Products we recommend: Delta Bluegrass No-Mow Sod

Here at Yardzen, we have some fundamentals that guide many (most?) of our designs: First, we love ground covers. You’ll see them in nearly all Yardzen designs. They’re plants that punch above their weight class, pulling landscapes together and making them look full and lush. Second, when designing for clients in water-conscious regions like California and Texas, we’re not the biggest proponents of traditional sod. We tend to lean toward lower-water options ranging from artificial turf to alternative grasses.

At the intersection of these two preferences -- thumbs up to ground covers, thumbs down to traditional sod -- is a product we weave into our designs with regularity: Delta Bluegrass No Mow Sod.

Just look at that luscious yet eco-conscious lawn.

Just look at that luscious yet eco-conscious lawn.

Why No-Mow Sod?

Let’s start with the obvious: It’s just a beautiful grass, rich and lush. Looking at it makes you want to lay out a blanket and take a nap in the sunshine. It’s equal parts wind-swept coastal garden and tranquil meadow and, really, no matter where it’s planted it seems to look right at home.

Also, and this is the best part for many: it doesn’t need to be mowed, hence the name No-Mow Sod. You can mow it and keep it looking groomed and tidy like a traditional lawn, or you can let it exist in its perfect natural form, and if that’s your preference, it doesn’t require any maintenance. According to Stockton, CA-based Delta Bluegrass, in non-mowed areas the grass will reach a height of 8 to 10 inches and then begin to lay over on itself.


Less water, no chemicals and more

But looking further there are some impressive benefits of this mighty sod. According to Delta Bluegrass, you can “reduce your irrigation to 50% less than what you would apply to traditional areas.” That means you can switch to native grass and recoup the cost of your investment (water and maintenance) pretty darn quickly.

Also, and this is a big one: because this is a native plant it doesn’t like or need chemicals to grow and thrive, which is unlike more traditional sods. Native grasses like Delta Bluegrass No-Mow Sod control soil erosion, reduce dust, lower and cool ground temperatures, reduce noise and clean our ground water. Properly maintained native sod is one of the most cost effective and environmentally-beneficial products in urban development.

About Delta Bluegrass No-Mow Sod:

  • The Native Mow Free blend uses a trio of grasses: Festuca idahoensis (Idaho fescue), Festuca rubra (Molate fescue) and Festuca occidentalis (Western Mokelumne fescue).

  • For an area that gets up to 50% daily shade, this is a great choice.

Why we're now exclusively serving California and Texas

Starting Monday, March 25, Yardzen will provide services exclusively in the greater San Francisco Bay Area, the greater Los Angeles area, the greater Austin, Texas area and the greater Houston, Texas area. If you’re unsure about whether or not Yardzen serves your city, you can contact us here.

Why are we limiting our services to just two states for the time being?

Nine months in we've more than proven that online outdoor space design is not only possible, but superior to the analog process in many ways. We've completed hundreds of designs for homeowners across the country (and internationally!) and done so while maintaining an industry-leading customer satisfaction rate. So while our goal continues to be building the world's best landscape design firm, as a startup we've decided to focus our efforts for the time being. A focus on specific regions allows us to perfect the entire process, from design through to project completion.


Why California and Texas?

With our headquarters in Sausalito, CA — just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco — and a rich network of vetted landscape contractors close to home, the Bay Area was an obvious place for us to focus. Beyond that, Los Angeles, Houston and Austin share much in common. Aside from being areas where we saw lots of organic growth, the three regions’ moderate climates lend nicely to indoor/outdoor living and investment in outdoor living spaces.

We’ll be adding additional regions in quick order.

We feel strongly that everyone, everywhere should have access to exceptional, accessible landscape design, so while we’re only offering landscape design and contractor matching services in California and Texas for now, we’re actively selecting the next regions we’ll expand to and service. If you live outside of our coverage areas and want Yardzen in your city next, please weigh in below. We’re all ears. Thank you for your support!

TIL: About Gabion Walls in Landscape Design

A cage encapsulating inorganic materials like rock and concrete, gabion walls can be an aesthetically pleasing, inexpensive retaining or privacy wall solution in your landscape design.

Photo credit: Garden Drum

Photo credit: Garden Drum

What’s the history of gabions?

