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Wood Street Walkin’, Part 1

March 20, 2010

Eastern exposures

The Wood Streets district in Riverside is one of my favorites. The area is perfect for studying what residential architecture in Southern California during the teens, 20s, 30s and 40s of the last century looked like. This concentration of classic-style homes is visually appealing, and the residents, for the most part, go to great effort to play up their homes’ features with period colors and with their landscaping. The lawn is still predominant here, and a variety of planted borders and beds supplement the green expanses. There is evidence, however, that some homeowners are exploring less water-dependent options and that’s what I’m focusing on with these Wood Street posts. For this, the first post, I walked each of the Wood Streets in the area east of Magnolia Ave., knocking on the doors of houses whose landscaping appealed to me — both because of their obvious water-saving elements and because they looked great — asking for permission to show them here. I’m not showing yards done by professional landscape designers, whether identified as such by the homeowners or by signs touting the fact out front.  Although gorgeous, I want to give props to others doing it for themselves, like I am. For the second of these posts I’ll jump west of Magnolia, but for now let’s look at some eastern yards …

It's all about the mix

MED MIX: This great tapestry of foliage and color is actually on a Wood Street that doesn’t feature the name of a tree. What’s so great about this yard is the way the plantings complement the architecture of the house. The mix of natives and water-wise plants speak to the mediterranean looks of the home and the colors work terrifically together. I particularly love the way hits of brighter colors pop up in the landscape: the punctuating lime green of the euphorbias and the purple Limonium perezii catching the eye. According to his wife, this plan was arrived at by the homeowner and his parents after taking master gardener courses, and a couple years on has really filled in. I really appreciate the obvious care and consideration they put into their choices. I think they’ve come up with a neighborhood winner!

Rustic desert elegance

IN THE PIPELINE: On the opposite far-end of the area sits a yard of continual intrigue. It’s never really been “finished” in the usual sense, since it first came to my notice after stopping by for a yard sale there at least 2+ years ago. But it’s still one of my favorites in town. The homeowner credits her son with its continual state of flux, and I can see that he’s got a a very active mind, if not the time to bring all his ideas to fruition. The front parkway features an array of appealing rocks and large succulents and is visually exciting to me, with the colors and shapes of the plants playing off the varied rock forms. In the yard there’s a huge rock and concrete fireplace surrounded by the raw materials for a great landscape yet to be realized. Those raw materials are a covetable collection of concrete slabs, more rocks, a great forked tree trunk and an assortment of clay pipes, some of them enormous. These will be used as planters — or maybe a fountain — and I can’t wait to see how it all plays out. I’ve been known to have similar items, waiting on the driveway for months, until I decide how they’ll fit into the Rancho’s ever-evolving scheme, so I identify with this home gardener. We. Just. Need. Time!

Personal touches

SO PERSONAL: Having a space for self expression is so important, indoors as well as out, and I can tell a lot about a homeowner’s personality from the choices they make in their yards. This is the backyard of a wonderful Spanish-style stucco home and I’m showing this side since the front yard was done professionally. (It’s terrific, by the way.) The homeowner has an exuberant personality and I think her space out back reflects it perfectly. She’s been designing the space, organically, over time, adding plants and personal touches along the way. Clay pipes in varying heights now funnel plants skyward, an antique street lantern sits under the bright lights of an lemon tree, a snoozing angel rests on his wings in a mulch-y bed, and multi-hued succulents set off stucco walls. Her garden has a very private, enclosed feeling and it’s warm, like the homeowner herself.

An interesting sidenote: Living in Riverside I’m constantly struck by the small-town-iness of it. And, it seems like the more people I meet, the more I feel like everyone knows everyone else. The homeowner of the third garden met Paul one day at the Rancho after asking if she could have a look ’round. She knows the homeowners of the second garden and, in fact, bought her clay pipe/planters from them. That homeowner remembered me from previous garage sale-ing I’d done at their house, and so on. I guess like-minded people tend to find each other, and at least in Riverside, we’re using succulents as calling cards!

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