It has been two years since I made a number of significant changes to this garden, and I thought this would be a good time to look back with a series of “before and after” pictures.
I’ll start today with the area I call the “upper lawn” — just in front of the terrace off the front door.
This space — photographed in the fall of 2011 — used to be composed of (left to right) 3′ to 4′ high sheared shrubs, a grass path, and a second border of shrubs and perennials. Further to the right was/is a stone retaining wall (just visible in the foreground above), another planting bed about 3′ below, and then another stone retaining wall.
Bright green 8′ to 9′ Heliconia rostrata or lobster claws were growing in the lower planting bed between the two walls, on either side of the center steps that lead to the “lower lawn.”
It was all very pretty, but with some important problems.
The tall Heliconia created a wall of large foliage right in front of what should have been a wide view from the front door.
The grass path was not really wide enough to be a good seating area, as you can see from this picture of the aftermath of a rather messy large lunch event. The chairs had to be lined up, and the large bushes on either side created a tunnel effect.
The primary practical goals for the upper lawn were to expand our room for entertaining and open up the very good views of the city and hills on the west side of the property (the house is near the top of a ridge).
Now, two years later, the lawn is an extension of the terrace and is wide enough for groups of tables and chairs. Most of the plants in the border are low.
The pictures above and below were taken at the end of last month.
As soon as we* removed the old shrubs and the Heliconia, I was thrilled with the increased sense of light and air.
I still feel happy every time I walk out the front door.
I did consider leaving the rather romantic vines on the columns — shown above in the fall of 2011. But they only gave us a few flowers at a time, and, on the terrace side, they were mostly a tangle of brown stems.
The effect was a little grubby and very claustrophobic.
Now, more light, air, and space.
We have very wide, beautiful views, and now our guests can really appreciate them while sitting on the terrace. (Unfortunately, when I took these photos last month, they were somewhat obscured by the light of the setting sun.)
Bright orange red hot pokers punctuate all the borders at regular intervals.
This, above, was the starting point in the spring of 2011.
About May 2012, above, we first cleared out the shrubs and vines on the terrace side. Most of them were temporarily planted in a newly dug flower garden at the side of the house.
We had also just cut out a long border on the lower lawn (next post), so we brought that grass up and almost instantly made a wider lawn area.
Then, we cleared out most of the shrubs on the other side, as well as in the planting beds between the retaining walls. (We moved most of them, as well as the bushes stored in the side garden, to the new lower lawn border).
Above and below are the mature results, at the end of June 2014.
This border is full of little sunbirds and butterflies.
I planted the same coral and grey Graptopetalum in all the pots. The terra-cotta tones of the clay and of the edges of the succulent’s leaves repeat those of the roof tiles in the view.
I planted yellow-blooming day lilies, Rudbeckia laciniata, and roses in the narrow border along the top of the stone retaining wall — and mainly blue and purple-blue flowering plants in the bed just below.
The yellow holds up well to the bright sun in this exposed spot and echoes the pale yellow paint on the house exterior (and on the living room walls just behind the front door).
The blues pick up the same tones in the hills on the other side — particularly in late afternoon.
You can scroll through larger versions of these and some additional photos by clicking on ‘Continue reading’ below and then on any thumbnail in the gallery.
*The “we” was me, the gardener, and, briefly, three extra helpers.