- Low maintenance
“The secret to any water-smart garden,” says Grace, “is playfulness. Play with plant textures and beautiful mulches. And keep the plantings undemanding.” Which these certainly are. “It takes two guys a half-day once a month to tidy the grasses and refresh mulch,” says Grace. Most of the plants need irrigating only during August through October. For the other nine months
of the year, the irrigation is turned off for everything but the fruit trees.
- Lawn alternative
Rich green Myoporum parvifolium carpets the area closest to the front door. Native to Australia, it grows 3 to 6 inches tall and spreads to 9 feet, but doesn’t stand up to foot traffic.
- Permeable paving
Stone slabs with Mexican beach pebbles between them create a wide, sinuous path to the front door.
- Un-thirsty shrubs
Prostrate rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Irene’) spills over the low sandstone wall. Nearby, ‘Hidcote’ and ‘Munstead’ English lavender pump out wands of fragrant blooms in late spring.
Lemon trees (and a small lime tree, nearby) need more water than the other plants; they’re on their own irrigation schedule.
- Open spaces
Pockets of the 25- by 80-foot front yard are unplanted, reducing the total area needing water. Grace dressed them with California Gold gravel, then topped them with sandstone boulders.
Blond Mexican feather grass dances in breezes. Near wild land where it’s a weedy nuisance, try similar Slender Veldt Grass (sold as Pennisetum spathiolatum)—“the closest I’ve found to it,” says Grace.
- Shade trees
Sycamore trees shade the house during the summer months. Native to California where they grow near streams, “they’re high-water use but low demand,“ says Grace. “During drought, they sleep.”