Happy April from Desert Rose! This month's blog is the first of a three part series. In this series we are going to perform in-depth coverage of a landscape which was completed last year. We will cover each step of the transformation, which we hope will help you understand the amount of work that goes into creating a new yard. This transformation was a tricky one due the amount of materials which had to be removed as well as because of all the new materials that had to be brought to the house. In addition to these factors, the client had an upcoming art show that was going to take place at the house and the yard had to be completed before the show. With a strict deadline, plus the amount of manual labor that had to be performed, it was cutting it close, but with the hard work of our crews we were able to achieve the client’s goal. They were not only happy with the look of their new yard, but also with the fact that it was completed prior to the art show. Even though we had different crew members working on several different things, for the purpose of this blog we will start in the front yard.
The front yard had already been landscaped with a brick pathway, several plants (including low-grow sumac and ice blue junipers), and a raised flowerbed between the gate and front door. Since the brick pathway was laid in such a straight manner, it caused the yard to look squared off and unnatural, which could be improved through a couple of modifications. The first step was to remove all the brick pavers. Phil designed a pathway that created a more natural and welcoming walkway to the door. Once the bricks were removed (which was about 3 truck loads), we began to dig out the plants. We removed all of the plants to the right of the pathway and a few shrubs to the left, making sure to leave the two pinion trees alone, which were going to be incorporated into the new landscape. Even though it may seem like a simple task to remove plants, most of the time (especially if you are going to replant the area) it is very laborious. Unfortunately, it is not as simple as cutting the plant below grade (the point at which you cannot see it anymore); rather, it must be dug up with most of the roots removed from the soil so that new foliage can be planted in the same area. Once the plants were removed, we began to take out the small landscape block to the left of the door. Besides these hardscaping changes, the gravel also needed to be taken out, and likewise the fence.
Since there was a natural slope away from the door (to the left of the brick pathway), we decided to use heavy duty landscape block that is used for retaining walls (it is interlocking and extremely heavy) - this way the client would not have issues in the future with blocks falling over (as can be seen in the photo). Phil designed the entrance to the pathway to be wider than the rest of the pathway to prevent it from looking overly squared like the way it looked before we began the project. We also used the blocks to create steps down to the gate (which were topped with flagstone), as well as re-planted the flower bed to the right of the fence. In order to install the landscape block, we have to trench down, level out and tamp the trench, which helped to create a solid foundation for the block. After the block was laid out, it was time to cut the capstones to give the block a seamless look. Once this step was complete, it was time to use heavy duty landscape glue that permanently adheres the capstone to the block.
Meanwhile, several Desert Rose staff began to plant while others started cutting the flagstone for the pathway. The flagstone comes in large square pieces that usually takes 2-3 people working together just to unload it. In order to prevent every flagstone piece from looking the same, different patterns are cut to fit the pathways dimensions. This extra step makes each pathway we do one-of-a kind. After the pieces are cut and laid out, we go back and hand chisel along the cut edges of each flagstone piece to remove the squared off cut marks and complete the more natural look that creates a visually pleasing walkway.
The flagstone pieces are moved to the side and the area is leveled out, tamped several times, and sand is laid to be used as a leveler. The flagstone is then placed back onto the pathway, fit back together and leveled. The next step was to lay out weed barrier and for this, very thick weedbarrier is used for maximum durability and longevity. The weedbarrier needs to be cut around each plant and pinned to the ground to prevent it from moving while we are spreading the gravel. We used Pueblo Rose colored gravel to compliment both the dark brown stucco of the house and the light color of the flagstone. The last step of the front yard was to redo the fence; to do this we moved the gate to the center of the fence (instead of being right next to the house) to give the pathway a more balanced look. The fence was altered last to ensure it would put the gate at the proper height above the flagstone and allow it to open and close smoothly with no rubbing.
The front yard was finally complete and as you can see in the before and after pictures the transformation is stunning! Keep an eye out for next month’s blog to see how the rest of this project went!