Laura Texter used to describe her home’s neatly maintained landscape as boring.
That was before she and her husband, Dale, launched a two-pronged project to completely revamp their 28-year-old San Luis Obispo home’s front and back yards.
Starting in 2009, this ambitious team of do-it-yourselfers developed a plan to transform their hot, largely unusable backyard into a comfortable space for entertaining. It entailed removing one-third of a three-car garage that intruded into a substantial portion of the yard.
In its place, the Texters hired contractors to install a partial new driveway and build a concrete block privacy wall separating the driveway from the reconfigured space. The contractors also added a curved raised planter to the interior side of the wall.
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The Texters took over from there, applying a stacked-stone fascia on both sides of the wall and new planter that now holds a Japanese maple tree surrounded by soft ferns and brilliant pink azaleas.
An outdoor eating area, a small step-down patio and multiple planting beds outlined by concrete, stones and bricks define the entertainment areas. Artificial turf that never needs water or mowing completes the scene.
Six years later, the prolonged drought drove the Texters to tear out their perfectly groomed front yard as well.
Starting in 2014 they let the grass die. “We kept waiting to see if El Niño would come,” Dale said, “but it never did.”
Convinced the rains weren’t going to rescue their lawn, the Texters decided to turn their front yard into a colorful, drought-tolerant landscape.
“Our front yard was basically bare for three years,” Laura said.
Unlike their backyard redo, the Texters said they had no master plan for the front. So Laura said they started with “baby steps.”
Their breakthrough came on a trip to visit their son in San Francisco, where they toured a beautiful garden designed with lots of lush plants and straight lines.
Since Dale likes orderly curves, Laura said, they modified their design to include drought-tolerant plants and curves rather than straight lines. They included lots of flowering plants to satisfy Laura’s desire for color.
With the design in place, the front yard project progressed more quickly.
But because this can-do couple did virtually everything themselves — from removing the lawn and installing a new drip irrigation system to laying stone and gravel paths and selecting plants— the makeover took two years to finish.
The front yard, completed in late 2017, combines balance and structure to create a striking geometric design.
Curved flowerbeds lined with purple lantana, yellow dusty miller and lavender radiate from both sides of a center walkway leading to the front door.
Stacked-stone planters, cobblestone paths and grey decomposed granite combine to lend variety and texture. A couple of red flowering crape myrtles and two ornamental plum trees provide added height and the promise of future shade.
The Texters now feel they’ve accomplished their main landscape goals — creating a usable and attractive entertainment area as well as a beautiful, drought-tolerant landscape that’s anything but boring.
Always start with a plan. The Texters’ front yard redo took twice as long to complete as their backyard makeover, largely because they weren’t sure how to proceed.
Pick site-specific plants. Knowing the sun and water needs of your plants before you purchase them will ensure they will thrive in your selected sites.
Lose the lawn. Switching from grass lawns and green shrubs to drought-tolerant flowering perennials brought a bonanza of bees and butterflies.