Amy D's Property
Yucca Valley, CA.
Amy's property is super rich with diverse native flora - much of it is properly wild. She wanted to enhance the native plantings, add more outdoor social space, build an outdoor spa, a labyrinth and a medicinal herb garden. She wanted more privacy from the road and neighbors, but to retain the expansive feeling of the yard and her gorgeous views. She also had flooding concerns that needed to be addressed with the water pooling next to her driveway and house. The other distinguishing factor is the large amount of Joshua Trees on her property - which means we have to be very careful where to build and plant things because they are a protected species and everything needs to be 15-20 feet away from them.
Privacy: I started by recommending a variety of solutions for privacy. Amy wanted visual privacy but did not want to block the huge variety of wildlife that loves to frolic on her property. My solution was to stagger alternating privacy panels along the front road with enough space for a coyote to get through. We landed on metal panels made of weathering steel for the front yard that will be really deeply planted and cemented to prevent the wind taking them down. In front of each panel I have showy shrubs to contrast against the weathering steel. For the backyard, she only has one neighbor that needed a little more privacy screenings to frame the view, so I landed on some tall shoestring acacias (wonderful evergreen 50'+ trees that are super drought tolerant and have beautiful fluffy flowers in the summer) to block the larger neighboring house.
Flooding & Erosion: Next, I tackled the flooding issue. During heavy rains, water flows onto her property from the east - you can see the flow outlined in blue below. It travels quickly without being absorbed specifically along the disturbed sand road-like pathways. I suggested planting deeply rooted native trees and shrubs in a switchback pattern using boomerang swales and berms (dug down basins lined with an elevated lip facing down hill) that trees are planted either in the middle of or on the berm depending on their water tolerance. This slows down, spreads out and "plants" the flow of water from the start. Then, I suggested narrowing the very wide dirt road as much as possible by planting more shrubs. For the remaining road (needed to access the septic tank in back by trucks) I recommended a series of rollout berms and dip swales. These work by slowing down the water flow and draining out of the bottom of the dips. The aim is that by the time the water reached the house, it has been significantly reduced and planted to nourish the flora. Next to her driveway and house the water generally pools in a deep puddle. To solve this I recommended adjusting the level of the dirt parking areas so that the lower point is against the creosote scrub instead of the house. Against the driveway, we are going to create a rain garden. Rain gardens are essentially deep gravel or mulch pits surrounded by a subterranean planted terrace. The effect looks like a pond full of trees and plants. The water lands in the deep pit and the terraced plants around it drink the water with their roots. We will use a native desert willow for this because they have deep tap roots and are found in washes in the wild.
Labyrinth: Amy loves norse runes! She bought the property partly because rain water flows in spirals in the font yard, which stuck her as spiritually compelling. She wanted a labyrinth in her front yard. She also had requested a medicinal and kitchen herb garden. I decided to combine all of these desires into a labyrinth in the shape of the Othala rune, a symbol of gathered energy with the outer border planted with medicinal herbs and the intersection closest to the front door planted with kitchen herbs (these should always be the most accessible). The labyrinth will be lined with locally quarried boulders and in the center will be a large boulder to sit on in contemplation.
Front Porch: Amy's front porch gets no sun at all. That can be a very good thing in the summer and makes it a prime hangout spot. I added two fan palms in containers to go in the back. They can handle shade, low humidity, frost and high heat. Then we explored basket chairs - something that you can curl up in and that maybe rocks. To frame the porch I added wall mounted succulents - hanging pearls and bananas. Planted immediately in front I added aloe vera and a variety of mint. I also added a cement slab to make the direct access to the front porch flow better.
Outdoor Spa: I created an outdoor spa area complete with a shower, sauna and freestanding bathtub. The spa will be enclosed in a fence for privacy with open air windows cut to frame specific views. The areas with open air windows will be custom-made steel privacy panels. Additionally, a reflexology path will be incorporated into the design in a way that is accessible but not required to stand on it. The spa will be just outside the area her bedroom opens onto the back yard via beautiful french doors that will replace the window.
Outdoor Kitchen & Roofdeck: I designed an industrial modern outdoor covered kitchen and dining area with a roof deck to further absorb the view. Stylistically it will mix industrial materials like weathering steel and concrete with rustic textures like wood. In the kitchen area there will be a long table that seats 6-8 guests. The prep area will have either open air or big windows to frame the expansive view. The sink will drain into a grey water system. The roof deck will have one part with removable shade and one part for star gazing.
Pool: Amy wanted a small pool to relax in with shade cover in the summer. I designed an 8'x8' pool with a seat along all sides and a pergola overhead that has removable shade cloths. Surrounding the pool are decorative plantings of cacti in varied colors and the beautiful desert globe mallow.
Meditation Platform: Amy wanted an area to do yoga and meditation that is separate from her live/work space. So I placed an elegant covered platform in the spot with wondrous to the Northeast of the property. Eventually the concept is for this to be an earth ship house built out of sand bags and adobe using Earth Bags.
It was an absolute joy to work with Amy and I can't wait to see this all come to life!