Backyard planters – The 2018 bonus project

We haven’t talked much about the backyard even though it was an important part of our consideration when buying a house. When logisitics and budget negated our ability to buy something with a mountain view, we settled on the need for privacy. This house delivered thanks to a neighborhood section full of single story homes and a back fence absolutely flooded with ivy, which adds so much life to the space.

 

We inherited three things

  1. Way more planters than we could ever hope to fill
  2. A smorgasbord of non-native plants that need continuous watering.
  3. Questionable irrigation for said water-loving plants

The irrigation worked somewhat well to keep the plants alive. It worked really well at encouraging weeds. While we focused on the interior reno, the planters were slowly overrun. Our solution: cut the water entirely, saving money and killing the weeds. It worked-ish. Mostly it was a hot mess of plants that we were thankful to have in the rear of our house where no one could see them.

The ultimate plan was to rip out every last plant and replace it with drought tolerant varieties, which we both love. But with everything else on our plate and the sheer scale of the project, we figured this project wouldn’t happen until sometime well into 2019. That didn’t stop us from wishing for a solution (or more time) because we use our backyard a LOT. We moved into our home in July and literally didn’t eat dinner inside until early October. Add in plenty of time relaxing by the fire pit and we logged a lot of hours dreaming about what the backyard would look like… some day.

That day came much faster than expected. Aaron’s business started ramping up last fall. Having some extra cash from that coincided with our neighbor’s landscaping company making some finishing touches in their yard. Aaron asked what it would cost for them to clean out all of our planters, and a few hundred dollars later we had a clean slate.

We had already tested painting the brick a medium gray  in a few sections so we were ready to get rid of all that red.

The hardscape was also fairly easy. We absolutely love blue gray Mexican beach pebbles, but at nearly $10 per bag we knew we couldn’t fill the beds with these. Thankfully white marble chips are about half the price and well within our color story. We opted to do the higher (and smaller) levels of each planter in Mexican beach pebble and the bulk of the planters in white marble chips.

In terms of plants, we decided on a clean look for the planters. We weren’t looking to overfill or buy plants that would spread. We also wanted native or drought tolerant plants for eco and “know your weaknesses” reasons. When it came to the exact plants we were a big basket of ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

So we visited nurseries and took pictures and asked for prices and made sure that everything we liked would be good with little water and lots of neglect. Our biggest scores were finding 5′ jade plants for $55 and massive agave that had been neglected so long they literally grew through their pots into the earth and had to be dug up for $35. THESE are our types of plants!

In the far left side of the yard we planted a lemon tree. This was unrelated to this major project and obviously not drought tolerant. But we have always wanted a lemon tree and when in California, as they say. Next to that we kicked things off with a coat of paint…

In the taller section we planted a foxtail agave and a white bushy thing. Up front we opted for fescue (which you will see a lot) and tall squiggly plants.

If you haven’t realized by now, you should not be here for specific plant advice.

The plants for the center section of the yard needed special consideration because our dogs have decided they do not like the dogs that live behind us. One of the neighbor dogs has decided that the right answer to Great Dane aggression is literally pulling sections of the fence off with his teeth. So besides having some patches, we needed plants that the Danes wouldn’t entirely trample as we work on their manners.

Agave plants were the solution. We paired them with more white fluffy plants and fronted it all with fescue. The white plants and fescue on the right side are still kind of intact after several months of Dane re-education. It’s mostly a win.

Moving along the back fence we bought three aloe things and more fescue.

Because repetition in design is good and this agave was mysteriously only $50, we echoed the look from the other corner.

The key hole planter was our biggest challenge because of the sheer size of it. We wanted to make sure it felt appropriately full without spending an arm and a leg on plants.

Our solution was well spaced and various sized agave in the marble chips, backed by two massive jades and more white fluff plants in the Mexican pebbles.

It is one of my favorite sections of the planters… although looking at the photos it makes me want to redo our fence. Don’t look at the fence.

Rounding out the right side, we planted some variegated jade, more fescue and a tall something that I absolutely loved and negotiated hard for. Also of note, there’s a rusty piece of metal (because when one of your best friends hauls a piece of rusty metal out of the ocean and asks you to put it in your garden, you say yes). You may also have noticed that we didn’t paint the brick touching the patio. We have some other plans for the backyard patio, which are  definitely ON the list for 2019 (and kicking off in a few weeks!)

Jade grows outside here. We bought all of the jade.

We wouldn’t be us if we didn’t start another project in the midst of a huge renovation.

There were a few motivations for this mini redo. 1. The planting beds in the front of our house had gotten a tinsy bit out of control. 2. While visiting Santa Barbara with friends, we discovered that jade grows in the ground here. Like this is a natural habitat for jade, which is one of our all time favorite succulents.

Let’s take a look at what we were working with…

The left side is dominated by a bougainvillea and a… let’s be honest plants are not our forte. Regardless those plants were growing really well, but they don’t fit in our vision of low water/low maintenance landscaping. The right side is just good old fashioned weeds. Those also grow really well here.

It’s a little hard to see, but there is a bit of concrete on each side of the landing. To add some height, we decided we would use the concrete pots that held our herb garden at the firehouse to hold some additional plants. We planned to paint them gray, which will flow better with the exterior paint change we have planned.

We decided to scour the internet for some full grown plants, which can be quite expensive in the Midwest, and snapped up two good sized jade plants from Craigslist for $30 each. (You can see one in the photo above next to the garage.) We figured adding some larger plants would make the installation feel more full. Then we hit up a local nursery and realized that plants grow so well here that you can buy huge plants SUPER cheap!

Here’s the finished installation:    

On the left we opted for a pair of gollum jade plants in the ground and “things we liked from the succulent section of the nursery” in the pots. (As per above, we are not great at plants.) On the right, one of the Craigslist jade plants joined a fire stick plant that got a bit too big for the planter in the backyard in painted pots. A pair of jade plants, two black rose succulents and five other succulent things that we picked up from Home Depot went in the ground. The front section of the planter got sections of pink iceplant that should fill the space completely once it has a chance to grow. Hardscapes are simple – white chip marble in the back, black mulch in the front and blue gray Mexican river rock on the top of the pots.

Ready for some before and after shots? Let’s go!

We are super happy with how this turned out and the plants are thriving! The look is much cleaner, which you know we love.

This space isn’t done. Besides changing the beige color across the entire home, we plan to bring some ipe wood to the entry and Aaron has plans for a new door. Those projects are further down the list, but it’s always possible we’ll get a wild hair and knock something out sooner rather than later.