Rockin’ the Landscape in Oak Knolls, Tehachapi
Before & After
One of my clients in the Oak Knolls area asked if we could work together to create the right balance of plants and hardscape to achieve the easy care, water thrifty oasis they were dreaming about. In response to their wish list a design was created that included a brick edged concrete path around the house, and planting beds mulched with gravel, and some boulders as focal points and as accents. The existing landscape timber retaining walls bring just the right rustic feel to the space, keeping it a good mix of formal and informal elements. Already on site was large gray gravel that we were going to keep and repurpose. We also opted to bring in another, smaller gravel with gold and brown tones to bring in some contrast and break it up visually.
By keeping a ratio of about 60% open spaces to 40% planting areas the landscape feels open and serene, but not stark or sterile. One of the common mistakes in using gravel and rock is to just install huge amounts of it without breaking it up in any way. When used like that there is nothing pretty or interesting about it. But with a little planning it can really be a satisfying medium to work with. Pathways and beds edged with a contrasting or matching ribbon of brick, concrete or other edging material can bring it to life, allowing the eye to flow with the landscape and land on interesting elements along the journey.
Using mostly evergreen plants is a strategy that helps the yard look good year round. Many plants were chosen for their multi-functional personality. Spirea ‘Magic Carpet’ has red tinged new growth in spring, followed by pink sprays of flowers and then red and orange fall color. Rock roses have a pleasing evergreen presence year round but the brilliant pink flowers of the variety ‘Sunset’ (Cistus x pulverulentus ‘Sunset’) bring their cheerful presence to the garden spring and summer. Lavender was chosen for it’s tough constitution, silvery evergreen foliage and long bloom time in the summer as well as it’s lovely fragrance. Smoke Tree brings some height to the garden and has deep purple leaves, smoky pink flowers in spring and then really puts on a show in fall with brilliant red-orange leaves. It really responds well to pruning, so although it could reach fifteen feet or more, it is easily kept to a manageable size. “Paul’s Scarlet’ Hawthorn is the other small tree (small being defined as under thirty feet tall) in the landscape. It has beautiful pink rose bud type sprays of flowers in spring that turn into red berries that the birds love in late summer. Chaste Bush and Butterfly Bush have a long bloom time in Summer, with similar looking blooms that attract butterflies, Humming Birds and Hawk Moths.
To balance and anchor all the colorful shrubs and trees there is a Bay Leaf shrub with those large leaves that give their delicious flavor to soups and stews as well as Mugo Pine shrubs whose pine needle texture is quite pleasing. Evergreen Blue Oat Grass picks up, and repeats the silver foliage color of the Lavender and lends its stripy texture to the garden. All this, and every single plant is deer resistant too.