When my job canceled today, I knew exactly where I wanted to go before breakfast, before even the first cup of coffee. The local neighborhood prairie.
It’s something you don’t see everyday in my coastal neighborhood in Los Angeles County, where a mix of succulents are usually the first landscape choice for stylishly beating the drought. This is a very new, waterwise, lawn-to-garden conversion built around a matrix of grasses, with the eyebrow grass, Bouteloua gracilis, predominating. There are zero succulents included. The folksy, barn-red color of the bungalow and wood-and-cattle-panel fence reinforce the expression of pioneer spirit reflected in their choice of landscape.
This is prairie Southern California style. The blue against the pillars is from plumbago trained on cattle panel.
A native cypress, Cupressus macrocarpa ‘Citriodora’
Easy to tell that the house faces east.
On the south side, Pittosporum is planted along the outside of the fence near the sidewalk. The dark leaves are a Euphorbia cotinifolia. White roses are most likely ‘Iceberg.’
Young cypresses behind the fence. So this open, inviting view is only temporary until the privacy screens mature.
There’s some sort of mesh shade cloth hanging behind the bell.
The climber Solanum jasminoides will fill in here too.
Detail of cattle panel fence, last night’s party lights still lit. Paper bags as shades for battery-powered votives maybe?
I should have waited for sunrise before taking this photo, but it shows how the fence fits into the side entrance. From this side I could hear sounds in the kitchen of the household waking, so it seemed impolite to linger.
Unlike my admittedly superficial trial of the eyebrow grass, these are proving that it will thrive in Southern California. Bouteloua gracilis is the smallest of the prairie grasses. Their size sets the scale for the rest of the garden, with plants in bloom just grazing above the knee on a walk from the front door to the mailbox.
Informal paths of decomposed granite wind through the plantings. We’re often warned against using d.g. where it might be tracked indoors onto wooden floors. Maybe a shoes-off policy is a house rule here. I like that the porch paint is in the same color range as the d.g.
Among the big sweeps of eyebrow grass are also carex, phormium, lavender, caryopteris, gaura, Salvia greggii, yarrow.
And a couple clumps of the ruby grass, Melinus nerviglumis.
How much “down” time a prairie-style landscape imposes is a key issue in a climate that handles dormancy almost imperceptibly. There are many plant choices that will see a zone 10 landscape through the year without any bare soil visible at any time or need for radical haircuts. Roughly calculating, if the grasses are cut back, say, before Christmas, they’ll be making growth again in February. On the other hand, many succulents also have periods where they’re not at their best, high summer for example. Knowing the trade-offs when choosing how and with what plants to replace the front lawn is a crucial consideration. What I like about this house and garden is that it seems to know exactly what it wants.