Archive for Hardscaping

Make your Home Unique

Many of us live on streets or in neighborhoods where one architect designed the whole block – so our houses are very similar.  There are some obvious ways to make a home stand out in these types of areas.  You can repaint your home, add shutters, changed the style of your door or even add on to the home.  But a great way to keep your home looking and feeling fresh is to do something unique with your yard.  Here are five ideas for doing just that: Front deck walkway

1. Get a front porch.  If you have some poor soil that you don’t want to work with or you simply like this look, you can try graduated decking from your front porch, all the way down to the sidewalk.  Another idea is to create a hardscaped front yard and set it up for guests, picnics, family, or simple relaxation.  This idea is a great one to consider in places prone to drought – like Southern California.

2. Add potted plants.  Whether you have a perfect green lawn or a hardscaped front yard, potted plants can give your yard a new look whenever you feel like changing it up.  During the winter holiday season you can plant red and white plants, in the summer you can go for a cactus look or do potted succulents. You can also experiment with color by adding pots that pop – along with vivid plants.

3. Go all out on the entrance.  There are so many great designs for entryways.  You can use different types of gates, a classic picket fence, or a gorgeous arbor.  You can also define your property line using stone or brick to set your yard apart from the sidewalk.

4. Make your front yard the place to be.  Don’t just design a great landscape, but provide the seating to enjoy it.  You can add the classic rocking chair to your front porch, hang a hammock, or set up a bench where guests can sit and chat – or where you can relax and enjoy.

5. Get exotic.  Southern California is the perfect place to get quirky with your yard.  There are already so many tropical plants, succulents, and cactus here in SoCal that adding something fun to your landscape just might set your home apart from the others.  This can be as subtle as installing lighting which makes your yard shine at night or you could add an art installation for some real eye candy.

No matter what you do, be sure your yard reflects both your personality and your needs.  Here’s to your home – may it be like no other home on the block!

 

 

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Eight New Years Resolutions to Make for Your Yard

The time when we make decisions about the next twelve months is here once again.  While we all make decisions about our weight, our health, and possibly our wealth, it may be a good time to take a look at our yard and 2014 fireworks.make a few decisions about that as well.  Here are the top ten new years resolutions for gardening and landscaping in 2014:

#1.  Do one thing to make your yard more organic.  Amend your soil with natural fertilizer, add organic mulch, or use some elbow grease instead of weed and feed.

#2. Spend more time in your yard.  Your yard may be a paradise or a mess.  Either way, resolve to spend more time outdoors, enjoying all the benefits of living in Southern California.  This may mean you need to make some improvements to your yard or it might mean you need to drag a lawn chair outdoors.  Whatever you do, enjoy your yard this year. Enjoy your yard

#3. Try planting at least one thing which is both beautiful and edible.  You can be as minor as decorative (and delicious) cabbage or as complicated as planting new fruit trees.

#4. Tackle at least one outdoor project this year.  This might mean you need to call in a landscaper to set up your new outdoor gathering space.  It may mean you need to get down and dirty on a DIY project.  Whatever the project may be, tackle it this year.

#5. Help your local fauna enjoy your landscape too.  You can plant blossoms that attract butterflies and bees, add a bird bath, install a stream, or much more.

#6. Actually use the compost heap.  Many of us have a compost heap, but we don’t all use it.  Try getting the ratio right and actually using your composted plant material to improve your yard.  Sage attracting a butterfly

#7. Plant more local, Southern California plants.  Try adding natives into your gardening mix.  You might be surprised how easy it is to grow natives and how many local birds and insect life they will attract.

#8. Go to more gardens and on more garden tours.  It’s always great to get inspired by what others are doing with their yards.

Here’s to a bright new year!

