A Lawnless Low-Water Front Yard Design

While I was taking pictures of the banana plantation down the road, I noticed this front yard has been recently redone as a lawnless, low-water need garden.  It looks pretty good and will look better when the plantings grow a bit more.  Probably pretty fine late next spring when the Hemerocallis start to bloom.  Here's a rough sketch of the general layout:

Lawnless front yard

The plant palette is mostly low growing and all low maintenance, consisting of:  Dymondia margaretae, that invaluable South African groundcover, dwarf Phormiums, Euonymus japonicus microphyllus variegatus (the plant-height-to-length-of-botanical-name-ratio of this plant is particularly out of proportion), Iris germanica hybrids (Bearded Iris), Hemerocallis, Limonium perezii, and Cuphea hyssopifolia, which is a mistake.

Around here it's too hot and dry for Cuphea hyssopifolia, a plant native to southern, subtropical Mexico, Honduras, and Guatamala.  That means warm days, warm nights, and water.  Southern California provides  warm days, cool nights, and not much water.   Southern, subtropical or tropical Mexico is not the same climate as desert Mexico!  So C. hyssopifolia looks good for a few months and then hangs on and looks terrible for the rest of its short life.  It particularly hates our dry summer and a winter too cold for it.  Even though our winters are not cold, they are too cold for C. hyssopifolia.  This plant works only right along the coast in this region, where it seems to look really good for 2 to 4 years.  Inland you are lucky to get 3 or 4 months of beauty out of it.

The yard also contains a few well-cared-for Strelitzia reginae ("Bird of Paradise")  near the house that look to be survivors from the older plantings.  Thrifty homeowners, nothing wrong and much right with that...

Deep bronze dwarf Phormium:
Lawnless front yard

Lawnless front yard

There are some medium-sized screening plants on either side of the area:  Nandina domestica and Pittosporum, possibly 'Marjorie Channon'.  The screen-plant areas have been raised slightly on berms for additional screening. 

Lawnless front yard
  
The parkway (hellstrip) is planted with low junipers interspersed with gravel areas, junipers which look to be well on their way to becoming too tall--they appear to have been planted a while ago, before the rest of the yard was done, and are thriving.
Lawnless front yard

An approach to the front door separate from the driveway is flagstone set into gravel: 
Lawnless front yard

A small specimen tree--I wasn't sure of the genus, possibly an Arctostaphyllos--anchors one area and adds height.  I thought I got a good picture of it, but sorry--I didn't--only this partial shot of the base:

Photobucket

And of the shade cast:
Lawnless front yard

Lawnless front yard

There are a few small specimen stones that appear to have come from the property itself.  They are too small--scale needs to be considered when it comes to stone!  One or three big boulders in that island would have been striking and dramatic, don't you think?  There's '60's-era stone work on the house, and the stone in the yard complements the stone on the house and in some way brings it up to date, or at least grants it a coolness factor that lawn could not do. 

Lawnless front yard

Overall, a fairly successful replacement for a standard front lawn, with a good variety of texture, done with common, tough plants.  The edging between areas looks poorly and aged in some spots, so this yard may have evolved to this no-grass state over time--less and less grass until it was time to get rid of it all.  I like!

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