6 Ways to Get Lots of Beauty in Your O.C. Backyard With Little Care

Have your plants and enjoy them too.
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You can’t have a dream back yard without plants. Shrubs and trees that soften walls and pavement add color and life. Here’s how to get lots of beauty with little care.

1. Think low-maintenance, Choose succulents and other plants that need little water, feeding, or pruning to thrive. You’ll be environmentally responsible and have more hours to enjoy your yard.

2. Narrow your plant palette to a few varieties and use them en masse for easier tending and maximum pizazz. Establish visual themes by repeating your chosen few in different spots, a trick that pulls together a garden’s far-flung parts.

3. Avoid small pots that can look fussy, leave water stains on pavement, and demand hand-watering and feeding. Shippy planted mostly in garden beds, reserving a handful of oversized (3-by-2-foot) pots for large shrubs he wanted to show off. But even with these containers, he removed the bottoms so he could irrigate them automatically from below.

4. Use plantings to break up the hard, static surfaces of walls and paving. “Living elements add lushness and movement,” he says. “Yes, you want all your indoor comforts to enjoy around the pool, but you still need to feel the magic of being outside.”

5. Splurge on a couple of great plants to set the tone. To complement the property’s Mediterranean-modern architecture, Shippy selected a few mature, field-grown olive trees from the Napa Valley. Their shimmering leaves and gnarled trunks add the look of time to the new garden. The trees are sprayed annually to keep them from fruiting.

6. Incorporate “borrowed landscape,” such as trees growing next door, into your garden’s composition—a visual ploy that can make it appear larger. At the Hollander house, Shippy “borrowed” a neighbor’s palm trees, which rise majestically above a garden wall, by up-lighting them dramatically from his client’s side. — Susan Heeger

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