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Eight months of weekends.

Doing most of the work themselves, the owners turned this garden around dramatically

Eight months separate the before and after pictures you see here. Wasn't this an impossible time frame for a working couple who did most of the work themselves and could dig in only on days off?

Not at all. Careful planning and plant selection geared for quick impact gave this remodel in Inglewood, California, a finished look almost immediately.

October. First came a day with a landscape architect. Though the most costly part of the job, this yielded the greatest benefit: an overall plan for the yard and a list of planting ideas. With a plan in hand, the owners could plot a logical sequence of events --including ordering materials ahead of time rather than working on one corner one weekend, then moving to another space the next.

The plan provided three basics: the shape of the decks, the division of the space into two levels with raised beds surrounding the lower area, and the shape of the main lawn and its surrounding beds. The owners set up a sequence following this basic pattern: hardscape, earth moving, irrigation, then plants.

November. Just after Halloween, the old patio, with its curved retaining wall, was removed and the soil cut back so it would be under the new deck edge. Other bits of concrete work around the yard were also removed. And so was a giant overgrown old rubber plant, which came up only

after a weekend-long fight,

The few remaining trees (see plan), neglected for years, were pruned and reshaped. A screen of cypresses was topped to half its height, letting morning sun into the garden.

Next came instant and much-needed privacy: lattice screens placed above an existing stucco-faced block wall. Readymade 2- by 8-foot and 4- by 8-foot lattice panels fit into frames that were mounted to sills bolted to the top of the wall.

The main (upper) deck went in over Thanksgiving. Stairs and lower deck weren't done until the lower yard was regraded.

December. The owners prepared for the new year by coaxing the railroad ties into place, These form the retaining wall between the two levels and also the sides of the lower-level raised beds.

January. By the Super Bowl, soil from the lower section had been thrown behind the retaining wall above, bringing the yard roughly to its two final grades.

February. Ten cubic yards of commercial compost arrived just before Valentine's Day. The raised beds took about 3 yards; 5 went into amending soil for other beds and the lawn, with 2 saved for the vegetable beds.

March. With soil amended and regraded, the stairs and lower deck could be put in place. At the same time, bare-root fruit trees and some roses went in.

April. The owners disturbed the grade to cut lines for four sprinkler circuits and a new hose bibb at the corner of the garage by the potting table-60 feet from the house line. Regraded again, with irrigation in place, the yard was ready for big plants. All the major ones--flowering maple (Abutilon), lavender starflower (Grewia), Lythrum, Lycianthes rantonnei-were planted from 5-gallon cans. Double marguerites and fuchsia 'J.D. Fredricks' came in 2-gallon cans.

May. Annuals filled in spaces around larger plants. Drip lines service the beds: annual beds got laser-cut drip tubing, while larger plants got spot emitters.

The sod lawn, 'Marathon II' tall fescue, finished the garden, providing instant gratification as each slab was placed on the perfectly primed soil.

June. A post Memorial Day bonus, the potting table has a 2-by-4 frame mounted to a 2-by-4 on the garage wall and supported by 4-by-4 legs; 2-by-2s form the work surface.

The table includes a recycled sink that draws off a gate valve at the garage hose bibb. Cold water runs to an inexpensive single-lever faucet; the drain runs to a gravel sump.

The stylish wardrobe of a well-dressed salad depends on accessories-flavorful oils and vinegars, and perhaps some mustard. Coordinating them with quality basics--crisp leaves and tender vegetables-is simple.

You need choices, not a recipe, to dress a salad well; below, we explain the process in four easy steps. Select good-tasting, fresh oils for smoothness, and distinctive vinegars for tang; start a collection. Pick and choose among them, combining to your own taste with other seasonings, such as Dijon or other fancy mustards, capers, anchovy paste, fresh and dried herbs, and mixtures such as pesto.

