• Jacky Surber

Before and After: From Unused to the Perfect Space for Outdoor Entertaining

outdoor seating, outdoor lighting

Why invest in a new landscape for you home? Well, if you are smart like the new owners of this adorable 1921 Spanish home located in the highly sought after San Rafael neighborhood of Pasadena, you know that the sooner you get your backyard done, the sooner you can enjoy it. This couple wasted no time after moving into this home to get their backyard ready for entertaining. They have a large extended family and their wish list included ample space for outdoor dining, lounging, shade, privacy, a space for toddlers to roll around, raised beds for vegetables and lighting.

These photos were taken about 3 months after planting, which is why the plantings don't look mature yet. Even though it is still young, I really wanted to share this backyard makeover with you, so that you can see how beautiful it is even right after planting. As you'll see in the rest of the blog post, it looks especially nice at night.

It was a really fun project because we were able to try out some new design concepts, harvest rain water, and play with one of our favorite lighting systems, Luxor from FX Luminaire. A big thank you to David Oborn at FX, who is a genius when it comes to lighting. I always run my lighting plans by him. Of course none of this would be possible without the amazing team that is Green Earth Landscapes, inc.

When I first arrived on the scene I was excited to see a blank slate that would be a perfect canvas for the clients new backyard. The fence was very distracting with the two tone paint job and there was zero shade. This client had done an amazing job renovating and decorating the interior so the exterior had to tie in with her modern aesthetic. Guided by a Pinterest board that she sent me I set to work on a layout that incorporated distinct rooms within the yard.

When the client moved in there was not a single tree or plant to speak of in the backyard. There was a very unattractive built in fireplace which we promptly removed to make way for a Geijera, or Australian Willow Tree that will grow in to block out the view of the upslope neighbor.

In this photo you can see the illuminating effects of the lighting elements we used from FX, such as two up lights on the Australian Willow tree, wash lights on the new hedge material, and path lights at the edge of the patio. All of the fixtures are LED, chosen in the the Bronze Metallic finish, which blends into the planting areas really nicely. The Bistro String lights are from Light Craft, an awesome local lighting company in Chatsworth, California. Their LED Lamps that we installed on the Bistro String Light Strands use about 1/10th of incandescent bulbs, saving electricity and lowering the homeowners electric bill. With the FX Luxor system we were able to connect the string lights so that they can also be controlled from the clients smart phones.

firepit, outdoor seating

Here is a close up picture of the lounge area. One of the best landscape design tips I have ever learned for making spaces appear bigger and cleaner, is to paint the fence or walls a dark color. Tom Stout from Stout Design Build taught me this. It makes the garden look larger at night, since the fence seems to blend in with the shadows as night falls. Here it makes a gorgeous backdrop for crisp white furniture surrounding the gas fire table and light colored stone pebbles.

At the back of the house is the master bedroom. It gets hot afternoon sun, so we designed a pergola that will support vines to provide shade in the summer and sun in the winter when the vines go dormant and loose their leaves. In the next phase of the design build-out the homeowners will replace the windows with french doors so that they can enjoy the garden view even more.

drought tolerant grass lawn

Wisteria and edible grape vines will soon cover this metal shade structure, creating an inviting green room, which will help to cool the home in the late afternoon. Eventually when the french doors are installed the door to the right (not visible in this photo) of the pergola will be closed up and the blank wall below the small bathroom window will have a water feature installed. You may be wondering about the lawn. This was a California native meadow grass seed purchased from Theodore Payne. It will grow in to be a lush, low water, low mow lawn.

outdoor lighting, string lights

The pendant light that hangs from the pergola is also connected to the Luxor lighting system, so it can be programmed to turn on and off at different times, and can be dimmed. Even the raised beds are illuminated so that the clients can harvest herbs and vegetables in the evenings.

We aim to recycle demolition waste when we can, and for this project we broke up the damaged driveway and used it to create a recycled concrete patio, or as some folks call it recrete, or urbanite. In stead of pouring a new driveway, we installed Eco Rain Drainage Cells, topped with small pebbles. This product allows a larger volume of water to be absorbed into the earth when it rains, preventing run off that would otherwise wash into storm drains polluting the ocean. I'm proud to say that because of this permeable driveway and many other sustainable best practices employed in this garden transformation, this garden meets all of the requirements of the Ocean Friendly Garden Program. Check out Surfriders fantastic program here. Not visible in these photos is a rain garden, or swale behind the garage, which you can read about in this blog post and rain barrels which I have in my store.

outdoor lighting, raised beds

The broken concrete patio is a space for entertaining; during parties the dining table can be pulled away from the wall, with chairs added it can seat up to 10 people. The driveway can also double as overflow space for additional dining tables as needed.

Before we started this garden renovation, the driveway was nothing special, so we tore it up and repurposed the concrete for a patio in another location.

We planted a new hedge with up lights, replaced the broken concrete with a permeable pebble surface, and mounted a shade sail. Now when the homeowners want to have a really big party they can park their car on the street and have a lot more space for friends.

Before the fence was a distraction. We planted a fast growing hedge and vines that will quickly provide privacy.

raised beds, vegetable beds, edible garden

By placing the raised beds where we did, they get full sun which is ideal for a big harvest. Equally important, is that it is in the perfect location, by one of the main entries to the home, where they can see their crops growing every morning on their way to work and harvest when they get home in the evenings. They are also closer to the kitchen than any alternative locations for a kitchen garden in this backyard. Here are my best tips for locating and preparing your vegetable garden for success: 1) Full Sun 2) Convenient location close to the kitchen and where you will walk by it everyday 3) Great soil 4) Drip irrigation. With these tips in mind you're sure to have abundant crops. If you want more garden advice, check out the books in my store, they are linked to Amazon so you can add them to your wish list or order them now and get motivated for summer gardening.

I really enjoyed sharing this garden with you and hope that you are inspired to get out and work on your backyard now. Please let me know if I can answer any questions about this project, send me a message and I will get back to you. Thank you so much for reading!

#beforeandafter #outdoorlighting #outdoorentertaining #raisedbeds #ediblegarden

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