GardenSmart :: EPISODES :: 2006 show28
GardenSMART Newsletter Signup
Visit our Sponsors! Southern Living Dramm
Visit our Sponsors and win.
Past Shows:

Show #28/502

Wouldn't it be great to have your entire yard redone in less than a week and without spending one penny? Well, that's exactly what's about to happen. This week we're at the home of the winner of the Landscape Makeover Contest. We were flooded with applicants and choosing the winner was difficult. Many that entered had touching stories but all had a need for a radical makeover. What happens during the Makeover is hard to believe but our film crew was on hand to capture it all. During the transformation we'll talk with experts like landscape designers, irrigations specialists, masons and more. This show is packed with action, information and ideas. A radical makeover is about to begin on this neglected yard in Laguna Beach, California.

Joe meets Carol the winner of the Landscape Makeover Contest and she is excited. Carol has watched the show for a number of years, has always enjoyed the show and has tried to learn from watching. When the contest was announced she decided to enter and sent in her application. Lo and behold she was informed she won and is very excited. She never thought she would win. Joe informs Carol that there were thousands of applicants.

This house in Laguna Beach is close to the ocean. It's an historic house built in 1923, or so. Carol and her family have owned it since the early 60's and want to maintain the continuity of the time period and want to keep it Laguna Beach quaint, as does the city. The yard is in major need of repair and Carol had no idea where to start. Joe agrees the yard is a wreck. There is much work to do.

Once Carol found out she had won she then had the opportunity to interview several landscape designers. Korina from The Plant Nerd was the final interviewee. Carol first spoke with Korina by phone. At that time Carol told Korina the house had been in the family for 40 years and they wanted the landscaping to compliment the style of the home. And, they wanted the Laguna Beach feel. But, Carol also felt that anything would be an improvement. Korina said it sounded interesting and that she would take a look at the house, then call back. Carol was afraid Korina would walk away but kept her fingers crossed. To Carol's amazement Korina did call back and said she "Absolutely loved the house. No problem, I can do it. It's got so many possibilities." Korina started on the plans and she and Carol have become great friends during the process. It has been a great experience.

Joe next meets Korina, owner of The Plant Nerd. When Korina first saw the property she was excited, scared and nervous. She first noticed that this was a property whose landscape had been neglected over time. There were a lot of old trees that had been neglected, were ugly and dying. There were old broken down retaining walls and paths that led to nowhere. Korina wasn't sure why the yard had all the different levels. She first had to decide what to work with and what not to work with. Korina decided not to work with most of it, indeed to remove most of it. She did realize she needed to retain some of the property levels, but certainly not all, because there is a significant grade change from 1 side of the property to the other.

In the process of developing a plan Korina takes into consideration what the homeowner is looking for. She talked with Carol about goals and objectives. Carol has a large family, thus wanted to make space available to accommodate this large group when entertaining. They have grandchildren thus needed a lawn area. They also have a need for wheelchair accessibility so grading it out and making a less hazardous walkway was a major goal. Korina then went to work, put pencil to paper and developed a plan. She created an upper tier patio and a lower tier patio providing significant space for entertaining. The extra tiers are to be held in place by retaining walls which will provide additional seating. Thus, the retaining walls serve a dual purpose. The plant palate reflects a low maintenance garden but there still will be a lot of color. Many of the plants are seasonal throughout the country, but aren't here. Here they're colorful all year long and many have extended blooming periods.

Korina has 2 separate plans. One plan deals with the hardscape, the other plan outlines the plant material or softscape. She always does it this way because oftentimes the construction crews do either softscaping or hardscaping. Thus, breaking it up makes more sense. All the callouts for construction are on one page for that contractor to work with. Korina's plans and vision are exceptional. And, her ability to communicate her ideas is equally impressive. Korina is truly an artist.

The first order of business is the demolition. There are a lot of neglected old trees that have been poorly maintained over the years and the same can be said of the plant material. Simply put, there isn't hardscape or softscape in the backyard that can be salvaged. A bobcat and crew of construction specialists will clear it out.

