Sunday, July 7, 2013

It's All About the View

My husband and I recently brought home 2 large outdoor chairs from his parents' house.  As their old metal patio set also didn't have a home, it ended up here too.  These additions required me to juggle what we already had to accommodate the new additions.

The chairs were placed on the back porch facing an existing garden bench.  They replaced a pair of wicker chairs we've had for at least a dozen years.

Frankly, I'm not overly fond of the "new" chairs but my husband wanted them so home they came.   I admit that they're far more comfortable than the decaying wicker chairs we formerly had there.  They also swivel, which allows people seated in them to face either whomever is seated on the bench or the all important view.

View of LA harbor looking toward Long Beach, which is just visible through the ever-present haze

Our backyard overlooks the Los Angeles harbor.  The view is very important to homeowners here and, as we discovered after moving in, it can be the source of neighborly conflicts.  Our community has what's billed as one of the most rigorous "view preservation" laws in the country.  Since our arrival, we've had 2 requests to cut back trees to preserve the views of different neighbors.  The first request was relatively easy to accommodate.  It involved the removal of a haggard banana tree at the bottom of the slope at the very back of our property.  The second request required a more difficult decision.  It meant the removal of the much older, 60 foot Eucalyptus tree that dominated our side yard.  After lengthy discussions with the neighbor making the request and meetings with 2 different arborists, we agreed to the tree's removal earlier this year.  I wrote about that event here.

Putting local politics aside, the change in furnishings on the back porch allows visitors to see the harbor regardless of where they choose to sit.  As to the wicker chairs, I'd originally planned on dumping them.  However, although they're clearly showing their age, their structure is still intact and the cushions I've got on them make them comfortable.  So, instead of tossing them, I've moved them to the northwest side of the house, where they now face my dry garden.

New seating area photographed from the dry garden

The dry garden area wasn't much to look at when we moved in 2 and a half years ago.  Actually, it was just plain ugly.  Originally, about one-third of it was covered with half-dead grass.  A hodge-podge collection of fruit trees comprised the remaining two-thirds of the area.  Most of the trees were added by the former owner in the year prior to our purchase of the property.  They were planted much too close together and many of the varieties were poorly suited to this climate zone.  The collection included a misshapen fig tree, a couple of guava trees, a persimmon tree, an apricot tree, 3 struggling apple trees, a diseased "fruit cocktail" tree (comprised of 3 fruiting tree varieties grafted together), and a grapevine.  The "orchard" was covered with small rocks and there was a layer of heavy plastic about 4 inches below the soil level, presumably intended to suppress weeds.  There was no obvious pathway to the sloped area below, which can only be accessed through this area.   Unfortunately, I didn't take any pictures of the area before I started work on it so you'll have to take my word that it has changed a lot.  Here's one view of what it looks like now:

Dry garden photographed from the beginning of the path leading from the paved area toward the stairs down the slope

All of the grass is gone.  The misshapen fig tree, which would have been in the middle of the rock walkway (across from the rabbit), was removed.  The fruit cocktail tree, which fruited poorly and encroached upon the grape vine, was also removed.  The apricot tree died of its own accord, despite my best efforts to keep it alive.  The apple trees, which were little more than half-dead sticks, were removed but a cherry tree sapling, removed from the slope, was replanted here (along the stairway leading down the slope, not readily visible in the picture above).  The existing persimmon tree and 2 guava trees were retained.  An arbor, constructed by my husband, was added in the back to support the grapevine.  All the other plants were added by me since our arrival.  Rocks, dug out of the surrounding area, were used to fill in the pathways here and in the vegetable garden.  (The weeds growing into the path were supplied by mother nature - I'll get to them one day.)  To improve drainage I pulled the plastic out in sections as I dug out the bedding area.

I spend a fair amount of time working in the dry garden and the slope below so the new seating area will be a welcome place to plunk myself down for a rest.  It also provides a vantage point from which to enjoy the fruits of my labors (no pun intended).

The small metal patio set inherited from my in-laws replaced the even smaller table and 2 chairs I previously had on the other side of the house, off the living room.  I added a funky screen a friend of my husband's gave us.  The screen has moved from area to area looking for a place to stay since we received it several months ago.  I'm not sure it will remain in its present location but, for now, at least it provides something for a potted Hoya plant to climb along.  Eventually, I think I'd like to remove some of the animal figures in the screen, possibly replacing them with pieces of colored glass.

This seating area looks out upon what was once a shade garden bordering the site of the former Eucalyptus tree.  I wrote about the changes made to this garden bed after the tree's removal here.  More changes are likely as some plants are still struggling with the transition from a shade to full sun exposure.  In addition, the grass area between this side porch and the planting bed is in horrible shape, due in part to the beating it took during the tree's removal.  I've decided that much of this grass must be removed, although I'm not sure how much of this project I want to attempt during the heat of summer.  Right now, I'm focused on just extending the existing flagstone path from the garden bed up to the paved porch.  I've made a start on that.

Whatever I do in replanting the side yard once the grass has been removed, once again I have to consider the impact to the view from the seating area, as well as from the living room.  My husband has already advised (warned?) me that he doesn't want the harbor view obstructed from this vantage point.

View of Angel's Gate, the entrance to the LA Harbor, toward the open ocean

Seating arrangements - they're all about the view.


  1. It certainly makes sense to capitalize on that view in any way possible. If my home and garden looked out onto a view like that I'd be staring out at it all the time and would probably get alot less done.

    I think you've done a great job locating seating areas to take advantage of existing views and new ones you've created. Nice job!

    1. Many of our visitors comment on how the view would be the focus of their attention if they lived here but I actually pay it very little mind. I seldom actually sit in any of the seating areas either. Maybe I need to stop and smell the roses, figuratively speaking, one of these days...

  2. That's certainly a view worth showing off! I'm always interested in seeing what people are doing for garden furniture, how they combine comfort with something that is beautiful and blends in with the landscape. (Here, furniture also needs to be able to withstand regular rain in the summer and either be durable enough to weather winter snows or light enough to be brought inside for the winter.) I love the bench you have opposite your new chairs. -Jean

    1. It's nice of you to notice the bench, Jean. That was a Christmas present from my husband the first year we were in our old house. I think it may be the first garden-related gift he ever gave me.

  3. My view looks directly into my neighbors yards on three sides. Fortunately, none of them are nudists, so it's all good. Your ocean view is beautiful!

    1. I know the feeling of neighbors on all sides, Tammy. Our last place was a free-standing townhouse referred to locally as a "2-on-a-lot" because the lot was divided into 2 homes sharing a common driveway. We actually had neighbors on top of us on all 4 sides. I had a very tiny postage stamp-sized yard and, when I was out there working, I'd hear all sorts of things I'd rather not have heard. Moving to our current house was like a dream come true after 20 years in our "starter home."