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MY LIFE WITH PLANTS: Raising the Roof

By Jim Bishop.

In October of 1983, when I bought my house in Encinitas, I assumed I’d be living there only a few years. Encinitas was still a sleepy town and I lived in a suburban tract east of I-5. Coastal downtown Encinitas was just starting to add some new businesses and restaurants. Other than Moonlight Beach, most of the beaches south of Oceanside were cobblestones (until the dredged sand from Los Peñasquitos Lagoon was pumped onto the beaches in late 80’s, that is). I thought I wanted to live somewhere a little closer to either San Diego and/or with swimmable beaches. There was a building boom going on and it was keeping my single story, 1200 square foot, 2 bedroom, 2 bath house from appreciating much in value. So I decided that instead of moving, I would add a second floor to the house, update it with some of the features seen in new homes and also tie it better to the garden.

The house had a relatively large lot compared to some of the newer homes, so I wanted to increase the footprint of the house as little as possible to maximize the gardening space. A new master bedroom, bathroom, laundry room and TV room was added above the existing garage, kitchen and dining room. The new bedroom had a small balcony over the entryway to the house. A larger balcony overlooked the backyard opened off the TV room. The area below the balcony allowed the dining room to be enlarged and a huge picture window with a window seat and a set of French doors on either side replaced the old sliding glass door. These changes really opened the house to the garden. Since the original back patio was replaced by the dining room expansion, a new much larger patio of interlocking brick pavers was added spanning the entire back of the house. The building code required that the existing living room chimney needed to be made 11 feet taller. So a new outdoor fireplace was built on the backside of the existing fireplace, with the new chimney encasing both the old and new flues. A wall fountain and barbeque grill was added next to the chimney and a new outdoor dining area was at the far end of the patio. A sitting wall was added at the end of the patio.

The existing redwood patio cover was removed, and I reused the wood to create two large arbors that were placed to block the view of the neighboring houses into the dining room and existing downstairs bedroom. Four large Romanesque columns were added to support the arbors. The trellis also hid outdoor lighting and irrigation lines. A smaller matching trellis was added above the outdoor fireplace. This would become one of the favorite places for my cat to sleep on hot days. Another trellis was added over the gate to the backyard and covered with climbing roses. The patio really changed the functionality of the house and garden and almost doubled the entertaining space. The outdoor fireplace was used much more frequently than the existing indoor one and became the focal point of the garden.

I used the existing patio and other concrete that was removed during construction to build small retaining walls and pathways on the hillside creating an upper pathway around the garden. Additional drystacked retaining walls were built using rocks collected from some of the new building sites in Olivenhain.

In the front yard, a Ficus benjamina - that should have been removed years ago - had lifted the front walkway and sprinkler manifold. Also a new connection to the sewer line for the new upstairs plumbing was needed. The new line ran along the side of the garage and across the driveway and connected in the middle of the front garden. All the broken concrete was used in the garden and a front patio of pavers was added. A new seating wall greeted visitors at the entrance to the house and added privacy from the street. A large old Bougainvillea ‘San Diego Red’ on the side of the garage was ripped out of the ground by me and the contractor and stuffed into a large 15 gallon pot and stored on the far side of the house for several months. Amazingly it survived when it was replanted and quickly covered the side of the house.

I was enormously happy with all the changes made to the house and garden. I was able to remove almost all of the lawn and increase the garden space. I had my new house. I would live and garden there for another 8 years.

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