Kennah Construction has been hired for this job. Terry, the job foreman, says that this is a fairly small yard, thus a relatively simple job. He's been an operator for about 20 years. Thus knows how to operate all kinds of equipment, but the Bobcat is probably his favorite. Particularly with a small backyard like this. It has attachments that can be switched around; almost anything that's needed in this backyard, it can do. On this job they used many attachments. They used the breaker or augur, the front bucket, the backhoe and the grappler bucket. For the cleaning of the yard, he used the front bucket to scoop up all the debris; the concrete, roots, etc. then load them into the truck. The backhoe helped take out the footings, take out the roots of the trees and pull down the bushes. The grappler bucket helps pick up big, bulky, hard to handle items. The breaker is used to break up concrete, getting out the rebar and making it all small enough to take to the recycling dump. For a yard of this size, they took out more than usual amounts of garbage, debris and plant material like trees and shrubs. A normal yard this size might require removal of 2 or three truckloads but they've already removed 5 truckloads. It's been a little more than anticipated. The last phase of the job requires putting in 3 separate tiers, or creating 3 ground levels. This property is on a hillside, they want to follow the contour of the hill but also keep it level for patios, walkways, etc. It makes it a much nicer looking yard and a more functional yard than if the slope were to follow the hill.

Joe thinks it's neat to see a landscape makeover from start to finish. The film crew showed up on Sunday and saw the garden. It had garden rooms but was a mess. Less than a day later a crew came in with tractors and wiped the slate clean. Joe thinks it's like etch-a-sketch. There has been a lot going on. This would normally be a 6 month project, it will happen here in less than a week. In less than 24 hours it went from a mess to a clean slate. Now there are elevation changes and the process is off and running.

It's the next day and the next crew to arrive is M & M Masonry. Manuel "Manny" Cruz and his group first start by tackling the retaining walls. Manny has been doing this kind of work for about 20 years. He started when he was young, about 23. He started with a pick and shovel working on trenches and footings, like they are working on now. This is a family business. He is joined by his 3 brothers and father but they have plenty of additional help. Manny and his family all started working in the same business as young kids. Now they're doing this for a living. And they do great work.

Manny talks about what's happening today. They're building low retaining walls. The industry started using this type of material about 10 years ago. Kennah created the trenching for the footings, going down about 6 inches. Manny's crew will next level the soil, then fill the trench with rock. The rock is important because when wet, if the retraining wall were installed on just soil it would get wobbly. With the addition of rock it is stable, it provides a good, solid foundation. The retaining walls are laid in tiers and they interlock. Each piece has a lip on the back of 1 side. When stacked on top of 1 another they don't slide, they hold. Thus, it makes a strong retaining wall. Concrete isn't needed, thus one need not worry about cracks because it is flexible. The blocks allow water to drain, greatly decreasing the need for any future repairs. The 1st tier must be level. Then just add the next layer of the stacked stone retaining wall right on top. The lip allows them to interlock, no mater how high one goes. It works very well. They're stable and no concrete is necessary. Manny and his crew are true craftsmen.

Joe next visits with Bob Sandstrom with Thompson Building Materials. The process of deciding which stone to select for paths and patios seems complicated. Joe wonders how does the process start? Here the customer can walk around and view many different stone options. They have a legend that coincides with the numbers on the floor which allows the customer to guide themselves and make basic color and texture choices on their own. Then there are basic decisions that then must be made. For example, some of the stones are flat, some have an undulating or bumpy surface. Especially for an exterior application they direct the customer to a quartz like surface, something like the Arizona flagstone we'll be using on this project. Arizona flagstone has a flatter surface which is good if there will be patio furniture placed on top. Some stones are more suited for walkways while others are more suited for driveways or areas with furniture. Another consideration is how stable should the surface be? Will the stone be placed in sand or concrete? If there is going to be a lot of traffic they normally suggest a mud-set installation. If primarily walkways then a sand-set is suggested or what the industry calls a flexible installation. This allows the materials to move. Thickness is also an important consideration and needed if there is vehicular traffic (driveways, motor courtyards, etc). Thinner stones are more appropriate for light pedestrian traffic. These are the type questions that need to be addressed. Bob knows Manny very well, tells us Manuel has done a great job in the industry over the years and knows we'll enjoy working with him.

It's another day, the sun is just coming up, the crew is here and didn't waste time getting started. They have some jobs to complete but soon will need the sand and flagstone which has yet to be delivered. But, not to worry, before 8 AM it arrives. Joe had been sweating it for awhile but it worked out well and everyone is now busy at work.

The stone walkways and patios go together like pieces to a puzzle. In 1 section they have allowed more space between the stone so planting can take place in the crevices.

