Fairy Yardmother Landscape Design

by Kathy Oberg, Landscape Designer, Los Angeles, CA.

Thank you for visiting my site. I enjoy bringing you pictures of gardens, plants, and ideas from sunny Southern California. I love sharing after-photos that show how my landscape plans, plant lists and layouts come to life.
As a designer, I use plants to create drama, provide color and form, and compliment the architectural style of your home.
I strive to provide a buffer from sun, street, and neighbors while still fostering connections.
Inspired plant choices and site layout can make any space a success.
I am a Certified Watershed Wise Professional, with techniques to improve soil health and keep more water on your property.
I can help you makeover your patio, paths, planting areas, or entire property. I will consult with you, choose a look you love, and compose a plan and plant list to update your landscape, re-using what you already have wherever we can.
Each project is different because it is about making your space really shine.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Atwater Village Backyard

Here's a backyard design project that transformed a boring rectangle of dying grass into an inviting space with places to sit and an undulating pathway to get you there. These photos show off how much the garden can grow in less than 2 years.

It was time to ditch the lawn. My clients love colored foliage with interesting textures. They wanted drought-tolerant, easy plantings that bring lots of beneficial insects. I wanted to create a fun way to interact with the space and make it more interesting than a rectangle, so I came up with this design.

AFTER: Just Planted

I organized the space with DG pathways that allow you to meander and spend time in different areas, to find a place to sit and enjoy the bees, trees and flowers.

Things have filled in nicely now. The purple Euphorbias are becoming trees and the Lavender has gone crazy.

One and a half Years After Planting
Now it's time to do a little tweaking. We lost a couple ground covers and a few Blue Fescue, so we need to fill in some open soil here and there. There's also some weeding to do. But 80% of the plants were successful and are looking great.

Here's a detail of the bench with the Achillea next to it last Summer, approximately one year after planting. Those plants are smaller clumps right now, just coming back up for Spring at the time of this post. They will begin to flower again soon, and should flower all through late Spring and Summer, even into Fall.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Los Angeles Lawn Replacement

It's always fun to check in on a project and see how it's grown in a year and a half later.
Here's a former lawn that has turned into a riot of color.



Thursday, December 1, 2016

Working with Stone

Dry Creek going into DG Pathway

I absolutely love stone! From pea gravel or decomposed granite to 500 lbs boulders, stone is a wonderful material to work with. Stone can be used as the floor of a patio or pathway. It can form a dry creek through the garden. Boulders give children a place to climb and play, and provide a seat for the weary gardener.

I do not love it when gravel is used as a mulch to cover an entire yard with a few plants thrown here and there. In that case, stone is a harsh material that can increase heat and glare.

Lava rock at a mid-century home

When boulders, gravel and flagstone are used artistically in combination with plants and other materials, something magical can happen. Stone adds color, texture, shape and a sense of place to a garden. Chosen wisely, it can help define the style of a landscape and contrast beautifully with plants and architecture.

I choose materials with an eye to the needs of the property and questions of use -- do we need a pathway? a place for rainwater to seep into the ground? But most importantly, I choose materials based on my client's taste.

Here are some recent Fairy Yardmother Designs that show off my clients' style using different sorts of stone for various uses.

Red Sedona Flagstone with colorful pebbles and boulders

Mixing flagstone with pebbles of different sizes in complimentary colors can make for a very pleasing pathway. Large, colorful boulders add interest and play off succulents and red flagstone beautifully.

Boulders with grass-like plants in DG

A less natural "island" of stone inspired by client

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Verdugo Woodlands Backyard Retreat

This project was designed in close collaboration with the clients. Before we started, this space was all lawn with an existing Bamboo perimeter that we kept. This photo shows the yard right after sod was removed.

BEFORE -- Sod Removed

Now they have a raised steel veggie bed in a curved shape, fruit trees, new poured concrete pathways and patio in large rectangles with large pebbles in between, drought-tolerant plantings, and a beautiful pond with a steel scupper that matches the raised bed.

AFTER: Just Completed

A concept sketch during design process

Update: Pond plants going strong and other plants growing in.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Watching Plant Material Grow

When I come up with a landscape plan, I usually have the long-game in mind. I like to provide plants plenty of room to fill in and do their job. It takes one to three years for most plants to mature, and even more than that for most trees and shrubs. Perennials and annuals are fairly fast growing. You can plant some Lavender next to a Tree, and the Lavender will often triple in size within a year, while the tree may only grow a foot or two in that same year. Once trees and shrubs get established, and get more roots in the ground (occasional deep watering helps!), they can start growing faster.

Here's an example of one of my recent landscape designs, and how it grew in.


AFTER: 5 Months after planting
Above: Notice how the smaller flowering plants and ornamental grasses have started to fill in approximately five months after planting, but the hedge plants have not filled in yet, and you can still see the neighbor's driveway and white van.

AFTER: One and a half Years After Planting

Above: One year later, and the van is much less visible through the hedge. All of the other plants, especially the Grevilleas in the center around the tree, have filled in as well. They are a little slower growing than the orange-flowered Gaillardia and the Blue Leymus grass, both of which started filling in right away.

You want a garden with a mix of these plant elements, and room for plants to spread, but this approach can take a little patience. This Podocarpus hedge will continue to fill in the gaps and grow over the next few years. Regular water for those first few years is essential to trees and hedges if you want them to get well-established.

See my post, "Lawn Removal in Glendale" to see how quickly a bunch of perennials and roses filled in when they were planted in Winter with awesome soil prep. Planting in Fall and Winter encourages amazing growth in Spring.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Cactus with a Modern Twist in Mt Washington

On this project, my design plan included updates to the existing hardscape and new plantings in all areas of the property. It was an opportunity to make a wonderful house shine.

