Janet Gavin
Lake Forest, CA


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"Won't you come into the garden?
    I would like my roses to see you."

- Richard Sheridan   
 Janet's Garden
Day 1 --

       How the yard looked when
  I began the landscaping project.

6 months later --
after I had completed
the project .

15 months later --
after plants had filled out.
(I planted EVERY PLANT and laid EVERY BRICK with my own hands!)
     BEFORE           AFTER       AFTER
  BEFORE       AFTER        AFTER
     BEFORE          AFTER        AFTER  
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(a/k/a “ CARMEL ” GARDEN)


1)  Cost: Replacing former redwood deck would be too expensive. Plants and informal hardscape less costly (i.e., stone and brick pathways that meander through flower beds). Hardscape should be planned with a variety of materials, textures, and colors: Redwood bridge, white wooden flower trellis (already in place), park bench (oak and wrought iron with green patina), river rocks, brick path, stone path, various flower pots and planters. Black wrought-iron bird cage will be incorporated into the design.

2)  Topography: Homeowners' Association prohibits changes in lay of land. This yard has large depression in the middle, where drainage pipe is located.

      a)  During El Niño rainstorms, yard flooded because drainage system could not handle excessive amounts of water within a short time. SOLUTION : Install sump pump. ( See SUMP PUMP section.)

      b)  The pipe grate, depression, and sump pump are unsightly and need to be camouflaged. SOLUTION : Landscape according to way water flows into yard by laying decorative rocks for a “stream bed.” Then design and construct an attractive redwood bridge to span the stream and hide the sump pump, etc. ( See GARDEN BRIDGE section.)

3)  Use: We want garden to be a pleasant place to relax and entertain during the day and evening; therefore, outdoor lighting needs to be enhanced.

4)  Soil: Solid clay. Nothing will grow in it. Large amounts of top soil must be hauled in.

5)  Plants (Sun and Water—“Macroclimate” and “Microclimates”): Plants must be chosen not just for their suitability in the macroclimate ( Southern California ) but also according to the specific microclimates in the yard. Southern California's macroclimate is usually warm, sunny, and dry, but this particular yard is surrounded by high fences (giving a lot of shade) and the Association's sprinkler system, which maintains shrubbery just outside the fences.

      a) Therefore, in damp, shady places, many popular drought-tolerant plants will not survive.

      b)  Plants in the middle of the yard must tolerate very wet soil and full sun.

      c)  Higher areas will sustain plants that like less water. But some of the high spots get full sun, while others get only part sun.

6) Plants (Design): The following features must also be taken into consideration when choosing plants:

      a)  PERENNIALS: Annual plants, which usually die after one season, are too time consuming and expensive to replace. Perennials are a better choice here.

      b)  BLOOMING PERIOD: Prefer long blooming period so that garden has flowers as many months of the year as possible.

      c)  COLOR of FLOWERS and LEAVES on PLANT: Red, pink, blue, purple, and lavender are the preferred colors. Only a few should be white and any yellows must be very bright (not the color of dead leaves). Different leaf colors, shapes, and textures add variety:

           1 •  COLOR: Examples: Blue, red, yellow, or gray tint.

           2 •  SHAPES: Examples: Long and narrow, ovate, serrated or smooth edged, palmate, lobed.

           3 •  TEXTURES: Examples: Waxy, fuzzy, succulent, etc.

      d)  HEIGHT and POSITION OF PLANT: Shorter plants, of course, must be planted in front of taller ones, and flower color needs to be considered so that plants are positioned in a harmonious color scheme. Also, layout must include plants and shrubs already in yard.

7)  Plants (Maintenance):

MAINTENANCE TIME: Plants that require excessive raking, pruning, or deadheading, for example, may not be practical.

      b)  HARDINESS: Very fragile plants are not suitable because they need high maintenance.

8)  Plants (Dangers):

      a)  SAFETY HAZARDS: Avoid poisonous plants or those with sharp blades, stickers, or thorns, especially if children and pets will be playing in the yard.

      b)  ROOT SYSTEMS: Consider potential problems caused by the plants' roots, especially near pipes, concrete, fence, and other plants.

-- Janet Gavin

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