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Selecting a Theme for Your Landscaping

Example of a lush and organic themed landscape with grass for a "cooling" affect. Photo taken at the Huntington Library.

Much like all things in design, picking a landscape theme is subjective.  I start with a few basic questions.  Desert or Lush?  Structured or organic (more natural).  If the yard is large enough you can transition from one style to another replicating how landscape changes in nature with a gradual transition.  The location and style of the house has a lot to do with selecting the proper landscape theme.  If your home is against a mountain amongst the natural desert topography I like to take advantage of this attribute and make the house appear to be in its natural desert setting.  The house appears to sit within a complete natural desert landscape which envelopes the house.  Large boulders can be brought in to reinforce the natural desert elements in close proximity to the structure.  The pool can also take on a more organic look as if it is a natural oasis nestled within the boulders.

If a desert theme is not the preferred theme, a more lush effect can be achieved with grass areas and an abundance of trees.  With a current big push for water conservation, the use of grass is still an option but in a more limited application. Grass creates a “cooling” affect with its lush green color.  Large areas of sand or decomposed granite (“DG”) looks unfinished and always in need of primping.  To further the organic theme, mounding the soil in key areas and layering of plants from low to medium to tall against the perimeter walls creates a more natural affect.

Example of a desert theme. What I found interesting was how the cacti are planted close together as opposed to separated as individual featured specimens. This creates a more realistic natural effect.

Often times a home may have an existing landscape.  When possible I utilize existing plants and trees which save money and provide mature trees.  Although this locks you in to a theme, you still can do a lot of editing and adding to your theme.

Going to the local nursery is a great way to get ideas as you can see what plants are grown in your area. Choose your theme carefully since once it is executed represents a large investment and cannot be easily undone or changed.