Two More Lawnless Front Yards
These two examples I found in Claremont are well established, and judging by the state of things, not maintained much. Despite a lack of maintenance they look reasonably tidy.
These properties do a fair job of illustrating the two most common (decent) approaches to a "xeric" front yard in Southern California: the succulent approach, and the shrubby approach. (The non-decent approach I am thinking of is turning the entire front yard into a concrete slab.)
First example: succulent-y. A wee bit of disconnect between the house style and the plantings, but not dreadful.
First, the succulent approach. The yard has been slightly bermed, perhaps for drainage. The entire yard was divided by a gravel pathway edged with stones, covered with a layer of decomposed granite (DG) and then planted. Gaillardias, a California native or two, and Succulents, including Echeverias, Aloes, and Hesperoyucca,
For height and as foci, a Crape Myrtle and what appears to be a Pittosporum:
A bit too hot and dry for these Festuca glaucas: they are more blonde than blue
The Calfornia native, Encelia farinosa (Brittlebush) looking a little stressed. Claremont gets brutally hot in the summer.
On the extreme right hand side of the next photo, you can see that next door has the conventional water-hungry approach of a rich green lawn and tropical Hibiscus, along with the standard Ligustrum clipped hedge. The pale bleached colors of the xeric yard make for quite a contrast. The local squirrel population was all over on the lawn.
This Echeveria, though slightly scorched, shows the advantages of planting in the ground. It's big, flourishing, and full of both flower spikes and offsets. Our cooler-than-normal summer probably has helped it cope.
It may be odd for a known plant-nut to admit, but I like the space between the plants. However much I love lushness, considerable space between plants seems more natural to a xeric landscape. It can be hard to pull off, though. Not enough plants and it looks too bare. This area looks full enough:
Just a bit of maintenance would help. There are a few weeds, a dead Gaillardia or three. Otherwise the goals of low maintenance and low water use are being met in a reasonable way. More attractive than a half-dead lawn, at any rate, and at a significantly lower cost in water and fossil fuel (no mowing and blowing here).
The second, shrubby example is just across the street from the first. One phenomenon I've noticed is that when you see one no-lawn front yard, there is probably at least one or two others right nearby. People seem to pluck up their courage to try something different when their neighbors do something xeric and get away with it.
The second example is more in the shrubby line. It's also a shadier garden: Besides a multi-trunked Crape Myrtle is a mature Victorian Box (Pittosporum undulatum). It's a corner lot and several mature Jacarandas planted in the side hell strip provide even more shade.
By shrubby I mean the emphasis here is on xeric non-succulent shrubs. They are in mulch, rather than in DG, giving a more woodland feel. Rosemary makes a good contrast with Festuca glauca. From a car on the road, the plantings look a bit dry and shaggy. Close up, they look better.
I love the effect of the winding pathway disappearing into deep shade. It is a graceful path you want to take. The blonde dryness of the Festuca is really effective here, compared to the dry and lonely distress they seem to suffer across the street:
This yard also has considerable empty space, though the plantings are mature. Food for thought for plant nuts, who like to cram something into every available space: empty space emphasizes each individual plant.
I like the second approach better for this particular neighborhood with houses of this particular 50's ranch style. The inland heat of this area makes shade a wise idea. That the trees are mostly deciduous means bright light and the sun's warmth in winter, when the days are cold and short. What wins me over is the winding path leading into deep shade, further darkened by the rosemary, and edged with the blonde and blue Fescue. It's very simple but really beautiful, and says 'Claremont' to me.
A few large river rocks would be a nice addition in the empty spaces. The entire area is a place where in eons past, rocks washed down from the San Gabriel mountains during winter storms. That bit of naturalism and echo of the geologic past would be appropriate.
Gardening Gone Wild Photo Contest September 2011