The Hancock Park Garden Club presented a free booklet to neighbors about designing their front yards at a meeting and panel discussion last week at the Ebell of Los Angeles. The booklet was commissioned by the garden club to provide information to residents considering changes to their front yards in response to years of drought conditions.
Titled “Ten Considerations Toward Your Next Front Yard,” the booklet begins with a photograph of Mount Vernon’s east-facing grass lawn that inspired the design of suburban landscapes in the 19th Century. Front yards of sweeping lawns with open views have long been a defining character of our neighborhoods. But over the years, many have become less open or have been removed and replaced with other materials.
Local architect and resident John Kaliski and Takako Tashima, landscape architect, spent time looking at the current changes as well as historic photos to develop their suggestions about what residents should consider when they undertake changes to their current front yard landscape. The booklet and website also include three sample designs by garden designer Judy Horton, illustrating suggestions for front yards of Mediterranean, English Tudor and American Colonial style homes.
In her introduction to the evening program, Jennifer Fain, President of the Hancock Park Garden Club, noted how fortunate we are to be stewards of these wonderful historic homes and invited neighbors to consider their front yards as part of this shared heritage and use native plants that support habit and avoid ever using any kind of pesticides.
Each of the five panelists offered additional insights following the presentation of the booklet by John Kaliski, architect and urban designer who lives in Windsor Village, where he also serves on the Windsor Village/Country Club Heights/Wilshire Park HPOZ board.
“We see this as an opportunity to continue our history and evolve our front yards,” said Kaliski. “Careful design of landscape is as important as architecture in conserving our neighborhoods.”
“We are in California, our gardens should reflect that,” suggested Kitty Connolly, Executive Director of the Theodore Payne Foundation, which is dedicated to the understanding, preservation and use of California native flora. In addition to sample designs, the booklet contains a list of native plants and suggested gardening practices.
“Consider using a keystone species tree as the focal point of your garden plantings and select other plants that are compatible with that tree,” suggested Carol Bornstein, Director of the Nature Gardens at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. “The California Sycamore and the Coast Live Oak are two examples of trees that work well in our gardens.”
“Or, consider dedicating your garden to supporting a species, like butterflies or birds,” suggested Takako Tajima, landscape architect and professor at the USC School of Architecture and co-author of the pamphlet.
“We encourage residents to focus attention on the front yard and parkway,” said Kimberly Henry, Planning department staff member who explained that her office is reviewing more landscape projects in their work with HPOZs (Historic Preservation Overlay Zones). Henry agreed with the considerations in the booklet that call for low plantings to maintain walkability in the parkway and creating a “setback” of low plantings in the front yard about the same dimension as the sidewalk and parkway.
“Ten Considerations Toward Your Next Front Yard seeks to start a discussion by affirmatively suggesting design principles that allow for both continuity of neighborhood landscape settings and parameters for respectful, even needed, change,” said Kaliski.
Local garden designer Judy Horton, whose sample designs for the most common types of local architecture are included in the booklet, said perhaps the most important thing residents can do is preserve the trees in their yard and the parkway.
“I call it “gardening for your trees,” said Horton. “If you do nothing else, plant a large tree and nurture the ones you do have,” adding that our tree canopy is our neighborhood’s most important and fragile heritage.
More than 75 people attended the program where the booklets were distributed. “Ten Considerations Toward Your Next Front Yard” can be found online at the Hancock Park Garden Club website along with more information…or you can click here to download a pdf version. Booklets can also be picked at Chevalier’s Books at 126 N Larchmont for free through Christmas Day, and then for purchase as long as supplies last.