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Landscaping by the Ocean

Here in Southern California, we have plenty of oceanfront homes, as well as homes that are right by the ocean.  Living by the ocean is awesome – and brings about a new set of challenges for your yard.  Here are a few ideas to best utilize your sandy soil and your beach views: iStock_000002365576XSmall

Think with privacy.  One of the great things about the beach is that everyone wants to be right where you are during certain times of year.  This is fabulous for you – because you’re already there.  But the negative effect is that there are a ton of people traversing paths all around your home.  Instead of being inundated by people and noise throughout the busy season, try designing your yard space for privacy.  This may mean planting salt tolerant trees or shrubs like oaks, sunburst honey locusts, Norway maples, hydrangea, beach rose, sumac, winterberry holly, yucca, and bayberry shrubs.  You could also try installing a wall with a water feature to cut off the chattering crowds.

You may not want to make your whole home private, however.  You bought the home to be close to the beach, hear the ocean rolling in, and see that rolling expanse of water.  One idea for both privacy and views is to install a deck and surround it by shrubs, trees, or a privacy wall.  This way, you can enjoy the beach the majority of the time and relax in your private retreat when you want to get away from the crowds.

Grow an edible garden.  Just because you are by the beach doesn’t mean you have to stop growing your own foods.  There are vegetables that are salt tolerant and you can fight sandy soil by adding in raised beds.  Here are some salt tolerant veggies you can try: vine tomatoes

(High Tolerance) Beets, Kale, Asparagus, and Spinach

(Medium Tolerance) Potatoes, Tomatoes, Peas, Lettuce, Broccoli, Cabbage, and some Squashes.

You can also try planting coast strawberry for fruit.  They aren’t as sweet as regular strawberries, but they are hardy and will survive in your sandy soil.

Monopolize your view.  A beachfront home with any kind of a view is something to be proud of and enjoy.  Be sure you monopolize on this by building a deck with an ocean-facing view.  You can get a retractable cover so you can sunbathe on your own property, right in view of the ocean.

Additionally, people coming over to your home will want to enjoy the view with you, so create a social area based around viewing the ocean.  Install a firepit or a barbecue so people can enjoy the space and the view – day or night.Succulent Plant

Fall in love with succulents.  Succulents, California natives, and beach grasses are perfect for your home.  Find great ways to feature these gorgeous plants in your landscaping.  Beachfront homes that really embrace location often have the nicest looking yards.

 

 

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Nine Ways to Update Your Front Yard

Is the walkway into your home boring?  Take a look at these nine ways to spice that front yard up:

1. Explore hardscaping options.  Just because everyone on your block has a front lawn they spend tons of money on each year to keep green doesn’t mean you have to.  Consider broadening your walkways, extending your front porch, paving the area over and adding in potted plants, or even creating a front yard firepit.  It’s perfectly possible for you to enclose your front yard and make it an extension of your backyard space.

2. Just add water.  Water features are beautiful, can add life to an area, and might even block out street noise.  Make your front yard into a watery paradise with a pond, fountain, art installation, or stream.Sage attracting a butterfly

3. Consider installing planters.  If your backyard is occupied with a pool, a deck, or a space for the kids, revamp your front yard into a traditional kitchen garden.  There’s no need to try to keep it all in the back.

4. Brighten up your day.  Not quite sure that you want a fully remodeled landscape?  Try planting naturally bright or light colored plants to greet you through the winter.  There are plenty of ornamental grasses, bright cabbages, and several flowers that will brighten up your mood as you approach your home this winter.

5. Start a vineyard.  You don’t have to love wine to love grapes, arbors, and other growing vines.  Install an arbor with climbing roses, wisteria, or grapes.  The plants won’t be ready to great you through the winter this year – but next year you may have a Secret Garden-like entryway.

6. Make your yard a private place.  Install a fence or hedge along the boarder of your front yard to create a feeling of privacy.  Perhaps your front yard will become the place to hang out!

7. Mulch away!  If you have a yard in which grass will not grow, or you just get patchy crab grass, stop fretting.  Plant some California natives in areas you might like to see some plants and cover the rest with bark chips.

