Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Eichler Landscapes, Old, New, Bad, Good


Eichler homes are iconic examples of mid century modern post-and-beam constructions.  There are some of these homes within a reasonable drive, so I went to have a look at their landscaping.  Some of the landscaping was brand new, others had the landscaping of ten or fifteen years ago, while a couple appeared to date to 1960, when the homes were built.  My visit became an adventure in garden design archaeology.
 This one has a pair of Thuja occidentalis that appear to be original plantings.  The Thuja would have been modest shrubs for at least two decades.  They have slowly taken over.

 This one appears to have original or near-original brick work.  Note the corner planters, and the edging.  The lawn was recently removed, but the rest of the plants--six Juniperus chinensis 'Torulosa'--three on each side of the entrance--may be original.
 Odd how the boxwood-ringed Syzygium is so meticulously cloud-sheared...
 ...while the planters crumble.  Best not to plant trees in little concrete boxes.  That is how it was done back then...
Thuja liberation!
 I didn't notice the flamingo until I got home and started looking at the photos. 
Cloud-pruned shrubs seems to look right with Eichlers.  A slight Asian influence look right also.  This next yard looks like it leaned in the direction of Asian style at one time, with the Cycad on the left and sedum groundcover close to the house, but looks like it got a recent update with a few scatted succulents...and a juniper.  The Dreaded Dietes has had some of its browned foliage hacked off.  Terrible plant. 
 At a nearby house, this goes too Asian.  The lantern is carved granite, not cast concrete, so Not Cheap.  Looks like it has been there a long time.  There's also a dead lawn and a Phoenix roebelenii.  Remains of something that was there and is no longer. 
 This also has a subtle Asian style due to the plant selection (Nandina, dwarf pine, juniper).  This treatment was somewhat popular about fifteen years ago.  It's well done, well maintained.  The parkway has been allowed to go brown, but the shrubs still mostly look good.  The beams and roof are being redone.  Eichlers are high maintenance.



The newest landscapes are xeric in style.  Here they let the lawn go brown.  Just a few plants.  Left of the driveway...I like the Beaucarnea but they are too close to the house, and to each other.  Just make the path straight, guys.  Only drunks walk like that. 
 A bit more stylish on the right of the drive.
This one had a large, mature pine and Cycad, with succulents recently added.  
 I like how the rounded stones echo the color in the pine's bark.  The gnome is so covered with lichen it looks sort of appropriate. 
 On the other side of the big pine, they went a little extreme on the pathway, and the small succulents look random.  The Euphorbia specimen needs no company--it's worthy of a solitary space, with a boulder or two.
Overmuch? 
 This next has virtues.  No, it does.  They didn't over plant or under plant, the boulder is a beaut.  Unpretentious.  However the areas of beach pebble look odd and unnecessary.  The central plant surrounded with clumps of fescue is a Plumeria.  When it grows taller, its open, sculptural growth habit will make a fine centerpiece to this garden. 
 While this garden is almost nothing but weeds, the two Yucca on either side of the driveway look good.  A simple ground cover, perhaps a few boulders, removal of the weary Callistemon, and a bit of pruning of the Yucca would make an elegant and appropriate front garden. 
 This garden probably started out well, but is becoming overgrown and in need of maintenance.
 Chairs as decoration, not sitting? 
 It has a lush appearance.
 The grass has been sliced off so pedestrians can pass.  It's planted too close to the sidewalk.
 Not a blue glass fan.  It's like white gravel, only blue. 
 This one might be a work in progress.  The lawn has been removed.  An example of why trees should not be planted too close to structures. 
 Unfortunately, the Schinus tree is out of proportion to the home.  Note the top of the Liquidambar tree is dead (circled in purple).  There were several trees like this in the area.  When the grass is no longer watered, the trees can suffer. 

 Okay, I'm crazy, but I like the simplicity here.  There was a lawn, half-dead rosemary and lavender in the planter, and that conifer buzzed into a pill shape.  Maybe it is a crazy statement, but it's a statement. 
 Here's the latest landscape.  It's quite nice, though it seems too contemporary, somehow, for the mid-20th century vibe.
 A bright orange door is often the only non-green color in many of the front gardens.  Here the usual concrete planter filed with Sanseverias has been updated to rectangular containers filled with Sanseverias. 
 The Cor-ten wall is nice, but the reason for it is...?
 This one is native/xeric/shrubby, and well maintained.  Not bad as a xeric front garden, but does it complement the sleek lines of the house?
 Maintenance disaster.  I did admire the globe-shaped porch lights (in pink circle).  All the flat rectangular lines and shapes make the globes a relief.
 Very recently redone, but another maintenance disaster.  There were Anigozanthos along the foundation; they've all died.  Some desperate milkweed along the driveway.  Someone decided to go edible and put in a few kernels of corn.  Maintenance matters. 
 This next is my favorite, but the photos are not great.  A blue grass, a green grass, an Arctostaphylos, and some Agaves.  Very elegant and simple.  
Instead of three Agave desmetianas, two and an A. vilmoriniana.  It worked.  It made simple just slightly less simple. 
The parkway (hellstrip) had green...grass...and blue....uh...Schizachyrium scoparium?  Simple but not too simple. 
 
I did notice a few ornaments.  This is odd...I don't understand why the chairs are hiding behind the planter.  Scared?  I like the turquoise door, though.
 A place to sit down while you water the planter?
 Doorway lions.  No.  Not even wearing if they were wearing Elvis outfits.  

