Take your water needs off the grid with a landscape that harvests rainwater
A homeowner in Arroyo Grande had a vision of turning his backyard into a garden of beautiful color using native and perennial plants similar to Claude Monet’s famous garden in Giverny, France.
But, realizing that water availability varies from year to year, the homeowner wanted to have his own supply to use as needed.
Enter Taylor Boyle and Michael Vogt of Purlieu Landscape Design and Build of San Luis Obispo.
They started with the infrastructure, designing a system of underground pipes and pumps, moving water from the house gutters and drainage system to three 5,000-gallon water tanks at the back of the property.
In the backyard there is a large amount of bedrock that would cause flooding in areas due to lack of drainage. Troughs were cut into the rock to allow water to drain, and French drains were put in place in low-lying areas that might collect water.
Finally, compost and soil was brought in for use in the planting beds. All the areas are now watered by drip line with water pumped from the tanks.
The backyard is a slope leading down to the house. Rather than creating the usual terraced planting beds, Boyle and Vogt created a garden of gentle mounds with a winding stone pathway leading to the bottom.
On every twist and turn, there is a wonderful surprise.
Two trees, oleo “Wilsonii” and arbutus “Marina,” were set in place using a crane that lifted them over the house.
Old wagon wheels and a large rock were brought in from the homeowner’s mother’s property. A hole was drilled through the center of the rock and it is now a rustic fountain.
Near the fountain is a metal and redwood pergola with climbing grape vines. A hammock hangs underneath the pergola, a very relaxing location due to the sound of the running water.
Towards the bottom of the garden is a stone fire pit with redwood chairs. It is surrounded with a wall using the same stone inset with natural boulders.
Prior to breaking ground on the project in the fall of 2016, Boyt and Vogt had already decided what plants and flowers to use as well as working with the homeowner who had requested low-maintenance plants. They needed this information to calculate the water usage needed and how to set up the drip system.
Carex grasses are used to create a lawn effect without the care. Kangaroo paws, leonotis, lamb’s ears, yellow yarrow, Mexican sage and cordyline ‘Electric pink’ give the garden spectacular color, while echeveria and other succulents add texture and variegated greens.
Sprinkled throughout the landscape is a variety of pittosporum that grows in round bush shapes.
Prior to the backyard remodel, an orchard and vegetable garden area was in place on the south side of the house. The avocado, citrus, apple, and stone fruit trees, as well as crops of butternut squash, asparagus, jalapenos and onions, will all be watered by the new rainwater system.
The entire project was completed in March 2017. This spectacular garden, full of color and edible plants, will be sustainable for years due to rainwater harvesting.
Tips from the landscaper
- Plant in the fall. You will have better root growth.
- Use compost tea when planting to provide extra nutrients.
- When planning a garden, contour and use different elevations.
- Make your garden an adventure. Have a new discovery around every corner.
- Start with a small palette of plants to use as the backbone of your garden. Add color and variety from there.