This project is a lawn replacement in Danville CA. This neighborhood was affected by the January 2023 floods, so we made design choices to help the property be resilient against atmospheric rivers in the future. We established drainage pits, installed kickboards on fencing, graded soil that had been above pool-level, and created berms and swales in the open areas of the front yard.
Plus, we are driven by year-round functional and aesthetic goals — a welcoming, low-maintenance landscape with privacy. The trees should be beautiful and attract nature, but not so big as to cause root damage or future overgrowth issues!
In the sideview above, notice the privacy with the berm and the trees, but omitting the “hedge” barrier of old-school lawn-based landscapes. The homeowner chose to use pebble as a groundcover after seeing the mulch in the neighborhood wash down the street in the January flooding.
In the backyard, we’ve taken out a long-forgotten pond, graded down dirt that was piled up above pool level, and created a drainage area, adding CA Native plants.
The planting plan (see 3 images ) is rich with color, texture, drought-resistant CA native plants (and hybrids/cultivars as appropriate) that will draw in and care for our pollinators.
I walk the nursery. I usually go early in the morning, by myself, and I study the plants.
I look for the plants that are the best representative of their species. I think about what they look like in the wild as well as what they’re being bred to do in garden spaces. I think about each specific homeowner’s design.
Does the design call for taller trees? shorter?
Is the space wide enough for a sweeping trunk with wide branches? Or do we need something slim?
At the nursery, I observe the plants — with my eyes, with my hands, with my nose.
What is the structure of the trunk?
How will the branches grow?
What condition are the leaves in?
Has there been recent damage due to weather? Heat stress? Storm damage?
Sometimes, even with a good selection, I will think that none of the plants suit our specific landscape. Then we adjust and substitute. Because it’s really important to me that the plants are the very best available.
Or I will find a GREAT plant that wasn’t on our plans. This actually happens pretty often. I find something beautiful and just HAVE to have it for a client.
Dormant plants, like you see here (no leaves) are not usually a WOW when first planted. However, this is a GREAT time for the plant to get established in a new yard. The dormancy season is when the plant is working on its root development.
So it’s important to select dormant plants by the shape of the branches. One only has to imagine how they will fill out with color blooms and then leaves. Does the structure promise health of the plant and a nice amount of fullness for the viewer?
Are we using these as trees for shade?
Are we using them to create privacy?
Are they “foundation plants” that will anchor shrubs and/or flowers?
If you’re thinking it’s time for something fresh, alive, pollinating, and joyful in your landscape, give us a call. We would love to help.
Well, it’s January 2023, and the skies are open!! Our beautiful East Bay (clay) hillsides are saturated, and the water is running, winding, pouring, and pooling.
Here’s one of our projects with our great clients in South Walnut Creek. Their lovely home backs against the hills of open space, so we’re helping them divert the water from their home’s foundation with some simple fence reinforcements and some surgically installed drainage systems. We’re also keeping the whole cycle of California weather in mind and preparing their garden for the heat and dry that will come in the summer months.
Recent headlines about global insect declines and three billion fewer birds in North America are a bleak reality check about how ineffective our current landscape designs have been at sustaining the plants and animals that sustain us. To create landscapes that enhance local ecosystems rather than degrade them, we must 1) remove the invasives on our property and 2) add the native plant communities that sustain food webs, sequester carbon, maintain diverse native bee communities, and manage our watersheds. If we do this in half of the area now in lawn, we can create Homegrown National Park, a 20 million acre network of viable habitats that will provide vital corridors connecting the few natural areas that remain. This approach to conservation empowers everyone to play a significant role in the future of the natural world.
This event is sponsored by the following groups: Ohlone Audubon, Marin Audubon, Sequoia Audubon and Santa Clara Valley Audubon, Napa-Solano Audubon.
For those of you who can’t attend, the talk will be recorded and made available here within days of the presentation.
Doug Tallamy is the T. A. Baker Professor of Agriculture in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware, where he has authored 106 research publications and has taught insect related courses for 41 years. Chief among his research goals is to better understand the many ways insects interact with plants and how such interactions determine the diversity of animal communities. His books include Bringing Nature Home, The Living Landscape, co-authored with Rick Darke, Nature’s Best Hope, a New York Times Best Seller, The Nature of Oaks, winner of the American Horticultural Society’s 2022 book award. In 2021 he co-founded Homegrown National Park with Michelle Alfandari. His awards include recognition from The Garden Writers Association, Audubon, The National Wildlife Federation, Allegheny College, The Garden Club of America and The American Horticultural Association.