For East Coast transplant Scott Flor, lush green lawns recall his Pennsylvania home.
“I like grass,” Flor admits. “I even enjoy mowing the lawn. My sons played a lot of soccer and football on our lawn in Malibu.”
When his two sons grew up, however, and they no longer needed the lawn surrounding the half-acre property he and wife Kelly purchased 21 years ago, he felt it was time to remove the grass.
“We wanted to be good citizens and cut back on our water use,” Scott says of their decision two years ago, during the drought. “I cut way back on the watering, and the grass started to die. It looked terrible.”
The couple hired someone to remove the lawn in front and back and called in CrossRoads Mulch, a company that installs protective covering on playgrounds and along freeways, to cover the empty landscape while they decided what to plant.
The couple did not consult with a designer. They didn’t even have a master plan. Instead, they looked to their Malibu community for inspiration.
“We started the landscape as a process,” Scott says. “Otherwise, it would have been overwhelming. We wanted to make the landscape look like Legacy Park in Malibu. It has a coastal bluffs trail with different types of flora. It’s what you would see if you were walking along a California trail. That’s what I wanted for our backyard.”
Kelly was equally inspired by their Malibu neighborhood.
“My wife is a plant thief,” Scott says with a laugh. “She walks around our neighborhood and hunts for specimens. She finds succulents she likes, breaks off the branches, plants them and watches them grow. We have tubs full of specimens. We even have ice plant that she cut from the beach.”
In the backyard, Scott created a meadow by scattering a coastal mix of California native seeds from the Theodore Payne Foundation that includes Camissoniopsis cheiranthifolia or beach suncups, Eschscholzia californica var. maritima or coastal California poppy, Gilia capitata or globe gilia, Leptosiphon grandiflorus or large flowered linanthus, Lupinus bicolor or miniature lupine and Lupinus succulentus or arroyo lupine.
“I spent 15 bucks and just threw them out and raked them into the soil,” Scott says. “It looks amazing in the spring with the orange poppies and purple and yellow flowers. It is just gorgeous, and it comes back every year.”
The couple also planted drought-tolerant African daisies, hardy succulents and jade plants, agave and aloes. Colorful orange nasturtiums, Scott says, “just popped up.”
“I’m a big proponent of buying small one or five gallon plants,” he adds. “It’s hard work to dig holes. The plants grow really fast.”
Flora estimates he spent about $8,000 on the makeover, including about $1,000 for a path.
“I thought all the costs for removing the lawn would offset the turf removal rebate [$9,000], but it didn’t,” he says.
That’s OK with Scott, who admits he still misses the grass. The trade-off? He spends roughly $200 a month less on water and enjoys the butterflies and birds that are drawn to the new landscape.
He also enjoys the endlessly changing landscape.
“The new gardens are always beautiful,” Scott says. “They stay nice year-round. It’s fun to look out and know you have created something that will last forever.”
Euphorbia tirucalli or sticks on fire
Echeveria agavoides or molded wax agave
Crassula ovata, commonly known as jade plant
Aeonium canariense or Canary aenium
Viburnum opulus or Roseum
Aeonium arboreum ‘Zwartkop’ or large purple aeonium
Budleya or butterfly bush
Aloe vanbalenii or Van Balen’s aloe
Aeonium arboreum ‘Sunburst’
Agave tequilana or tequila agave
Coastal flower wildflower mix
Show us your garden makeover
We’re highlighting yards and gardens that go from heavy water users to thrifty water sippers. If you’ve given your yard a drought-tolerant makeover, send “before” and “after” pictures to Home@latimes.com. We may include your yard in an upcoming Saturday section.