A sprawling South Pasadena lawn gets a chic low-water makeover


In our latest lawn-to-drought-garden makeover from readers, a South Pasadena lawn is removed and replaced with UC Verde buffalo grass (Bouteloua gracilis), natives and drought-tolerant plants. Layered plantings and giant pavers transform the front yard into a tranquil escape.

Long and expansive, this oddly shaped South Pasadena front yard proved too high maintenance for a busy South Pasadena couple with a young son. That was, however, before landscape designer Maggie Lobl of Echo Landscape Design removed 1,000 square feet of Bermuda grass and replaced it with water-wise UC Verde buffalo grass (Bouteloua dactythe).

The yard was a hodgepodge of different plants, grass and weeds. A surplus of woody lavender and rosemary added to the yard’s upkeep as it had to be replaced every few years. Rounding out the landscape was an impractical grass pathway to the house that only added to water and maintenance concerns.


In an effort to create the natural-looking landscape the homeowners wanted, Lobl removed 1,000 square feet of Bermuda grass and replaced it with buffalo grass developed especially for California’s climate. “It uses about 40% of the water of regular turf grass,” says Lobl. “It can be mowed or it can be left longer, for a more meadowy look.”

Lobl left a romantic allee of olive trees along the grass pathway and installed poured-in-place reinforced concrete pavers that lead to a new patio and l-shaped wooden bench with a concrete backing.

The sleek built-in bench creates a casual, contained seating area where the couple can relax, their son can play and they can connect with neighbors.

The new pathway is lined with blue fescue (festuca idahoensis “Siskiyou Blue”), colorful orange kangaroo paw (anigozanthos x “Bush Tango”), blue chalksticks succulents (senecio mandraliscae), yellow yarrow (achillea millefolium “Terra Cotta”) and bronze baby flax (phormium tenax “Bronze Baby”).

A horizontal redwood fence at the front of the yard adds some separation from the street as well as a bit of contemporary drama.

Other new plantings include ginkgo biloba trees, Mexican weeping bamboo, flowering maple, bush anemone, rosemary grevillea, strawflowers and golf ball tawhiwhi (pittosporum tenuifolium).

The couple, who received a turf removal rebate, are happy with the low maintenance landscape and how it stands out in their neighborhood. Apparently South Pasadena Beautiful is too. The yard was one of several gardens to receive a Golden Arrow Award in May from the beautification nonprofit, an annual award given to homeowners and businesses that create beautiful properties in South Pasadena.


If you’d like to submit photos of your drought garden makeover, please do so at Bonus points if you include “before” images taken from the same angle as well.


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