Inspiration, Yard Projects

Yard Inspiration and Planning

The yard is really more akin to a small jungle right now. It has some awkwardly placed trees and overwhelming bushes that are impossible to make beautiful and block a lot of light. It had a chainlink fenced dog run — we don’t have a dog — which has now mostly been removed (post forthcoming). It has a two tier retaining wall in the back yard that is literally falling apart. It’s not all bad; there is a tree in the back yard that produces the most amazing oranges on the planet.

The project list for the yard is long. Landscaping is time consuming and not one of our strengths, so we called on the professionals.

We met with four different landscape contractors to get an idea of what it would take to overhaul the yard. Talking to contractors gave us clearer perspective on how much things cost and made us really think about what we wanted and what was realistic, budget-wise.

Here is the front yard as it exists currently:

The large shrub in front of the window and the gargantuan hedge to the left of the house are destined to go and be replaced with smaller, more manageable options. The maple tree stays! Originally we thought we were going to re-sod the front, but ultimately changed our minds. Drought resistant landscaping is both a little cheaper and more eco conscious than sod here in California. Win-win.

Onto the back yard:

Three trees will be removed — the one pictured above near the retaining wall, the liquid amber located closest and most right in the picture that drops spiky balls, and another (not pictured) that has crazy roots interrupting the yard. The flowerbed will be more neatly defined around the remaining trees/fence line, and the crazy jungle of various grasses and weeds will be replaced with fresh sod.

In addition, the retaining wall absolutely has to be replaced. It is literally falling apart. Originally we thought we wanted to put in a block retaining wall, but after a couple staggering quotes early on from contractors, we opted for a new wood retaining wall instead for about half the price. It’ll have at least 20+ years longevity, which is far longer than we intend to live in this house. The retaining wall will be stocked with simple, drought-tolerant landscaping.

Once we settled on including sod-less drought-tolerant landscaping in our plan, we realized we ought to figure out what style we liked so we wouldn’t completely be at the whim of a contractor and could actually articulate our preferences. (I assume this is more helpful and effective than blank stares and shrugging.)

We started this process with a base knowledge of zero. Using a combination of driving around taking photos of random local yards, Pinterest, and Google image searches, we came out with a pretty clear picture of what we did and did not like. Fortunately, our tastes in this area were pretty well aligned. Together we sifted through all the inspiration we had gathered and created a summary of our vision in the form of a landscaping moodboard.

Overall, we discovered that we like large rocks, a decent dose of green via ground cover, and a small curated collection of plants using repetition of elements (as opposed to a wide assortment of plant types). We like a mix of rock and mulch to keep it from feeling too cold or bland. We are more drawn to neat, clean, and purposeful over a more random, organic spread of elements. We’re really not into ornamental grasses. We also decided we really wanted a concrete slab path in front of the house.

When we got together with our chosen contractor, we showed him our yard moodboard as part of the discussion. Happily, some of our concepts were in line with his thinking. He also told us he likes to take clients with him when buying the plants so we don’t end up with anything we dislike. Plant shopping with an expert is definitely something to look forward to — I’ve certainly never done that before. The contractor made a couple adjustments to the project contract to accommodate adding the concrete path feature that came out of our inspiration research and then we signed DJ’s bank account away.

Yard demolition started yesterday and everything should be complete in under two weeks. It’ll be a whirlwind transformation, but an exciting one!

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