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My big reduce lawn renovation: before and after!

For years, we’ve planned to install large stone paths where our feet pound the soil every day. Intent turns into action when grass-killing drought prods inertia. Although I’ve hauled a ton of stones in my car, this time I turned to designer Mark Biechler and his team from Pearson Landscape Design to take stone work to a level beyond my expertise, my car, and my back!

digging out grass with Pearson Landscape Design

In January, here’s the spot that bugged us every time we headed to the driveway. Really bugged us when the grass was dead.


What a transformation! The established plants transformed themselves from project day Feb. 12 to a few weeks later.


From the other side:

On the next free weekend, I’ll dig up more weeds around the tree and simply mulch it. Eventually, I’ll divide plants from the bed to unify the path. Oh: the blank spot in the left bed has a healthy stand of asters coming back from their pruning when I took this picture.

Moving around back, here’s another well-traveled path (rowcover at half-mast at that time to protect cilantro in case of crazy freeze).

lawn replace

Here’s the view from the garden side.

stone path (c) Linda Lehmusvirta

So, okay, I did pick up a few billbergias from Tillery Street Plant Company to try them out. For now, I’ve mainly pulled out the rock edging and either dug weeds or covered them with newspaper and mulch until I divide plants or add new ones. The resident winecups will cover a lot of ground pretty fast.

Rounding the corner, I quickly divided some of the no-mow monkey grass that thrives next to the garbage cans, and pulled some Bouncing Bets (Saponaira officinalis) from the crape bed. I dug into the newspaper weed barrier, and set them in. In one week, the Bets were bouncing!

garden renovation with divided plants (c) Linda Lehmusvirta
Really, it all didn’t look so awful before. And the stretch alongside the den window wasn’t always so miserable. But drought, ball throw with dog, and our feet took their toll.

lawn replace (c) Linda Lehmusvirta

For two years, we’ve talked about what we’d do. Mark helped us decide!

lawn replace with stone pathway (c) Linda Lehmusvirta

Once the stones were in, I widened the beds and did the newspaper/mulch routine. When I pulled out the edging stones, I put a layer of decomposed granite underneath so maybe they won’t sink so much. I’ll be dividing crowded plants to fill in the new spaces, though I think some (like the lamb’s ears and skullcaps) will take care of it themselves. Obviously, a lot of plants are out of control, but I’ve been dealing with that!

den path after stonework (c) Linda Lehmusvirta

About the dead grass strip: we’re exploring options. For me, it’s easier to visualize once I’ve cleared the space.


The view from the other side shows off Greg’s oyster shell sculpture, moved out from its former residence closer in. Greg gave it a new look with a “river” of Mexican black river rocks.  They’re a luxury, but his idea was priceless.

stone path with oyster shell sculpture (c) Linda Lehmusvirta
So, then, I suggested we continue the “river” theme on the other side. For this, he scavenged some of my holey rocks that were hidden in the garden. We really did this for the cats, don’t you know. Oops, our newspaper is showing!

Sam on holey rock sculpture (c) Linda Lehmusvirta

Mark’s stones really make the central bed stand out. At their edges, I dug out weeds and spread more decomposed granite.  In the front, I planted native frogfruit (Phyla nodiflora) to soften the stones and attract butterflies and bees with its eventual flowers.

stone path with crape and mountain laurel bed (c) Linda Lehmusvirta

Since this picture, I dug out that weedy patch on the right and went shopping again in my garden. I took cuttings of Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’ and stuck them in. I figure that silver will show up at night from every path.

Here’s the strip to the back, always an awkward place to mow and trim since the summer kiddie pool lives within the rock border on the right.

path to patio before (c) Linda Lehmusvirta new stone path to patio (c) Linda Lehmusvirta

At the back, for years I’ve wanted to do a patio (or something) for the grass that gave up in the shade.

lawn replace (c) Linda Lehmusvirta

Mark came up with the “something.”

new back patio (c) Linda Lehmusvirta

On the left, I’ve planned (for years) raised vegetable beds. That’s the next project.

At the back corner that overlooks the creek, I’d let primrose jasmine take over. In an energetic fit the day after Christmas, I cleared as much as I could.

clearing primrose jasmine for new patio (c) Linda Lehmusvirta
Mark’s team cleared the rest and fulfilled a long-term dream.

New back patio over creek (c) Linda Lehmusvirta

What’s totally amazing is that the white Lady Banks rose I’d planted years ago was still alive. No water from me, no fertilizer, shaded. It’s rebounding so fast from my renovation that in one year (and possibly sooner) it will hide the chain link fence and return our privacy. More about this fragrant champ later.

No question, there’s lots more to do, one Sunday at a time!  That’s the value of a garden: it’s an endless open door to dreams and imagination. And yes, back-breaking work.  The aches heal quickly.  The rewards last forever. Until you change them!

Next week, CTG is back in high definition (so cool!) with a fabulous lineup to fuel your dreams, too!

See you then, Linda

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