a recent Mercury article, "switching to synthetic grass creates waste, raises ground temperatures, deprives wild animals and bugs of habitat, inhibits water percolation into the ground, and deprives the earth of living green blades that pump out oxygen and filter global warming gases." It is the opposite of ecological gardening. If high traffic turf is needed I'd much rather see a low water / native  blend lawn- or simply an existing patch of lawn remain getting by with less water... as most lawns are way over watered to begin with. Of course there are plenty other design options beyond the lawn, but that's for another rant- that most of us know all too well. 

Sweet floppy graceful unmowed Carex pansa.
In closing, my intention here is not to shame those with synthetic turf, but to ask those considering it to really think about the whole picture while aiming toward a closed loop system in the garden. I strongly encourage you, my dear garden friends to research ALL the other options as well as the many cons of synthetic lawn prior to making that very costly decision.


Thursday, January 29, 2015

More fun with potscaping

I've already written a blog entry on container gardnening- but it's so much fun and after doing a small potscaping project for my brother and sister-in-law, I had to write another one. Small space patio friends, condo/apartment dwellers, renters or just home owners who want to quickly brighten up, refresh or change their outdoor space can get it done with some pots. I've chronicled below the potsultation I did here in San Diego to refresh a patio and hide utilitlies on the wall.

The lay of the land. A wall that is in desperate need of some funky color and greenery. The small pot there just isn't cutting it in regards to making a real focal impact, pop of color or thriving against the hot wall.

Finding The One.
This beautiful turqoisey cobalt pot spoke to us, so we found it some friends of varying heights, rung them up and loaded them in the car.
The Plants.
Next we stopped at the nursery to pick our plants. We got a dwarf kumquat loaded with fruit that will thrive in that large blue beauty we got- as well as a handful of jewel toned succulents of varying colors and textures for year round contrast and interest. Including echeveria, aeonium, kalanchoe and sedums. We picked up a basil plant to divide and plant in a nice round bowl planter and some other new goodies we couldn't pass up on to plant in the yard. We grabbed some soil  and decorative rock to finish it off and went back to put it all in place.
The Final Product.
Unlike normal landscapes which take years to fill in and look just right, pots are all about instant gratification. Plants can be moved, divided and fudged around years down the road (although this kumquat isn't going anywhere- I've seen citrus survive decades in pots still regularly fruiting). Within a few months the succulents will already start to spread and the basil will quadrupel in size.

On a south wall cluster pots for a focal using tough heat loving plants, I like going for dwarf fruit trees such as this kumquat other citrus, olive or pomegranate.

Colorful, sculptural, thrive on neglect... pot perfect.

In a few months these seedlings will be a lush 2' high bouquet of goodness.

For those interested, my potscaping consultation includes fieldtrip to wholesale pottery yard, nursery and placement / planting.. and usually within 2-4 hours. The ultimate instant gratification project. 

More info of my services can be found at www.AndreaDoonan.com

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A Westside (Before/After) Story

At a home near West Clif Drive I have some great clients who recently purchased a new home and hired me to help create a garden that worked with the environment, would require little maintenance and was a safe entertaining and play space for their family. First, we updated the exterior to reflect their modern and artistic aesthetic by simply adding a new coat of paint (paint by Transformational Color), address numbers and lighting fixtures. Instantly the home transformed from 90's beach cottage to modern beach home- without doing any construction. And it got a big instant boost of pizazz which fit the author + doctor + vivacious daughter family well.

 I love how people are getting more bold and expressive with their house colors these days- especially doors. Painting the front door a complimentary popping color gives instant personality to a home AND even more importantly, it shows the guests where the entrance is.                                                                            We had a big design challenge with this project as there was a large cluster of existing Monterrey cypress trees which are tricky to plant under. We wanted to be certain that whatever was planted under the trees would thrive (on little water in competition with tree roots, have an open enough habit to allow tree litter to drop, favor the exposure and soil) AND grow in to create an impactful curb appeal that compliments the home and client's aesthetic.  We wanted some natives and plants that attract pollinators and support the local habitats- we included yarrow, gooseberry and
mediterranean plants. We knew for certain that Mexican feather grass would thrive as there was already an existing patch unwatered in the drought and still kicking.  I designed a large band of the grass to weave across the entrance with hard-as-nails lantana and rosemary to spill over the retaining wall, neglect-loving Australian fuchsia to spread and cover ground and ribes and cotinus for height and interest.

Note: these images were taken just after installation and plants have not had a chance to fill in yet. Once the plants have a chance to grow in (sometime next spring) I will be posting photos on my  website gallery- in the meantime, enjoy this sneak peak.

The clients'  daughter loves skipping around the trees so we used some of their existing bluestones to create a little fairy ring. We hand picked some large granite boulders at the local rockery to balance out and ground the grandness of the trees and add height and form in the direct drip-line where we didn't want to plant. The boulders have soft round edges that are friendly for children to play on / around. In the enclosed front courtyard / patio, we re-used the bluestone that was there and had the landscape contractor reset the stone in DG surrounded by smaller granite rocks.
We planted 2 flowering maples in a deep fuchsia color that really popped against the blue house color and brought in a new firepit to sit over the existing gas line. We gathered all of the sonoma fieldstones from the front to reuse in the back yard, which was also included in the design project. 

These clients like eating healthy local food, but don't have time for real gardening- like many people. For the everyday folks, I usually recommend planting the basic go-to's like a lemon and lime tree (in pot below) and everyday herbs, greens and maybe a couple tomatoes in the summer then get the rest of your produce from farmer's markets, CSAs, and local grocery stores.


           We combined yellow yarrow, orange sedge, heucheras, catmint, an array of succulents and red kangaroo paws for a fun and low fuss garden. We have a nice lavender starflower espalier covering the fence which has a natural flat growing habit with flowers that attract hummingbirds all year. They are keeping their small patch of backyard lawn, at least until the kid is older, but is is a low water native blend that puts up with little water and by not mowing super low, they are able to get away with watering even less. In the long run, they save on time and money- as once established, there is little to NO water being used on this coastal garden... and there is no need for a regular gardener- I come on a quarterly basis to maintain and check on the garden, help and coach the clients with basics such as deadheading, weeding and pruning- while they are able to enjoy all their garden space. So all in all, this story has a happy ending!