It was Chet and Anne Boyd’s gourmet cooking club that brought them to the Central Coast after his career with IBM, Rolm and Siemens in Mountain View.
While visiting another couple from the close-knit club who had relocated to Shell Beach after retirement, Chet and Anne said to each other, “We could live here!” Chet was familiar with the area because he had spent 1956-57 in electronic engineering at Cal Poly while awaiting word on employment with IBM.
Chet, raised in Pasadena, felt at home in the moderate climate of Arroyo Grande, and he promised Anne that she would easily meet as many friends as she had in Mountain View. They moved in 2000, and Chet reports that Anne now has “10 times as many friends as before and belongs to every club under the sun.”
The Boyds enjoyed their half-acre yard with a view or “peek” of the ocean to the west, and the park-like feel of the expansive lawns covering most of their lot.
Just over a year ago, due to the three-year drought, high water bills and an awareness of environmental issues, the Boyds decided to xeriscape — removing thirsty lawns and high water plants and replacing them with hardy drought-tolerant plants and shrubs. The lawns in the front, side and back had carpeted 40 percent of their yard, and water bills were topping $130 per month.
Boyd was encouraged to xeriscape by his success at another energy-saving change six years ago. He had installed 14 solar panels on his southwest-facing roof, knowing as an electronic engineer that electricity rates “only go up.” The solar paid for itself in seven years, earlier than promised due to the purchase of his unused electricity by the power company. With his current electricity costs of only $46 a year, Boyd was inspired to see if he could make such a dent in his water bill.
The lawn removal process by a professional landscaper was quite straightforward and efficient. The existing sod was cut at about four inches by a special machine, rolled up and hauled away. A heavy weed-block fabric was laid over the entire area, upon which a new drip system was installed. Once the planting was complete, a thick layer of “gorilla hair,” shredded redwood bark, was liberally applied to all of the new planting beds.
To maintain the “look” of a green lawn in a high visibility area of the front yard, Boyd installed artificial turf on a gentle mound interspersed with boulders. The new higher-end artificial turf uses a mixed blend of colors to create a naturallooking lawn. As for maintenance, Boyd uses his shop-vac to “vacuum” it once a month.
Choosing deep red as the unifying color theme, the landscaper selected low water plants with long blooming seasons and good hardiness ratings. Surrounding the turf in the front yard is “Ruby Velvet” dwarf kangaroo paw, a tightly trimmed New Zealand tea bush with miniature deep red flowers, red “Wendy’s Wish” salvia on long stems that attract hummingbirds, red fountain grass and an Arbutus Marina tree with its pink hanging bells.
Providing contrast to the red scheme in the former lawn area are Lithodora “Heavenly Blue” groundcover, Coleonema (formerly Diosma) “Sunset Gold,” called “Breath of Heaven” for its wispy nature, and “Super Gold” dwarf Abelia groundcover. On each side of the front door, profuse red blooms of two “Little John” dwarf bottlebrush plants greet winter guests. The “Sweet Pea shrub” (no relation to the sweet pea garden flower) provides a hint of purple to the garden with its delicate orchid-like blooms.
It’s difficult to know that it’s winter in the Boyds’ garden, as most of their new plants are blooming now! Even the large Bird of Paradise and the Leucodendrum “Safari Sunset,” natives of South Africa, put on a show in January.
When asked what he appreciated the most about his new xeriscaping, Chet Boyd replied, “Besides the interesting new color and texture in the former lawn areas, I especially like the new low water bill, now at $35 a month instead of $130!”