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Native resources: Finding local options for hardscape design

Tiled walls made with tiles from Gladding McBean in Lincoln surround a sitting area filled with Sonoma gold crushed gravel in this landscape design.
Tiled walls made with tiles from Gladding McBean in Lincoln surround a sitting area filled with Sonoma gold crushed gravel in this landscape design. Ecological Landscape Design

Although re-creating the perfect yard from a gardening magazine may sound great, local landscapers say looking for California-based hardscape products could create a more cohesive design and aid the environment.

Hardscape is a term for the man-made features in landscaping, including paths, patios, walls and more. Choosing which hardscape materials to use in a landscape project is usually about finding ways to complement the style of the house and yard, landscape designer Bernadette Balics at Ecological Landscape Design in Davis said, but many people don’t know their options to create a great landscape while lowering their environmental footprint.

“In design magazines, they’ll show these estates from the East Coast with bluestone, and people decide they want that,” Balics said. “But we can develop our own vernacular here in California and use local resources.”

California resources are better for the environment because the state has stricter environmental regulations on quarries and wood harvesting than other states and foreign countries, she said. Not needing to transport heavy materials long distances also reduces the products’ environmental footprint.

There are many local resources available for landscape projects, Balics said. Instead of using imported gravel for paths, people can find Lodi gold, Ione gold or Sonoma gold gravel, which are mined from nearby quarries, she said. California options for non-rock paths include crushed walnut shells and locally sourced mulch. For larger projects, buyers can look for California redwood and moss stone from El Dorado Hills.

But buying California products from the store is just one way to create a local design. Finding ways to repurpose old materials and incorporating unconventional items can keep your design local and eco-friendly.

“People think DIY culture is just for interior design, but it can also be outdoors. You just have to look around at what you have,” she said. “That’s how grapestake fencing came about. You look at a material that’s around and say: How can I use this in a different way?”

Not only is keeping things local better for the environment, it also helps create a sense of space that other designs might not have, Balics said.

“If you’re watching a movie and they show somewhere shot in the suburbs, you can never tell where it is,” she said. “Working with California products can help the overall sense of space develop in ways it might not otherwise.”

Robin Opsahl: 916-321-1176, @robinlopsahl

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