Article by Nan Sterman, copyrighted material, used with permission of the author,
Photography by Will Gullette, © Copyright 2003.
For many years the front yard was just like all the other front yards in Dayna's University City neighborhood -- a well-kept expanse of flat lawn surrounded by lollipop trees, sculpted shrubs, hedges and an outsized bird of paradise. The mix of plant materials did not appeal to her. The garden was too thirsty, too controlled and too much work.
"Living in (what is) practically a desert and trying to grow something so dependent on a commodity we don't have -- water -- never really made sense to me", Hydrick says.
A native toyon (Heteromeles xx) and a wispy acacia border the dry streambed that winds through the front yard of Hydrick's garden in University City.Photo Below:
A flagstone path passes by the lavender blooms of Cleveland sage (Salvia clevelandii), a San Diego County chaparral native.
At first Hydrick, with help from her husband, tried to work with the existing landscape, removing hedges, trees and other unwanted plants to give the yard a more naturalistic look. Her work helped but Hydrick was not satisfied. Then she suffered a severe asthma attack after weeding the circle of front lawn. Subsequently she discovered she was allergic to grass.
"I found late in life that I was allergic to 12 items -- all varieties of grass."
Her husband, it turned out, also has an allergic reaction to grass.
"Both of us got sick whenever we went out there", she says. "He'd be out there mowing and we'd both feel awful."
So, the grass had to go. The chance to start over prompted Hydrick to think about her values and how much time she wanted to spend in her garden. Eventually, she decided to get rid of work-intensive plants along with the high-maintenance water-sucking lawn. She removed everything and established a goal to create a free-flowing, naturalistic look to her 35-by-35-foot front yard.
"THIS GARDEN PROVES THAT YOU CAN SAVE WATER BY PROVIDING ALTERNATIVES TO GRASS-ONLY FRONT LAWNS AND CREATE AN ENVIRONMENT THAT IS PLEASING TO LOOK AT" -- juror Mark Schroeder
Today a dry streambed of rocks and boulders winds through Hydrick's front garden. A dry growing acacia tree and a native toyon serve as focal points. More California natives and a collage of other drought-tolerant plants line the beds and cover a series of mounds that provide relief and add to the illusion of the streambed. A curved flagstone walkway winds toward the front entry and into a private courtyard. A purple arbor, whimsical art pieces, birdbaths and rustic pots add character and variety.
"It took me a while to find the right balance," Hydrick says. Some plants grew larger than expected and had to be moved or replaced. Others were planted at a time of year when they struggled to make it through to the next season. With time and experience, Hydrick found the right mix. Her garden boasts an impressive list of plants, many of them California natives. Last year, her garden became a Backyard Wildlife Habitat certified by the National Wildlife Federation.
Above: Red, Yellow and Orange tones from Gaillardia x and California poppy highlight Hydrick's garden.
The other jurors comments were: Good use of drought-resistant placed material with rotating color throughout year. Nicely designed streambed. -- Pat Welsh. Good use of vegetative color and use of landscape material for a small front yard. Good curb appeal. -- David G. Strickland.
I tried to keep this looking as much like the original article in the magazine. It ran in September 2003's issue of San Diego Home/Garden Lifestyles magazine. If you'd like to see the original article from the magazine, I scanned it so you can. Just download the .pdf here
. (be patient, it's a big file!)