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David Ross's Garden

The Front Yard

Copyright © 1997, 1999, 2000, 2004, 2005, 2007-2010, 2015, 2017 by David E. Ross

The front lawn is divided by a wide brick path from the porch to the sidewalk. The brick path has a jog in the middle so that it aligns with the tree at the sidewalk and with the front door at the house. On each side of the jog (in the corners out of the flow of traffic) is a potted plant: a large pot with a California fan palm (Washingtonia filifera, which I dug out of my back yard when it was still a one-leaf volunteer seedling) and a red-clay bowl with 'Goodwin Creek Grey' lavender (Lavandula lanata × dentata). Along the brick path are three low-watt light fixtures.

The lawn itself is planted with pink clover (Persicaria capitata) camera icon, a ground cover that is not actually a clover but has clover-like pink flowers. In the middle of the larger part of the lawn, I planted a Christmas heather (actually a heath, Erica canaliculata 'Boscaweniana') in honor of our daughter, Heather.

Between the sidewalk and the street, we have a parkway (sometimes called a parking strip or verge) with a large Japanese zelkova (Zelkova serrata) camera icon in the middle. At the edge of the parkway next to the driveway, our country mailbox camera icon is covered with dwarf English ivy (Hedera helix 'Hahn's'). The rest of the parkway is covered with crushed rock; under the rock is landscape cloth, which allows rain water to penetrate into the soil but blocks weed roots. Vertical pipes sunk into the soil on each side of the zelkova provides irrigation, which also reaches the ivy via a drip emitter.

Against the house in front are dwarf and compact evergreen shrubs. Immediately to the right of the front porch is a compact variety of Rhaphiolepis indica with 'Soleil d'Or' narcissus in front of the Rhaphiolepis. Beyond Rhaphiolepis, dwarf Burford holly (Ilex cornuta 'Burfordii Nana') is under the living room window. Eugenia (Syzygium paniculatum) is to the left of the porch, between the brick path and the garage door. Flanking the front porch and at the west corner of the house, there are fern pines (Podocarpus); at the east corner is a liquidambar tree (L. styraciflua) with dwarf English ivy around its base. Behind the liquidambar (along the side of my house near the front corner) are two mock oranges (Pittosporum tobira).

Along the east side — in front of my neighbor's Italian cypress — are more compact eugenia. To keep people from cutting the corners of the lawn where the driveway and brick path meet the sidewalk, I planted full-sized R. indica.

At the western property line, I have seven roses. From the sidewalk to the side gate, they increase in height:

The climber is trained along a wire rope that runs from the side of my house (above the gate to the back yard) to my neighbor's house.

Between the line of roses and the driveway, I have a large rosemary bush (Rosmarinus officinalis) at the sidewalk and a valley white oak (Quercus lobata) that I started from an acorn in 1976. This oak is now slightly taller than my two-story house and has a branch spread of 45 feet. At chest height, the trunk is 24 inches in diameter (75 inches around). In 1996 (at age 20), it started dropping acorns of its own. Around the oak, I planted coyote bush (Baccharis pilularis). It had spread and covered the area well and then mostly died out from a fungus; some plants survived, however, and are spreading again.

The oak, rosemary, and coyote bush are drought-tolerant and naturalize well in an environment with no summer water. Only the roses are watered, by a drip-irrigation system. I am sure that the roots of at least the oak have grown out to where they receive moisture when I water the roses. In the parkway on that side, I laid a brick panel with a small hole, where I planted 'Goodwin Creek Grey' lavender camera icon.

On the front porch is a large flower pot with four weeping Chinese banyans (Ficus benjamina). I think that these look grotesque when braided with all lower foliage removed (a current fashion). Mine are not braided.

I used to have a wrought iron bench on the brick path, right off the front porch. It disappeared in the fall of 1996. Since it was quite heavy (real wrought iron, not aluminum) and there were no scuff marks on the bricks, I conclude that at least a pair of thieves worked together. At that time, several such thefts — all specializing in wrought iron benches — occurred in this area. It was a very nice place to sit and wave at the neighbors. I replaced it in 1998 with an aluminum bench that looks like wrought iron, chained to an eye-bolt sunk into the path. It will not rust and is actually more comfortable than the old bench; it is large enough for my wife and I to sit together. But I still prefer the design of the old bench.


Updated 27 August 2017

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