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Paso Robles home gets a drought-tolerant makeover

Paso Robles tract home gets water-savvy makeover

Ellen Lam turned a dull backyard full of dirt and weeds into a welcoming patio retreat. In the front yard, she replaced a patchy lawn with river rock, boulders, plants and dark brown bark. As plants grow, both areas of the outdoor space will becom
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Ellen Lam turned a dull backyard full of dirt and weeds into a welcoming patio retreat. In the front yard, she replaced a patchy lawn with river rock, boulders, plants and dark brown bark. As plants grow, both areas of the outdoor space will becom

Ellen Lam moved to Paso Robles just under a year ago. The house she bought was a basic tract house with minimal contractor landscaping — the same as every other house in the neighborhood.

Lam’s first priority was the backyard. The only existing landscape consisted of plum, peach and apricot trees with a few flowering plants behind a retaining wall. In addition, a few rose and rosemary bushes dotted the barren backyard. The rest was all dirt and weeds.

Lam contacted Landscape Gardening USA Inc. of Paso Robles, whose staff listened to her wish list and created a perfect backyard retreat.

The dirt and weeds were transformed to a beautiful stone patio and walkway with mulch added alongside to soften the edges. A shaded table and chairs were added for entertaining — or just coffee in the morning. Hollyhocks, irises, lavender and drought-tolerant flowering shrubs were planted throughout the backyard to create color from spring to fall, with little water use.

A grapevine and more hollyhocks were already planted along the north side of the house. So they created a raised bed for Lam to grow tomatoes and other spring vegetables on the south side of the house, a perfect location that offers ample sun. A birdbath and a few potted plants completed the backyard area.

Lam enjoyed her new outside space but felt that the front yard was now lacking. Besides a very patchy dry front lawn, the yard featured a Purple Leaf plum tree, an overgrown wisteria, jasmine bushes along the front walkway and Lady Bank roses growing on a privacy trellis but also up onto the house.

So she contacted the state’s rebate program and obtained approval to receive a rebate if she removed her lawn and planted drought-tolerant landscaping.

Lam again contacted Landscape Gardening USA, which created an amazing transformation.

The wisteria was removed, and a small front patio was built just beyond the courtyard wall with an above-ground waterfall for ambiance. A few statues and vases were placed above the patio on top of the courtyard wall for visual interest. The jasmine at the entrance walkway was pruned and the Lady Bank roses were left but trimmed back off the house onto the privacy trellis.

A dry creek bed was inlaid into the lawn from the fence on the south side of the house to the sidewalk level. The lawn area slopes towards the street, giving the creek bed a natural feel. Agastache Foeniculum, pink penstemons, salvias and drought-tolerant grasses were planted.

Irises were left that had originally grown on the south side of the enclosed courtyard to add spring color. Two low-growing ground roses were added to help fill in the landscape. The area was then mulched with dark brown bark to keep weeds at bay, regulate soil temperature and retain moisture. The plants are on a drip system but use little water compared to the requirements of a lawn.

The placement of boulders and rocks throughout the area creates an organic appearance. To add interest at night Lam installed low-voltage bronze landscape lighting. The lights give a soft glow to the hardscapes, plants and pathway to her front door.

Thanks to a well thought-out plan, a few creative decisions and the state rebate program, Lam has created a unique and beautiful environment that will only become more inviting as the plants grow. Lam’s landscape is proof that you don’t need a large space to create an inviting home — day or night.

Tami Reece is a 30-year gardener and food preserver living in Paso Robles. Email her if you know of a unique and beautiful garden at rosepetalranch96@gmail. com

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