Building a rock garden to replace a lawn

Garden Ecosystems
I believe in creating a balanced ecosystem in the garden so that using pesticides or herbicides is not necessary. A balanced garden ecosystem can include edibles, natives, and ornamental plants. I use sustainable practices as much as possible: composting to build healthy soil, companion planting, and organic soil amendments when needed.

In 2007 my husband and I began to redesign our suburban front and back yards by removing all lawns and creating spaces for growing edible and native plants, while preserving habitat for birds, insects and other wildlife. Transforming our gardens had a transformational effect on me, and I became even more passionate about gardening as a way to enhance our urban quality of life.

I have formal training in horticulture and landscape design through the Environmental Horticulture and Design Program at Foothill College, Los Altos Hills, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art. 
Certifications: Qualified Water Efficient Landscaper (QWEL)
Board Member, Western Horticultural Society, 2014- 2017 term

Other Training and Volunteer Work 

Chez TJ Kitchen Garden
As the assistant gardener at the Chez TJ kitchen potager, I worked with their Master Gardener, Louise ChristyExecutive Chef Jarad Gallagher, who joined in December 2012, and owner George Aviet. Chez TJ has a Michelin star rating earned for its innovative cuisine and excellent service. Their charming garden was designed by Rosiland Creasy in the 1980's, and besides several raised beds it includes fruit trees.

Prepping beds at the Chez TJ restaurant garden 
The staff is highly creative and they enjoy using the fresh, organically grown herbs and produce from the garden in their beautiful dishes. We try to grow unique and interesting varieties of edibles that they use in delicious and surprising ways. It was a privilege to work with all of them.

Beautiful bean seeds from Rancho Gordo

Rancho Gordo Bean Buddies
As part of this group,  I test different types of beans for Rancho Gordo in my garden and provide information about germination, flowering, setting of pods, as well as eating quality. Rancho Gordo is a specialty supplier of many types of legumes, and I fully support owner Steve Sando's commitment to preserve heirloom varieties from extinction by encouraging people to grow and eat them.

The seeds are beautiful, as you can see in the photo above. I love the collaborative culture of gardening!

Three Heart lettuce is a lovely, tender butterhead type

Member Grower Evaluation Network (M-GEN), Seed Savers Exchange
I've participated in seed trials since 2012 for this important organization. In 2012 I trialed "Three Heart Lettuce" for Seed Savers Exchange's Member Grower Evaluation network (M-GEN). This project helps the organization gather information on the cultivation of rare heirlooms so that they can offer in their catalog. This particular lettuce was given to Seed Savers in 2005 and it was brought to the USA in the 1800's from France (near Germany).

It  grew very well in the raised bed in my backyard (protected from sparrows with netting - see photo below). It's a really lovely butterhead type lettuce, very tender and tasty too. It's now available from their catalog.

The image above shows the mature heads interplanted with French Breakfast radishes and Rattlesnake beans.

Arnie Cornez (right) with Hakone head gardener, Jacob (left)

Hakone Japanese Garden Internship
In the fall of 2012 I had the pleasure of doing a short internship at the beautiful Hakone Japanese Gardens in Saratoga California, with Arnie Cornez, who is an aesthetic pruner and fine gardener.  I welcome any opportunity to work with talented people who generously want to train and teach others in fine gardening skills.

Take pruning for example - it's a skill that can really only be learned over time with lots of hands on practice and ideally by working with an experienced mentor.

 The tea plant Camelia sinensis, in bloom at Hakone
As a tea lover I enjoyed seeing their tea plant garden (Camelia sinensis) in bloom. This is the species that our drinkable green and black teas come from. 

Construction of a Keyhole Garden at Foothill College
Environmental Horticulture and Design, Foothill College, Los Altos Hills, CA
Formal training in horticulture for two and a half years. It's a rigorous program- the same one that edible gardening guru Rosiland Creasy attended, although at that time in the 1970's there was no such thing as landscaping with edibles, so she paved the way for the rest of us!

Photos: Patricia Larenas


  1. Hi Patricia! I met you last year at the Common Ground garden tour. You talked to me at length about your avocado tree and your front yard herb garden. Today I got my SSE publication and I saw your picture and thought, "She looks familiar!" It was a really nice article to read! Congratulations on the profile! I've been blogging about my garden in Sacramento. Hope you will check it out!

    1. Hi- I remember!
      Gee, I was wondering who was going to see the article! I like your blog- it's very nice; good job on it. I'm especially excited about the article because I'm going to Heritage Farm this July for their seed conference. It's something I've wanted to do for years.

      Thanks for writing and sharing your blog,