Congratulations to Jeanie and Lee in Scripps Ranch, for their resolve and their love of plants. Going from a lawn-centered “zero-scape” to a garden alive with xeriscape plants with beautiful colors and textures, and doing this with their own landscape ideas and muscle power demands respect.
Hoping to qualify for San Diego’s rebates for turfgrass removal and the installation of a micro-irrigation system, they discussed the how-to with a City inspector and put a design together. Here’s where Jeanie called me in to review her design and desired plants.
Assessing soil, micro-climate and the slightly sloping terrain I found that her wish list had excellent “bones” in it that needed few adjustments.
The permanent features to remain were the concrete turf edge, the edged planter beds and the palm trees (they would have their own irrigation). I recommended importing several large boulders which would help “ground” the landscape.
To add volume where the palm trees are only accents I suggested a couple of small trees, on both sides of the house; here Jeanie chose 2 ‘Catawba’ Crape Myrtles, one of them a multi-trunk specimen.
As we were fine-tuning her design and discussed longer-blooming low maintenance plants, Jeanie said that she likes to garden and is not averse to some maintenance, such as deadheading the Early Sunrise Coreopsis periodically to encourage new bloom.
I explained that Gazania would not be attractive long enough during the seasons. Instead I suggested Ghost Plant Graptopetalum paraguayense, an elegant, slowly spreading succulent whose grey-pinkish rosettes would make a pleasing connection with Coreopsis, Walker’s Low Catmint and Gaura, all on Jeanie’s list of favorites.
For a captivating contrast to the frilly perennials we added several Foxtail Agave A. attenuata and ornamental grasses; for me the grasses are matchless in adding a relaxed and naturalistic, almost mysterious feeling to the landscape. Here Jeanie picked a short Purple Fountain-grass variety in a local nursery.
Complimenting the drought resistant plants would be a Dwarf Yaupon Ilex vomitoria ‘Nana’ that I hadn’t used myself. My research showed that it might need a bit more water than the other plants, but Jeanie wanted to give it a try. This shrub, at 3-5 ft high/wide, develops a refined, attractive appearance with careful pruning – a task that she looks forward to.
And the cost? Jeanie and Lee invested about $3,200 on materials plus $1,200 on labor to help Lee; the rebates should amount to about $1,070. Not bad for a diy landscape that can save them 60 to 70% water and is so pleasing to look at. As one of their friends exclaimed who came by and admired their achievement: “This front yard is so much alive!”
Read about the City’s rebate program: http://www.sandiego.gov/water/conservation/residentialoutdoor.shtml