Like walk­ing in a col­or­ful park

Los Angeles Times - - HOME & DESIGN - By Lisa Boone home@la­

In Septem­ber 2013, Gio­vanna Mel­ton pur­chased a 1950 home in Val­ley Glen that was sit­u­ated on a charm­ing tree-lined street filled with tra­di­tional homes and lawns.

At the time, it was Los Angeles’ dri­est year on record, but Mel­ton didn’t have to worry about wa­ter­ing her lawn. The lawn was al­ready dead. In­spired by a free on­line gar­den­ing class she was tak­ing at the time, Mel­ton de­cided to re­move the lawn and de­sign a new front­yard fol­low­ing some of the prin­ci­ples of per­ma­cul­ture — the art of cre­at­ing a self-sus­tain­ing, self-suf­f­i­cent gar­den, which in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia means thriv­ing on lit­tle to no wa­ter.

“There are so many good things to learn from per­ma­cul­ture,” Mel­ton says of the prac­tice that copies pat­terns found in na­ture. “One of the things I love the most is how it em­pha­sizes the fact that na­ture is sloppy. We tend to be so tidy about ev­ery­thing.”

Her goal for the gar­den, she says, was to cre­ate some­thing “wa­ter-wise, but also use­ful and invit­ing.”

Af­ter her gar­dener re­moved the turf, Mel­ton added or­ganic amend­ments to the soil and di­vided the yard into two zones, sep­a­rated by a curv­ing flag­stone path. “Why not go with free curves when there are no straight lines in na­ture?” Mel­ton says.

The free flow­ing path­way is meant to con­vey a river be­tween the two ar­eas — five bar­rels planted with herbs and ed­i­bles on one side and a sur­plus of Mediter­ranean and drought-tol­er­ant plants on the other.

“The path goes from my drive­way to my neigh­bor’s drive­way,” Mel­ton says. “It’s like walk­ing through a park.”

The lawn was re­placed with laven­der, pop­pies, agave, rose­mary and arteme­sia, among many oth­ers. She tried to cover as much bare soil as pos­si­ble to keep weeds to a min­i­mum and pro­tect the soil. (In an ef­fort to curb waste, Mel­ton uses leaves from the sweet gum tree for mulch.)

As a cos­tume de­signer, Mel­ton is a big fan of color. So she broad- casts Cal­i­for­nia wild­flower seeds and plans on plant­ing more gaza­nias and echi­naceas, two drought­tol­er­ant peren­ni­als with pretty blooms that at­tract but­ter­flies.

“It’s an evolv­ing art piece,” she says of her front­yard, which is al­ways in bloom. (She did not ap­ply for a turf re­bate be­cause there was a 10-week wait at the time).

Mel­ton adds: “I cre­ated it so that peo­ple can use it. It makes me happy that my post­man uses the path to walk from house to house.”

HERBS, ed­i­bles are on one side of path; col­or­ful blooms op­po­site.

Pho­to­graphs by Gio­vanna Mel­ton

IN­SPIRED by a gar­den­ing class, Mel­ton had her gar­dener re­move the dead lawn, then she planted a wa­ter-wise gar­den that al­ways has some­thing in bloom. “It’s an evolv­ing art piece,” she says.

WHEN GIO­VANNA MEL­TON moved into her 1950 home in Val­ley Glen in Septem­ber 2013, the front lawn was dead.

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