Gabion walls (from Italian gabbione meaning "big cage”) are more than a trend born of recent times. They've historically been more function than form, commonly used in in civil engineering, road building and military applications. Their use dates back to the 19th century, having been built to stabilize shorelines and streams and divert water. According to Wikipedia, Leonardo da Vinci designed a type of gabion called a Corbeille Leonard for the foundations of the San Marco Castle in Milan.


What aesthetics do gabions work best with?

Over the past decade we’ve seen gabions used more commonly in modern, industrial and minimalist landscape designs, though they shouldn’t be limited to just those. They also can be integrated in more rustic designs. Given their history and functionality, we think you should feel good about incorporating one in yours.

Above: A Yardzen design in Marin County incorporating a gabion used for form and retaining function. Below, the design coming to life.

Above: A Yardzen design in Marin County incorporating a gabion used for form and retaining function. Below, the design coming to life.

What are gabion cages made of?

Gabion cages vary, but most commonly they’re made of sturdy galvanized or stainless steel wire. Many online and local retailers sell the cages pre-made, and you can work with your landscape contractor to choose the right cage for your project and budget.

Why choose a gabion?

  • Affordability. Generally less expensive than other retaining solutions since they don’t require a foundation.

  • Aesthetically pleasing. Still not very common, and surely a conversation starter.

  • Long lasting. Some gabion manufacturers guarantee a structural consistency of 50 years. (Wikipedia)

  • Environmentally friendly. Use filler material that’s recycled or native to your property to cut down on carbon emissions.

Get your design started today and ask your Yardzen team about a gabion wall at your property.

Reimagining the Oakland Coliseum as a public space

The Warriors are winding down the NBA finals and we’ve got stadiums on the brain. Specifically, our local Oakland Coliseum, which will reach the end of its career as the home of the Oakland A’s and the Oakland Raiders, both of which are moving cities come next season.

The future of the Coliseum has been a point of debate since the news of the moves broke. Should it be repurposed? Should it be demolished? Here at Yardzen, our primary aim is to help people get more out of their outdoor spaces, so naturally we gravitate toward a future for the Coliseum that enables locals to continue to enjoy the space in capacities beyond watching their team play.

So we decided to have some fun with this and reimagine the Oakland Coliseum as a public space, with a jogging trail, a pond, a pet park, a coworking space, a play area for children and more.

Transforming urban infrastructure into public parks gives cities like Oakland potential to offer a site for community and beautify the area. Repurposing this industrial area provides opportunity to enhance the quality of life for nearby residents.

What do you think about the concept? Should the Oakland Coliseum become a public park?

Let’s Play Outside - 7 Tips for Creating an Outdoor Space for Your Kids

Domaine Home

Domaine Home

The wave of new electronic devices has left kids spending more time indoors than ever. Outdoor play is critical for children’s wellbeing, so it’s crucial to keep them in mind when designing your yards. For those living in or near a city, creating an outdoor space for your children can feel daunting. Whether you have minimal space or unique desires for your kids, the following will help you get the ball rolling with your project.

Here are 7 things to keep in mind while designing an outdoor space for kids:

Involve your child in the planning process. Get your children’s ideas for their ideal play space. While a rainbow rocket ship might not be attainable, they can certainly bring some needed imagination to the table. This space is for them after all.

Home Garden Magazine

Home Garden Magazine

Incorporate nature. An outdoor space is an opportunity for you and your child to experience nature, so why not make this a focal point. Natural materials can look more attractive and help to integrate the play area with the native surroundings.

Sunset Magazine

Sunset Magazine

Add in yard games. Yard games, like corn hole and horseshoes, are played in narrow strips of yard, and provide great entertainment for all ages. This could be an inventive solution to odd-shaped spaces or unused side yards.

Kristen Kendall-Smith

Kristen Kendall-Smith

Use the vertical spaces when you’re trying to maximize usable area in your yard. Unique elements, like an outdoor chalkboard or dart board, are perfect options. They take up little to no room, and can provide hours of entertainment.

Sam Henderson via HGTV

Sam Henderson via HGTV

Create multi-level play areas that fit into your space’s topography. Work with what you have, and in the end you’ll have an inventive space that fits in with the natural landscape. Multi-level areas can include features like slides and climbing walls.