Interesting paint job, but not well crafted--the lines wobble.  Painters tape wasn't as good back then.  Points for imagination.  The large wide escutcheon on the doorknob is original and period.
It gets better.  The homes are so linear and rectangular, like the globe porch lights seen earlier, these circle steppers work, even if the edging and stone are a mess.
  The flamingos are from the same era as the homes.  They work.  What if they were orange, like the door?


Sleek and simple.  Yes.

20 comments:

  1. Thanks for another interesting tour. Those Thuga are flat-out scary. That is Euphorbia tirucalli in photos 18 and 20? Impressive but a little frightening as well. (I really must stop planting small clumps of the plant here and there.) I do like the shrubby/native garden (photo 29) and, strangely, the flamingos in the last 2 photos.

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    1. The Thujas are survivors. Amazing. Yes that is E. tirucalli. Going to be an ordeal getting those out...

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  2. Those houses are to die for, minus the shocking landscaping on some of them. I just want to jump in there and fix them. That cor-ten wall is very strange indeed. Going back to do some more admiring now...

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    1. It was a lot of fun walking around looking at it all. Happy you found it of interest.

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  3. I love these drive by reports you do. In fact, initially, these are the posts that drew me into your blog. "Can you do that?" I thought. I love it! We all do it when we go for a drive. Thanks for putting this together. I had no idea what an Eichler house was, now I know

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    1. Being a tourist in your own neighborhood is a lot of fun. Who knew?

      Glad you liked the post, thanks!

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  4. "Just make the path straight, guys. Only drunks walk like that."...this is what I think every time I see an exaggerated curvy path. Drives me crazy!

    I am so glad you gave the tall Yucca, in the garden that was mostly weeds, a pass. To my eye they look fabulous with the white house. Oh what I would do to change (and hopefully upgrade, in your eyes) these gardens. The gorgeous homes just call out for proper landscaping. Of course I would have to greatly simplify my usual chaos, or at least save that for the back garden.

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    1. The Yuccas just need a little love is all. It might be a drawback of this garden tourism, that we see so much we'd love to fix...

      Your garden is highly orderly, it's orderly chaos. Nothing better than that!

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  5. I can't get the picture of the house- (and world-) eating thujas out of my head. That's some impressive stuff there!!

    You captured a remarkable variety of styles and approaches. My favorites are pretty much your favorites. But I also like that CorTen wall; I see it as a privacy screen and a form of visual relief.

    It was good to see palo verdes in several photos!

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    1. The Thujas are magnificent, no? Most large plants get hacked, mangled, squeezed into spots, or dug out. These have had a chance to attain a relatively long life without being touched. If you think of them as living things, not decoration...

      I sort of like the CorTen wall and sort of don't, because it isn't really giving anything privacy. There are no windows behind it, no seating area...it's not functionally logical, but it is better than that wooden planter with the two chairs hiding behind it.

      I'm going to be watching the Palo verdes to see how they like relatively mild summers. Will they continue to bloom? Time will tell.

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    2. The CorTen wall does give the plants privacy :-).

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    3. Echinocactus grusonii must be shy.

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  6. Another triumph of nature vs man! Those poor brick planters never had a chance, not that they deserved it. I have a soft spot for kitsch, such as the gnome, lions and the flamingos. If not overdone, it adds a bit of playfulness to the yards. Sometimes Eichlers and other tract homes are quite stark (like the 3824.) Adding a touch of levity breaks it up a bit. Sort of like the globe lamps. Gnomes and flamingos everywhere, well, I guess that is in the realm of the white gravel...
    Sometimes I feel that it would be beneficial to do yard interventions. However, I have enough work on my own to get through.

    Disclaimer - I do have a flamingo in my yard. It reminds me of my grandma who had all sorts of wacky, kitschy items in her front and back yards. I hope to someday be that fun and slightly wacky grandma. :)

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    1. I love the flamingos. I would have a bunch in the yard if I had the right house for it. I like wacky, too. :)

      3824 has some Leucophyllums and Yucca rostrata behind the CorTen, it will look a lot less stark as those plants grow above the height of the wall.

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  7. The cor-ten looks to me like it exists solely for the purpose of holding up the house numbers (I like it for that). See...it does have a purpose after all. It's so much fun to read your observations on these tours. Keep em coming!

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    1. Well they shoulda made the numbers bigger, or the wall smaller. ;^)

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  8. Thanks for the tour - and seeing all the lava rock front yards in stylin' So Cal (I never noticed so much), my region suddenly doesn't seem so bad or alone!

    Cor-ten wall / number...garden wall (it's that height - looks 3'), mini courtyard and break up planting...only thing is inside and outside planting is similar. I like it's contrast with the desert plant colors / forms either side.

    Curved walk - too small, but they sometimes told us in design school to meander them to their destination. Must have been the mid-century thing to stagger with your martini, somehow staying on a 2' wide walk!

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    1. Yes, the inside and outside planting is the same--thank you for being able to say clearly what I was attempting to unclearly. Not too much lava rock, some of that was chunky bark mulch. Don't like lava rock myself.

      With both adults typically working these days to support a mortgage, there's little time and not all that much money for the front yard. At least a lot of people are trying to conserve on water...

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  9. proof again that SoCal is all about the architect, not the landscape architect or garden designer, because the latter is the easy job, right? Wrong, oh, so very wrong...because it can make or break the building's impact, as so many of your examples prove.

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    1. Only SoCal? Sad that so many don't appreciate the beauty that plants can provide. Not to mention the oxygen!

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