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Instead of a front lawn: to save water or improve looks, these homeowners replaced lawn.

Once the epitome of suburban life, the pristine front lawn is going the way of the 30-minute shower. Responding to increasing demands on finite water supplies, and a preference for colorful, lower-maintenance landscapes, more and more Westerners are taking a hard look at the formerly sacrosanct garden choice.

What many are finding is that these mostly unused expanses of thirsty grass no longer seem appropriate for our arid climate. The areas once reserved for them are open to new interpretations. As shown in the California gardens on these four pages, front yards now come in a variety of good looks--with color, low maintenance, and reduced water needs. Fall is the best time to replant.

DRY-CLIMATE PLANTS

FOR CONTINUOUS COLOR

Living in a traditional neighborhood where lawns prevail, Martha and John Bauman of Palos Verdes Begonia Farm set out to prove to their neighbors that gardens can be colorful and use less water than lawn.

Starting from scratch, they created a "bit of the English garden look" (shown on page 75), using long-blooming, mostly unthirsty plants adapted to their dry climate.

In the main beds, perennials and shrubs are grouped according to their moisture needs and watered by drip irrigation; minisprays water creeping thyme growing between the flastones. Thirstier perennials confined in a raised bed next to the front walk are irrigated by ooze tubing. Water use has been cut by a third.

A GARDEN OF TEXTURES

AND SHADES OF GREEN

For a lush look without the care or water use of a lawn, the Palo Alto garden shown at top uses low-growing ground covers, shrubs, and vines in different textures and colors.

Under the shade of oaks, Burlingame landscape architect Lou Marano planted a ground cover of shiny, dark-green vinca. In the sunny area behind it grows "Emerald Sea' juniper. Pink breath of heaven and Dietes vegeta are used as vertical accents; Boston ivy crawls across the wall. Plants need water once a week or less.

MEDITERREANEAN CHARM

Faced with large water bills from keeping up an old, thatch-ridden Bermuda lawn, and wanting a more appropriate landscape for their Mediterranean-style house, the owners of the Santa Monica property shown at the bottom of page 78 decided to forgo all lawn, even though grass is typical of the neighborhood.

Designer Susanne jett of Jettscapes created "a colorful patchwork of arid-climate plants withe the look of classic Mediterranean chaparral." Monthly water savings are 40 percent. What required one mowing a week now needs attention only twice a year.

LOW MAINTENANCE WITH

SEASONAL FLOWERS

Needing a garden that didn't require constant care while they were away for extended periods, the owners of the Palo Alto garden shown at left decided to get rid of their unsued front lawn.

Because the driveway dominated much of the garden, landscape architect Lou Marano's challenge was to create a design that was functional without making the garden look like a parking lot.

For interesting texture and color, interlocking pavers were used to form the driveway and paths. A new pergola with stucco pillars updates the '60s house. Along property lines at the sides and at front, low-maintenance beds keep care to a minimum.

A CANVAS OF CONSTANTLY

CHANGING COLOR

Kathy and Nick Hendig's south-facing garden in Monte Sereno (below) bakes in the afternoon sun. Their old, 120-foot-wide lawn growing in poor soil needed water three times a week and still never looked good, so they hired San Jose landscape designer-artist Cevan Forristt to create a different kind of garden with an unkempt feeling and lots of color.

Like an artisan working with paints, Forristt applied brushstrokes of living color, using unthirsty shrubs, long-blooming perennials, and grasses, while cutting water use in half.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Sunset
Date:Nov 1, 1991
Words:615
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