Backyard – Redux

It’s been one year since we re-landscaped our backyard. Some parts of the project were a hit and other parts were definitely a miss. Some of the highlights are set out below:

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Raised Beds

Hit – Raised Vegetable Garden Beds. This was an almost a miss. The garden area was planned for a space between the fence and the Pergola, which wasn’t too much of a problem, except that the architect designed a new pergola much larger than the original. Because I caught the dimension error when the concrete frames were in place, but before the new patio concrete was poured, I was able to reduce the size of the pergola and patio by an additional 16″ without too much additional engineering. However, anything more would have meant a complete engineering redesign of the pergola and substantial additional cost. This year was an experiment with my vegetable garden to see if there was enough light/sun for the crops to grow. I am happy to say that there definitely was.

Mexican Feather Grass

Mexican Feather Grass

Miss – Mexican Feather Grass. This stuff is beautiful but messy. In addition, its also now considered an invasive plant here in California. If that wasn’t enough, our three dogs tromped all through the grass making it look awful, and we discovered that our pug has horrible allergies. Our pug is not the sharpest fellow. He would tromp through the feather grass because it was fun (so puggy), then come in and commence to have lengthy sneezing fits, watery eyes and a stuffed up nose. The ground was so hard from the drought that we couldn’t pull or dig out the feather grass, so we spent this summer dosing him with children’s allergy medicine. The grass will be gone by next year.



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Blue Fescue

Hit – Pergola. Even though the pergola is much bigger than I envisioned, I love it. It keeps the hot afternoon sun from flooding into the house, and therefore helps keeps the temperature down. I had the outside electrical reconfigured, additional outlets installed, and then I strung up patio lights for evening dining.

Miss – Small Blue Fescue Clumps. With three dogs comes a lot of urine. And, with a lot of urine, comes burn. Two of my dogs believe it is their duty – nay, their god given right – to pee on the top of the blue fescues. Half of the fescues look good, but the other half look like genetic engineering gone terribly wrong. This might not have been a problem if there wasn’t a drought, but with so little water to counteract the urine, it was just “burn baby burn.”

Hit/Miss – Espaliered Fruit and Citrus Trees. The fruit trees did well, but the citrus don’t belong. This is a case of the wrong place for the wrong plant. The apple and pear trees have different watering and climate needs than the citrus trees, and they just shouldn’t have been planted together in the same watering zone. The fence line is too exposed so the cold air pools at the base of the trees, and the wind and frost wreck the citrus while the apple and pears thrive. The citrus will be relocated and perhaps replaced with a fig tree.


Side Yard

Hit – Side Yard. The side yard worked on every level. The old concrete was torn out, new pavers put in and the clumping bamboo planted, along with some ornamental grasses. The side of the house gets only morning sun so not too much water is needed to keep the plants going. The red Japanese maple can be seen from our bedroom window, and the bamboo view from the home-office window, creates a nice calming effect to counteract any stressors felt while working at the computer.



Hit/Miss – Laurel Trees. The laurel trees planted along the edge of the pool are coming along nicely, as are the ornamental grasses, but there is no oomph. It is really blah. We kept the plantings simple and somewhat sparse here because the dogs run back and forth along the fence. However, the dogs don’t disrupt the space that much so we could add more plants. And, because the space frames the pool (the main focal point), we’ll want to add some plantings with a little more color and height.



Hit – The Fountain. The fountain was a recent edition to our backyard. After the costs of the initial backyard landscaping were tallied up, we decided to wait until our bank account was less anemic. The fountain can be seen from anywhere in our backyard, and the sound of the water is so soothing. There are still some landscaping items around the fountain to finish up, but those entail a few boulders, some additional river rock and a few plantings. This can be done when the weather is a little cooler and the ground is easier to work.

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Hit – Agave Planters. These plants are so interesting, easy to maintain, and require little water. The planters are placed against the pool equipment enclosure giving it a little pop of green.

Miss – Flower/Ornamental Planters. Ugh. The drought took its toll on the planters. I did not hook them up to a dripline, and instead let them go this year. I might hook them up next year, but if water remains a problem, the planters will need to stay fallow.

It’s been wonderful to see what worked and didn’t work in the garden, both from a landscaping/design perspective as well as a gardening perspective. There were hits and misses, but no failures as far as I am concerned because whatever didn’t work will be rethought, replanned and then replaced. Now that the “bones” of the garden are in place, the next layer will be adding some additional color and texture to the space.  I’m excited.