Design: Southern Hemisphere Garden

We recently completed a landscaping project for a homeowner from South Africa. He wanted a lush and colorful landscape that is drought tolerant and low maintenance. At the same time, he talked of turf grass and wispy foliage that reminded him of home. We brought his desires and needs together in this new landscape.

Since we usually focus on edible gardens, we started with fruit trees in the front yard, then surrounded them with succulents and a combination of California and Australia native plants. The original home was demolished and reconstructed with clean, modern lines, so our goal was to soften the space with curves and texture.

New construction is almost ready for landscaping.

New construction is almost ready for front yard landscaping.

 

Before: the old lawn was demolished in construction. New decks put in along the house.

Before: the old lawn was demolished in construction. New decks put in along the house.

The back yard was lawn and mostly shade, a challenging combination. The homeowner wanted to add another tree for an eventual hammock habitat, and longed for a soft lawn to walk on. Given the drought, and the fact that most of our projects include tearing out lawns, we offered an alternative: native grass sod.

We found a source for a shade-tolerant California native grass blend sold in sod form that boasts of being mow-free. The blend is made up of Festuca idahoensis, Festuca rubra, and Festuca occidentalis (Idaho fescue, Molate fescue, and Western Mokelumne fescue respectively).

It costs a bit more than regular lawn sod, but once established can go 6 weeks (or so) without water. In order to save even more water, we installed drip irrigation beneath the native sod. No overhead watering here! The homeowner will save on water for years to come.

When California native grass sod was just installed.

When California native grass sod was just installed.

We installed Pittosporum ‘silver sheen’ along the walls to cover the cinder block and create more privacy with a wispy texture in the back yard. Shade plants, and a clumping bamboo hedge across the yard enclose an outdoor shower (not shown).

Native California sod grows in only 3 weeks to this lush carpet.

Native California sod grows in only 3 weeks to this lush carpet. Photo by Madelyn Spence.

The front yard needed curves, so we created a pathway for meandering and to easily take trash cans to the curb. We anchored the space with citrus trees, a lemon and orange, then surrounded the trees with colorful succulents, drought-tolerant and native grasses and ground cover (carex praegracilis & dymondia). We tucked in Australian native plants that grow well in Mediterranean climates. California and South Africa are two of only five Mediterranean climates in the world.

Decomposed granite pathway leads through citrus and succulents.

Decomposed granite pathway leads through citrus and succulents. Photo by Madelyn Spence.

Chalk stick, fire stick, agave, aeonium and echeveria line the pathway. A privacy hedge of dodonaea viscosa lines the sidewalk, and will fill in with colorful, red and green foliage. Rainbow New Zealand flax, kangaroo paw, and sea lavender add more color.

In a planter along the front windows, more dodonaea viscosa grow to provide privacy but still let in light.

In a planter along the front windows, more dodonaea viscosa grow to provide privacy but still let in light. Trailing rosemary along the front wall will attract bees and can be used in cooking.

These shapes soften the straight lines of the driveway and surrounding pavers. The parkway was planted with dymondia and we added some additional drought-tolerant and natives plants to the otherside of the driveway to encourage pollinators to visit. Over time, this garden will grow in with plenty of color and texture to invite visitors up to the house.

Finished garden pops with color in front of the home's white background.

Finished garden pops with color in front of the home’s white background. Photo by Madelyn Spence.

Once the fruit trees grow in, they will produce citrus that can be used for outdoor parties on the side and back yard decks. The homeowner loves his new Southern Hemisphere landscaping and enjoys walking through his new yard barefoot.

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One Response to Design: Southern Hemisphere Garden

  1. Laurie says:

    Beautiful landscaping – I especially loved the front yard. Thanks for sharing!

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