When a neighbor gives you free reign of her front yard

In my last post I showed you landscape designer Troy McGregor's personal garden in Martinez, CA. With permission from a neighbor across the street, Troy has planted a variety of Australian shrubs in her front yard. What an opportunity, not only to give your neighbor something attractive to look at, but also to trial plants you wouldn't have room for on your own property!

Up against the house, the existing plantings—lemons, pelargoniums, and the like—remain. They look like they've been here for decades. In fact, they give the house a fairy-tale quality, as if some 1950s version of Sleeping Beauty lives here.

In the middle of what used to be the front lawn is a tree that looked strangly familiar:

It's Eucalyptus 'Moon Lagoon'! Specifically, it's what happens when the juvenile shrub we all love grows into an adult.

As you can see below, 'Moon Lagoon' has two completely different types of leaves. The bluish juvenile leaves are what 'Moon Lagoon' is usually grown for. To keep them from being replaced with  adult leaves, you need to keep the shrub pruned so it essentially never grows up. 

Juvenile leaves on the right, adult leaves on the left

Now let's look at some grevilleas, arguably the stars of the show:

Grevillea 'Robyn Gordon'

Grevillea 'Superb'

Grevillea 'Royal Mantle'

Grevillea 'Poorinda Signet'

Grevillea 'King's Celebation'

Grevillea 'King's Celebration'

LEFT: Grevillea 'Wakiti Sunrise' (not in flower)  RIGHT: Grevillea fililoba

In a game of Where's Waldo?, Banksia pulchella or Banksia meissneri hiding in the grass on the left. On the right: Banksia blechnifolia.

Aeonium and Banksia blechnifolia

Another shrub Troy pointed out was Leptospermum turbinatum 'Flat Rock', a tea tree with much larger flowers than the leptospermum we typically see in nurseries and gardens.

Leptospermum turbinatum 'Flat Rock'

Troy sent me this photo of the same plant in full bloom. It was taken two weeks after I visited. Photo by Troy McGregor.

Leptospermum turbinatum 'Flat Rock' and Grevillea nudiflora

Growing in and under the tea tree is Grevillea nudiflora, surely the oddest member of the genus. I bought one myself at UC Santa Cruz a few months ago because it looks to be a really useful groundcover.

Grevillea nudiflora

The plantings along the sidewalk mirror the plant choices in Troy's front yard, especially the billowing lomandras. Agave 'Blue Glow' looks right at home here.

Lomandras, aeoniums, and Agave 'Blue Flame'

And a final bonus: the house next to the neighbor's house. A completely different look that may be a bit more polarizing, depending on whether you like palm trees or not. I quite like it and can't wait to see what it will turn into as the palms mature.


  1. Very cool selections!
    Referring to the final pic there, I wonder why so many people pollard their trees around here (what looks like a Mulberry above)? Is it to keep them more compact? Our Mulberry in our backyard has a massive spread and provides critical shade in the Summer, but I guess in a small yard it could look out of place.
    Also, any thoughts/feelings on Washingtonia palms Gerhard? I find at the above stage and mid sized they are just perfect, but once they take on their 'pom-pom on a stick' adult form they are a little tatty from the wind and insubstantial. I find the equally popular Phoenix palms are much more effective and dramatic, though slower growing and requiring of much more horizontal space.

  2. Planting up neighbors' yards (or at least getting them to plant themselves) is such a great way to not only extend your own garden in a sense, but to improve the whole neighborhood! (Plus it makes yours look less out of place). Now if I could just get more neighbors to plant bamboo... ;)

  3. I didn't know that Eucalyptus 'Moon Lagoon's' leaves changed as the tree matured - that's a useful lesson! Thanks for the tour, Gerhard, although I find I now "need" a Leptospermum 'Flat Rock'...It looks as if it needs a lot of room, however.

  4. I felt really uncomfortable walking around in the neighbor’s garden, but Troy said she didn’t care. Nobody was home I think. The plants were great, especially when I started seeing ones I’ve recently planted.

  5. He's done a fantastic job! Getting to do your neighbours is not only an extension of space to play but an opportunity that adjacent or nearby yards plant coordinate.

  6. The photos of juvenile and adult foliage of 'Moon Lagoon' are instructive, but I hope the juvenile sprouts are regularly pruned off, because they're really not a good look on the mature tree.

  7. What a treat to have a neighbor's garden to plant so beautifully.

  8. I sort of wish I could plant my neighbor's yards. That is cool/fun he was able to do that.

    The G. nudiflora is similar to 'Medusa'? My 'Medusa' has been slow growing but is doing well. There was a huge one at the UC Santa Cruz BG. Grevilleas can be as addictive as Agaves!


Post a Comment