Sunday, August 2, 2015

Another State Of Lawnlessness


 Not to worry, it will be back.  It's Bermuda grass.  

Another neighborhood cruise, again contemplating the state of lawnlessness.  

First strategy:  a hedge along the sidewalk to hide the former lawn that is now mulch.  The rich, uniform color of the hedge provides the green rest so pleasing to the human brain, the rest we usually get from lawn.  
Black plastic edging, to hold the mulch in.
 A mishmash of shrubs by the foundation.
Long term, what will happen?  The young hedge provides green color.  The mulch appears to provide extra parking.  I blogged about this yard several years ago.  The property had a huge dead pine tree, several Liquidambar trees, and lawn where the mulch is now.  Solid tree roots under that mulch?  If so, the mulch is a great idea for a few years, until the tree roots decompose. 
Dead Pine

Variant:  a hedge along the sidewalk to hide the lawn that used to be.  Cloud-pruned conifers and Cycas revolutas and empty spaces--a gardener used to live here.  A poodle walker, passing by, stopped to chat.  This former lawn has been in this state for many years.  That perimeter hedge is Syzygium, in fantastic good health.  The conifers appear watered by hand. 
 Second strategy:  a mix of tough, common shrubs, a small area of artificial turf, with a strip of artificial as the hellstrip.  A tree proportional to the size of the property and the home.  The homeowner was in the garage--they had just purchased the property and were moving in.  I asked him how he liked the artificial turf.  "It looks great.  I think I like it!"  Fine design, not overly ambitions or trendy, knowledgeably maintained.  A winner.  Hopefully the new homeowner retains the former's gardener. 




 The learning curve is steep and slippery.  Some manage to climb the curve.  Some don't.  Some don't bother.  This house is being worked on. 
Where did they get the idea a plastic covering over soil was a good idea, do you think?  Though those particular Agaves (americana, rampant and weedy here) and that nasty palm, in my opinion, deserve plastic over their soil. 
Phoenix roblenii planted 2" from the foundation, on the extreme left.  Hopefully they have plastic sheet mulch, too. 
I found the 60's era garden ornaments gathered into the raised bed by the door incredibly, painfully poignant.  How many of them were Mother's Day gifts?  Someone gardened here once, likely without covering the soil with sheets of plastic.  
Around the corner, someone did fairly well, focusing on plants for birds, bees, and butterflies.  Is the Parkinsonia too close to the pink Crepe Myrtle?  The 18" above ground sprinklers--how does that work?
Hum. If well maintained, decent.  If not maintained, depressing.

I'm not fond of the yellow Parkinsonia flowers with the pink of the Crepe myrtle, but that could just be me.  Better a pair of Crepe myrtles. Or the one Parkinsonia.  Or the one Crepe myrtle.

Big points for effort, I think.  Maintain, guys.  Maintain. 

I wish I knew the origins of the White Gravel Garden.  Surely once, long ago, when what is now called Mid Century Modern was the new new thing, one particular garden of white gravel was iconic.  Fantastic.  Unforgettable.  In the decades since, thousands of attempts to duplicate that look have all failed miserably.  
 It doesn't require water, you must admit...
The odd collection of what plants are there look healthy and cared for.  The home is neat, clean, orderly.  A drip system to water the plants.  But...what if the fence was yellow, like the plastic daffodils?  
Another one property down the street.  Hmmm.  Imagine uniformly trimmed buns of Jade plant (indestructible here, no irrigation needed) regularly spaced, in a grid...of all the same gravel...would that work?  Somewhere out there, is someone who has made a white gravel and succulent garden with pizazz, style, humor, and above all, wit.  Where is it?  
And a rock every four feet, around the edge of brown plastic...
 
White gravel, white fence, dead tree.
Just a door or two away, a bit of amazement, a hellstrip of beautiful little splashes of color:
 And the bed on the other side of the walkway. 
 No one has stepped on these easily crushed little plants.  No one has kicked them, stolen them, broken them...they are pristine, growing, healthy.   
Amazing.  Those beautiful little succulents have all been there at least a year, too, unscathed.  The property has a very narrow front yard, maybe fifteen feet wide, walled off.  A bench, a few common, tough shrubs, no lawn, little water required.  It does function, in its own way. 
I should have included one of the many lawn-with-foundation-shrubs in the neighborhood, lest you think it a neighborhood of eccentricity.  It's mostly not.  

Let us end with a gardener's garden, though.  I learned it was a gardener's garden when two more dog walkers paused to ask me snapping pictures if I was one of those drought-shamers.  Oh, no.  Just admiring this one, looking for examples of the lawnless learning curve mastered. 
 A fine mix of succulents with some California and southwestern native plants. 
Oh yes, the dogwalkers said.  She's out there all the time, working away on her plants.  She's dedicated.  It shows, I agreed, it shows.  Another state of lawnlessness altogether. 

22 comments:

  1. Interesting to see all the changes and adaptations that have been made, good and not so good. Will be interesting to follow how most of these properties will evolve in the coming months and years.

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    1. I was focusing mostly on what appear to be non-gardener methods being used to reduce water consumption. They have a very different perspective, so it's interesting to see. Also fascinating to see how some people focus on design but ignore maintenance, while others do the exact opposite.

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  2. Fascinating to see gardens in your neighbourhood on the other side of the world. Except a few of these front gardens they mostly look dry and boring......... I looked again at the photos of your garden on last post and realized that your garden is by far the best one, a real piece of Eden.

