Houses on hilly sites have extra challenges for the gardener (not to mention the builder), but they also make it easy to achieve privacy by putting in masses of plants which obscure the view upward. I particularly liked this crazy-quilt of plants on a corner house, using wild fennel, madia, and what looks like a cycad. (Any identifications or corrections welcome.) There were also nasturtiums and other plants with varying textures, colors, and shapes.
This house combined a water-hungry lawn with drought-tolerant native ceanothus, so it might be called a kind of halfway-house xeriscaping. (Ceanothus comes in a bajillion varieties and tends to hybridize in the wild, so I’m unsure if this is wild or a cultivar.)
A water-wise variation on the double-hedge theme was this salvia with what looks like a bronze yucca behind it. I liked the contrast of shapes and colors with the house behind. A small rise adds extra privacy.
Another house protected its privacy with a courtyard entrance, but flanked it with water-saving plants that make it attractive to passers-by.
I wish I knew this embers-of-orange plant’s identity; it’s a surreal kind of plant. It’s on one side of the garage door.
On the other side of the garage door, near the gateway to the courtyard, is this grapevine. I don’t know if they get any grapes off this vine, but it’s a refreshing change from the ornamentals you often see, and a hardy, low-care vine. While grapes take a fair amount of water if you want fruit (wild grapes grow near creeks and in damp hollows), the vine can get along without copious watering once it’s established, as I can personally testify.
I especially liked this tiny withy-bed of succulents, on the other side of the garage. It was maybe six inches by a foot and a half, a beautiful use of miniscule space.
There’s still plenty of evidence that a lot of people in LA neither know nor care where their water comes from, but I was happy to see a lot more water-saving plants than I have in the past.
This house is fortunate in its privacy: it can combine the double-hedge technique with the plants-on-a-hill technique. They’ve also got enough room to squeeze a tree in there, using three of the privacy techniques I saw on this walk.
OK, bougainvillea may be a cliché in frost-free areas, but I still love it. No matter how many times I see it, I still enjoy all its variations of red against this privacy fence, and the white wall beneath it.
This older-planting tree is probably left over from a time when the neighborhood was a collection of modest working-class houses. I liked the way grass had taken residence in one of its many knotholes. It was limbed up high, so it was hard to get close to the leaves to see what kind it was. The leaves are hard and shiny, almost like some kind of live oak, but not like any kind I know. Can anyone identify it?
This green-on-green combination is a refreshing privacy hedge in the LA glare, but definitely not xeriscaping. It could be worse: ivy, azaleas, and what looks like agapanthus aren’t huge water hogs.
None of the plants surrounding this shady staircase is unusual, but they’re combined in a way that creates a satisfying sense of protection. As you walk under the big tree that overhangs it all, you get a momentary sensation of being secluded in a woods, or maybe a back lot, before you’re back out on the bright sidewalk again.
JUNE: A MONTH TO HONOR WATER
In a way, my whole blog is about low-water gardening; that’s the reason I got involved with tulips, and I already loved natives and Mediterranean herbs. During June, my posts will all be about conserving water in the garden. This gives me scope to cover everything from containers to cityscapes, soil to site to sprays, and of course portraits of more of those stellar plants that spread their glories with little or no watering. (Hint: the “Wild Plants” category will give you quite a few more; so will the “Bulbs” category.)