Sometimes in business, it pays to be a little bold and to take a risk or two. Or maybe it’s not risky at all.
Just ask Allen Landscape, Inc. The Oceanside, California-based design/build firm earned not one, but two first place beautification awards from the California Landscape Contractors Association San Diego chapter for a project whose largest component is a product they’d never used before.
Probably the best explanation of the scope of the job comes from the fact that the firm was honored for a small renovation and a large turf conversion. Both, however, were done to help the clients reach their goal of water reduction at their home in the upscale Rancho Pacifica neighborhood.
Allen Landscape’s Jason Dobbie explains that the project was designed by Greg Hebert Landscape Architect. Allen Landscape was hired to do the installation based mainly on their stellar reputation in the neighborhood.
“It’s a large property, and they were looking to use a lot less water by eliminating 80 percent of the turf and putting in some play areas,” Dobbie says. “Although we put in a 90-foot by 12-foot bocce court to fill some of that space, to eliminate a lot of the lawn we used a product called kurapia.”
He explains that kurapia was developed in Japan to replace lawns. Rather than acting like sod, it’s planted 18 inches on center and creeps outward, filling in the space around it. Among its other attributes are that it only grows to a height of about 1 inch and it requires less water than a cool season turf grass.
“The only real downside with it is it has little clover-like flowers that attract bees,” says Dobbie. “For that reason, it probably isn’t recommended for families with young children. And, you do want to have some bender board or something similar to keep it within its space.”
However, the kurapia is the centerpiece of a project that involved removing turf from both the front and back yards of the predominantly flat property. The remainder of the landscaping involved ornamental grasses and some large areas of plants to give the project a Mediterranean look.
Dobbie says at the request of the clients he did change out some of the plantings from what the landscape architect had proposed. He also helped the clients pick out some large pots that were custom planted.
“We also updated all the irrigation in those areas that had been lawn,” he says. “Depending on the area, we put in new drip or MP rotor spray systems for the kurapia. Drainage was already there, and underground.”
The one exception to that was the bocce court, which is the largest hardscape component of the job.
“We did the whole nine yards on that,” says Dobbie. “There’s a wooden border, layers of base material and decomposed granite, with a layer of oyster shells on top. That’s the proper top layer of a bocce court.”
He adds that good drainage for the bocce court was important, and it, too, ties in with the existing underground system that flows to the street.
Because the clients already had a pool, patio and walkways, the only other hardscape installed was some deteriorating granite pathways, including one to the bocce court.
“This was just a facelift to bring the property up with the current time,” he says. “The home was built about 2000, and everybody has been doing drought-tolerant landscapes. There were some rebates involved for talking out the lawn.”
A simple facelift or not, Dobbie says the crew at Allen Landscape is proud of the job – which took about six weeks – mainly because the clients are completely satisfied with it.
“That’s always the most rewarding thing,” Dobbie says. “We do a lot of beautiful work and I can look at it and say it’s amazing, but we don’t really do that unless the client enjoys it and we can make it all work. It’s a happy client and that’s what we’re proud of.”
Not that there weren’t a couple challenges along the way, though. Dobbie says he felt comfortable using the kurapia because he’d been introduced to it on a CLCA nursery tour. However, the job did require a bit more than had been anticipated, and because of availability, it also cost a little more.
“It was nothing extremely major,” he says, adding it offered a learning experience.
Perhaps a bigger surprise, given the job’s location, is that after completing it late in the year, the site ran into some frost.
“We had to replace a few plants,” he acknowledges. “Hopefully, this year they’ve acclimated a little better and can handle a bit of cold. That’s the kind of thing that comes up that you don’t ever see until you’re done.”
In the meantime, Allen Landscape is expanding its use of kurapia. Not only has the company used it in other jobs, but company owner Matthew Allen has used it to replace his own lawn.