Manny tells Joe why they choose the stone they did. Arizona flagstone was chosen for many reasons. Time was a consideration. It is easy to work, easy to cut with diamond blades. Other stones could have taken longer to cut and install and Manny had only a short period of time available to complete this project. More time means they require more labor, making cost another consideration. They chose the thick variety of Arizona flagstone, which is almost double in size, because this stone is going to be laid on sand. Thick means heavy, one stone could weigh 300 pounds, thus they often require 2 men to move each piece, but it is stronger. The thin variety when wet becomes fragile. It could crack. There are advantages to laying the stone in sand. One is obviously the cost. It costs less to put on sand but cracks aren't a problem. On sand the stone will move slightly thus earthquakes aren't a concern. Arizona flagstone is available in a red, pink or tan hue. They have chosen a golden, tan color to match the retaining walls and to compliment the house and surroundings.

To lay the stone Manny and his crew first make sure the soil is level and compact. To accomplish this they use a transom. They shoot a line to ensure it's level. The stone is then set in 3 inches of sand. They then lay out the stone and again check to make sure it is level. If necessary they dig underneath the stone, to make sure it is still level. With this done, it should stay in place for years. Manny and crew make it look easy but they are true professionals - hard working, cheerful and efficient. They're a joy to work with.

Jeff Tolly is President and owner of his own Company, Tolly Landscape. Jeff says his Mom says he has a voice for radio and a face for TV. Joe knows that to have a crew of 20 people or so that Jeff must also have some book knowledge and experience in this field. Jeff does, he is a 3rd generation landscape contractor. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in horticultural science from Cal Poly, Pomona. He started out with a guy and a truck 6 years ago and has grown to a 25 man crew today. They do anything from small renovations to aggressive projects, like this project. He doesn't freak out with a project like this. Except for the camera this is relatively normal in his business world. And Tolly Landscape is a great, fun company to work with, very knowledgeable and hard working.

His crew today will be focusing on the clean up and prep for the planter beds and sod. They will lay the header board to delineate the grass, planting and shrub areas. They will get the canvas clean for Korina. So, when she comes in and tells them where things need to go, it will be ready and she'll be happy.

Joe comments on the fact that so far we've been spending time on the hardscaping. Jeff's focus is softscaping. What's the difference? Hardscaping is the retaining walls, the stonework and concrete, when necessary. Jeff is involved in the softscaping. That includes the clean up work, irrigation, lighting, planting, soil and bed preparation and so forth.

Joe next notices PVC pipes laying around and dirt arriving. Jeff explains. The PVC pipe is a part of the irrigation system. PVC pipe is utilized for the lateral lines and the main lines for the automated sprinkler system. The soil and soil amendments and mulches will be utilized in the planter beds. Jeff thinks it important to note that they won't plant into existing soil, especially if that soil needs amending. This enriched soil will be instrumental in getting these plants going and thriving.

Joe is worn out after all the work involved with the Landscape Makeover. It has been fun but he wanted to get away, especially since we're in such a beautiful part of the country. Accordingly, Joe is visiting with David Shepherd the General Manager of the Inn at Laguna Beach. David welcomes Joe and tells him there is no better place to relax after a hard day in the garden. Laguna Beach is a small village nestled between the mountains and the ocean. The climate here is fantastic year round, from January through December. Everyone knows about July and August but during the other months, the off season, this is a quiet little village where people come to relax. It's not just a getaway for the rich and famous, it's a getaway for everyone. Joe has noticed that Laguna Beach is filled with lush vegetation, no matter where one goes. Of course, resorts, like this, have beautiful landscaping, but it seems even the restaurants and particularly the homes in the area are all lush. The climate has a big influence on that. This resort has beautiful views and they are complimented by luscious greenery. There are full trees and shrubs and flowers and, when they bloom, which is year round, they have the whole spectrum of delightful color. Everything in Laguna Beach seems lush. It's a beautiful spot.

Joe thanks David for the tour. David, in turn, invites Joe back in the spring.

We'll be back in several weeks and complete the Landscape Makeover Contest. You'll be amazed at the transformation of the property. It's a learning experience and a delight for the eyes. Keep checking our web site.

Links ::

The Plant Nerd
Tolly Landscape
Thompson Building Materials
Inn at Laguna Beach
M & M Masonry - Manuel Cruz - 714-974-2716

Back to Top

GardenSMART Featured Article

By Susan Martin for Proven Winners
Photographs courtesy of Proven Winners

Have your hanging baskets seen better days? It’s normal, by midsummer they are ready for a little TLC to bring them back to their former glory. To learn more click here for an interesting article.

  Click here to sign up for our monthly NEWSLETTER packed with great articles and helpful tips for your home, garden and pets!  
Copyright © 1998-2012 GSPC. All Rights Reserved.