There was the good news: a lovely house on a sizable corner lot.
Then there was the not-so-good news: a chunk of the real estate sloped steeply down to the street on two sides, while most of the Carmel Valley property’s level spacewas occupied by the house.
The band of land around three sides of the home was relatively narrow and not landscaped for the outdoor living that home owners Jennifer Lafontaine and Vic Desanti desired. Nor was there a play space suitable
for their 5-year-old daughter For Barry Thau, of Eco Minded Solutions, the remedy was to rely largely on creating a sense of visual rather than actual space. His series of outdoor “rooms,”each dedicated to a specific activity, integrate with the interior of the house and flow naturally fromone to another without feeling cramped or cluttered.
“We tried to choose, simple, elegant materials that add some texture, a little color,” Thau said.
One side yard had room for a lap pool and raised spa, bothmade with ledgestone. A small lounge area anchors one end of the space. A loose hedge of non-invasive bamboo(Bambusamultiplex ‘AlphonseKarr’) and giant bird of paradise contribute to the tropical ambiance. Originally, the kitchen and living room at the back of the house looked out on “a little patio with a lot of plants encroaching on the space,”
Landscape architect Barry Thau created a series of compact “rooms” with a sense of space. Seating areas are within conversation range for easy entertaining. Indian laurel fig (Ficus nitida) planted against the back wall will grow to screen the area from the neighboring lot.
Thau said. After clearing out and paving the area, he relegated the plants – succulents, salvia, and other easy-care, low-water-usage species – to a narrow bed at the base of the
“The plants add a little softness, but they don’t encroach on thespace,” Thau said.
A small lounge area provides a place to gather and relax in front of a custom fountain, which is a ledgestone wall, six feet in height and width but shallow in depth. Water
flows into a rectangular basin topped with flagstone caps that can provide extra seating for larger groups. Just a few steps away,Thau added a large barbecue and a granite-topped
bar with comfortable seating for four.
A slightly more formal dining table is within easy conversation range. The transformation of the remaining side yard,which was just a walk-way, into a play area required physically enlarging the existing space. A six-foot-tall wall, which blocked the view, came to within a few feet from the house, Lafontaine said.
Thau expanded the width of the area by eight to 10 feet, bringing in additional soil to level the section. He replaced the old block wall with a lower retaining wall topped with an iron rail to open the area. The project, which took about five months, increased the area to about 700 square feet, approximately three times its former size.
Clean and durable artificial turf tops the revised space. “Initially it’s a little more of a price point, but you end up saving on water and mainte-
The house opens to this inviting lounge area, backed by a ledgestone fountain. The different “outdoor rooms” flow easily into each other. Clean, modern lines and restrained use of plants integrate visually with the house and contribute to an open feeling. BILL WECHTER •
nance,” Thau said. Part of this yard gets full sun while part is always in shade, which makes balancing the irrigation for a grass lawn a challenge.
“It looks like a completely different space,” Lafontaine said, “and it’s usable all year round.We really like it.”
Unlike the landscaping within the walls, the more public exterior is abundantly planted. Near the entry, kangaroo paw, flaxes and bougainvillea thrive along side a large umbrella
tree (Schefflera actinophylla), saved from the previous landscape because it contributes a screen between properties.
“If it has formand function,we try not to waste existing plant material,”
The botanical largess continues on the slopes forming two sides of the corner lot, where a variety of succulents Russian sage, carpet roses and numerous others compose a mosaic
of shapes and textures.
Small trees – ficus, a queen palm, a Swan Hill olive – serve as visual anchor points. “The intention was to have different areas always flowering,”
The foliage itself exhibits a range of colors, from the acid yellow of licorice plants (Helichrysum), to blue senecio, to almost-black Aeonium Schwarzkopf. The design is generally low-maintenance, and watering needs are low.The slope also catches runoff from above.
There can be joy in both abundance and simplicity. “In the front, where we really have the space, we can develop the landscaping palette,” Thau said. “But sometimes less is more. Creating all these ‘rooms’ and not having it feel cluttered was probably the biggest challenge. I’m happy about how we utilized the space, and how it all worked together. ”
Getting together with family and friends are the things that memories are made of. There’s nothing better than gathering everyone together around the dining room table and catching up. The only thing that could make it better is if it were outdoors.
Outdoor living spaces are the new way to go when it comes to outdoor entertaining. We all love our homes. Chances are you spent hours looking for the perfect home in San Diego or the surrounding areas. You spent countless hours decorating with just the right accents to enhance your home. However, many homeowners simply love the outdoors. So entertaining outdoors is something they would naturally do.
