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family on patio in california backyard
family on patio in california backyard
The Passante family in their Yardzen yard

Cookbook author Eden Passante, and her husband, Zan, bought their outdated rancher on the outskirts of Santa Clarita because of the large backyard. The sprawling space, perfect for their dog and two boys, had a couple of priceless features, including a historic live oak, but the rest needed a pretty major overhaul. After discovering Yardzen through her friends, Eden tapped our design and horticulture team to design a cottage-inspired backyard with modern California plants and elements that encourages time outside for the whole family.

The backyard before Yardzen

During their Yardzen onboarding, the Passante family shared their goals for the space, including room for a fire pit, dining table, and raised beds, and a design for the landscaping around their in-progress ADU. They also shared their preferences for evergreen plants where possible and an appreciation for drought-tolerant and pollinator-loving grasses and flowering shrubs.

In her words, Eden describes her inspiration as “California wine country meets English garden. I love the coziness of an English garden but incorporating a modern California twist.” Their inspiration photos included several yards from Sunset magazine and a couple cottage gardens (explore our Guide to Cottage Gardens).

Cottage-inspired backyard in California
The cottage-inspired Yardzen design

Eden and Zan really enjoyed working with Yardzen. They especially loved the visuals they received throughout the process. Eden described the first email she received with her designs as “the most exciting email ever!! I was in awe of what they created and it was so cool to see a rendering of our house and the yard. It was like a dream!” And, with their final designs, which they describe as “everything you need to create this dream space,” they really appreciated the thorough plant and furniture list, 2D CADs with measurements, and night view with lighting.

The Yardzen “after” of the their outdoor sitting room

Following the completion of their new backyard ADU, the Passantes got to work with their Yardzen landscape plan. They worked with their contractor to install the design very closely to scope with distinct outdoor rooms for dining, gathering, gardening, and lounging by the fire pit. They added native and climate-adapted plants throughout the yard to add fullness and texture and California Gold pea gravel to the meandering pathways that connect the distinct zones of the yard. Now, the family spends time outside every single day – the boys even cut a small hole in their fence so the neighbor kids can come over and enjoy the yard with them!

Backyard fire pit with vintage Malm fireplace
Backyard lounge with fire pit and vintage Malm fireplace
The backyard sitting room and dining table
The sitting room and dining table off the house
edible garden with aluminum raised bed
The edible garden section of the yard
outdoor dining room
The outdoor dining room
cottage-inspired ADU
A cottage-inspired ADU with new, native landscaping
Hanging outdoor chair for ADU
The new ADU with a hanging chair
cottage-inspired backyard with a wood deck and pea gravel
The cottage-inspired backyard with a rose-covered arbor and a pathway made of railroad ties

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