Archive for Landscaper

Designing a Drought Tolerant Yard

This time of year is usually filled with chilly weather and rainfall, but so far it has been dry and warm here in Southern California.  This may lead to some strict rules regarding watering ever-thirsty lawns.  So, instead of adding to the problem, here are some ideas for a drought tolerant and beautiful yard:

Go native:  Penstemon Husker's Red

We have so many wonderful native plants here in Southern California – and because they are native they are perfectly suited to our weather.   Some really wonderful plants are: Baby Blue Eyes, Black-Eyed Susan, Buckeye, California lilac, California poppy (our state flower), Calliopsis, Chaparral, Desert Evening Primrose, Fir, Fried-Egg Flower, Godetia, Hollyhock, Hummingbird Trumpet, Joshua Tree, Lavender, Penstemon, Ribbon bush, Sea Pink, and Sedum.

Plants that are used to our climate and the cyclic droughts we have can survive better with less water than plants from areas that get a lot of water.

Plant succulents: Stonecrop

Succulents and cactus are a natural fit for our desert-y climate. They hold in water for a long time and can survive in hot, dry weather.  Some great cactus plants and succulents for the yard are: Agave, Aloes, Bunny Ear Cactus, Campfire Crassula, Desert Rose, Golden Barrel Cactus, Hens-and-Chicks, Macho Moca Mangave, Star Cacti, and Zwartkop.

Utilize artistic arrangements: iStock_000010193902XSmall

Don’t just use plants to decorate your yard. Try out gorgeous rocks, arrange outdoor art pieces, or set up a dry fountain and plant it with succulents. There are such a huge variety of stone, brick, cement, and even metal materials you can use to make your yard look amazing without having to water it.

Even if you don’t go grass free, you can find many water saving tips and suggestions here.  Here’s to some rainfall this year!

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10 Tips for Sharing your yard

Dogs are fun and fantastic companions.  They also need a bit of space to stretch their legs.  This is where your yard often A kid and his dogcomes into play.  If your dog is anything like mine, he or she is probably a little temperamental about what they love in your yard, and what they won’t go near.  Sometimes what they love is the exact item you don’t want them to get into.  Here are some fun ideas for sharing your yard with a canine companion, and for keeping them out of the portions of your yard you want to keep for yourself:

1. Use raised beds or low fences to delineate areas where you’d like to keep your dog away.  Many dogs are decent jumpers, but if they are trained not to get into your beds or to jump a low fence, you can probably keep the veggie garden safe.

2. Install low-impact hardscape.  You’ve seen a dog slide on a wood or linoleum floor.  You don’t want your backyard to be a place where he or she slips and slides, but you also don’t want your yard to be uncomfortable on their paws.  Try getting smooth flagstones set in pebbles or grass.

3. Use fine mulch that won’t stick in the paws or dig into the skin of your pet.

4. Be sure to plant dog-friendly plants.  Plants like grapes, lilies, sago palm, azalea,  and daffodils are poisonous to dogs.  So, if you have a dog that likes to gnaw on your plants, don’t put these in your yard.  Also avoid planting anything that might have a burr-type seed like foxtails.  These can get into the fur, paws, nose, and ears of your pup and might create an infection.

Some friendly plants that can usually stand up to bigger dogs are: African boxwood, artemisia, canna, ginger, lilac, osmanthus, pines, and more.Shady dog house

5. Give your dog a shady place to rest.  Whether you will be outdoors with your dog, you have a doggy door, or your dog loves to hang out outside, it’s always smart to give them a nice, cool place to rest.  It’s also a good idea to keep a filled bowl of water there as well, so they don’t get overheated.

6. Make a path.  Most dogs love to run and explore.  A path gives them a natural place to jog, patrol your property, and generally feel like they are in charge of things.  Give them a nice pathway of dirt or low-impact hardscaping for them to jog along and be your home’s security system.

7. Build a fence or a wall.  Some dogs love to dig underneath your wall or your fence.  You might need to get a landscaper to install extra protection – underground.

8. Give your dog a way to get wet.  While it’s cooling down now, it’s usually HOT in Southern California – especially if you’re wearing a fur coat 24/7.  If you have a pond or are installing a water feature, see if you can make it a dog-friendly cool-down zone for your four legged friend.

9.  Install a walk up area.  If you have a hillside home or really any home with an incline or with elevated areas you don’t mind your pet wandering into, give your dog some steps or an easy incline to walk up.  Remember, even if your dog is just a pup, keeping them from jumping up and down can save their joints later on.

10. Try to use fewer chemically-based fertilizers, herbicides, or pesticides.  If you do need to spray your yard or lawn, make sure it had dried at least 24 hours before you let your pet loose out there.

Here’s to healthy, safe, and happy pets!

