Archive for Child Friendly Landscaping

Decorating for Halloween

It’s about that time of year again when little feet will patter up your walk or driveway and request that you give them candy.  Perhaps you always decorate for Halloween, or maybe you like to celebrate the cornucopia of fall’s abundance.  Either way, there are a lot of fun ideas for decorating your yard for Halloween.  Here are some:Trick or treat

– Buy biodegradable decorations like pumpkins and cornstalks.  That way, when you’re done creating your fun scene, you can chop them up and add texture to your compost.

– Use existing structures, trees, and bushes so that your decorations have little impact on your landscape.

– Secure your decorations with strong string, wire, or some other durable substance.  With fall winds, it’s always a good idea to make sure your decorations aren’t going to come down and get blown around.

– Utilize more than jut pumpkins.  You don’t have to stick with the normal jack-o-lantern format.  Make it your own by carving fun faces in hardshell gourds or squash.

– Cover your handrails in spooky vines like grapevines or bittersweet vines.

– Use different sizes and shapes of gourds, squash, and pumpkins hidden in different parts of your yard to add texture and eye candy.pumpkins harvest

– If you have a blow-up display or are putting in fake gravestones, you will probably have to sacrifice some of your lawn to make sure it is secured properly.  So, if you’re going to stake something, be sure to get it staked deeply and have soil and grass seed ready for the holes and brown patches you will make.

– Plant up your borders with fall-colored flowers.  You an try marigolds, flowering cabbages, mums and cyclamen.  The cabbages particularly are a temporary addition that can add a little bit of spookiness and a lot of texture to your yard.

– Try using electric candles instead of real candles if you have a lot to light up.  While the flickering glow of a real candle has its own charm, don’t line your walkway with real candles – even if they’re in pumpkins.

– Create an spooky outdoor arrangement with raked up maple leaves, trimmed sticks and dead flowers.   You can compost it afterwards.

Above all, be safe.  Make sure your lighting is all set up so that children don’t stumble in the dark toward your door.  While it may give them thrills to walk toward a gloomy home, be sure to still provide them with enough light to find their way to your door without mishap.

Here’s to a fun and safe Halloween!

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Side Yard Ideas

Southern California cities like Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley, and La Canada have homes that are anything but cookie-cutter.  There are plenty of hillside homes, small homes on large lots, and lots featuring strange dimensions.

With homes like this, there is often a small stretch of yard which doesn’t seem to fit the rest of the space.  This could be a small side yard or an irregular spot behind the garage.  What can you do with such a space?  Here are some ideas:

Make it a play area.  Whether you have children or not, a space to stretch Children feet in green grassout and enjoy the outdoors is always welcome.

Your landscaper can design the space into a play area for children with swings or a sand box.   Another idea for kids is to install man-made grass so they can use the space for a slip-n-slide in the summer and a comfy play area the rest of the year.

Your side yard can be made into a play area for you by installing a small firepit, installing hardscaping so that the space can be used for a variety of games or installing man-made grass for games like bocci ball.

Make your own farmer’s market.  Utilize that extra space to grow your ownSmall Fruit Tree veggies in raised beds.  Or, plant a mini orchard with your favorite fruit trees.  You can also install a small vineyard for your own, homegrown California grapes.

Let it go to the dogs.  If you have dogs or other pets that require running room, set up your side yard as a dog run or a place for your pet to play.

Grow your own bouquet.  Plant your favorite flowers and create a living Meeting Placebouquet.  You can also find out the best flowers to attract your favorite insects or birds and grow those in your side yard garden patch.

These are just some ideas for your irregularly shaped lot.  Here’s to a yard that works perfectly for your needs – no matter the shape.


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The Fun and Beauty of Waterscapes

Southern California is a dry place to live – which means waterscapes a beautiful and pleasant addition to landscaping.  Here are some ideas with regard to adding these to your landscape:Central Park

Fountains: Fountains come in all shapes and sizes, from art instillation with water running through and around the sculptures, to the classic three tiered fountain, to mini pools, fountains are a great way to both decorate a yard and to help cover up any exterior noise.  I especially love fountains for homes near the freeway or a major street – as they block out traffic noise effectively.

