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.

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

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. Stand-alone consultations run approx $100 to $200 for this type of guidance. 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!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Silverlake Backyard Design


This was a fun transformation!

The clients wanted a small patch of lawn so they could walk outside their bedroom bare foot. They love succulents and grasses.

The biggest challenge was the existing yard's long rectangular shape. It felt small and closed in, an afterthought running along the large expanse of concrete driveway.

I knew we had to change the shape, so I suggested cutting the driveway at a diagonal. This made it possible to enlarge the lawn area, and create a pleasing planting around the existing tree. We continued one of our diagonal lines into the patio area, and not only is it striking, it really changes the flow and feel of this space.

The block wall was cold and uninviting. We painted it to match the house trim, and placed drought-tolerant, easy-care succulents, grasses, and shrubs all along it. Within a year, the wall and fence will be softened by foliage.
BEFORE: Runway Shape, Tiny Lawn, No Plants

AFTER: New Sod, Patio, Painted Wall, Immature Plants


AFTER: Extended Lawn on a Diagonal

Sitting Area BEFORE
Sitting Area AFTER w/Mature Plants

A year later, plants have grown in, softening everything. And the homeowners are out in their garden all the time!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Before and After: From Lawn to Succulents and More

Here is another lawn conversion that gave this home a significant update. The client wanted room between plants. Plants were planted about 4 months ago, so they are just starting to fill in. There will be a lot more flowers as Spring goes on, and the plants will really fill out over the next few years.

Before (Google Maps)

The lawn was patchy and the shrubs were dated.
The client wanted a nice mix of succulents, especially Aloes, with some low-water, flowering perennials.


After Detail

We continued the boulder motif, inspired by a couple large boulders already on site. We brought them out of hiding, and added more. The small boulders help fill in space while the plants are small.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Natural Play Spaces

Young children need places to explore, climb, and interact with nature. Not all playgrounds need expensive play structures to be successful. If you happen to like a more rustic look, and you love the idea of recycling, you can re-use stumps and tree trunks to create a lovely natural play space.

Kids 2 to 5 years old love balancing on short walls, logs or stumps. In this Eagle Rock project, we had to cut down an unsightly tree, but happily, we were able to re-purpose these stumps into a little sitting wall that can also be used as a natural balance beam.

A client was just telling me that he used to play for hours on and around a large boulder in his back yard as a child. It served as a mountain, a ship, an island. Giving kids the opportunity to explore and pretend in natural spaces is so precious these days. Why not do a little bit of it in your own backyard?

Monday, October 6, 2014

Broken Concrete/Urbanite Pathways

Broken Concrete is also known as Urbanite. I love using the material to build pathways and walls. The cement industry produces a lot of Carbon Dioxide. Re-using existing concrete is an environmentally-friendly option for paving needs, and it can look awesome!

This pathway looks a lot like natural stone in person. It is laid permanently in mortar.

Alternatively pathways can be laid in sand or decomposed granite, or broken concrete pavers can be surrounded with pea gravel or larger stones. All of these options create permeable pathways, which are more environmentally friendly than using cement between joints. The material will look different depending on how it's installed.

Many people use gravel for pathways, and even though gravel can be very pretty and appropriate for certain situations, it is not kid friendly for scooters and trikes, etc. Here's a recent project where I suggested we replace a gravel pathway and patio with Broken Concrete in Decomposed Granite. Now the children of the house can ride their tricycles along this path.



Broken concrete or any other paving material is usually more successful when installed by professionals. Laying the varied shapes in a pleasant pattern and getting a perfect level on each piece can be quite challenging for the inexperienced person. It also helps to have a pro pick out the broken concrete to make sure it is sound. Not all old concrete is worth re-using.

Here is a broken concrete pathway that serves aesthetically as a dry stream bed. The client wanted to use gravel with the broken concrete, and that is fine for this application because this is a pathway to the side of the house, and is not in constant use. It's more of a focal point from the path to the front door. The gravel gives the look she wanted, a nice contrast to the plantings in this former lawn area. However if this were a main pathway -- to the front door, for instance -- I would not suggest gravel because it can make a path along a slope like this a bit slippery. For a slope, you might want to install the broken concrete in cement. The first photo shows one way of doing that.