Caught in the dilemma of trying to conserve water but not wanting to look at a brown lawn, Sue Ellen Waters decided to change her entire front yard. She wanted to take advantage of the DWP’s incentive program to remove her lawn, but still wanted to make sure her garden fit her historic Fremont Place neighborhood and suited her Spanish Style home, which was completely remodeled a few years ago.
A member of the Hancock Park Garden Club and a hands-on gardener, Waters wanted something that was sustainable, attractive and practical for her two dogs. Last fall she consulted with Camille Cimino at The Nature of Things, a garden designer who specializes in organic holistic design.
Cimino suggested a design that included drought-tolerant plants and grasses, along with a cluster of trees that would eventually create shade and cool the house. She selected Liquidambar styraciflua, commonly called Liquid Amber, to match the mature trees planted in the parkway throughout Fremont Place years ago to replace the aging street trees. Cimino’s design called for five trees at the edge of the site to frame the garden and provide privacy and shade for the house next door.
A meadow of Carex grass in the center of the yard provides a place for the Waters’ family dogs to romp, as well as a bridge to the next door neighbors’ front yard lawns. The meadow provides a soft space and a visual break from the diverse plant palette proposed by Cimino. The meadow grass only needs to be mowed once a year, and once established requires substantially less water than conventional lawns. It was important to Waters that her garden felt like it belongs to the neighborhood, and she has been delighted with the favorable response to the garden design. Several neighbors have expressed interest in converting their lawns into meadows with native grasses too.
Waters also chose to remove the grass from her grasscrete driveway, installed after the renovation of the house about five years ago. According to Waters, the driveway was an important element of the front that wasn’t working. The grass was very difficult to maintain and required a lot of water. After investigating several materials, Cimino suggested crushed granite to replace the grass. The driveway is still permeable, allowing rain water to percolate down…but now it requires much less maintenance and blends well with the native plant palette and the sandstone walkway.
After months of planning, the project took only 4 weeks to install, including extra time to put in root guards to keep the next door neighbor’s grass from invading the garden. Though it took several months and and a lengthy application, Waters received more than $6,000 from the DWP, which helped offset the budget for the garden. So far it’s been easy to maintain, though it required consistent water to establish the plants. Fortunately, Waters installed the garden in late spring before the heat of the summer hit. She’s inspired her neighbors, too, and they enjoy walking past the garden as the plants mature and change with the seasons.