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Yard remodel results in win-win-win landscape

Tanya Kucak/Special to the Town Crier
At the front of the yard, passersby can enjoy the fragrant flowers of ​Cedros Island verbena​.​ ​Each mounded shrub, covered in flowers from spring to fall, can reach 2-3 feet high and 3-6 feet wide.


After they retired and remodeled their Mountain View home, Joanne Kanow and Joe Petersack decided to renovate their landscape as well. Their front lawn was not growing well and was compacted; their backyard was mostly 3-foot-by-3-foot squares of aggregate concrete.

Realizing that water is the least renewable resource, they wanted to get rid of the lawn and plant something that looked nice and was drought-tolerant and low-maintenance.

To figure out what they wanted, in spring 2012 Kanow and Petersack attended free classes conducted by the Bay Area Water Supply & Conservation Agency and the California Native Plant Society and went on the Going Native Garden Tour. A year later, they had a new landscape, and since 2014 they have opened their garden each year to Going Native Garden Tour visitors.

Kanow and Petersack wanted year-round visual interest, and Kanow wanted irises, but aside from those requirements, they trusted the designer to select the plants. The introduction to native plants was a bonus, she added.

When they went on the garden tour, Kanow learned that “you can landscape with natives and it doesn’t have to look like a hike in the hills.”

Nor did they want a meadow: “Not tidy enough,” she noted.

According to Kanow, “people come on the tour and ask if the landscaping is all natives,” because it looks like a suburban yard. Aside from some mature Japanese maple trees in the front yard, and several other existing shrubs and an herb garden in back, the new landscape features all natives.

New world opens up

The large area of aggregate concrete from the backyard was repurposed into smaller stepping stones, used in the front yard between the driveway and front door, as well as in the backyard. The driveway boasts permeable pavers set in gravel, and the downspouts drain into dry wells, so more water stays on-site to recharge the local water table.

Although it takes a little effort to tidy up before the Going Native Garden Tour, it’s “a lot of fun,” Kanow said, and it’s rewarding to have people come through and hear their comments. She said she sees the landscape “with new eyes” rather than taking it for granted.

“We’ve enjoyed all the people involved in the tour,” Kanow said, and enjoyed the new “world that opened up.”

Less water, less maintenance

Overall, the landscape requires approximately 25 percent less water than before, even though Kanow and Petersack were drought-conscious a few years before redoing the landscape.

The new landscape includes “more square feet planted, looks a lot better and uses a lot less water – win-win-win,” Kanow said. Most of the maintenance involves trimming and cutting back perennials in late fall to early winter.

Hiring a designer was “money well spent,” Kanow said, noting that they chose an “excellent” designer and installer – landscape architect Sherri Osaka of Sustainable Landscape Design designed the garden, and EarthCare Landscaping installed it.

Getting a rebate for lawn replacement and for an irrigation controller with a weather station was “a nice bonus,” Kanow said.

The weather station automatically shuts off the drip irrigation when it detects rain.


For more information on the annual Going Native Garden Tour, visit


Tanya Kucak gardens organically. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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