Santa Cruz Landscape Design Tips
Earth Design Gardens is based in Santa Cruz, CA and specializes in sustainable and regenerative landscape design. In this post we’ll share some tips for designing a landscape. For personalized assistance in designing, updating or caring for your garden, contact us today!
- Measure and Observe
- Take the time to get accurate measurements for the space you’re designing, you’ll need these throughout the design process.
- Take note of how the elements affect your space throughout the day and seasons. These existing conditions can be noted on a bubble diagram to help serve as a road map before diving into a detailed design.
- Know your Environment
- Your observations from tip #1 should help you to learn a bit more about the micro-climates present in your space. You can also do research online and in libraries about the natural history and climate.
- Micro-climates (sun, shade, soil type, elevation, etc.) determine what kinds of plants are likely to do well in your space. In Santa Cruz we have the shady redwood forest, sandhills, foggy seashore, urban areas, etc. Some plants are well adapted to the redwood forest; while others have adaptations that allow them to thrive by the bay with sand, wind and salt-spray tolerance.
- We have a long dry season, so it’s important to design with drought tolerance in mind. Use native and drought tolerant plants when possible and consider adding greywater systems and rainwater catchment.
- Diversity is key to surviving climate change. Monocultures (plantings with no diversity like a lawn or field of wheat) are highly susceptible to pests and disease, they don’t provide great habitat, and are less adaptable to environmental change. Use a mixture of plant species and varieties to create a more resilient garden.
- Plant diversity also helps make a visually pleasing garden. Include a variety of plants and textures that will provide interest throughout the year and not just one season.
- Right Plant Right Place
- Research the mature sizes of plants and think about their spacing. Design so that smaller plants aren’t overshadowed by larger ones.
- If using spiny plants, put them in places you want to create barriers or that are out of the way – not where you need to frequently access. If you want to draw attention to an area, consider using plants with bright and attractive flowers. Use screening plants to hide an unattractive view.
- Avoid using plants that are considered invasive in our area (CAL-IPC is a great resource https://www.cal-ipc.org/plants/inventory/), not only do these plants put our native flora at risk, but they’ll also become a maintenance nightmare in your yard.
- Lean towards plants that you like and find useful. While a landscape can be designed to be low maintenance, there’s always going to be some work that you need to put into it. You may as well be putting that energy towards plants that provide habitat for native animals, flowers that you enjoy, or food to put on the table.
- Think about the spaces you access often, views you enjoy, how people and animals move about the space. Think about this when designing pathways and seating areas.
- Utilize Local Resources
- Consider ways to repurpose or reinvent materials you already have. Support locally owned businesses. We have so many amazing local nurseries, garden shops and materials providers: Santa Cruz Mountain Feed and Farm, Sierra Azul Nursery, Succulent Gardens, Aptos Landscape Supply, Central Coast Wilds Nursery and more. Add your favorite Santa Cruz area locally-owned nurseries and landscape suppliers in the comments below!
- When I have a creative block surrounding a design, I go for a walk. See what’s working in your neighborhood landscape and what isn’t. The UC Santa Cruz Arboretum has many examples of plants from California and around the world that thrive in our environment. Check out one of our local landscape businesses and see plants and materials in-person and spark that creative joy in your landscape design. Get inspired.
For more Santa Cruz landscape design ideas, check out our Portfolio page.