Outdoor living spaces are more than a table and a grill. The great thing about outdoor living spaces is that they can be enjoyed anytime of the year. Outdoor entertaining and living spaces are quite comfortable. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to give up comfort when you look to outdoor entertaining. The perfect touches can make your outdoor space shine day or night.
You can go from small touches to large pieces. Some examples can include:
- Adding a wide selection of colorful chairs can accentuate your space. Adirondack chairs are a popular choice and they can come in natural wood or in a variety of colors. Color choices can make for a festive setting.
- Accent lighting can create an intimate touch. You can add colored lights for a fun and festive environment.
- Instead of just adding a grill, try enclosing your grill in bricks to enhance the look and feel of the grill area.
- Adding an outdoor fireplace can create a soothing and relaxing environment. There’s nothing better than a fire at night.
- Outdoor living furniture today is comfortable and stylish. You can create a warm and inviting setting with the right furniture.
Outdoor living spaces offer unique and tranquil settings where friends and family can come together for fun and laughter.
My last blog was about the virtues of minimizing the amount of grass, to make your landscape more eco-friendly. Even the New York Times recently reported on this topic, as the average lawn becomes smaller.
This time, I want to blog about the virtues of trees. My love of trees may make be biased – they are my favorite part of a landscape, and the older and craggier they are, the better I like them. Salon just posted a slide show about some of the world’s great ancient trees.
Fortunately, well-selected and sited trees are a key to designing an eco-friendly landscape that is also beautiful and functional.
(caption: This mastic tree in its prime frames the view of the house, anchors the front yard landscape, and creates a woodland-like setting for the understory plants.)
If you live in an older neighborhood, you may be fortunate to have the blessing of trees planted by someone wise enough to leave behind this legacy for you to enjoy. Full-grown trees, more than any other part of the softscape, announce that the landscape has come into maturity. If you are particularly fortunate, those trees will have been well cared for and properly selected and sited: growing to a desirable size, and providing the right about of shade at the right time of the year.
Often though, you are left to deal with a tree that has grown to overwhelm your landscape, takes too much water to thrive, is messy, hard to garden under, cracks concrete features with greedy surface roots, or invades the water and sewer lines with feeder roots. Reduction pruning and thinning can be done to alleviate some of these problems, and avoids the drastic solution of removing the entire tree and waiting for the replacement to grow and takes its place as a better citizen in your landscape.
(Caption: These pines were “threaded,’” opening up the view, and taking their part in a water-wise landscape.)
Owners of new homes in recently built developments face the challenge of a bare landscape and the time it will take for trees to grow, but also benefit from the opportunity to choose and site trees carefully. Designs must be done to account for the full-size tree: the space it will take up vertically and horizontally, and the shade it will eventually provide. Planting the biggest box size possible can help to achieve an “instant landscape,” but, with the exception of adult-size palms that can cost tens of thousands of dollars, it still takes time for even the fastest-growing tree to come into its full potential.
As the trees grow, your landscape will slowly evolve. Privacy will develop, unpleasant views will become filtered, and pleasant views will begin to be framed by the spreading canopy of branches. That canopy will also provide relief from the relentless sun. The trees will bring shade that will expand the livable areas in your landscape. The shade that develops over planting beds will also provide the opportunity to grow a wider array of shrubs, perennials, bulbs, and groundcovers.
The designers and horticulturalists at Eco Minded Solutions select trees for landscape plans with utmost care. The selected trees must be the right size for the site at maturity. It is tempting to plant that cute little conifer you see at the nursery, unaware that it will eventually grow to perhaps 80 feet tall and 40 feet wide. We avoid these problems by selecting trees for the size of the property and how they relate to the other design elements. Many old favorites and standard selections are simply too big for today’s lot sizes.
(Caption: This pine, planted too close, is already overtaking the house.)
The palette of trees for San Diego is changing, partly because of this issue. There are many small and medium sized trees that we make use of in our designs. A tree in a patio corner may be selected to be only 12-15’ tall, and a tree selected to provide a larger shade canopy may still only grow to 20-30’ tall. A properly selected tree will not require expensive reduction pruning.
(Caption: Crepe myrtle serves as a small-scale focal point for this front yard patio.)
We also keep in mind the amount of shade that a given tree will develop. Some species provide a dense cover and complete shade that may be desirable for effective screening. Others have more naturally open branching and/or smaller leaves that cast a more dappled shade. These lighter-textured trees will not require thinning that is often done on San Diego’s coastal trees, where dense canopies create cold spots and block desirable views.
