Here's what's left of my garage. Now that the home renovation is all but complete -save for a few tweaks here and there - it's time to get cracking on the exterior. In fact, I had hoped to begin months ago. (I apologize to my neighbors for the the ongoing dust and chaos.)
Surprisingly, the landscaping bids have taken much longer than anticipated and there's no sidestepping the permit process either (not that it hadn't crossed my mind), but as the end goal is to create an outdoor room with a gas fireplace and working kitchen, it's truly short-sighted to skip this necessary step.
In addition, the surrounding yard will incorporate a bocce ball court, new driveway and security gate, stone patios, perimeter fences, retaining walls, gas lines, irrigation (including a complicated drainage plan) and lighting. In short, it's a BIG job and someone was probably going to notice had I attempted the improvements without going through the proper channels first.
None of this "hardscape" includes the comfy considerations like outdoor furniture, heaters, plant materials or the all-important Big Green Egg (yep, that's what its called) that has become the latest trending must-have for the serious outdoor griller (that would be Cliff).
Hmmmm . . . I may have already blown the budget before the masons have laid a single permeable paver, which means that our "wish list" is likely to get trimmed substantially once we get the actual bids in hand, OR alternatively, get partitioned into future phases. (Shucks.) Unless you're King Midas (and I'm not) that's the reality of most of my construction projects and regrettably, this one is just beginning . . . so suffice it to say there won't be a Fourth of July party at my house this year (but I'm open for invites, thank you very much).
In light of the sheer SCOPE of this project, it's also the first time I have ever employed a landscape architect. Enter Chris Ford of CFL design; a previous Piedmont neighbor and parent of boys - Chris is also an extremely gifted and detail-oriented landscape designer who has beautifully incorporated the design elements of our recent home renovation into the garden's master plan; thus expanding the "Cape Codness" of it all. (Yes, I meant to say that.)
Gardens aren't just sprawling lawns and shrubs any more; they are an opportunity to extend our living space and create additional rooms or vignettes that move seamlessly from indoor to outdoor living. In my experience, the home sales that surprise me the most are typically the ones that have front and back yards that have embraced the lifestyle of the home. In truth, most of us don't have the skill set to create magical gardens, but we certainly recognize and covet them when we see them: 9535skylineblvd.com.
What's more, it's downright criminal in California not to utilize our gardens to their full advantage when we can enjoy these outdoor living spaces nearly year round. Moreover, gardens - unlike houses - actually give back with blooms, harvests, scents, natural habitats and oftentimes, surprising miracles, that our homes (for better or worse) do not. A hummingbird in flight, roses that wrap and climb with abundance, a mature Japanese Maple that shades the patio perfectly, a generous vegetable garden, and a spectacular sunset that make us pause and give thanks; these are just a few of the gifts that a garden delivers routinely when we attend to it and then . . . take notice!
Finally, having just suffered an extended drought where many lawns have been rendered barren or have morphed into little more than brown patches of weeds, this is an excellent time to rethink your landscapes altogether and how you enjoy them (or don't) to their best and highest use. Sprawling lawns simply require too much precious water when the school diamond is the perfect place to practice that budding baseball swing and the playground is much more fun when it's enjoyed with friends in the public park! (In other words, we don't need grass.)
Think hardscape, think indigenous, drought-tolerant plants (I don't mean cactus). Think trees and beds. Think tomatoes and lettuces. Think about capturing your water instead of letting if freely flow into the gutters (we installed drums under our new porch that hold 2000 gallons of rainwater) and think "echo-friendly."
Don't be intimidated; your future garden is waiting and there's practically no wrong way to plant a tree (well, almost no way). But if inspiration is a problem(and let's face it, our yards are often foreign territory) a quick trip to a local nursery, botanical garden, neighborhood garden tour (see below), or a dive into Instagram, Pinterest, or Houzz will prove incredibly inspiring and educational.
Get started. I promise it will be well worth the effort and your resale value will be much improved as a bonus (not to mention the day-to-day surprises mother nature offers up to make us smile). And if you are still unsure, there are plenty of gifted, talented people to help you realize your goals, and I can happily point them in your direction!
(P.S. - If you do nothing else, plant a tree out front! Homes with street trees tend to sell for significantly more than those without. They're just friendlier!)
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Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 17 years and has published more than 650 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.