California couple creates a water-saving oasis
Russ and Monica Chapin wanted a backyard made for entertaining. They also wanted to save water.
When they made over their landscape in Folsom, Calif., they got both. The old lawn and shrubs are gone in favor of a deluxe outdoor kitchen and patio. An underused flower bed made way for a poolside fireplace and seating area.
Behind their hillside home, the sharp slope was transformed from an uncoordinated jumble into a formal study of white-flowered plants set against black mulch. It forms a distinguished background for the handsome cabana and stone-faced bar.
The result? The Chapins never want to leave home. “This is our stay-cation,” Monica Chapin said with a broad smile. “It’s like we live at a resort.”
Landscape designer Darcie Nunes Paulin created the new almost all-white garden for the couple.
The design started with the lap pool. It came with the home, which the Chapins bought two years ago, moving from near Stockton, Calif.
“The house was owned by a pool dealer,” Russ Chapin said. “So, this pool had all the bells and whistles.”
That includes recirculating fountains and handsome stone facing. Although the former owner had installed gas and electrical hookups for an outdoor kitchen, that project never got off the ground until the Chapins started taking a hard look at their water use and a total backyard makeover.
“We’re walnut growers, so we’re very aware of the drought,” Russ said. “That’s why we went with all this hardscape (instead of lawn). The drought was absolutely part of it. I know we’re saving a lot of water now.”
They started the transformation with the slope, which rises at a sharp 45-degree angle.
“It’s a very difficult slope,” Russ said. “That made it very difficult to care for, and (irrigation) water tended to just run off. It’s now all drought-tolerant plants. And because they’ve been in a year, they’re established (and can get by on less water). Everything is on drip.”
With deep green foliage and sparkling white flowers, the plants look lush with little water. Oleanders and crepe myrtles form a backdrop for ground-hugging carpet roses and star jasmine. A wall of photina studded with southern magnolias softens the retaining wall behind the pool and its fountains. Pots of white petunias, vinca and cyclamen pick up the white highlights.
“We like the very formal look of the all-white landscape,” Russ said. “We still have a few pops of color here and there, but the white pulls it all together. It goes with the pool — and it looks magnificent.”
Contractor Matt Niermeyer built the outdoor kitchen, cabana and fireplace. “We do a lot of outdoor kitchens,” he said. “That trend has been going for 25 years.”
The Chapins’ outdoor kitchen rivals its indoor counterpart. With an eight-seat wrap-around bar, the outdoor kitchen features a large wood-burning pizza oven, a six-burner gas grill, a “kegerator” with beer taps, a chilled buffet, under-counter refrigerators, sink and loads of counter space.
“I love the kitchen,” Monica said. “I love entertaining people, and this has room for a lot of people.”
“We’re just looking forward to having our friends and family over — a lot,” Russ said. “This is our little slice of heaven.”