(Caption: Pepper tree, introduced from Peru during California’s mission period, is delicate-looking, yet tough. )
Any tree must be considered for its strengths and faults, and how it will fit its desired role in a landscape. It must also be attractive to your eyes. All these considerations are important as the range of landscape styles diversifies, from formal and contemporary designs to rustic and cottage designs, from eastern-influenced zen gardens to western-influenced courtyard gardens, from edible landscapes to those that are strictly decorative, and from the tropical-themed landscapes that came to be standard in post WWII San Diego, to more water-wise landscapes that make use of a surprisingly wide array of plants from around the world.
We advocate choosing trees that are water-wise. San Diego’s water restrictions have been made permanent, and water prices are likely to keep going up. One strategy to use water wisely is to design a landscape with a mini-oasis: a spot that features the thirstier plants, including a favorite tree or two that you must have. This oasis should be where you spend the most time in your landscape: a lounging and dining area. Away from this oasis, the plant selections become less water-demanding. Such a landscape will be practical and affordable to maintain as water costs increase and availability becomes more limited. Water-wise trees can cut your water bill, as they shade they provide reduces evaporation from the soil. The protective canopy of trees becomes more important the farther you are from the coast, with its higher temperatures and lack of cloud cover.
With a thoughtful selection of trees and other plants, you can look forward to a shady, restful retreat, and not end up with a parched landscape that requires yet another makeover. Eco Minded Solutions is here to provide you to plan for the future by providing you with a landscape that will be beautiful and sustainable for a lifetime of enjoyment.
Having a pool is a luxury that most people wish they could afford. However, pools and spas that rely solely on use of traditional heating equipment can become expensive to keep warm, especially on a year-round basis. Solar heating allows property owners to keep pool and spa water at a comfortable temperature without using so much energy. This eco landscaping concept translates into a number of benefits for consumers.
Reduced Carbon Footprint
In San Diego, we enjoy sunny weather most days of the year. So why not take advantage of the power of the sun and use it to heat up your pool and spa? Solar heating panels can be placed on the roof of your property or another area that is in full view of the sun. As water filters through the solar panels, the water gradually warms up. Instead of using gas and electricity to heat your pool, you let the sun do the work, reducing your strain on the earth’s resources.
Decreased Energy Bills
Homeowners that have solar panels installed in their homes can expect a decrease in their monthly utility bills because they are not using traditional energy sources to keep pool water warm.
Warmer Water Temperatures
Solar heating can get water to the comfortable 70-degree range, making your pool more inviting to you and your guests.
With spring time just a couple of months away, it is the time to start planning your eco landscape renovation plans for the New Year. There is a range of ways that you can update your garden and outdoor living space so you can reap as much enjoyment out of it as possible during the warmer months of the year.
Whether you plan on planting flowers that will be ready to bloom in the spring or vegetables that come into season during the summer, now is the time to start planning this year’s garden. Many property owners plant their perennials in early spring so they reach full bloom a few weeks later. If you decide to grow your flowers from seed, you may want to purchase and plant the seeds indoors now; you can transplant the flowers outdoors after the last frost has come.
A huge trend in landscaping in recent years is the creation of edible gardens. During the spring, you can start planting tomatoes, squash, and other summer veggies in your garden.
A great way to bring your outdoor living space to the next level is the installation of some of the following features:
- Driveways, entryways, sidewalks
- Deck, patios, balconies
- Retaining or garden walls
- Outdoor kitchen
- Fire places, fire pits, barbeques
- Water features
- Landscape lighting
- Shade structures
For more landscape ideas, come visit Eco Minded Solutions at the San Diego Home and Garden Show, March 4 – 6.
Starting in March, water rates will increase by 6.4 percent in San Diego, with even larger rate increases occurring in areas outside of the city. In fact, since 2007, water bills will have increased by 67 percent, bringing the average homeowner’s water bill up to $72.03. With the cost of water getting so high, many consumers are searching for eco landscaping ideas so they can reduce their water usage in the long-term. Here are three ways that you can lower your water bill.
1. Irrigation Assessment
Irrigation assessments are designed to detect leaks in your sprinklers, drip system, valves, and controllers; check water pressure; determine if you are overwatering your plants; and review the types of plants you have in your front and back yards. Once a qualified irrigation specialist has evaluated your property, he or she can provide you with recommendations to help you curb your water usage.