Desert Landscaping8. Add a bench.  It may seem a little strange to set a bench into your front yard, but it might end up being the spot where you and your neighbors chat on a sunny winter’s day.

9. Go native.  Try designing your landscape with Southern California natives.  You might be surprised how easy they are to maintain and how beautiful they turn out to be.

Here’s to a bright and welcoming front yard!

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13 Ways to Get your Yard Ready for Winter

The weather is becoming more chilly!  So, before winter weather really sets in, here are 13 tips for getting your yard ready for the colder weather:

#1. Aerate, overseed, and fertilize your lawn.

#2. Remove any dead tree limbs or plants.

#3. Use that compost pile by mulching your yard.0rainbarrell

#4. Plant a “cover crop” like clover on bare areas or over a garden that won’t be used.

#5. Cut back on your watering, but don’t cut it off.  It sure isn’t raining every day just yet!

#6. Transplant anything you want to move and plant anything else you want in the ground.  Remember, if you have particularly hard soil, be sure to dig a larger hole than the area of the plant – and be sure to loosen plenty of soil all around the planting area.

#7. Add winter flowers to your border.

#8. Clean out your pond, stream, fountain, or other water feature.  Also, take a look at your water feature equipment and see if anything needs to be replaced.

#9. Add any fallen leaves and chipped branches to your compost pile.  iStock_000009122825XSmall

#10. Move any outdoor furniture into your covered porch or into its winter storage area.

#11. Clean out your gutters and make sure they are directed properly.

#12.  Consider getting a rain barrel for your gutter system.

#13. Keep that bird feeder and bird bath stocked.

Here’s to a beautiful yard – all prepared for winter!

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8 Ways to Dress Up Your Yard This Season

This time of year is full of wacky weather in Southern California.  The plants in your yard don’t know whether they should die off and get ready for winter, or stay alive and keep on reaching for the sun.  Either way, it’s a good time to inject a little fun into your yard.  Here are eight ways to make your yard the place to be over fall and winter:

1. Surround your firepit, fountain, or other hardscaping feature with seasonal color by placing miniature conifers in a burgundy bowl or pot and placing them in likely spots around your yard.  You can always plant them in your yard next year, or keep them as bonsai-type trees for next year’s holiday season.

2. Welcome company with bright lighting along each pathway.  If you don’t have lights installed, try a temporary fix by placing tea candles in glass holders along your walkways.christmas decorations

3. Add a potted boarder to your existing border.  You can place poinsettias, cyclamen, and other bright plants along your boarder in seasonally colored pots.

4. Don’t settle for just one potted flower at your entryway, group pots with a variety of flowers to welcome friends and family for the holidays.

5. Mulch up any bare spots in your yard.

6. Take cuttings and create your own garden wreath.  Or, if you aren’t particularly fond of arts and crafts, use existing plants in arrangements throughout the house and on your outdoor furniture.

7. Use cushions in seasonal colors to accent your outdoor furniture.  It’s still warm enough to enjoy your yard with friends and family, so keep your outdoors decorated with seasonal items.

Here’s to a healthy, bright yard over the holidays!

 

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Brighten Up Your Yard

Every year we go through the cycle of long days and short nights to long nights and short days, and back again.  It’s turning toward the long nights period, so it’s time for you to consider the lighting in your front and back yard.  Here are some ideas and principles to keep in mind as you look at what needs to be lit in your yard and what you consider is the best way to do that:

1. Consider what you need lighting for.  Do you have walkways and pathways which could use illumination?  Do you have certain plants, water features, statues, and more that you want to show off?  Lighting is more than just a way to Pathway Lightingsee things – it’s a way to spotlight your favorite spaces and features.

2. Think about what your electrical lines and cables will be running through.  I know someone who was working on some landscaping in his yard and he managed to cut his lighting power line with a sharp spade.  The power line was running through tree roots and was practically indistinguishable from the roots.  So, realize that, while you want to hide the lines, keep them running through areas where they won’t be easily mistaken for a root.

