Sunday, January 14, 2007

California Native Plant Garden Design Course - Part 1

Yesterday, we began Part 1 of a 3-part course about garden design with California native plants. It was held at the Theodore Payne Foundation in Sun Valley. We're hoping that after this course, we'll be able to replace the landscape of our front and back yards using mostly native plants.

The instructors, Anna Armstrong and Richard Walker, were very nice and very knowledgeable. They have been doing residential landscape design since 1991, but the majority of their work has switched from residential to commercial in recent years.

The course outline for Part 1:
  1. What is a California Native Plant?
  2. Why Design a California Native Plant Garden? - Sustainability
  3. What You Have to be Comfortable With - Nonconformity
  4. Get to Know Your Yard - Base Information and Site Analysis
  5. Decide What You Want In Your Garden - Functionality
  6. Start Creating Your Native Landscape Design
  7. Select Materials
We basically received an introduction to gardening with natives and its benefits and then learned how to sketch our yards and the structures that will not be changing. We were advised to sketch on 24" x 36" paper using a #2 pencil. I asked about the use of computer software and didn't receive any recommendations other than Autocad which is very expensive and doesn't run on Linux. Even if I'm able to get a hold of appropriate software, we're still going to do our sketch by hand since it might be hard to print on the proper size paper.

When I got home, I searched the web for CAD software, looking for programs that were free and run on Linux. I found 2 interesting ones. VariCAD is a good looking 3D/2D CAD tool that runs on Linux, but it costs $599. QCad is a 2D CAD tool that also runs on Linux and has a free Community Edition! QCad turned out to be perfect for this exercise. I'll write more on it later...

We're supposed to identify what we want in the garden with respect to functionality. Here are some ideas I have so far:

For the front yard:
  • A bench for sitting and enjoying the garden
  • A path that leads from the front porch to the sidewalk, possibly curving or jogging to the north which is the way I leave the house in the morning (right now we only have a cement path that leads south to the driveway)
  • Two trees in the parkway
  • Short paths in the parkway that let people cross from their cars parked by the curb to the sidewalk
For the back yard:
  • Area for at least 2 people to sit and enjoy the garden
  • Path from end of patio to northern side yard
  • Vegetable garden
  • Path from end of patio to vegetable garden
  • Path allowing the harvesting of fruit from our orange and avocado trees
  • Path from the patio to the compost bins behind the garage
  • A bird bath
  • Possibly an outdoor fire pit
  • Possibly a giant chess set surrounded by a bench or two for people to watch


Anonymous said...

Thanx for the tip on the linux Cad software =)
I've understood that you have the same graphics card that I do (x3000).. just wondering if you had any luck in Linux. sorry for contacting you on your blog didn't know any other way..

Would be very glad if you could help!
"davidcs [at]"

Ken Weiner said...

You're welcome. I'm glad you found my blog which led you to QCad.

I do have the GMA x3000 graphics card and I wasn't able to get it working properly with my widescreen monitor. I ended up buying an nVidia card which fixed everything. The downside is that it is very noisy. I will blog about this soon...