2. Drip Irrigation
Drip irrigation systems can be installed in your garden to feed your plants a precise amount of water on a specific schedule. Efficient drip systems can significant reduce the amount of water you use each month.
3. Native Planting
Native planting refers to use of plants that naturally grow in your area; because they have adapted to the geographical area, native plants require much less water and maintenance than other plants.
The Environmental Protection Agency compiles statistics about the generation and disposal of waste in the United States. According to the EPA’s 2008 report, Americans threw out 250 millions tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) that year, a huge increase from the 151.6 million tons of MSW that was generated in 1980. MSW refers to the trash that people tend to throw out in their homes and at work, including food scraps, yard trimmings, product packaging, and old appliances and furniture. MSW does not include industrial, construction, or hazardous waste. According to the statistics, the amount of trash that Americans are disposing of is increasing; at the same time, recycling rates in the United States continue to go up.
- In 1980, 14.5 percent of MSW was recycled; in 2008, 33.2 percent of MSW was recycled
- In 2008, the average person produced 4.5 pounds of waste each day, and recycled 1.5 pounds of that waste
- An estimated 135 tons of MSW was sent to landfills in 2008
- The highest recycling rates are for yard trimmings, paper products, and metals
- Yard trimmings account for 13.2 percent of total waste produced in the United States in 2008
Composting is a great way to create a natural fertilizer for your soil and plants while reducing the amount of trash that you send to landfills. If you are interested in starting a composting pile in your home, read the tips listed in this post.
- Purchase a composting bin from your local home improvement or gardening store and place it in your yard
- Dump grass trimmings, fallen leaves, pulled weeds, and other garden trimmings in the compost pile; you can also keep fruit and vegetable scraps, egg shells, and coffee grinds separate from the rest of your trash and dump it in the compost pile
- Mix the compost pile up with a shovel or pitchfork about twice a month
Your compost pile should break down into humus, or a rich fertilizer, in six months to a year. At this point you can use the fertilizer on your plants to reduce the need for chemicals, improve the plants’ immune system, and increase the moisture retention of soil.
Edible gardens continue to grow in popularity among homeowners. Growing your own fruits, vegetables, and herbs is good for the environment, and provides gardeners with fresh produce throughout the year. If you are thinking about starting your own edible garden, start by deciding which plants you would like to grow.
Vegetables and Herbs
There are a range of vegetables and herbs that easy to grow, even for first time gardeners. Swiss chard, lettuce, zucchini, squash, and tomatoes a popular, and relatively easy, plants to grow. Many homeowners also like to grow fennel, basil, cilantro, mint, and parsley, so they have a constant supply of fresh herbs for cooking. Once you decide which herbs and vegetables you eat on a regular basis, determine how much sun, shade, and water they need to flourish. Then you can start plotting out space for each plant type.
Many homeowners also plant fruit trees in their yards. When planting fruit trees, it is important to think about which types of fruits grow well in the area in which you live.
If you are interested in getting professional help in designing your edible garden, contact the landscape architects at Eco Minded Solutions.
Our water-efficient landscapes are designed to comply with local and state water ordinance by using California friendly drought-resistant vegetation, minimized turf areas, soil improvements and mulch. Eco Minded Solutions water wise landscape design and development techniques guarantee added beauty to your property and a reduction in water use.
Water Wise Tips:
It’s important to install water efficient weather based irrigation controllers. Smart Irrigation Controllers use sensors and weather information to manage watering times and frequencies. Your Sprinklers will automatically turn off during rain, high winds and low temperatures.
- You can save over 13,000 gallons of water per year when you install water-efficient drip irrigation systems for trees, shrubs and flowers.
- Rotating spray nozzle retrofits for pop-up spray heads applies water more slowly and uniformly to prevent over watering and encourage healthy plant growth. Spray nozzles use 20% less water than conventional spray heads!
- Install High efficiency nozzle retrofits for large rotary sprinklers.
- Install a dedicated landscape water meters for monitoring of water budget and leak detection.
- Install covers on pools and spas to reduce evaporation.
- Apply mulch to exposed earth in planter beds to lessen water evaporation.
- Water vegetation only in the early morning or late evening to reduce evaporation.
- Hydro seeding costs half the price of installing sod. It grows fast, and requires less frequent watering.
- Aeration of your lawn improves the physical properties of soil; therefore, improving water retention and helping to significantly reduce water costs.
- Top dress your lawn to increase nutrition uptake of the plants, balance moisture content of soil, alleviate compaction and enhance root development.
- Contact us today to learn more about the services we offer and to schedule a free water wise landscape assessment!