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MMWD Blog: Think Blue Marin

Welcome to our blog! Written by staff at MMWD, “Think Blue Marin” explores all things water in south and central Marin—water supplies, conservation, new projects, watershed management, and more.

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Nov 10


Posted on November 10, 2016 at 3:29 PM by Ann Vallee

by Charlene Burgi

new backyard
New backyard design—
minus the lawn
I spent this past weekend at my daughter and son-in-law's beautiful home in Petaluma. Lynette and Jeff recently decided to eliminate their backyard lawn and create a wonderful, Mediterranean outdoor-living space. The new space is more inviting for venturing forth out-of-doors and can accommodate the larger gatherings they tend to entertain.

Their new design included a stone patio and arbor in place of the thirsty lawn. They opted to tuck succulents into the sloping garden strip between the back fence and patio to further reduce their outdoor water consumption and garden maintenance. 

Succulents are an excellent choice for achieving a Mediterranean look. The thick leaves of water-retaining succulents remind us of a lush yet arid environment. In Lynette and Jeff's garden, the various shades of greens, grays and almost white as well as the various shapes and sizes of the succulents encourage the eye to play on the planting area. Small boulders further accentuate and highlight the area. The focal point, yet to be constructed, is a small-scale disappearing waterfall to produce the soothing sounds of water, yet capture the low-maintenance theme they have created.

As we toured the garden, the question arose if their specific succulents are susceptible to frost damage? A very good question, indeed! Surprisingly, some succulents such as Sedum 'Autumn Joy' or Sedum spurium 'Dr. John Creech' can withstand even the subfreezing weather found here in Lassen, while other succulents melt at the mere mention of cold. It’s important to do your research.

succulents and other plantings
Succulents and other plantings
The research to answer Lynette's questions regarding the frost-tolerance for their chosen succulents opened up another can of worms, so to speak. What is the difference between cacti, succulents, and sedum or stonecrop? I learned they can all be classified as succulents--in some fashion. All the aforementioned plants have thick, fleshy leaves or stems that retain water in arid climates, though they can come from different biological families. But the research was convoluted as I read—now quoting—"Botanically, all cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti. (In other words, all cacti have the characteristic of retaining water in thickened and fleshy parts of their structure, but not all plants with succulent characteristics are classified as cacti.)" With that, I did learn one could write their dissertation on this subject. 

Lynette and Jeff's garden will be an oasis for their entertaining lifestyle. The garden draws you out for the ambiance and experience. Better yet are the simple maintenance and water savings they will enjoy by their design. If you're considering replacing your own lawn, check out the State of California turf replacement rebates.


Anonymous User
November 11, 2016 at 2:59 PM
Why are the suggestions for the week that has already ended, i.e., Suggstions for week ending 11-11-2016 and today is 11-11-16?. Karen Klingel
Ann Vallee
November 14, 2016 at 12:58 PM
Thank you for your question, Karen. The Weekly Watering Schedule is based on soil moisture depletion over the past week. Thus the schedule you mention is based on the data from the “week ending 11-11-16.” If you follow the watering schedule, each week when you irrigate you’ll be replenishing the soil moisture lost during the previous week. Thanks to the healthy rains we’ve received this fall, at this time we recommend suspending irrigation for the season.

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