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Beg, Borrow & Steal
Shannon Hogan Cohen | Luneta Drive

Rear garden at Nicole and Tom O’Neil’s home.
Photo Shannon Hogan Cohen
Click on image to enlarge.

For many of us, our garden is an extension of our personalities and an opportunity to alter expression with each season. A recent visit to 532 Serpentine Drive provided an example for all of us to transform our grounds from water dependent to water independent.

Nicole Moran O’Neil has a knack for achieving aesthetic and functional appeal. With a little planning and an emphasis on individuality, she and her husband, Tom, eliminated the grass in their backyard and converted it into a garden sanctuary.
They did not hire a professional company to design and construct their masterpiece. It was a labor of love. Nicole’s vision was to recreate a canvas that integrated the canyon behind her home with an immense pop of color.

With some creative research, she is now saving money and eliminating the need to water weekly. Her choice of textures and variations is striking. The assorted native plants and succulents are everywhere, from lemonade berry to jade. Nicole is continually discovering new low water plant life to experiment with. I asked her if she was able to measure water reduction. She smiles and states, “We have experienced a 42% drop in our water usage.” Nicole indicates at the beginning when establishing her new oasis, the vegetation needed to be watered weekly. They now hand water only once a month.

After spending a good amount of time in her garden, I thought how best to inspire others to achieve their own “sanctuary”…Beg, Borrow, and Steal!

Beg for clippings or shoots. A simple concept of asking your neighbors for pieces of plants or their names. The overall objective is to help each other flourish from our growing fiascos. Our neighbors can be useful in guiding us in our growing practices.

Borrow concepts. The Del Mar Garden Club was helpful in naming the plants Nicole had seen near the post office. She often attends the San Diego Botanic Garden seminars and exhibits to acquire useful tips which help her create the next phase of her ongoing masterpiece. A plant and its microsystem frequently sprout from other plants for reproduction. It seems to be part of the natural process.

Steal ideas. Nicole frequently collects ideas from online websites and often drives around the community to find inspiration from her neighbors’ yards. A resourceful way to gain garden insight.

If you think outside the box, you may find yourself relaxing in an avocado colored chaise lounge tucked into your version of a botanical garden, while watching the butterflies and hummingbirds circle with delight. Go enjoy this water friendly backyard beauty you have produced. Jerry Brown will be happy knowing you are saving water and the State of California thanks you.


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