3. Figure out what type of light you want to use.  There are some gorgeous LED and solar powered lights out there, as well as regular lighting.  Each bulb will give a slightly different effect and may make you decide to change the position of your lighting fixture, depending on the strength of the bulb.

4. There are lights for all types of situations – you may want a spotlight which will brighten up a particularly beautiful tree or feature and you will likely want lights which make the ground more visible.  You don’t want to use a spot light to show a pathway, as it can be too bright and be uncomfortable on the eyes.  One type of lighting many do not consider is string or rope lighting to accent an area, like a flower bed, a bush or a tree. iStock_000009122825XSmall

5. No matter what type of lighting you use on your pathways or to accent features in your yard, be sure to use lights which accent your front door and back deck or porch.  Even in fall and winter, you will want to spend some time outdoors, and you want to be able to see at night.

6. A really fun way to get a candlelit glow this season is to get small lanterns and use them to light the way for a romantic, spooky, or fun occasion.

7. You may love or hate your pond or water feature, but for safety’s sake, be sure to light it so people know it’s there.

8. You can add motion sensors, timers, and many other devices to your lighting system.  That way your lights are useful, rather than a drain on your wallet.iStock_000001237507XSmall[1]

9. Consider lighting up your steps.  Recessed lights can make your steps easy to see and look like they have little candles in them, lighting the path home.

Here’s to a bright, perfectly accented yard!

 

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Going Lawnless

Wide grass lawns aren’t really native to Southern California, and are often water suckers.  One way to solve water issues landscaped gardeninevitable to a lawn is to remove your lawn and do something else with the space.  Here are a variety of ideas and tips for “going lawnless:”

1.  Plant up with natives instead of grass.  Once your natives are established, you won’t have to water them nearly as much as you watered your lawn.  Some lovely natives are:  Lewisia, Penstemon, Thrift, Yarrow, Apricot mallow, Checkerbloom, Blue-eyed grass, Iris, Monkey flower, Lilac, Bearded tongue, Beach aster, Snowberry, and more.

2. Install and enjoy hardscaping.  Hardscapes can be filled with natural beauty by utilizing pots or borders, and it’s very easy to maintain.  Not only that, handscapes make great gathering places for friends, family, barbecues, and more.

3. Make your space a veggy patch or herb garden.  Growing your own food is rewarding and can be really fun for the young ones!

4. Install a waterscape.  Adding a pond or fountain can make your backyard feel like a haven of natural beauty instead of a flat, green, water-sucking expanse.  Water features can block traffic noise, and they can get you off the hook for getting your kid a pet (by filling a pond with fish or some such animal).

5. Plant an orchard.  You may not think you can make your yard into a shady haven of natural beauty, but you can.  Planting and establishing trees can take a lot of water, but they give a great reward and last for a very long time.Rake Chips

6. Take some time to repair your soil with mulch over winter, then try planting some of your favorites.  You can make your yard into a gorgeous place for butterflies, birds, and more by smothering your lawn over winter and planting something completely different in spring.

Here’s to the perfect yard for your needs!

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Fabulous Firepits

The yard can be a lot of things to different people.  In the summertime, it’s often used as a space to spend time with and entertain friends and family – especially in summer.  In order to have such a space, one has to consider the time of day when people will be over and what you like to do most.  This will lead you to the best changes to your landscaping in order to make it a space that works for everyone.iStock_000017779814XSmall

One great type of gathering space is a firepit.  It might seem a little counter-intuitive, since we live in sunny Southern California.  However, while it’s sunny during the day – it can get downright chilly at nighttime.  Also, you don’t have to keep a fire going in the pit at all times.  It is simply a great focal point for a gathering space, which is also useful and which can be really fun.   Here are some great firepit ideas to consider for your yard space:

  • Campfire style: A built-in, natural looking firepit might be the perfect space to gather in a hillside home or with a more rustic-style home.
  • A round firepit with circular seating: Allowing all of your guests to gather around the fire and converse is a past time that has carried on throughout the ages.  iStock_000017473871XSmall
  • Geometric-styled firepits: Playing with shapes can add character to your yard and make it a conversation piece – as well as a place to talk!
  • A sunken firepit: If your yard has a step-down space you aren’t sure what to do with, it might be just the space for a firepit.
  • Built-in fireplace: An outdoor fireplace can bring the gathering outdoors – even on dry winter nights.
  • A mock fireplace: Positioning a fireplace against a wall of brick or stone can make it feel as if you had an outdoor fireplace, when it’s just a firepit.
  • Artful firepits: You can do so much with firepits – setting up a gas flame that appears to be coming out of water or gravel can lend surprising elegance to a space – while making it a piece of art when the flame is turned off

There are plenty of fun styles for firepits – they don’t have to be portable metal tubs anymore.  So, here’s to a summer filled with light and laughter!

 

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Ten Tips for Saving Water in your Yard

It’s easy to spend a ton of money on watering grass and other plants here in Southern California.  Places like Simi Valley, Thousand Oaks, and Northridge can experience extreme heat that can turn your grass yellow and dormant.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, except that it looks bad.  If you dislike spending extreme amounts on water, or you just don’t like how your lawn looks in the summertime, consider these ten water saving tips:

1.  Try planting native grasses.  While these won’t look the same as your current lawn-type grass, they use up less water and can look really beautiful.

2. Install pavers with dymondia margaretae or some such grass growing between them.  This will give you the grassy look without the maintenance.

3. Considering changing your yard out to include California natives. Some great native ground covers are: Pacific Mist, Carmel Sur, Monterey Carpet, Ceanothus Gloriosus, California Lilac, Ceanothus Hearstiorum, Squaw Carpet, Silver Carpet, Tufted Hairgrass, Cape Sebastian, Wood Straberry, Mountain Strawberry, Penstemon Heterodoxus, Salvia,  Yerba Buena, and Gaultheria Shallon.

4. Instead of using flower borders, plant bright succulents.  These are beautiful and water resistant plants that don’t need much water.  Some lovely succulents are: Spiral aloe, Afterglow, a variety of Agaves, or Ice Plant, Stonecrop

5. If you don’t want to change your yard up at all, consider mulching your plants.  Mulch can help the soil retain water and provide nutrients to your plants.

6. Install sprinklers or a drip irrigation system.  It’s easy to accidentally water your sidewalk or miss spots when you are watering by hand.  Additionally, having a programmed system will help you water earlier in the morning – before the heat of the day.

7.  Make sure your plants have healthy soil.  Years and years of the same plant living in the same soil can cause the plant to die faster, as the nutrients are leached from the soil.  Get your soil tested to find out exactly want needs to be done to make it the optimal place for your plants to live.

8. Looking for a good garden accent that won’t take up too much water?  Consider planting a citrus tree or a deep rooted tree.  Such trees actually prefer to be watered only once a week or so once they are well-established.  Do consider, however, that you should generally wait until the weather gets cooler to make such an improvement to your yard – and it will take about a year for the tree to properly establish its root system.  This is a longer-term fix.

9. If you want a lawn that looks great year round and doesn’t need watering – consider installing a faux lawn.  Your grass will be green all the time.  The only downsides are that it’s a rather expensive fix and your grass will not get cool.

10. Consider watering less often, but more deeply. Running a sprinkler in the wee hours only a couple of days a week for a longer time period will tend to drive water deeply into the soil where it won’t evaporate easily.

There are a ton of fixes for your water bill.  Some may include changing your yard’s look – and this may be for the better.  If you want to go this route, consider talking to a professional landscaper for assistance.

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