The Basic Green Salad

1. Start with cold, crisp greens, enough for one person or a crowd. If you like, rub the salad bowl with a cut clove of garlic before adding greens. Mix in some minced fresh chives, other fresh or dried herbs, thin cucumber slices, or any favorite salad condiments. Have ready olive oil, red or white wine vinegar, Dijon mustard (optional), salt (or seasoned salt), and pepper (preferably freshly ground). 2. Add oil, a spoonful at a time, and mix to coat salad. The amount depends on your taste and diet. About 1 tablespoon oil per serving gives rich flavor to most salads, but if you're watching calories, you can dress a salad with much less oil; just see that everything has a shiny coat.

3. Add vinegar, a little at a time, to taste. Start with about 1 teaspoon per serving; vinegars vary in acidity, and it's easy to get too much, especially in green salads (starchy ingredients such as potato need more acid, as well as more seasonings). This is also when you can add paste mixtures, such as prepared mustard; just put a little mustard (try about 1/4 teaspoon per serving) in the spoon of your salad servers, dilute it with a little vinegar, then mix into salad. Start tasting, mixing in more vinegar and mustard until the acidity and flavor suit you perfectly

4. Season to taste with salt and pepper. While you're at it, decide if your salad needs more oil or vinegar; it's not too late to add a dash of either one.

Moving beyond the basic mixed green salad, you'll discover many other combinations can be dressed with the same oiland-vinegar formula. To trigger your imagination, use the three salads below as the framework for salads of your own design.

Shopping for oil and vinegar

A mild salad oil and olive oil are basic. Extra-virgin olive oil is worth the cost, but the flavors vary, so you may want to taste several. Experiment with unusual mildflavored oils, such as avocado or grape seed. As you expand your repertoire to other kinds of salads, try some of the more distinctively flavored oils, such as Oriental sesame oil, the various nut oils (some have a roasted nut flavor), and oil that dried tomatoes come packed in. Freshness is important for all oil, so don't buy too much at once. Store in a cool, dark area, and keep tightly covered.

In addition to wine vinegars, your collection might include Oriental rice vinegar (seasoned or unseasoned); fruit-, garlic-, and herb-flavored vinegars; or malt, balsamic, and sherry vinegars. Fresh lemon, lime, orange, or grapefruit juice can stand in for all or part of the acid.

Greens with fruit

A sweet step forward from a green salad: try hutter lettuce with orange slices, red onion rings, and toasted walnut pieces (optional); dress with walnut oil, raspberry vinegar (mix to taste with honey or sugar). Other options: romaine or red-leaf lettuce; thin slices of apple, Asian pear, crisp persimmon, or halved grapes; roasted filberts, almonds, or pecans; avocado slices. Dress with any mild oil and enliven with another berry-flavored or white wine vinegar

Potato and other vegetables

A substantial base begins with sliced cooked thin-skinned potatoes, lightly cooked cut green beans, chopped shallots or green onion, and diced red bell pepper (optional); dress with olive oil and balsamic vinegar mixed with Dijon mustard Delicious alternatives: cooked dry beans (or canned ones) or cooked pasta for the potato; cooked broccoli flowerets, sliced carrots, or peas for the green beans. Dress first with olive oil, salad oil or oil from dried tomatoes (add a few tomato slivers to salad). Then add spark with vinegar (sherry, malt, or red wine)

Chinese meat, crunchy greens

It's enough to make the main course: strips of roast beef, finely shredded cabbage and carrot (optional), sliced green onions, fresh cilantro (coriander) leaves, and toasted almond slices; dress with Oriental sesame oil and salad oil (using about equal parts) and seasoned rice vinegar Or use another roast or barbecued meat; shredded cooked chicken, duck, or turkey; chunks of cookedfirm-fleshed fish (such as monkfish); or cooked and shelled tiny shrimp. Try other roasted nuts such as peanuts or cashews
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Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:landscape gardening
Date:Apr 1, 1989
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