This project was one of the most satisfying transformations that I have worked on, and in this neighborhood it presents a dramatic deviation from the traditional Rancho Bernardo landscape which consists of large lawns and foundation plantings. To be frank those lawns and usually clipped foundation shrubs don’t create much interest, and I hesitate calling these “gardens”; they rather invite me to yawn.
Fortunately, the homeowner shared this feeling and wanted all his lawn removed: He felt that he had neither an enticing space to indulge in his love for tropical plants, nor that the existing patio offered sufficient room to entertain his family and friends, and that a lawn would not serve him any longer. Although the outside of the home did not reveal the client’s taste, I noticed many modern art objects inside his home. A little bored with the ubiquitous curved and “free-form” lines for pathways, lawns and patios, I hoped he would be open to a more modern or contemporary approach to the desired re-design of his landscape, and I was excited when he said he was.
I was now free to examine whether an orthogonal or right-angled arrangement of spaces and elements would work, and it turned out that the combination of both would produce the best results: Since the existing patio was not only crammed into the smallest portion of his back yard but also too close for comfort to a more private and quieter sitting area that he wished to create by his bedroom, the dining and entertainment terrace needed to be moved out into the garden, into the previous lawn area had been. A patio of the desired dimensions would only fit if set at a 45 degree angle to the architectural lines of the house.
This invited to repeat the angular layout in the walkways that connect the main patio with a small breakfast area by the front entrance as well as with the quiet-zone by the bedroom: Colored smooth concrete pavers of varying size cross a garden that is populated with a variety of tropical and subtropical plants. Even the fenced utility enclosure jots out at a 45 degree angle from the house.
While the quiet-zone at the bedroom received a traditional shade cover with a slightly sloping roof, the homeowner splurged in a custom peaked-roof trellis over the dining patio– a fun variation from the traditional flat roof that is more economic to install.
In order to keep the water bill moderate and with an eye to sustainability, I combined many brightly colored sub-tropical moderate water-users: the magenta-flowering succulent Rock Purslane Calliandra surinamense, intensely blue Catmint “Blue Wonder” , orange-red Lantana, Blue Hibiscus Alyogyne huegelii, Golden Wonder Senna Cassia splendida ‘Golden’, Firecracker Broom Russelia equisitiformis and Cape Honeysuckle Tecoma capensis, with thirstier tropical plants such as Princess Flower Tibouchina, Pink Trumpet Tree Tabebuia impetiginosa, and flamboyant Canna Lily Canna. Most of these plants are easy to maintain (the Canna perhaps needs a little more attention to keep it clean looking) yet moderate in their water consumption. With separately timed (drip) irrigation stations a combination like this conserves water yet allows the garden the tropical feel that the client desired. And since he knows that his drip irrigation system is quite adaptable to add-ons, he is happily continuing to bring in exciting finds of his own selection.