Include a gardening area. This is a great opportunity to introduce your children to new activities they can enjoy in your backyard. This activity doesn’t take up much space, and taking care of plants may curb their desire for a new pony. Unlikely, but worth a shot!

Just Imagine

Just Imagine

Make space for active play. An empty area of hardscape or yard allows your child to evolve in their interests. Hardscape will be better for biking and skating, whereas grass can provide a cushion for more risky activities.

Jordan Sanchez

Jordan Sanchez

These cities offer rebates for going low-water with your landscaping

Go low (water, that is) and get rewarded. Rebates are available from municipalities across the country for swapping in water-saving equipment and replacing your lawn with drought-tolerant plants. Check program guidelines before you jump in: Some require a site inspection before you buy anything or make changes. And you must be a resident and a utility customer to get rebates.


• Tempe

With the Landscape Rebate Program, get rebates for front-yard and backyard ($250 each) conversion of grass to desert landscaping or for new desert landscaping installation.

• Chandler

With the Landscape Rebate Program, receive rebates for irrigation controllers ($72), new landscaping that’s at least 50 percent drought-resistant ($200), and conversion of lawn to drought-tolerant landscape ($200–$600).

• Glendale

The city’s landscape rebates provide as much as $750 for converting grass to low-water-use landscape.


• California: state-wide

Search by zip code for incentives and rebates in your area.

• Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the Family of Southern California Water Agencies

SoCal Water$mart offers rebates for weather-based irrigation controllers (from $80 per controller for an acre or less; $25 per irrigation station for larger sites), rotating sprinkler nozzles (from $4 per nozzle), and synthetic turf (from 30 cents per sq. ft.).

• Santa Rosa

Green Exchange Rebate Program has rebates for removing turf (50 cents per sq. ft.) and for improving the efficiency of irrigation. The Rainwater Harvesting Rebate Program gives rebates for storing rainwater (25 cents per gallon). The Water Conservation Check-up is a free on-site analysis of indoor and outdoor water use.

• Windsor

With the Water Efficient Landscapes Rebate Program, get up to $350 in rebates for the removal of lawn or for the purchase of sprinkler equipment that improves efficiency.

• San Diego County Water Authority

The 20-Gallon Challenge offers free landscape surveys and has rebates for weather-based irrigation controllers (from $230), synthetic turf (50 cents per sq. ft.), and rotating nozzles (up to $4 each).

• East Bay Municipal Utility District

With WaterSmart Residential Landscape Program, get a credit with proof of purchase of drip irrigation parts and rotator sprinkler heads (50 percent of price), water-conserving landscaping plants and materials (25 percent of price), and permeable hardscape materials (up to $1 per sq. ft.).

• Marin Municipal Water District

Rebates on efficient irrigation equipment and supplies (up to $350), through the Bay-Friendly Landscaping Rebate Program.


• Aurora Water

Get rebates for water-conserving landscape changes (up to $1 per sq. ft.), through the Xeriscape Rebate Program. Aurora Water also offers free irrigation audits.

• Colorado Springs Utilities

Rebates available up to $200 for rain shutoff devices, irrigation heads with check valves, weather-based irrigation controllers, and matched precipitation sprinkler nozzles (which water more evenly and slowly than regular ones).

• Boulder

Drip irrigation supplies, sprinkler controllers, low volume nozzles, and soil amendments have rebates.

• Louisville

The Water Conservation Rebate Program gives rebates on buffalo grass (25 cents per sq. ft.), soil moisture sensors (up to $50), and drip irrigation systems (50 percent off purchase price, up to $50).

• Denver Water

Weather-based irrigation controllers (25 percent off price), rain sensors ($25–$50), and irrigation rotary nozzles ($5 per nozzle) get rebates.

Next: Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, and Washington 


• Southern Nevada Water Authority

The Water Smart Landscapes program gives rebates for converting grass to desert landscaping (up to $1.50 per sq. ft.), for rain sensors (up to $25), and for smart irrigation controllers (up to $200). Rebate coupons offered for pool covers (up to $200). You can also get a free Indoor Water Audit and Retrofit Kit to test fixtures.


• Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority

Get money back on multi-setting sprinkler controllers (25 percent off), rotor heads for sprinklers ($2 per head), rain sensors ($25), and for rainwater harvesting (up to $150), through the Outdoor Rebate Program.


• Eugene Water & Electric Board

EWEB customers can get cash rebates for certain types of timers for lawn irrigation ($25).


• Central Utah Water Conservancy District

Rebates for irrigation improvements (up to $150 for irrigation controller stations; 50 percent of hardware costs, up to $125) for nozzles, drip systems, etc., through Landscape Irrigation Product Rebates.


• Saving Water Partnership of Seattle and King County

Rebates (up to $375) for upgrading sprinkler systems or installing smart controllers are available.

• Cascade Water Alliance

In its Irrigation Efficiency Program, Cascade offers rebates for rain sensors and weather-based irrigation controllers (up to $400 for existing irrigation systems; up to $375 for new systems).

(This post was originally published on

Why Winter's a Great Time to Start Your Landscape Project


Landscape design in winter? Seems crazy. Well, actually crazy smart. Cold rain and wind typically don’t inspire people to think about outdoor patios and flowers. Usually, most people enjoy their outdoor spaces during the warmer months and their attention strays from their yards as the first rain and snow arrives. So you might be surprised to learn  winter is actually a great time to kick start your outdoor space design.

Yardzen is the brand-new way to design your outdoor spaces, all online. Starting with just your address and understanding of your lifestyle, taste and how you want to use your outdoor spaces, Yardzen designs the perfect yard for you without ever stepping foot in your yard. Then, should you choose, we connect you with vetted landscapers and contractors who can bring your design to life. Depending on your local climate, clients who start the Yardzen process in late fall and winter can choose to take advantage of all of the upsides of starting your design now, or go full force and get your plan installed, too.

Here are just a few reasons why now’s a great time to start your landscape design:

It allows ample time: Starting a design in late fall or winter allows you to take your time when creating your vision for a space. During spring and summer, there’s a rush to start and finish the design process quickly, which can lead to sacrificing key details. Since there’s plenty of time to design in winter before building begins in the spring, it’s best to have a set plan that you’re confident in. Any sort of home improvement can be stressful, so why not give yourself more time to breathe and create the design ahead of time? Pour over Pinterest, take a stroll through a nursery, drive around your neighborhood and assess what you like.

See your outdoor space through winter’s lens: During late fall and winter the leaves fall from your trees and your garden is generally less sparse. This is a huge advantage in that you’ll see which spaces require hardy plants that will withstand the cold season and your design will be better informed, ultimately becoming a plan that looks good year-round.

If you live in the western U.S. or any other location where the climate is moderate and snow is rare, getting your plants in the ground now has its perks.


Here are a few reasons why winter’s also a great time to have your plan installed.

Discounts! Due to the drop in demand for landscape services in the winter, there are frequent opportunities to save money. Landscaping projects have a rep for being quite pricey, however that doesn’t have to be the case. Contractors are much more liable to giving special discounts during the slower months, as are lots of nurseries and materials suppliers.

Everyone has more availability: Regardless of where you live, you’ll get more attention from contractors in the winter. The demand for contractors is much lower in the cold weather, therefore it’s easiest to get on the priority list for pros before the actual building season. Beating the curve in the winter provides an opportunity to make sure you’re compatible with the contractor and that all of your goals will be met.

See how your new landscape stands up to winter conditions: According to Pacific Outdoor Living, “observing your yard in the winter to see how it handles the rain, cold and foot traffic is a good idea and can even be an eye-opening experience.” You’ll see first-hand if there are any irrigation, drainage or runoff problems that need to be addressed.

Rain instead of irrigation: The rainiest months of the year in most places are winter and spring, so why not let your plants soak up those nutrients and grow big and strong for summer? By treating them to a rainy season they’ll be more resilient to harsh, dry summer conditions.

Get your Yardzen landscape design started today by completing your design profile.

Five questions with a Yardzen Pro: Ian Russell Lighting Design

Editor’s note: Welcome to a new feature on the Yardzen blog where we interview a Yardzen Pro: a contractor in the Yardzen Pro Network helping to bring our clients’ Yardzen designs to life. We hope you enjoy it! And if you’re a contractor interested in joining the Pro Network, get in touch.

