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At SFLA, we are always happy when clients want to include CA natives in the landscapes we design for them. A few year ago, Susan decided to completely to transform her own front yard in San Ramon into an authentic California native garden requiring no artificial irrigation. Her design objectives were to create: a unique, fun, colorful front yard, filled with surprises as well as a garden alive with nature’s activity from insects, bees, butterflies, songbirds and lizards. (For a virtual tour of Susan’s garden and her design process on Sunday, May 23rd, at 11:00 am, sign up on the BBTN website.)

Completed in 2017, the 1700 square foot front yard is 90% CA native with Western Redbud (Cercis occidentalis), Strawberry Tree (Arbutus marina), Flowering Currant (Ribes sanguineum), California Lilac (Ceanothus), Sticky Monkey flower (Mimulus aurantiacus), Foothill Penstemon (Penstemon heterophyllus) Hummingbird Sage (Salvia spathacea), Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), California Poppies (Eschscholzia californica), Foothill Sedge (Carex tumulicola), Spreading Rush (Juncus patens) and more!

With her many years as a landscape architect, Susan knew she needed to start with good “bones” in order to create a structure and layout that was both functional and aesthetically interesting. To enhance the front entrance, she enlarged landings, added a seat wall and created “floating paver” stone pathways to usher guests to the front door.

As a  focal point, Susan designed a dry stream bed lined with boulders and rocks with a recirculating natural boulder fountain. The dry stream bed catches rainwater and runoff from the roof, enabling the water to seep into the soil for deeper tree roots, replenishing the water table and preventing erosion. The boulders give lizards a place to sunbathe and quail a safe hiding place while eating the native grass seeds.

Susan and family hand water the garden during the long summer days, using no more than 50 gallons a day for the entire 1/3 acre property (both indoors and out) in the heat of summer. Her backyard lawn, which gets shaded from a mature California Bay Laurel (Umbellularia californica) tree, goes off color in the late summer, then comes back to green after the first rains.

Susan says, “I love my native garden and its changing personalities throughout the year, season and years. Native gardening puts me back in touch with nature – physically and spiritually. I notice exciting things every day of the year that are different than the day before and different than the year before.”

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Kalich - Boulder fountain, Japanese maple tree, native planting, stamped concrete

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