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10 Ways to Create an Entryway that Pops

With family occasions like Thanksgiving, Chanukah, Christmas, and others coming up, it’s important to make your visitors feel right at home – starting with their entrance into your house.  Here are some tips to creating a gorgeous, welcoming entryway to you home:

1. Trim down or replace any overgrown shrubbery.

2. Make sure your walkway and entrance are well lit.

3. Showcase your home.  Keep your front yard open so your home itself is visible and not hidden.

4.  Make your yard noticeable.  Flowers with bright colors, a unique walkway, interesting lighting, all add up to a home that gets noticed right when company drives up.

5. Add some curve to your flower borders.  Curved flower border

6. Keep the front of your home clean.  Don’t just clean up for guests on the inside of your home, cut back dead branches, sweep up dead leaves, pull out any dying plants, and make your yard look good.  Not only will your home look better, you’ll help keep the space fireproof.

7. Give the outdoors some scent.  Plant jasmine, lemon trees, magnolias, and more to give your guests a fragrant walk up to your yard.

8. Add pizazz to your yard with ornamental grasses, art installations or natural accents.

9. Fix up your walkway.  Your front walk is the path to your front door.  Fill in any cracks, seal the concrete, or get it completely redone with an accent rock or brick.

10. Add color.  Don’t be afraid to plant something that changes color or which has unexpected pop in all seasons.

Here’s to a vibrant front yard and some very happy holidays!

 

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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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Landscape Maintenance for Fall

Fall is usually a great time to help your plants get ready for chilly weather.  Even though it’s not quite Fall yet, I wanted to start you off with a few maintenance ideas.

– Overseed your lawn: Adding extra seed to your lawn will help it recover from the summer heat.  Overseeding is described here and is best done in Fall and/or in Spring. iStock_000005983963XSmall

– Feed your roses: Fertilize your roses each time the blooms die off – and stop fertilizing about two months before the first frost.

– Clean up: Cut off anything that is dead, rake up dead leaves, trim down dead plants, and generally get your yard ship shape.

– Compost: This one has a double meaning.  You should both feed your plants with compost, and use your grass clippings, dead leaves, and yanked up plants create new compost. wooden compost bin

– Plant: Fall is always a good time to install trees and shrubs.  It might be better to wait until October/November, so the plants are more dormant, but check out plant sales and see if there’s anything you should get into the ground right away.

– Harvest: Take advantage of your Fall flowers, veggies, and fruits.  Either harvest plants in your own yard or have fun at a pumpkin patch or other pick-your-own farm.

– Pull up the weeds: Any weeds should be yanked out by the roots so they can’t establish their roots over the winter.Pulling Weeds

 

Here’s to a great Fall and a healthy yard!

 

 

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Great Fall Garden Ideas

It’s almost Fall, which usually means dry, hot winds, and brown lawns.  It’s a time when we all want more color in our yards.  Here are some ideas to accomplish just that:

    • Fill your yard with plants that bloom all Summer and Fall. There are a number of great, late blooming plants available for your yard – like African Lily, Agastache, Anemone, Asters, Balloon Flower, Beach Rose, Blanket Flower (Gaillardia), Coneflower (Echinacea), Coreopsis, Daylillies, Dead Nettle (Lamium), Dianthus EverLast, False Sunflowers (Heliopsis), Gaura, Geraniums, Globe Thistle, Hibiscus, Lavender, Leucanthemum, Moss Rose, Mums, Phlomis, Phlox, Pinks (Dianthus), Salvia, Sagebrush, Speedwell (Veronica), Sundrops, Thyme, and Yarrow.  When each plant blooms depends upon the variety, but there are a ton of great flowers that thrive in the heat of Summer and Fall.
    • Plant trees and shrubs that change color in the Fall.  Trees like maples, oaks, and dogwoods can change colors, even in a Southern California landscape.  Shrubs can also give you that bright Fall color – notably American Fall treeCranberry Bush, Burning Bush, Sumac, and Oakleaf Hydrangea.
    • Include roses in your garden landscape.  Roses generally bloom more than once – depending on the type.  Some great bloomers are: Hybrid Tea, Shrub Roses, Bush Roses, Everblooming Climbers, Miniature Roses, Floribunda, and more.  Again, you have to consider the exact type of rose before knowing whether or not it will bloom more than once.
    • Add structural landmarks.  Adding structure to your yard with benches, a pagoda, terraces, and more can give you a place to observe the changes in your yard from – and a place to look out to when the plants officially die down during the winter.  Another structural landmark you can add is a water feature like a river, pond, waterfall, or spout.  These can make your Fall yard feel a little damper and cooler during the warm Santa Ana winds.

It’s still warm this time of year, so be sure to go outside and enjoy it – even though summer vacation is about over.  Here’s to a warm, vibrant Fall.

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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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