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WaterSmart makeover: Welcome a way of caprice

Cathy and Mike Godfrey’s most up-to-date entrance yard panorama mission was not their first rodeo. The couple, who purchased their Carlsbad home in August 1997 and are empty nesters with two grownup daughters, are avid gardeners and DIYers.

Twenty years in the past, Cathy dug 40 holes to sink posts for the white picket fence that encircles their small entrance yard. They lowered the size of the garden (principally to discourage neighborhood canines being walked from pooping on their property) and, for a tropical look, added palms and ornamental vegetation like purple fountain grass, which Cathy mentioned they regretted.

“It is stunning, however sustaining it’s horrible. It spreads in every single place,” she mentioned with a sigh.

Before, the Godfreys' grass lawn was surrounded by tropical plantings that had been added two decades ago.

Earlier than, the Godfreys’ grass garden was surrounded by a white picket fence and tropical plantings that had been added 20 years in the past.

(Google Maps)

When the time got here to refresh the yard once more, the couple needed to create a waterwise panorama to scale back upkeep but nonetheless have an fascinating curb attraction. However this time, the couple made the choice to rent professionals.

“I used to be like, ‘We’re too outdated. I am unable to. I simply cannot,’” she mentioned. “I needed any person else’s enter. I used to be on the NextDoor app at some point and any person posted that they use Claudia Kuepper with Gardenscapes by Claudia. I known as her, however it was throughout COVID, so everybody was house eager to do one thing new. She instructed us it might be six weeks earlier than she might come, however we had been in no hurry, and it gave us time to kill off the yard.”

The homework they did throughout that point, their collaboration with Kuepper, and the heavy lifting by the crew of DB Panorama earned them the 2022 WaterSmart Panorama Contest award for the Olivenhain Municipal Water District, for which they obtained a $250 test.

Grevillea plant in the waterwise front yard garden at at the Godfrey home.

A ‘Excellent’ grevillea’s massive, brushlike flower nestles amongst lacy leaves.

(Eduardo Contreras / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The inspiration

Cathy, who not too long ago retired from a profession in human sources, and Mike, {an electrical} engineer, determined to create a theme of succulents and arid vegetation—the extra Dr. Seusslike, the higher, based on Cathy.

“I needed a whimsical look that seemed enjoyable and fascinating, not typical,” she defined. “I did not need simply shrubs. We needed a pleasant colourful selection in numerous textures.”

The couple additionally needed to modify out their pop-up sprinklers for drip irrigation, create a path from the entrance of the home to the gate resulting in their yard, and set up new lighting.

The main points

As soon as the Godfreys determined they had been dedicated to relandscaping and had secured their designer, they took to the streets, driving to neighborhoods just like theirs to take a look at vegetation and designs they appreciated, photographing their finds, and sharing them with Kuepper.

“When she first got here out, she had any person who got here together with her who did all of the measurements,” Mike mentioned. “They then created a dimensional scale design. She then added all of the notes with the specs of what she needed for the landscaper to observe.

“We iterated together with her a few instances,” he added. “We had an preliminary assembly after which she went off to supply her first reduce of her. I believe we had some ideas. We had continued to look out in the neighborhood for various vegetation we appreciated. So, she modified issues, and added new vegetation.”

Blue chalkstick plant in a waterwise front yard garden.

Blue chalksticks, prized for his or her form and strange coloration, dot the panorama.

(Eduardo Contreras / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Cathy mentioned Kuepper had recommended carving out a bit patio within the entrance, however the couple vetoed that as a result of that they had what they felt was an ideal patio of their yard. Kuepper additionally needed to take down the picket fence, however the Godfreys had been connected to that and really feel it is a helpful boundary.

What they agreed on was that the centerpiece of the house can be a dry creek mattress with river rock, punctuated with boulders. Whereas the tip of the mattress resulting in the road is decrease than the bottom, to assist disperse rainwater to the vegetation within the backyard, Mike identified that there is really a pre-existing drain that goes out underneath the curb that they tied into.

“We did this as a result of we had been getting flooded within the low a part of the yard the place it was accumulating water,” he defined.

The couple additionally put in new lighting and a path of quartz charcoal flagstones with crushed rock in between them that results in the yard. They pulled the sprinklers and put in a full drip system that waters the vegetation roughly each 4 days for about 10 minutes.

A cone bush plant in a waterwise front yard garden.

Vibrant-reddish bracts of a ‘Jester’ conebush add coloration and peak.

(Eduardo Contreras / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The Godfreys, whose house is east-facing, get full solar till late afternoon. Figuring out that helped with their design theme of succulents and arid-type vegetation, most of which got here from Briggs Nursery and Tree Co., in Vista. Their selections present loads of coloration, with succulents like kiwi aeonium, purple aeonium, variegated agave, and ‘Little Gem’ aloe, which produce coral-colored flowers. ‘Ripple Jade’ crassula with its rippled blue-green leaves provides a singular form in contrast with different jades. Their ‘Jester’ conebush, with its brilliant reddish bracts, and ‘Excellent’ grevillea, an evergreen shrub that produces long-lasting spiky clusters of coral flowers that appeal to hummingbirds, are planted close to one another by the white picket fence.

An extended-standing trio of giant palms was eliminated, and Kuepper grounded the backyard as an alternative with a ‘Darkish Shadows’ tea tree. ‘Coloration Guard’ yucca, variegated snake vegetation and blue moor grass create spiky contrasts to the petite mounding aeoniums. She additionally strategically positioned small boulders from KRC Rock Pure Stone & Boulder Provide in San Marcos to create mass and visible curiosity.

