Here too, in Altadena’s scorching heat, Serina Kovrubius’ front yard feels cool and inviting under the loose shade of a magnificent elm tree.
“I thought it was more time-consuming to have a natural habitat,” Kovarubias says of his two-year-old garden, which is full of fragrant coastal shrubbery.
“The birds feel so comfortable here, they nest on the ground,” she adds, reaching down to reveal a black phoebe’s nest under a foothill sedge (carex tumulicola,
Thirsty birds have flocked to her garden since she tore her lawn and replaced it with mostly drought-tolerant plants native to Southern California. Other wildlife is back, including lizards, ladybugs, praying mantises, bees and caterpillars.
So are his neighbors. While any visitor can appreciate the pavement-rich ecosystem, many visitors often take it a step further. As the husband of Covarrubias, a film editor, Kevin Rolls, said: “When people walk or drive, they stop and take pictures of our yard.”
The couple, who are both in their 40s, have long wanted to have a garden instead of a lawn. A death benefit following the loss of Kovrubias’ father, Robert, in June 2020, assisted by a waiver of turf removal from the state, provided the couple with enough money to remove the thirsty Bermuda grass and start anew. (The couple estimates that they paid about $10,000 for alterations, including turf removal, design, irrigation, and plants, and received $3,000 from the state to remove 1,500 square feet of grass).
After Southern California’s Metropolitan Water District declared a water scarcity emergency two years ago and ordered outdoor watering twice a week, the couple knew they wanted to plant plants that would tolerate heat with little water. Can do However, there were other motivating factors: the front lawn was “an eyesore,” meaning he never used the yard.
“It doesn’t serve a purpose,” says Kovrubius, a project manager for an Internet development company. “We wanted something that we would use and enjoy.”
For Covarrubias, who suffers from mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS), an autoimmune disorder that causes her to have severe allergies to things like dirt, she will need to speed up the dusty shift to help ease her allergies. . So the couple hired Asarel Garcia to remove their lawn and landscape designer Julie Deemer at Yard Queen to help with garden design and plant choices.
Going inside, Kovrubias knew she wanted a permeable riverbed, a Japanese-style Zen rock garden, and a variety of plants for sentimental reasons—choosing roses to honor her father, a heat-tolerant wisteria that was a great choice. Will hang from the canopy and greet visitors. He entered the garden, and in honor of Sage, the Australian shepherd of the white sage couple. Several plants she never considered were a welcome surprise: ‘Mystic Spears Blue’ salvia, the flower of the purple fairy fan, Scaevola albida ‘Mauve Clusters’ and native bush toy, or California holly.
Working with Garcia, the couple removed boxwood hedges that faced the street and installed new planters, which Covarrubias filled with sun-loving California cereals (eriogonum fasciculatumNew concrete walkways were laid to allow access to the front door and driveway, so the couple and their roommate, Mike Jimenez, could access their cars.
Working with Deamer’s original layout, the couple enjoyed adding more plants as the seasons turned, being careful to safely establish less drought-resistant varieties under the canopy of the elm tree. In spring, the garden’s ceanothus, salvia and California honeysuckle add vibrant color to the garden’s silvery color palette.
To achieve turf removal exemptions, sprinkler systems were exchanged for drip irrigation systems, and a 650-gallon rain barrel, which runs along a permeable riverbed to capture groundwater, was placed in front of the house. were added.
The couple say they now water the plants in the front yard twice a week, and the irrigation system has helped bring the elm tree back to life. “The elm tree is very happy now,” says Kovrubias. “It was sick and infested with beetles. An arborist told us that sprinkler water was making the tree sick. I let it grow to the point where it tumbles down, and it feels like a treehouse indoors. “
“My garden is worth more than one flower or blooming season. Its daily existence is what gives it value. Birds and butterflies knew that before I did. ,
— Serina Kovrubiasi
Covarrubias says that working in the garden became a way for him to process the loss of his father, his “best friend,” who had been living with the couple before his death. “It gave me something to take care of that I wasn’t myself so I could focus on that when I was too far in grief to take care of myself,” she says. His father always wanted him to keep money in the house. Now, she honors his memory by planting sweet-smelling roses cherished by him.
As a chronically ill person, Covarrubias often doesn’t have the energy to work in the garden, but that doesn’t stop him from experiencing the thriving ecosystem indoors. “On the days I couldn’t go outside because my illness got worse, I would look out the window and notice how much birds and insects were enjoying the garden,” she says. “Its ever-changing landscape brought me peace because it meant that nothing remained the same, not even this pathetic disease.”
Roughly a few years later, Covarrubias is still dragging blades of Bermuda grass between Ceanothus and the sages, but he doesn’t mind. Looking back, she appreciates what the garden has done for her and her mental health. “When things were tough, I would go out and sit in the garden and just be there with the plants and the birds,” she says. “There was always something new to see or something that grew from the previous day. Plants die and survive. It is this never ending cycle of time that helped me to look at my life and my father’s life not from the perspective of a linear beginning or end but from the perspective of an eternal loop.
The garden has inspired Kovrubia to look beyond her property, and she hopes to add more native plants to her neighborhood. “The amount of joy I get from my garden has inspired me to do more,” she says. “Just walking down the street in my neighborhood, I realized that there is such a neglected area in terms of green space. There are so many places that are not being used because of public access.”
Clearly, the garden of Kovrubias has become much more than a collection of plants.
As for her health, she said: “We’ve always been taught that our bodies are equal, but good health is so fleeting and not a measure of our worth,” she says. “My garden is worth more than one flower or blooming season. Its daily existence is what gives it value. Birds and butterflies knew that before I did. ,
Plants used in this garden
alkali sackton, sporobolus aeroides
Butelloua gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition’
blue hibiscus, Alogine Hughelli ‘Santa Cruz’
Burgundy Iceberg Rose
California Bluebell, phasilia minor
california buckwheat, eriogonum fasciculatum
Canyon Prince Wild Rye, Lemus condensatus ‘Canyon Prince’
Cleveland Sage, salvia clevelandi
common man, Achillea Millefolium
Concha Cenothus, Ceanothus ‘Concha’
chinese wisteria, wisteria sinensis
dark knight rose
Dusty Miller, centaurea cineraria
dwarf myrtle, Myrtus communis ‘Compacta’
ab tide rose
fairy fan flower, Scaevola albida ‘Mauve Clusters’
foothill sedge, carex tumulicola
globe gilia, gilia capitata
Grosso French Lavender, Lavandula ‘Grosso’
hairy honeysuckle, Lonicera hispidula
lavender trumpet vine, Clytostoma calistegioides
Margarita Penstemon, Penstemon ‘Margarita’
Mexican Blue Sage, Salvia Chamaedraoides
Mexican Bush Sage, salvia leucantha
montara sagebrush, Artemisia california ‘Montara’
Mystic Spears Blue Salvia
Narrowleaf Milkweed, asclepius fasciculis
Nushio’s gem camellia, Camellia japonica ‘Nucio’s Gem’
Nushio’s Voodoo Azalea
purple sage, salvia leucophila
purple tiger rose
showy milkweed, asclepius specosa
Silver Anouk Spanish Lavender, Lavandula stochus ‘Silver Anouk’
star jasmine, trachelospermum jasminoides
Teucrium cosoni (majoricum)
toyon, heteromelus arbutifolia
Variegata Di Bologna rose
different types of mint bush, Prostanthera ovalifolia ‘Variegata’
Violet’s Pride Rose
western redbud, Cercis occidentalis
white sage, salvia apiana
yesterday Today Tomorrow, brunfelsia pausiflora