Additionally, when summertime hits us again, fountains make a yard feel cool and breezy.

Bird Bath: This is an easy, classic water feature.  Not only is it a pleasant little feature for your yard, it’s a great way to attract birds year round.  I keep my bird bath under my orange tree – at the tree line.  This way birds attracted by the fruit, the flowers, or the shade can also have a cool place to drink.

– Pond: Ponds are always a fun feature for adults and kids.  They can be created to recycle water, you can plant pretty lilies, cat tails and more – and you can use them for lovely fish.  The only real drawback to owning a pond is that oftentimes raccoons will come along for a fish buffet.  However, there are things you can do to deter racoons like:

a. Sprinkle the area around your pond with cayenne pepper.

b. Chop up a yellow onion and set the slices around your pond.

c. Install motion activated lights around your pond area.

d. Sprinkle black pepper and cinnamon all around your pond.

These are some ideas.  Another idea is to make sure you have any other food items that may be attractive to raccoons locked up as well as you can.

– Swimming pool: This is the classic water feature.  It requires a large space so that it can be installed, and needs regular maintenance once installed.

– Jacuzzi: If you don’t have enough roof for a pool, a jacuzzi can be a great option and a lot of fun.  On chilly winter nights, or even on a sunny day, a jacuzzi is a fun place for everyone to warm up and enjoy the water.

These are just some ideas!  If you have favorite water features – let me know!

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Making a Statement with Your Lot

Southern California is filled with oddly sized lots.  You can find them out by Redondo Beach, in Agoura Hills, in Sunland, and all over LA.  The key to managing your odd lot is making a statement with it.  This goes for any kind of lot, any shape size or situation.

Here is what to consider when solving the landscaping for your different-sized lot:

– What is the total lot square footage (without your house)?  This is important to consider when you are considering any usable lot space.

– What portion of your lot is usable?  You should consider literally any portion of your lot which is not to steep to utilize in one way or another.

– What do you want to use the lot for? This will give you an understanding of how to best utilize that weird strip of grass on the side of your house.  It could be a vegetable garden, a dog run, a picnic area, a play spot for the kids, your native plant section, etc.

– How much energy do you want to spend on your yard?  This includes both time and money.  If you want to spend very little energy, your best idea is to either go native, or get a hardscape placed in there.  If you like gardening or want to employ a gardener to help keep your yard a paradise of flowers, trees, etc – you will clearly want a more complicated set up.

– Consult with a landscaper on the best way to utilize the entire space.  It’s unacceptable in my mind to let any part of a lot go to seed, or become a dumping ground for unused items.  Every part of your lot should have a purpose.

Here’s to those glorious lots of SoCal – no matter the size!

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Preparing Your Lawn for Halloween

This time of year, you have to prepare your poor lawn for the tramping of feet as well as any decorations you have.  Here are some ideas to keep your lawn presentable this time of year:

– Create a well-lit, obvious pathway for people to walk upon.  If you have an awkward path, like one which comes off of a driveway, make sure to keep the area leading up to the path clear of cars, decorations, or any other obstructions, and ensure the area you want people to walk on is well-lit.

– Use more hanging decorations than lawn decorations.  This helps keep your lawn happy and un-squished.

– Weigh your options.  Before you begin to chisel stones for your Halloween graveyard, consider finding a lighter item which will have minimal impact on your lawn.  This is a tough one, since this is a windy time of year, but if there’s something which holds your lawn decorations to the ground, it may be a better option than putting something heavy on your lawn.

If you have some great decorations that are rather heavy, see how much of them you can confine to your porch.

– Add colored lights in unexpected places.  It may seem counter-intuitive to create a spooky atmosphere by adding light, but it can actually help add to the atmosphere by putting up temporary lights of various colors around your property.  This also makes your home that much safer for kids coming to your door.

All in all, consider safety first when you decorate your home for this fun and spooky holiday!

