From Thirsty East Coast to Thrifty West Coast Garden
There is much information available about planning a water-wise garden from scratch – the Master Gardener website is full of helpful articles and plant lists, for example. However, what if you inherit a more traditional, ‘East Coast-type’ garden full of roses and peonies? Switching to low-water plants and giving up those lush characteristics can be daunting. However, one Sonoma resident adapted her high-water garden and lawn to a more climate-appropriate design and plant selection, lowered her water bill considerably and didn’t lose any of the eye-appeal or functionality of her old garden. Here’s the story:
A close friend and neighbor bought a property here in the Sonoma Valley upon her retirement some years ago, situated on a roomy knoll in an oak woodland. The knoll-top was surrounded by many second and third growth blue and valley oaks, with some large, old coast live oaks at the edge of the house and garden area.
Oaks had been cleared from the home site and surrounds when the house was built twenty years before, and the landscaping on that 3/4 acre was that "East coast" style--an oasis of water-loving plants and lush lawns in the middle of California oak woodland. Texas Privet (ligustrum japonicum) and Pyracantha hedged the
After another year of reduced, but still large, summer water bills (and coincidentally the loss of her two beloved dogs, who had played on the rear lawn) she decided that the lawn had to go.
This fall, the entry lawn will be removed, and all of the former lawn areas will be replaced by a combination of hardscape and water-wise Mediterranean and California Native plants. The driveway lawn area will have a winding decomposed-granite path around a sculpture pad, and be planted with a harmonious mix of water-thrifty Mediterranean shrubs, perennials and ornamental grasses.
The rear lawn is being replaced with a seating area of a combination of decomposed granite and cast-stone pavers interplanted with creeping time—thymus praeacox arcticus. Flanking beds of lavender, Russian sage, lamb’s ear and catmint inside the rosemary hedge will add color and form. The lawns in front of the house will be supplanted by two central olive trees on mounds surrounded by interweaving swaths of colorful and fragrant Mediterranean plantings.
Plants by Area
Azalea & Rhododendron replacement under oaks
written by SCMG Steven Hightower
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