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    1. There are some beautiful gardens in the neighborhood, your comment makes me think I need to blog those more. :)

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  3. Hello Hoover Boo : )
    This was the first garden post I read this morning (because you were kind enough to pop by my blog, thank you!)
    Talk about a learning curve .. for a Canadian gardener that is so lucky to have enough water/rain to keep my garden lush and healthy I too think "lawns" are a complete water of water and don't even mention golf courses (huge irony, husband loves golf but fishes more often) ... looking at these methods of gardening and the plants it is like an alien planet to me but amazingly attractive! ... This artificial turf thing .. I swear I would have to be bent don't touching it big time to no it wasn't grass!
    The assortment of drought hardy plants are beautiful especially that hellstrip with all the gorgeous succulents that are intact.
    this has been another eye opener .. thank you !
    Joy (a very lucky gardener!)

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    1. Enjoyed your blog very much, Joy. The amount of water/rain you have is so exotic! Everything so GREEN. It's like standing under a waterfall for a while. I have serious Hosta Envy--they do not grow here. Thanks for visiting, eh? My Dad's family goes back 400 years in Canada, so I feel a great bond.

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  4. Another great post documenting the attempts that people are making. The dead tree(s) really make the scope of it real. How likely are the succulents in that hellstrip to thrive (if they survive human damage)? It is quite pretty, and I expect will be amazing in a few years... (love their brown fence too!)

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    1. The little succulents appear to be growing on the slow side, but they are doing remarkably well. People are making the effort here, but it takes time. I like their fence also. It's a slightly busy street, nice to have a barrier.

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  5. I love these posts, especially your running commentary. I agree with you almost 100%.

    I've never seen a white gravel garden I liked (or red lava rock, as is commonly seen in older areas of Sacramento). I find this style immensely depressing and never linger lest I slit my wrist.

    The plastic around the agaves is probably weed blocker. Lots of people still buy it, and the big box stores keep pushing it.

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    1. I looked carefully at that plastic, and it looked like plastic rather than weed blocker, which is at least porous. Where do people get ideas like that?

      The whole gravel thing--ironically I'd love it as the mulch around my masses of succulents. (Not white or red lava rock) I think it appropriate there--but on a slope it isn't going to work. I have a weird gravel-envy thing going. Ha ha!

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  6. Thank you for including that last garden - I was getting depressed by the rest. I found plastic sheeting throughout my dry garden, buried under several inches of soil and gravel so it didn't prevent weeds but did interfere with the soil's absorption of rainwater. I'm not sure who put it in but, as it was in bad condition, my guess is that it dates back many years. It's been a pain in the neck to remove - I'm still not sure I've got it all out.

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    1. I was unsure about blogging some pretty run-of-the-mill examples, but I find they often reveal more clearly the thought and mindset behind them, which I find interesting. Understanding the point of view of the non-gardener, of which unfortunately there are so many in this world.

      Plastic sheeting in your garden?!? Good grief. That must have been a terrible mess. The work you've had to do. You are starting to get wonderful results, but what labor to get it.

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  7. I like the pics of the neighborhood, I know where almost all those houses are. I live directly across from the plastic sheeting (it is definitely plastic...) and as much as I cringe upon seeing it from my deck, it is an improvement over the weedlot that was there previously. I hope soon it will be covered in gravel or mulch. I also have to admit to having a certain affection for the kitschy garden ornaments which remind me of my grandparent's house.
    Look for big changes at our house as much of the overgrown and crowded trees have come down and we are completely changing the hardscape in the next year or two. :) There is another giant dead pine in the area, I can't wait until someone finally cuts it down because it's dangerous.

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    1. Oh, hey. Small world! Do you know Shirley down the street?

      New hardscape--cool! There are quite a few dead trees around. I'm watching a big Euc just off Foothill slowly slowly lean into the power lines...wish SCE would chop that one down before falls and it cuts our power for three days.

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    2. I'm so bad with names! I probably know her as the lady who lives in the (color) house...

      I bet you can call sce and report the tree. When I lived in Laguna they came in and cut about 1/3 of the street's euc down, much to some residents dismay.

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    3. I did call SCE about that tree. They trimmed it back from the wires. This year I saw them out there checking it and watching it lean. Maybe eventually they will take it out before it falls on the wires.

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  8. Great contrasts again, the last garden and one towards the middle work well. I agree on the middle one with one Parkinsonia over 1 or 2 crepe myrtles...in the sake of drought tolerance, given it's summer dry California.

    If only people would not mis-use flagstone, edging and other elements to fill in space before plants grow, others might even work.

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    1. I wonder if Parkinsonia needs hotter weather than we can provide here, do you know?

      Crepe Myrtles have the virtues of being appropriately sized for most lots around here, as well as being appealing to the non-gardener--usually they choose a tree far too large for their property--so I'm pro-Lagerstroemia...

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  9. Maybe I shouldn't encourage you, but I love your snarkier posts. "...those particular Agaves (americana, rampant and weedy here) and that nasty palm, in my opinion, deserve plastic over their soil." That really made me laugh.

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    1. I know I should not be snarky, but sometimes it gets by me. I try diligently not to be. But they are rampant and weedy Agaves, and those palms turn nasty once they start producing seed and the rats move in en mass to eat the fruits, not to mention being a fire hazard in an area at great risk for wild fires. It's not personal against those who plant them...

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  10. Where everything is green and growing, the exuberance covers a multitude of sins. The crimes of poor taste are so much more evident with the sparseness that comes with low water usage. Like with movies, it's always more entertaining to read the reviewers who are willing to let loose with the scathing remarks. I think you have used amazing restraint.

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    1. That's an excellent point: exuberance covers a multitude of sins.

      It's not really fair to be scathing--there is budget, health, time, etc, to consider. People do the best they can. Best to meditate upon the efforts and applaud the ones that seem successful in their own way. Neat and tidy may not be trendy style, but it has its own virtue.

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