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Unconventional Ways to Enjoy your Summer Yard

Sometimes I get into a rut when it comes to enjoying my yard.  The yard just seems like a pile of work, or something to enjoy from afar.  Here are some ideas that can make your yard a place to enjoy:

– Sunbathe in your yard.  I currently have a pool – so that’s not super unconventional, however, when all I had was a large patch of grass, I would sometimes go out with or without a towel and lay on the grass to enjoy the cool ground on my back and the hot sun on my face.  No matter what kind of yard you have, you can enjoy the sun.

– Take a stroll.  You toil in your yard, you plan your yard, but do you really enjoy your yard?  Take a little walk through your yard as if you were a visitor on a home and garden tour.  Admire the beauty of your space – no matter how big or small it is.

*Fun idea: Get misters installed on random trees, lamp posts, wall crevices, etc.  As you walk through you will feel cooler.

– Get your friends or family involved.  If you have kids, the yard is a great place to have them help you out.  They can see how a seed grows into a plant, which can grow into food or a pretty flower.  No kids?  You can still involve your apartment-bound friends.  Let them help you in the veggy or flower garden with the agreement to share the bounty of food or fresh-cut flowers.

– Have a treasure hunt.  No matter how old you are, a treasure hunt with a prize at the end is tons of fun.  Make the starting area a fun spot with food or barbecue and have friends or family spread out through the yard looking for clues or prizes.

– Serve a fancy dinner outdoors.  Light some candles, turn on the accent lighting in your yard (or serve dinner at sunset), and serve dinner to your loved one or friends.  If you don’t have a patio, put a table right on your lawn.

Remember, summer is about enjoying your landscape – not staying cooped up indoors and watching the grass grow!

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Planning your yard

Welcome to January, when the snow is thick and all we can do is stare at our yards and dream…. wait a minute.  This is Southern California!  Not only can you see your yard, you can plan out improvements and put those plans into action!

So, to get started, here are some good questions to ask yourself and your landscaper:

1. Are you looking to make a cosmetic change, or change the entire structure of your yard?  For example, do you want to plant some bulbs along your walkway, or do you want to install a new patio and solve your poor drainage?  It’s a good idea to have the type of job in mind before springing to action.

2. Do you have a need your yard isn’t currently fulfilling?  Do you and your significant other need a romantic getaway?  Do you need a playpen for pets?  Do you need a safe haven for kids?  Do you entertain and need a great place for lots of guests to enjoy? Work out how you can modify your space to suit your need.

3. Is there something you feel is essential to a yard which your yard is missing?  Whether it be a swimming pool or a place for native plants to take over, discuss your ideas with your landscaper.

4. Are your dreams feasible – or can they be made into reality with the space you have?  You may not be able to add a swimming pool, patio, 1 acre wooded area, and vegetable garden in your average-sized yard.  But, perhaps your landscaper can do something to make the space feel larger and more private, while still fulfilling the essentials that you need to fulfill.

5. What is your budget? Whether you a Scrooge McDuck, or Tiny Tim, you can do something with your yard.  It’s a good idea to find out how much your dreams will cost to put into reality, so you are able to plan accordingly.

Here’s to a New Year filled with fantastic days and perfect yards!

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Time to Get Planting

It’s getting chillier and, as the season changes, the prime time to plant or move plants around begins.   This is because, as the weather gets cooler, your plant itself doesn’t do much growing, but the root systems continue to grow and cements your plant in the ground.  Your plant’s roots will continue to grow until the ground freezes, which – in some parts of SoCal – may not even occur.

So, as you consider what plants you want to put into your yard, consider, what is your yard’s purpose?  Here are some ideas:

1. A place for your kids to play, and/or for you to entertain friends and family.  What accomplishes this?  A row of planters lining a kid-friendly path?  A firepit and barbecue?  An enclosed or open patio area?  A vast lawn for slip n’ slides, picnics, and child’s play?

2. Do you want to be able to eat what you grow? What accomplishes this? Do you want rows and rows of raised beds? Are you going to line your driveway with fruit trees? Would you like clusters of vegetables or fruit plants, or do you want them in the traditional rows? Do you like to put plants in big buckets or pots, or do you want them in the ground? Does your soil need amendment to support the kinds of plants you’d like to grow?

3. Are your goals to have a beautiful place to look at an enjoy? What accomplishes this? Are you trying to attract a certain bird or butterfly? Do you like local plants more, or would you prefer foreign ornamentals, or do you want a mix? How much work do you want to put into this garden?