A side yard view with trees in a waterwise front yard.

In step with the Godfreys’ want for Seusslike touches, three timber—a tree aloe, flanked by two big yuccas—add spiky curiosity alongside the driveway.

(Eduardo Contreras/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Within the slice of backyard house on the far facet of the driveway, which additionally has a dry creek mattress, are three timber: a tree aloe (Aloidendron barberae) and two big yuccas (yucca elephantipes). With their dramatic, sparsely branched trunks, they’re essentially the most Seusslike of their construction. A cape rush under provides spiky texture and peak in distinction to the encompassing small succulents like blue chalksticks and elephant bush succulents, also referred to as elephant’s meals.

The Godfreys devoted plenty of time to their pot alternatives and located simply the suitable ones at Inexperienced Thumb Nursery in San Marcos and Madd Potter in Encinitas. They took benefit of the El Corazon Compost Facility’s program for Carlsbad residents, which supplies compost away free of charge.

Elephant bush plant in a waterwise front yard garden.

Elephant bush, a succulent resembling jade, provides a pop of vivid inexperienced.

(Eduardo Contreras / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

“We had been stunned at the necessity to re-mulch the yard throughout the 12 months, however it was tremendous straightforward and cheap,” Cathy mentioned. “It is easy to unfold within the yard to provide it a contemporary look, too.”

For the Godfreys, low-water gardening is a mindset change.

“By going from a tropical-type backyard to a desert-type backyard, you actually have to simply accept that the vegetation don’t like plenty of water,” Cathy mentioned. “It appears that you’re ‘ravenous’ them of moisture, however that is what makes them thrive.

“We love the low upkeep with the great, clear curb attraction,” she added. “It has been a 12 months and we now have made small plant modifications once we see one thing that appears fascinating, however nothing main. It is enjoyable to alter vegetation out occasionally. And we have gotten a really constructive response from all of our neighbors.”

A dry river bed in the waterwise front yard garden.

A purple aeonium (heart) provides coloration by a dry creek mattress of river rock that carries rainwater to surrounding vegetation. Water beforehand collected within the low-lying space.

(Eduardo Contreras / The San Diego Union-Tribune)


$18,000 to $20,000, together with {hardware}, lighting, irrigation and labor. It was very near the preliminary price range. Later, they obtained a $250 test from the Olivenhain Municipal Water District. They did not apply for a grass elimination rebate as a result of they felt the appliance course of wasn’t definitely worth the effort and time.

Water saved

It was a modest enchancment from their earlier $50 to $60 month-to-month payments.

Entry walkway through the waterwise front yard.

Cathy and Mike Godfrey’s entrance yard, as soon as a flat, grassy expanse, now options vegetation of various colours, textures and heights.

(Eduardo Contreras / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

A more in-depth look: Cathy and Mike Godfrey

Crops used:
kiwi aeonium (Aeonium ‘Kiwi’)
purple aeonium (Aeonium ‘Plum Petals’)
variegated agave (Agave attenuata ‘Variegata’)
agave (Agave victoriae-reginae)
‘Little Gem’ aloe (aloe rudikoppe)
aloe (Aloe var.)
Bunny Blue sedge (Carex laxiculmis ‘Hobb’)
small cape rush (Chondropetalum tectorum)
dracaena palm (Cordyline ‘Crimson Star’)
‘Ripple Jade’ crassula (Crassula ‘Ripple Jade’)
‘Excellent’ grevillea (Grevillea ‘excellent’)
‘Darkish Shadows’ tea tree (Leptospermum ‘Darkish Shadows’)
‘Jester’ conebush (leucadendron ‘Jester’)
elephant bushPortulacaria afra ‘Variegata’)
variegated snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata laureatii)
blue chalksticks (Senecio mandraliscae)
blue moor grassSesleria caerulea)
‘Coloration Guard’ yucca (flaccid yucca ‘Color Guard’)

A dry creek bed of colored stones winds between a small cape rush plant and small succulents that include blue chalksticks.

On the far facet of the driveway, a dry creek mattress of coloured stones winds in between a small cape rush plant and small succulents that embody blue chalksticks.

(Eduardo Contreras / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Estimated prices: $18,000 to $20,000
Who did the work: Claudia Kuepper of Gardenscapes by Claudia created the plan. Dan Barton and crew from DB Panorama did the landscaping.
How lengthy it took: One month, August 2021
Water financial savings: Modest enchancment from earlier payments of $50 to $60 a month
• If in case you have the means, utilizing a panorama designer is an efficient solution to go, as they might help you see the potential of your yard and tie all of the items collectively.
• Earlier than beginning your design, spend weekends touring round comparable neighborhoods with comparable properties to see what others do, and take images of what you want.
• Follow your imaginative and prescient. Your panorama designer will be invaluable in growing your design and establishing your imaginative and prescient. However keep on with your weapons in the event that they veer away from that.
• Propagate your vegetation as they develop, and do not be afraid to maneuver round vegetation that are not thriving to areas the place they might do higher.

Concerning the sequence
That is the second in an occasional sequence on winners of the annual WaterSmart Panorama Contest, carried out in partnership with the San Diego County Water Authority. To find out about getting into the following contest, go to

For particulars on lessons and sources via the WaterSmart Panorama Makeover Program, go to Panorama rebates can be found via the Socal WaterSmart Turf Substitute Program at

Golden is a San Diego freelance author and blogger.

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