before and after

Before & After: A Ramshackle Glam Xeriscape

by Annie Werbler

As those of us on the East Coast settle into seasonally crisp fall weather, our friends in California continue to feel the effects of a years-long drought that has residents rethinking their landscaping — one of many necessary lifestyle changes. Jordan Reid, the founding editor of Ramshackle Glam, co-owner of online shop glam | camp, and lifestyle expert for Thumbtack, recently relocated with husband Kendrick Strauch, their two children, and a pair of pups from a small town just outside New York City to the Bay Area — a place strongly impacted by the water shortage. The family decided they’d rethink the existing front yard by replacing its dead and dying plants with more drought-tolerant species in a process called “xeriscaping.” They hired a pro off Thumbtack to design a solution more appropriate for the new reality of the local climate, thereby reducing the need for supplemental watering.

The yard didn’t feel very “California” at first. Jordan longed for a landscape that seemed light and bright with lots of plants and an airy, open vibe. Over the next three months, the couple transformed their front yard to suit that aesthetic vision, as well as the limitations brought on by severe drought. Jordan started by pulling out the many dead and dying plants, along with a low wooden fence just off the porch and its dated red mulch. Next, she added succulents and other native, drought-resistant plants to create a lush landscape that requires little watering. She replaced very large plants with smaller ones so the succulents would have plenty of room in which to grow among a grey gravel surface with modern appeal. The boring exterior entryway also received a much-needed, decorative update with contrasting plants in collected ceramic pots. The entire project cost just over $1,000 in total, but made a huge impact on the sustainability and look of the front yard. For more of Jordan’s home improvement chronicles, check out her blog Ramshackle Glam. —Annie

Photography by Jordan Reid

Before & After: A Ramshackle Glam Xeriscape, on Design*Sponge
Keeping the California water crisis in mind, Jordan Reid mixed in a few fake plants with her drought-resistant front yard xeriscaping project.
Before & After: A Ramshackle Glam Xeriscape, on Design*Sponge
Upon moving into the house, the front yard made Jordan and Kendrick especially nervous. The yard was full of plants that didn't look like they were doing well in the middle of the major California drought. The trees were dead, the bushes were on their way there, and the flowers were drooping. Xeriscaping provided a viable solution.
Before & After: A Ramshackle Glam Xeriscape, on Design*Sponge
A drip irrigation system delivers a slow trickle of water directly to plants' roots - great for areas that suffer from droughts - to keep the yard as low-maintenance as possible. The decorative frog figurine was salvaged from the previous landscape.
Before & After: A Ramshackle Glam Xeriscape, on Design*Sponge
The San Jose home's front porch, formerly featuring dead bushes and trees, is now one of Jordan's favorite spots to sit and watch the sunset.
Before & After: A Ramshackle Glam Xeriscape, on Design*Sponge
Jordan highly recommends xeriscaping for "tons of gorgeous, sculptural, drought-friendly options."
Before & After: A Ramshackle Glam Xeriscape, on Design*Sponge
The red mulch felt dated to Jordan, so she replaced it with gravel for a more minimalist look.
Before & After: A Ramshackle Glam Xeriscape, on Design*Sponge
Because it can be costly to purchase full-grown succulents, Jordan chose smaller, less pricey plants that will grow to fill the space over time for a lush, dramatic end result.
Before & After: A Ramshackle Glam Xeriscape, on Design*Sponge
Jordan suggests hanging potted plants at different heights for extra drama.
Before & After: A Ramshackle Glam Xeriscape, on Design*Sponge
Instead of spending money on new patio furniture, Jordan repurposed unused indoor pieces on the porch.
Before & After: A Ramshackle Glam Xeriscape, on Design*Sponge
Colorful throw pillows from Lulu & Georgia and Nine Streets transform the simple bench to one that is cozy and bright.
Before & After: A Ramshackle Glam Xeriscape, on Design*Sponge
Jordan loves these hand-painted pots made as party favors for guests of her daughter’s first birthday celebration.
Before & After: A Ramshackle Glam Xeriscape, on Design*Sponge
Various potted plants in interesting vessels enliven the front door area.
Before & After: A Ramshackle Glam Xeriscape, on Design*Sponge
This spot, just to the side of the front door, previously featured a single huge, dead plant surrounded by messy river rocks. Jordan replaced it with small drought-friendly plants that will fill the space over time for a clean, finished-looking effect.
Before & After: A Ramshackle Glam Xeriscape, on Design*Sponge
Jordan's initial plan was to remove the lawn in favor of a more drought-friendly material, but through this project she learned that some varieties of grass, including hers, can actually thrive in low-water conditions.

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  • Great to learn about xeriscaping – so pertinent to the drought and bushfire prone part of Australia I live in. Many of our native plants are suited to minimal watering but they are not in fashion currently – great to see these sustainability principles in action and making me reconsider what i can update in my own garden – thanks for sharing :)

  • we have done a lot of xeriscaping with beautiful results, instead of a plant I sometimes have added a sculpture or other accesory. Like this example the yard becomes a garden room. The Moors in Spain did beautiful gardens with pebbles, mosaics and drought tolerant plants. centuries later they still look fresh and a wonderful retreat.

  • I’m definitely in favor of xeriscaping. Even in Portland, OR where I live, we have had increasingly drier and hotter summers, so planning for those conditions is critical. In addition to the agave, aloe and cactus plant choices Jordan made, she could add shrubs like those in the manzanita family: they are very drought-tolerant and add a leafy look that contrasts nicely with the simple sculptural shapes of the succulents.

  • Really well done landscape. It just opens up the whole front porch and who doesn’t love to sit on a front porch and watch the world go by. Thanks for the view.

  • A unique take on xeriscape – I am planning a big change for myself
    here in Arizona and it’s important for me to remember that there can be many different ways to look at it. It doesn’t have to me all hard edged spiky cactus and brown gravel rock! Very inspiring!

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