4.  Do you want a beautiful place for swimming or water activities?  What accomplishes this goal?  Do you want a garden around your swimming area, or just a cement area to put out lawn furniture?  Are you looking at also doing a barbecue in the area?

5. Do you want a combination of all these factors?  How can you accomplish this?  Do you want a veggie garden separate to your pool and entertainment area?    Would you like a gorgeous garden surrounding your firepit?  What works best for you?

6. Do you have a strangely shaped yard?  If so, what do you want to do with it and how can you go about accomplishing your goals?

Now is a great time to look over your goals, consult with your landscaper, and get your goals accomplished!

Here’s to a perfect yard!

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Unique Yards

I’ve touched on the topic of unique and creative landscaping before, but I’ve recently been inspired by some really beautiful outdoor living spaces.  So, here are some more neat ideas:

– Install waist-high planters.  This is especially useful if you have pets or children as you can install fun pathways and play areas between your prize roses without worry.

– Add a unique water feature. We’ve discussed bird baths, fountains, pools, waterfalls, streams, etc. You can also add a water feature specific to your home. If you like the ultra modern feel, you an install an art installation with water dripping down, or even steps of cascading water leading to a pool or pond. If you are into olde tyme features, you can install an Italian water fountain, complete with statue.

– Put up a gazebo.  There are many kinds of gazebos – some with trellises of hanging grapes, bougainvillea, morning glory, or other vine-plants.   There are others in the classic round style inside which you can put comfortable benches.

– Get a treehouse.  Yes, I said it.  You know you’ve always wanted one. 🙂  Seriously, though, you can actually get some pretty neat and safe tree houses installed.  Did you want an office or external studio set up?  Check out this option.

– Install unique walkways.  You can get raised wooden walkways, or inset brick or flagstone walkways.  If you have the space, add a little hideaway just off one of your walkways.  I have a friend who installed a little jacuzzi in a copse of trees just off his walkway for a hidden, romantic get away.

– Create hidden spaces by adding texture to your landscaping.  If you have raised planters, you can hide a bench behind one.  If you add large trees, you can string a hammock or install a treehouse.  If you are living on a hillside, you can add rope walkways, hidden decks or fire pits, etc.  There’s no end to ways you can create a hidden getaway to add to the pleasure and enjoyment of your backyard.

– Plant a garden close to the house and install a barbecue, patio or other gathering place a bit farther away, so you and your guests can enjoy your beautiful plants on the way to your soiree.

– String lights or install unique lights at strategic points in your yard.

Let me know if you have other ideas or case studies of unique landscaping!  I’d love to hear about them.

Here’s to an outdoor living space which is uniquely “you”!

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Child Friendly Landscaping

Some landscapes are better than others when it comes to having and hosting children.   While most kids don’t mind playing in the dirt, you might mind them there.  Here are some ideas for kid-friendly landscaping:

1. Raised beds.  It’s harder for smaller children to get into your vegetable garden or flowers if they are in a raised bed.  Additionally, raised beds allow you to control your child’s access to your garden.  You can ask for their help in the garden, and allow them access, while still allowing your plants to grow without interference later on.

2. Incorporating hardscaping into your landscape. Setting up spaces for kids to play, while still keeping your yard fun for adults, can be tricky. One way to do this is to set up a “backyard highway” – a place where children can play with larger toys, as well as roller skate or skateboard.

3. Set up a pot-hole-free section of your lawn. Creating a flat or slightly inclined section of lawn for kids to set up a slip ‘n slide, twister, or tea party can keep children safe and having fun in a comfortable, rock-free and trip-free environment.

4.  Install a patio space for barbeques, parties, etc that both children and adults can enjoy.

5. Set up a playground space.  Play spaces are pretty easy to set up, depending on the complexity of what you buy.  They can provide hours of entertainment for children both living and playing at your home.

All in all, the best idea for child-friendly landscaping is: a. safety first, b. a place both you and they can enjoy, and c. a place they can play without your worrying about a or b above.

Here’s to an enjoyable summer filled with laughter and play!

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