This was also a chance to work with cacti, which lend themselves to dramatic compositions.

Removing existing brick accents, especially brick caps on all the walls, and having a contractor replace with a simple coat of stucco, simplified the landscape and brought in a much cleaner, more modern look. Now the plantings will really pop as they grow in.

The Contractors did a beautiful job with all the aspects -- concrete work, preparation and planting, and DG installation.
The Front Yard:



The clients love Cactus and Succulents, so I relied heavily on varieties of those, with the addition of a few other flowering plants. I wanted to create areas of tall, vertical cactus among lower elements -- succulents, etc. to recreate some of the looks the clients were most drawn to. Some of the Cacti/Succulent combinations are in greens and yellows, others are in a blue/gray palette.


AFTER Newly Planted

The Patio:


Newly Planted
With most of the brick accents gone, the whole property is more calm and soothing, especially in the patio. Plants are starting out a bit small here, but they will grow in over the next one to three years and soften the walls. The clients are actually enjoying the feeling of space and order that comes with new plantings.

The Back Yard:



We updated the planter around the large existing tree to great effect.
The tree had problems due to the planter being too high. In my design, I lowered the planter to sitting height, and reconfigured it so that it continues along the length of the retaining wall behind it, making a more pleasing footprint.
We used DG everywhere, but only compacted it in the pathway and fire pit areas.
The contractors were able to bring my ideas to life beautifully.

Just Completed -- Ready for Some Comfy Chairs 
around that Fire Pit and some People!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Lawn Removal in Glendale

I can't wait to watch this garden grow in. My design plan transformed it from a virtually unused space into a place where the kids can play on stumps and stones, and their parents can sit in the DG patio and have a glass of wine, say hello to neighbors, or just unwind among the sweet fragrance of Roses and Salvias .

BEFORE (Google Maps)

(Newly Planted)
(Four Months after Planting)

The clients wanted a lush Mediterranean garden with Lavenders, Nepeta, Iceberg Roses, and a DG sitting area and creek bed. Layers of taller and shorter plants along the street will create some screening without shutting out the neighborhood. I convinced them to replace the original pathway which was very narrow. Photos show the yard newly planted with relatively small plants, and the same plantings four months later in early Spring. If you plant in Fall/Winter, you can see a lot of growth in Spring, especially from your perennials.

(Four Months After Planting)

We used a simple sheet mulching method to encourage soil microbes and improve soil health. The roses may take a little extra water to get established, but they will be a little more drought-tolerant growing in such healthy soil. The landscape crew trimmed existing trees before planting, and that is why the house is more exposed in the after photos. Trees will fill in quickly, in time to give shade in Summer.

Wider Path to Front Door, Newly Planted
(Plants Filling In)

(Four months after planting)

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Lawn Removal Hancock Park

Mother and son are already enjoying their new yard before we've finished the installation!

Child is hidden behind his Mother. He couldn't wait to explore his new front yard.

Monday, November 16, 2015

New Gate and Wall Extension Design

At this modern housing complex, my client moved in with these wooden planters on top of the front wall of her new home. They didn't go with the aesthetic of the home at all!


We designed a new look for the gate and a trellis to add height and privacy without taking away air flow. Now this home has a clean modern style with added privacy and security. This is powder-coated metal with mesh and frosted glass.


And here is another screen I designed for the same complex. This is a grey powder coat and a mix of glass panels and wire mesh panels.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Lawn Replacement Design Consultation

AFTER: Lawn Replacement Complete
For this project, the clients did all the work themselves. This was an unusual and fun way for me to provide Design Services. They called me in for a consultation as they were prepping for planting so I could guide them. When I arrived, they'd started placing plants in groups, and I had them change some of the groupings and suggested they buy a few more of the native Heuchera and Iris so they could mass them more effectively.

They were planning to use a high-quality plastic bender board product as a transition from the decomposed granite pathways and the mulched planting areas. Normally bender board is a reasonably good choice, but in this case, there were tree roots everywhere and it was going to be quite a challenge to dig channels for the bender board to lay at the correct level. This is also a shady front yard with a natural forest vibe, and the bender board was not going to add anything aesthetically.

BEFORE: Bender Board Instead of River Rock

Here is a photo of the Bender Board they were originally planning to use.

I suggested using River Rock instead of Bender Board, which can be placed closer to the soil surface, no significant channel necessary. I also recommended adding some large boulders. We talked about the placement of all the elements.

AFTER: Natural River Rock Borders

This was a great example of the value of a Design Consultation. The homeowners in this case were perfectly capable of doing the labor, and they had a good start on a plan, but I know they would agree that getting my advice allowed them to bring the project to completion with wonderful results. Call me to discuss the services I offer.

The clients sent me photos the moment they completed the project. They are so happy with the choices we made together, and they have already received so many compliments.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Beverly & Fairfax Lawn Replacement Design

The goals here included new drought-tolerant plantings in place of the lawn, punctuated by large boulders, a new pathway from the sidewalk, and better access from the driveway.

When I arrived, the clients were considering removing the entire front wall along the front of the house because it was stifling the flow to the front door. The only way to enter the front door was from the driveway, along the back of this wall.


AFTER: New Pathway and Gate in Wall

After some discussion we decided to cut an opening in the center of the wall, preserving a nice part of the architecture of the house while still improving the flow. Taking out the Calliandra, which had become a large hedge along the wall, revealed a very pretty element of Spanish Architecture, and opened up the whole space.


AFTER: New Steps at Sidewalk, Newly Planted

We decided on steps that matched the tile in the front courtyard, and a lovely flagstone pathway.
The plantings are a nice mix of feminine and masculine forms. There will be lots of beneficial insects and Hummingbirds visiting this yard now!