Award-Winning Case Study: Xeriscape San Diego

Traditional ice-plant expanse in the front yard

Traditional iceplant landscape

Achieving water savings and creating satisfying drought resistant landscaping are probably THE most important services I provide to homeowners.

Here’s a case study of how both goals were reached for Liz and Rick in Escondido:
Feeling the pinch of an ever-increasing water bill, Liz and Rick were ready “to do something” about their conventional ice-plant expanse, and they contracted with Nature Designs Landscaping in Vista, CA, one of the landscaping companies in San Diego that are experts in drought resistant landscaping.

I have worked with Steve Jacobs before on similar xeriscape designs.  He felt that I would be a good fit for the naturalistic style and relaxed outdoor living that Liz and Rick prefer, as I share their interest in exceptional desert plant species that demand little maintenance.

drought-resistant landscaping with desert plant species

Colorful and drought resistant

We agreed to create several related themes for this garden: The ‘Contemporary California Mix’ at the entrance has the most color but also interesting contrast of texture and form: Narrow-pointy blades of Kangaroo Paws, Daylilies and Evergold Sedge contrast with the rounded form and fleshy texture of such succulents as Cotyledon, Echeverias and Dudleyas. Feathery Cassia, Myrtle and Texas Ranger give structure; Strawberry Tree, Willow Wattle and Chitalpa create an overhead canopy and “anchor” the home.

On the slopes farther away, we created a native California theme: Ceanothus and Mountain Mahoganies screen the pool garden; at the bottom of the slope grows a pretty mix of Bush Poppy, Sages, California Wild Rye, California Fuchsia and other perennials.

Planting bed with desert plant species

Desert plant species

For Liz’s impressive collection of succulents and cacti that included Aloes, Agaves, an Ocotillo, Hesperaloe and a Zamia, I designed a “desert garden”, mounded it up and top-dressed it with attractive rock and gravel. It is placed in a large area in the back garden that had previously been lawn.

Their south-west facing back garden also saw significant change: Here we placed four raised vegetable beds in a star-shaped arrangement, accessible on all sides on clean D(ecomposed) G(ranite). Many fruit trees also grow in this “production area” whose entrance is marked by an arbor.

Backyard landscape design

A backyard landscape design

Collaborating with Liz and Rick and Nature Designs Landscaping was very satisfying because of our shared goals: Gain significant water savings; make this landscape fun to contemplate and a pleasure to live and garden in as Liz and Rick continue to add new plant finds.

There are also more measurable signs of success: Since installation a year ago, the drought resistant plants have grown significantly, thanks to drip irrigation and several inches of mulch. In that time Liz and Rick have saved close to 60% compared to their previous year’s water consumption while enjoying edible pay-back in their vegetable garden. Nature Designs was honored with an achievement award at the recent California Landscape Contractors Association Annual Beautification Awards for this project, and I am grateful to share this honor as the designer.

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