YZ: How’d you find your way to lighting design?

IR: It began with a need to use up-lighting for my art glass, a hobby of mine. I wanted to create a dramatic edge-lit effect. My father, who’s an architect, introduced me to all kinds of materials and glass constituted a large part of his architectural designs. I would hold up different colored samples of plate glass to the light and try and position it for the best light penetration and effect. I guess one might call it a natural progression, experimenting with translucent materials and light.

Credit: Ian Russell Lighting

Credit: Ian Russell Lighting

YZ: What’s your favorite thing about your profession?

IR: Definitely the problem solving that’s a fundamental part of the role. Every project involves problem solving. I’ve learned to allow myself space for it.

Credit: Ian Russell Lighting Design

Credit: Ian Russell Lighting Design

YZ: . Tell me a story about a specific job that really stands out where lighting really made all the difference in the space.

IR: It was a custom house in Mill Valley, CA with a steep-pitched, open-beam ceiling that was 25-feet high at the highest point. Compounding the problem was the fact that there were no walls separating the kitchen, dining and living room areas. After experimenting with many different types of fixtures, we used small high-tech projector lamps, the same type that are used in fine art galleries and museums. The projector lamps enabled us to change focal lengths so we could frame just a wall painting or just a seating area. At night it looked like a theater stage. We could manipulate the projector lens and create a very dramatic and mysterious look. The quality of light made everyone and everything look softly Illuminated.

Credit: Ian Russell Lighting Design

Credit: Ian Russell Lighting Design

YZ: Why is lighting so important to outdoor space design?

IR: I like to make my outdoor lighting designs serve as a welcome mat of sorts, so people can truly enjoy the beauty of the outdoor space. If it’s done correctly, outdoor lighting increases the living space. Example: put subtle up lights in the corners of your landscape’s parameter and your eye will automatically go to the farthest corner that has light. I call it “quiet lighting.” And in a project done well, quiet lighting should exist throughout the entire project.

Credit: Ian Russell Lighting Design

Credit: Ian Russell Lighting Design

YZ: What trend in lighting design has you most excited right now?

IR: Mobile technology. The ability to dim and control a single light in the garden using an app on your phone. It’s amazing! Each individual light bulb is controllable.

Credit: Ian Russell Lighting Design

Credit: Ian Russell Lighting Design

Thanks, Ian!

Who: Ian Russell Lighting Design

Where: San Francisco, CA

What: Expert lighting designer and contractor, whose number one goal is to help you get more out of your outdoor spaces. (Hey! That sounds familiar!)

About Yardzen: The brand new way to design your outdoor spaces, all online. Starting with just your address and an understanding of your lifestyle, taste and how you want to use your outdoor space, Yardzen designs the perfect yard for you without ever stepping foot on your property. Then, should you choose, Yardzen connects you with vetted landscapers and contractors who can bring your design to life. Learn more.

How Yardzen Botanical Designs Work

Yardzen's Botanical Plans (starting at $249) give you a professional landscape design for one area of your yard, coupled with a shopping list and a planting plan you can either tackle on your own or hand off to a landscaper. If you're looking to simply replace or update the plants in your yard a Yardzen Botanical Design could be perfect for you.  Here's how it works. 


Step 1: Take a photo (or two) of your most challenging outdoor area. 

Complete your Design Profile, where you'll be asked some quick and easy questions about your style and preferences, and also to upload a couple photos of the outdoor area(s) you've picked for your project.

High Res no makeover.JPG



Step 2: Your Yardzen designer gets to work.

Factoring your property's unique characteristics -- things like sun and shade patterns, your climate and planting zone and slope -- your designer creates a plan that's just for you. It includes not only plants that should thrive there, but plants that are uniquely matched to your style.

Your outdoor spaces. (4).png



Step 3: The big reveal

The step everyone loves the most: the one where you get your design. Unlike traditional landscape designs that show you a top-down view, making it hard to envision what it might look like planted, Yardzen's rendering gives you a life-like glimpse into how your design will look implemented. Your design also comes with a shopping list with quantities and a planting plan.

Botanical Makeover High Res.jpg

Have questions before you get started? Our design team can't wait to hear from you.