Sometimes an opportunity arises to do a project that is truly unique. This front yard remodel in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, CA was such an opportunity.
In Southern California there has been a water shortage over the past few years. As a result, there has been interest in reducing or eliminating lawn areas and replacing them with water-wise solutions. One such project is the Ray Residence in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, CA. Originally, there was an expansive lawn area encompassing the vast majority of the front yard with a single Willow tree in the center that shaded the majority of the lawn.
The solution was to strip the lawn and create a courtyard with an arched entry gate and a garden wall of stacked and mortared in place assortment of glass bottles. Foundations were excavated, reinforced and poured and a base of 8” CMU concrete blocks were installed. As visible in the photos, the CMU’s were cut to undulate creating a flowing base for the bottle area of the wall.
Collecting so many glass bottles was an incredible challenge. We put up a sign appealing to neighbors and passing traffic to contribute their glass bottles to help build the wall.
To match the CMU’s, the bottles were cut to 8” lengths with a tile water saw utilizing a diamond blade which created cylinders that are closed at one end and open on the other. Bottles that were too short were pieced with others and therefore closed both inside and outside.
The glass cylinders were mortared into place using a blend of three parts masonry sand to one part plastic cement plus Davis Concrete color ‘Goldenrod’ at the rate of ½ pound of color to ½ bag of plastic cement. One cup of concrete glue was added to each batch.
Although we had been saving bottles for months and encouraging our friends to do the same, we soon ran out of bottles. We figured out that we needed around 1300 bottles and the project soon came to a stop as the supply of bottles dwindled to a trickle. We eventually connected up with a local bar and restaurant that was willing to collect and store bottles for us. Because it was a bar as well, we started getting more interesting colors and shapes. From them came one gallon jars that had contained olives; Absolut Vodka bottle colered in Paech and Mandarin; Jagermeister green and rectangular bottle; Sky Vodka blue bottles; pink and blue Sake bottles and the list goes on.
To add interest to the court yard we covered the porch wood siding posts with metal lath, added Salmon colored Idaho Quartzite and stuccoed them with flared bases that flowed into the Quartzite patios below. On the side property line block wall we added a wall fountain with a wind god head that spews water into a shallow basin and surrounded it with Glacial Turquoise rock cobble. To unify the space, the court yard Quartzite patio has irregular bands of the Glacial Turquoise rock cobble with small pebbles interspersed between.
Amending the Soil: The Landscaping in the Courtyard and the space to the street has matured now. At the time of planting, the soil was some of the worst I have ever seen.
When we stripped the lawn and blended the sod and roots back into the hard pan to add organics and then purchased a massive amount of Humic Compost and blended it along with many bags of WormGold worm castings, ‘Live Earth Bio-Basics’ (soil enzymes) and ‘Soilbuster’ (pelletized gypsum). The planting theme is eclectic and blends succulents with tropicals. The irrigation is drip and thus we are able to add plenty of water to the Palms, the Sugarcane and Gingers and almost no water to the young succulents as they establish themselves. There are some small areas with ground cover and for those areas we have installed ‘Netafim’ soaker tubing for irrigation.