22 February 2011

Landscaping, Take Two

Last week we met with our landscape designer for the final plan. To refresh your memory, here's the first draft:

And now the (more or less) final version:

The main changes are as follows:
  • We added the oak tree in the front yard (which should always have been there...two of them, actually).
  • We extended the planting bed around to the left side in the front to accommodate an agave (which also should have been in the first draft). What's an agave? It's a cactus-like plant that might look like this variegated specimen:

Or like this all-green one (back when it was dressed up for the holidays):

  • We moved the raised vegetable garden beds closer to the house so we could extend the bushes all the way across the back of the lot.
  • We extended the planting bed on the back right side of the house.
Many of these measures were due to the need to reduce the size of our lawn, as the green building program requires that we have no more than 2,000 square feet of turn grass in order to obtain a five-star rating. (Fortunately, the first 18 feet of "our" yard, measuring from the curb, is the city's right-of-way, so it doesn't count against our 2,000 square feet. Good thing, too, as that's about 1,000 square feet right there.) The weird thing about that requirement is that we could fill up square footage with a pool -- which uses tons of water and electricity -- without any green building penalty, but even low-water, drought-resistant grass is offensive beyond the 2,000th square foot. Likewise, we are required to use certain native plants; in theory, a single "illegal" plant would keep us from getting that coveted fifth star, but if we replaced that plant with a huge, inefficient swimming pool, that's A-OK. But anyway....

The landscape designer gave us a quote for most of the work, but we have serious reservations about going forward with her, so we're exploring other options. In particular, we're looking at bidding out the site preparation (grading, dirt removal, and soil prep) and/or sod portions of the work and handling a lot of the rest ourselves...on a more extended schedule than we had first planned. So we're switching gears from writing a check to have everything done in a week or two to thinking about:
  • the order in which all of the steps need to take place (including the concrete work, for which we already have a quote, and the sprinkler system)
  • our soil preparation needs (the dirt in this area is pretty poor, so it's imperative that we amend it with better soil -- plus the green building program requires us to use 6" of topsoil with 25% compost under all lawn areas)
  • what equipment we might need to rent for the parts of the work we're considering doing ourselves
  • other landscapers we should contact for bids for the work we don't want to do on our own
It feels like the start of the construction process all over again...and we're still weary from the last time.

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