Smartscape Success Story

Interview with Lars and Kris Hendron

Lars and Kris decided they were tired of their high maintenance bluegrass front yard. They were always pulling weeds, fertilizing, and watering it. Inspired by the death of a beloved tree in the yard, they decided it was time for a change. Both Kris and Lars have always been interested in conserving water and being more energy efficient. A drought tolerant landscape seemed like just the thing for their yard. The whole project took just a couple of months to complete. For the past 4 years, they have watched their new landscape transform into a lush and beautiful, as well as low water need landscape.

Kris is a master gardener, so she had some design ideas to start out with, as well as some plants that they definitely were interested in incorporating into their project. She worked with a designer at a nearby nursery to help plan out what they were going to do. They decided on a plant pallet that included both native plants as well as some non-native drought tolerant plants flowers. One thing they were very interested in was making sure that they had something blooming and colors dynamically changing all through the growing season. The person they worked with at the nursery helped out with choosing plants so their new landscape would be beautiful all year round.

Meanwhile, Lars, with a background in architecture and engineering, headed up the design and planning of the hardscapes for the design. He decided on a sinuous pathway that led from the street to their front door. The path has a gentle slope and a few steps that lined up with the terraces that Kris was designing for the landscaping. He decided on a permeable gravel to help filter water and prevent runoff into the street. It is lined with lights, so guests can see their way to the house.

In the fall of 2005 they started getting down to business. The first step was to remove the grass. They quit watering the grass a few months earlier so it would be easier to remove. The next step was to lay out the pathway, moving the dirt as necessary to meet their design. Next they planned out and placed their new drip irrigation system. Their planting plan necessitated different hydrozones for their landscaping. They planned it so the most water-needy plants were nearest to the house, and the least water-needy plants are near the street. After all of this was put into place, the plants were purchased and placed in their pots on the ground to get a good idea of where they should go. Once the plants were placed in their best location, they were committed to their location and planted. After the plants were in place, Lars and Kris placed the mulch where it was appropriate, and then sat back and watched their plants grow!


  • Plan, plan, plan!
  • Always carefully read labels on plants BEFORE buying!
  • Know the light and water availability of your property. Only buy plants that will receive the proper light and water in your various location - full sun, partial, shaded.
  • Use garden hoses to pre-plan (i.e. lay out) your curved walls, paths, and plantings. Generally, put in your hardscaping first.
  • Before planting: set plants in pots where you think you want them, then view the area from all vantage points. Don't plant anything until you like the way it looks.
  • Group plants with similar water needs together and only provide the water that is necessary to that spot.
  • Prepare the soil to meet future needs of your plants BEFORE planting.
  • Create generous "basins" in the soil when planting. The basins, along with mulch or compost, will help catch and hold water. /
  • Install drip irrigation if at all possible! It saves water and controls weeds.
  • About drip systems: The most fundamental thing is to plan the irrigation zones. The zones must be laid out by how frequently you will water the plants in each zone (i.e. daily, twice a week). Within each zone, you can then select drip nozzles to apply the amount of water you want at each location, based on the frequently and duration of which that zone will receive water.
  • Remember: your garden needs to bring YOU joy!

    At first all of their neighbors were very skeptical about their plan. They made sure that they took the time to explain the project before they started. After the initial ripping up of the turf, everyone was even more nervous about what their crazy yard would look like when it was all done. After they finished planting, most of the neighbors were on board with their plan and saw how it would come together as the plants grew. One neighbor was still against it. After 4 summers of growth though, most of the neighbors love their yard and are now talking about making some changes to their own lawns. The resistant neighbor has even said that they like the design and are happy with how it turned out!

  In the end, Lars and Kris are very happy with their design and how the whole project turned out. Kris has even turned this passion into a startup business where she will help people plan this kind of project for themselves! Her new company is called Down To Earth Design.