Monday, March 30, 2009

old stuff about the landscaping project

This was on my other blog site. I am copying it here for my own and continuity's sake.

Entry for January 18, 2009 Landscaping, part 1

[Prologue – I recently bought a house in Mountain View that was part of a tract development in the mid 1950’s. The house itself has been remodeled and updated several times since then and is really my dream home. The yard, however, was stuck in 1950’s suburbia – one large “street” tree, rectangle of flat lawn surrounded by “pruned to within an inch of its life” boxwood and oleander. It was tired, boring and oh, so very thirsty! Three separate valves controlled numerous pop-up sprinklers on an automatic irrigation system. The “street” tree had pushed roots to the surface, damaging the irrigation pipes and making the lawn an obstacle course for any mower.

Shooting the breeze at school one afternoon last autumn, “I love my new house, but I really don’t love the front yard. Any ideas? Anyone?” Mike (Diefenbach of Diefenbach Landscape) offered to drive by one day and then give me some ideas. And so started the transformation.

Mike came by, took some measurements, and drafted up a plan of the current yard. He and I discussed various ideas he had and talked about what I disliked about the yard and what I wanted to keep. Next, he brought his plant specialist, Julia (Pollex of JP Fine Gardening), and we all walked around inside and outside the house, including the back yard (which will not be included in this project). Julia asked me a lot of questions about my favorite colors, favorite color combinations, favorite styles, trying to get a sense of “me”. She and I are students, and Mike is a recent graduate, so they appreciate that I am on a limited budget – both financial and time. Before they left, Mike suggest contacting the Santa Clara Valley Water District for guidelines and information about their rebate program.

On December 23, 2008, an agent from the SCVWD came for the preliminary inspection and said that my project would qualify for their program. He left me a list of approved plants, an application form, lists of vendors and a great CD. Now that the Water District had blessed the project, stage one could begin. We had all agreed that the hedges and foundation plantings had to go – no matter what. In fact, only three plants (besides the “street” tree) would remain – a wisteria on the side of the garage, a lovely old camellia and one over pruned azalea that Julia and Mike thought could be resurrected.

January 5, 2009 came and so did Rocky (Contreras Gardening Service). In less than a day, there was a pile of branches where hedges had been. Already the yard looked better, more open, and less formal. We have turned off the irrigation and are letting the lawn start to die to make removal easier.]

Today, Julia came over and we spent 1.5 hours poring over my wish list of colors and shapes and passing it though her filter of ease of maintenance and the water district “approved” list. We doodled all over the blank plan Mike had provided and thrashed out sight lines. The strip on the north side of the driveway is settled: Mexican Feather Grass interspersed with Incana Cranesbill. There will be a berm but the exact location and dimensions will be decided with Mike’s help.

My “homework” now is to find a source of dirt – free would be good; free with free delivery would be super; free, free delivery and actual top soil would be brilliant. I will also be checking Freecycle ( regularly for people who are dividing their garden plants and want to re-home the extra bits.

Julia’s next job will be to get together with Mike and the measurements and build a shopping list of exactly how many plants of each variety and what sizes as well as how much “dirt”. They will also price out the new drip irrigation materials. I am investigating a product from Netafim (

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