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San Clemente Journal

Renovating the Dirt With Sacha McCrae

Jun 30, 2016 02:17PM ● By Maggie Zeibak
by Maggie Zeibak

Soil, bark, mulch, stones and plants are serious business for San Clemente landscape designer, Sacha McCrae. She’s the go-to person for re-inventing the area around your home, magically producing plans for new and improved outdoor spaces, and, perhaps, an additional open-air room to enhance your lifestyle. Endless possibilities run through her brain in an effort to design something special for each client’s satisfaction.

 Living Gardens Landscape Design is a boutique garden design company known for creating Outdoor Rooms. Offering full-service landscape designs that are both beautiful and functional, Sacha strives to plan a “California Conscious” decorative pattern, incorporating different elements of irrigation solutions, rain water harvesting, drought tolerant and climate appropriate plants, in addition to LED lighting and organic gardening. Focusing on local sources of sustainable materials whenever possible, she chooses what is good for the environment and reduces pollution from run-off to the ocean, incorporating practicality without losing attractiveness. Importantly, she can also help you reduce your water bill.

Why use a landscape designer you might wonder? 
From start to finish, your project is under professional supervision, whether you are merely sprucing up your property or preparing to sell it. Initially, a complimentary assessment of the project is made, together with your input and ideas. During the consultation, issues about drainage, privacy and lighting are discussed and ‘before’ photographs taken, then the ingredients of creativity and a computer program start to blend. You, the homeowner, are soon presented with a unique design, one that you can tweak to your liking. 

For example … do you want a fire pit (a popular choice these days) or a water feature? Do you prefer mulch or river rock? A little art work casually placed? Are the colors of Kangaroo Paws and Firestick succulents what you want? Are you comfortable getting rid of your water-guzzling turf? And, most importantly, are you within your budget?

Once you have approved the plans then it is time to embark on finding a landscaper to do the job. As always, it’s good practice to interview three contractors for a quote. Presenting each of them with the same plans provides them with the same information to bid accordingly, including material costs, preventing expensive field changes during construction. Conveniently, you also have the plans ready to submit to the City or Home Owner Associations for their approval.
True to her passion, McCrae spends time in her own garden together with husband, Robert and stepson, Joshua. She’s been creating environmentally-friendly gardens since she moved to California from England and Spain in 2000. Recently, she decided to share her knowledge by running a class for the Beaches, Parks and Recreation in San Clemente, attracting dedicated students who gained enough knowledge to create their own gardens. 

Eliminating irrigation overspray and stopping the first flush of rainfall that reaches our ocean, Sacha’s goal is clean water. The first inch of runoff that comes down is the dirtiest water, full of fertilizers, pesticides, animal waste, car oil etc. and this is what needs to be prevented from going into the drains. Learning ways to do this using permeable paving (gravel, decomposed granite, green seams) encourages water to filtrate through the soil, cleaning it before it gets anywhere near our beaches. This class will be repeated in the Fall session, so look for it in your catalog.
Sacha says she loves San Clemente and feels so at home here. “I get to work with the local community to create outdoor spaces that allow families to spend time outside enjoying our fantastic climate, and I also enjoy making a difference to protect and preserve our environment. Many residents are replacing their turf with vegetable beds or a drought-tolerant substitute. Many nurseries carry an ever-growing selection – some of my favorites are grasses, salvias and succulents. I encourage clients to reduce fertilizers and pesticide use – if you have to use something, go organic. Accept that there will be some bugs in your garden, and that’s OK. There are many good garden bugs, but using pesticides kills both the good and bad.”

Knowing that nature rules supreme, we must accept that we live in a desert and need to adapt our landscaping accordingly. Many of us are making huge changes and many of us need all the help we can get, which is why Sacha McCrae can shepherd us through and be the designing woman in our lives.

Contact Sacha at (949)218-7459 or visit

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