3373 Cabrillo Boulevard

This garden was the conception and largely the work of Andrea Dembrowski (born April 1947 and died June 2008). Andrea made the decision in 2006, after another year of Southern California drought and brown lawn, to redo the lawn portions of the front and back yards. Her primary motivation was conservation. According to her son, Alex, Andrea had long been environmentally conscientious and had been at one time a Sierra Club member.

Andrea’s inspiration was to reduce water, to achieve a more natural look than turf, to recycle materials from the demolition of the old garden and hard surfaces, and to use drought tolerant plants and gardening techniques. At the same time, she had in mind using lavender and sage in the garden, two of her favorite scents, incorporating a dry river bed in the garden design, and installing a deck over a good portion of what had been the back yard.

In 2006 and 2007 Andrea worked on totally killing the front and back lawn by cessation of watering and digging up the roots. She had a poured cement patio removed from the back of the house and stacked chunks of the cement to use for future pathways in the back garden.

During 2007, she enrolled in a course on California-friendly (xeriscape) gardening at Santa Monica College to learn sustainable landscape design, planting and watering techniques, and plant selection. This course led her to procure stone, pebbles and nylon/rubber sheeting to use in shaping areas of the garden and help control weeds and conserve water.

It was in the back yard that Andrea carried out her concept of the “dry river bed.” She hired helpers to dig out a “gulch” which was lined with stone. The excavated dirt was used to build .mounds raised alongside the “gulch” and these were covered with the nylon/rubber sheeting. For each variety of succulent planted in a mound, Andrea cut away sheeting around the planting “basin” allowing the plant to be watered and but shielding the rest of the mound from watering. The sheeting was ultimately covered with wood chips to achieve a natural look ant control weeds.

In stretches of the back yard, the cement chunks were laid as stone pathways and to widen the walkway extending to the rear of the garage. Small pebbles were used to fill in and level the spaces between cement chunks. Andrea planted sage and lavender along the cement pathways. She planted blue fescue along the riverbed gulch. Along the newly-constructed redwood deck in the back of the house, she planted decorative grasses.

In the front of the house along the front porch, Andrea planted a flowering ground cover that required low water once established. She created a large succulent “island” in the former turf area of the front yard and added more succulents and flax plantings along the curb. She mixed in grasses and lavender plants throughout the front garden to unify it with the look of the back garden. The three dwarf citrus in the north portion of the front yard were the last plants she added to the garden in fall 2007.

In Summer 2008, after her death, friends completed the front garden by adding stepping stones, stone edging and blue fescue plantings around the citrus trees, and yarrow plants in between the citrus. The last planting added in the front garden is the variegated mahonia plant in the northwest corner of the yard.

This garden is largely hand watered, with the exception of soaker hose added by friends in Summer 2008 to enable watering the succulent “islands” and stretches of lavender in the back yard.