Big changes coming to the front yard

There is one side of the front yard I rarely show:


It is dominated by a Japanese mock orange hedge (Pittosporum tobira). This hedge might look decent elsewhere but here it is crammed into a 6-foot 48-foot planting strip and needs constant maintenance to keep the branches away from the sidewalk (a city requirement). The constant pruning has exposed the trunks—and ugly sight I try to ignore as much as possible.


On a positive note, the hedge does well with no supplemental water (its roots must tap into the irrigated planting beds inside the fence) and it does make our backyard very private.


In spite of that, the time has come for the hedge to go. I simply want something more attractive on that side of the property.


This project is still in a very early design stage but I know I want two main features: an Aloe ‘Hercules’, a cold-hardy tree aloe that can grow to 30 ft., plus another palo verde, probably a hybrid called ‘Sonoran Emerald’ that has a slightly bluer trunk that ‘Desert Museum’ (the hybrid we already have) and somewhat larger leaves. Like ‘Desert Museum’, it is thornless, grows quickly, and puts on a fantastic flower show in the spring.


In addition, I envision lots of agaves and desert perennials, a few desert shrubs, and an assortment of larger and smaller rocks. The focus will be on xeric plants that will look good no matter whether we’re in a drought or not.


Here is a preliminary plant list:

Plants I already have:

Agave cerulata var. nelsonii
Agave colorata
Agave deserti
var. simplex (2x)
Agave mckelveyana
Agave montana
Agave ovatifolia
Agave parrasana
Agave parryi
var. truncata
Agave pelona
Agave striata
Agave zebra
Aloe cameronii
Calylophus hartwegii
Hesperaloe parviflora
Penstemon pinifolius
Yucca queretaroensis
Yucca rostrata

Plants to buy:

Agave gentryi 'Jaws'
Aloe marlothii
Caesalpinia gilliesii
Calliandra californica
Chrysactinia mexicana
Encelia farinosa

Leucophyllum frutescens ‘Compacta’
Pedilanthus macrocarpus
Penstemon eatonii
Penstemon parryi
Salvia chamaedryoides
Sphaeralcea ambigua
Stachys coccinea
Epilobium canum

The first step is to have the hedge removed and the trunks ground out. The second step is to have a truck load of sandy soil and decomposed granite brought in to create a mound approx. 1½ ft. in height. Then the fun of sourcing the plants and creating a planting scheme can begin.

I want the project to be completed by the end of March so the plants can settle in before summer arrives. Things should start happening pretty soon.

For all posts related to this project, click here.


Front yard desert garden index


  1. always exciting to get rid of overgrown shrubs...I am struggling with similar issues here ,also in the front garden-though nothing as large as your Pittosporums-and what a nice quantity of square footage you'll reclaim !

    1. I find it hard sometimes to rip out an established plant but I truly think this change is for the better. Certainly it will be better looking!

  2. Wow that's a rapid timeline, I'm a bit jealous as I doubt my privet lands will be planted up by then.

    Look forward to the updates!

    1. You can afford to take your time but down here summer will get here faster than we'd like--plus, with this year's drought, I'd like to get the new plants established before the water runs out.

  3. Just to echo Loree, that is a rapid timeline but also impressive! Time for a big change and loving the sound of your plan, very exciting especially with that plant list! Looking forward to the progress and updates of your project :)

    1. Big change for sure--the biggest in years. I'll be sure to post updates as things happen.

  4. Exciting stuff! As the others have said, you don't waste time once you've made a decision, do you? I may take your project as inspiration to take down a large, sickly Ash in my front yard this year. I've been saying that for a few years now though...

    1. Change is good. Do it!

      I hope our hedge will be taken out next week.

  5. This is very exciting! Almost like me having my lawn removed (as if)! How inspirational! I am going to have to click on the plants to see what most of them look like. Can't wait to see your progress!

  6. Lucky lucky! Wow, what a shopping list. Sounds like a fabby plan, and I must admit I am jealous! Keep up the photos, do want to see the before and afters.


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