Two Walnut Creek neighbors embrace water-wise landscaping

A couple of Saturdays ago, I went to Walnut Creek for the Ruth Bancroft Garden's 2018 Local Garden Tour. I had the opportunity to visit three out of four water-wise gardens. One was Brian's garden, which I showed you in this post. Today I'll take you to the two other.

These two gardens are located right next to each other. What's more, they were designed/overhauled by Laura Hogan of Arid Accents and, as a result, have a cohesive look you rarely see in two neighboring properties. The front yards' limited plant palette combining rocks with agaves, grasses and silver-leaved perennials is an effective foil for the streamlined architecture of the 1960s Eichler-style homes.

House #1 

The agaves in the front yard of garden #1 were moved from the backyard where they had outgrown their space. A great cost-effective way to create something new with what you already have!

Instead of packing each square inch with plants, like I would do, Laura has given the feature plants enough room to breathe—and our eyes blank space to rest. I find the resulting minimalist design quite elegant even though I could never achieve it in my own garden. 

Enclosed front patio of house #1

Agave americana var. marginata between house #1 and 2. The entrance to the backyard of house #1 is behind the orange tree.

House #1: side yard leading to backyard. Tecoma stans 'Orange Jubilee' (left), Agave americana (right)

Protea 'Pink Ice' (left), Agave 'Blue Glow' (center), Adenanthos sericeus (right)

View towards backyard

Raised flower/vegetable bed

"Mostly native" meadow in the backyard. The "lawn" is seashore bent grass (Agrostis pallens).

With its muted palette, the backyard is a tranquil space to relax

The metal giraffe in the far corner was definitely a surprise!

House #2 

The front yard of house#2 is a seamless continuation of next door. Here Laura planted a trio of Agave ovatifolia (including one 'Vanzie'), Agave 'Matteo', Agave parrasana, and Agave ×leopoldii 'Hammer Time'. The major design element that ties both properties together, in addition to the plant palette, is the top dressing Laura chose: a rock mix called "brown base." Unlike gravel, which is rounded and tends to shift, brown base consists of tiny sharp-edged pieces that interlock, forming a solid layer that is easy to walk on and doesn't wash away in a downpour.

Agave ovatifolia 'Vanzie'

Agave parrasana 'Fireball'

The fire feature makes this a nice place to sit even on a cool evening

Potted Agave americana var. marginata in the side yard of house #2

Monkey See, Monkey Do

Nicely bonsai'd jade plant (Crassula ovata)

Aloe barbadensis (the "original" aloe vera). The homeowners were giving away offsets and I couldn't resist.

Lavender, manzanita, agave, dymondia: ideal plants for a sun-drenched yard

Creeping manzanita (probably a cultivar of Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) merging with a carpet of Dymondia margaretae

Another major feature is the vegetable garden occupying the other side yard. The raised beds are built to last, and they're being put to good use. These homeowners are definitely serious about their vegetables!

The strawberry boxes on top of this sturdy table (salvaged from a Korean restaurant) have a reservoir in the bottom. Capillary mats deliver the water from the reservoir to the roots.


Unfortunately, I ran out of time and didn't make it to the fourth garden on the tour: my friend Anna's lawn-to-garden conversion. I'll be sure to feature it in a future post. I've already shown you her amazing backyard filled with dozens of creatively repurposed containers for her succulent collection.

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  1. Two beautifully done gardens. Like you, I admire such restraint but could never pull it off in my own garden because there are simply too many wonderful plants that want to come home with me. (Nice way of saying we're plant sluts.)

  2. I like these gardens, but something just feels off. Maybe it's just that there's too much bare ground for me...

  3. That is so rare to have two sympatico properties. Love the veg garden too. I stay away from the americana agaves but have been noticing around town a lot of variation in the marginatas, in striping and depth of color. Maybe I should pay closer attention and start a little collection -- potted of course!

  4. The task of moving large agaves like those in the house #1 garden is impressive in itself!
    Both gardens are well-done with enough difference to express a different personality while not clashing with one another. I've been thinking that some of my own spaces are in need of simplification but I don't think I'm capable of leaving large gaps between plants - I may settle for using larger specimens and more repetition instead.

  5. The front gardens are great at a glance or drive-by, but a little too close to the "zeroscape" look for me. But there's room for some creeping or finer-textured plants in seasons to come, without sacrificing the design intention.

  6. The backyard of the 2nd garden seems to me the most successful. I love minimalism but it is tough to pull off. As others said, something seems missing. The 1st one--maybe several big bold boulders would do it. Those specimen stones--too small.

  7. Some very clever design in all those good gardens. The 1st with the large agaves spotted throughout is giving me ideas for my back...


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