Archive for Plants

Five Tips Water Saving Tips

This year we’ve had pretty bad drought conditions here in Southern California.  In fact, we’ve had drought conditions for a few years now.  This means we want to get the most out of every single drop of water we use. Here are five water saving tips for your yard:

Tip #1: Water your yard in the early morning – preferably right before the sun comes up and the heat of the day begins.  This will give the water a chance to sink into the ground and won’t flood your lawn all night long.  A great way to do this for any night owls out there – or just people who don’t want to wake up before dawn – is to set your sprinkler system on a timer.  Rich Soil

Tip #2: Keep composting.  There are a lot of great ways to compost.  You can use mulch from your compost pile, you can buy compost, and you can leave the grass on  your lawn as you mow.  These will all help the health of your soil and allow it to retain water better.

Tip #3: If you’re planting in a container, choose what you use carefully.  A metal container will heat up quickly and make water evaporate faster.  An unglazed clay pot is porous and will cause moisture loss through the clay itself.  One way to combat this problem in pots is to find a good, rich soil that will hold moisture.  Cactus Garden Window

Tip #4: Plant California natives, succulents, and cactus instead of their water-guzzling friends and neighbors.  I just wrote a recent blog post about designing a drought-tolerant yard.

Tip #5: Consult with a landscaper.  One of the best ways to utilize water properly in your yard is to design it in such a way that no water goes to waste.  Get in touch with your local landscaper about how to best design your space so it’s both water-efficient and your dream yard.  It can actually help you save money in the long run.

Here’s to some rain!!!

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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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Preparing for Rose Season

We are very lucky in Southern California.  We have fantastic weather and with it are able to have an extensive rose season.  For example, this January you can plant bare-root plants like roses.  How do you prepare for roses?  Here are some ideas: iStock_000010086872XSmall

Rose planting preparations:

Make sure you’ve got a space dedicated to growing your roses.  These lovely flowers need plenty of food, so it’s best to plant them in weed-free areas where other high phosphorus eaters don’t also live.

Get your soil set up for roses.  You want a nice, loam composition.  This means it is about 40% sand, 40% silt, and 20% clay.  If you aren’t going to be planting bare root roses this year or you are amending soil where existing plants live, try building this type of soil using organic compost.  If you are attempting to plant right away, you should dig in a good compost mix.

Set up the area you will be planting with a good watering system.  Southern California can be hot for roses.  Your roses will need plenty of water as they grow.

Plant your roses:

Planting a bare root rose is an excellent way to beautify your garden.  Here is a quick overview of planting bare root roses:

  • Soak the bare roots in a bucket of water for at least two hours and not over twelve hours.
  • Prune any roots that are broken, injured, or overlong.
  • Dig a hole about 12-18 inches deep and 2 feet wide.
  • Add compost into the hole and mix it with the soil at the bottom of the hole.
  • Place the rose into the hole and spread the roots evenly around.
  • Backfill the planting hole two thirds full.  Make sure the bud union is above the soil level.
  • Add water and allow to drain completely, then fill the hole with more soil and water again.

Find more tips on caring for your new roses here.

Here’s to bright new buds and bountiful roses this year!

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Simple Landscaping Ideas

Sometimes the best looking landscape is the one with the simplest design.  When we look at magazines and see great landscapes, they are usually several simple ideas put together and made into a cohesive whole.  So, here are some simple ideas you should consider when taking a look at your own landscape:Trellis

– Think within a specific color scheme.  Whether you are looking at hardscaping or plants, you can consider basic color schemes.  For example, if you love red, you can work that in to your yard with bright zinnia, poppies, celosia, or an accent tile or stone.  Keeping the color consistent will help your yard look more pulled together and cohesive as a whole.

– Don’t fret about bare spots.  Instead of worrying about bare spots in your yard, utilize them by placing a piece of art, a water feature, or a bench over that spot.

– Don’t worry about mixing and matching.  Mother Nature mixes and matches all the time and comes up with meadows filled with flowers or mysterious forests.  Try it yourself by utilizing different types of plants and hardscaping materials.  Just try grouping like things together as much as possible.

–  Create private spaces.  If you have a bit of room in your yard, you can get a simple, private space designed for you- separated by a low wall or a hedge.

– Install islands of plants or hardscaping.  Reverse the usual borders by making your grass a boarder for a hardscaped retreat or colorful island of plants.

– Have fun with textures and geometry.  Exploring different types and sizes of plants, as well as a variety of hardscaping materials can lead to an organic and interesting look you can’t get with a plain grass lawn.

– When in doubt, try something traditional.  If you aren’t sure what to do with that wide open space, plant a lawn there.  You can mix and match type of grass, add in flowers, or create an island later on.  Sometimes keeping things traditional opens up the space to more fun ideas later on down the road.

These are just a few of the many simple and interesting techniques you can utilize for your yard.  Here’s to a gorgeous yard filled with fun and laughter!

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Spooky plants for Halloween

With all the fun decorations out, it’s interesting to consider what plants might be scary for visitors to your home.  Check out this fun list of plants that might spook your friends – or trick or treaters:Venus Flytrap

  • Bat Face Cuphea
  • Black Bat Lilies (Tacca Chantrieri)
  • Black Pansies
  • Black Scallop (Ajuga)
  • Buddha’s Hands
  • Cattalis Euphorbia
  • Cobra (Darlingtonia Californica)
  • Cotyledon Orbiculata Oblanga
  • Crested Euphorbias
  • Dyckia
  • Early Splendor (Amaranth)
  • Ebony Colocasia
  • Hot Chocolate Calla Lilies
  • Japanese Blood Grass or Rubra
  • Monkey Cups
  • Octupus Orchids
  • Pitcher Plants
  • Slipper Plant
  • Stanhopea Wardii
  • Sticks on Fire Euphorbia
  • Sundews
  • Venus Flytraps

Add some Spanish moss around the pots, some dead twigs, and spook your friends and neighbors!  While most of these plants aren’t really something you want to landscape with, it’s still fun to put them in pots, set them out for Halloween, and keep them around the house or in the yard until next year.

Here’s to a great, spooky, Halloween!

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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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Growing Edible Ornamentals

Everyone wants their yards – front and back – to look gorgeous and green.  Some people also want to be able to eat what they grow.  So, how does one balance the beauty of their yard with its usefulness?  Here are some ornamental plants that can decorate both your yard and your dinner table:

Basil: There are a wide variety of beautiful basils which you can use to decorate your yard, your home, and your food.  Here are some great varieties: Sweet basil, Ararat basil, Purple ruffles basil, Thai basil, Round midnight basil, Lemon basil, Greek basil, Spicy saber basil, Genovese basil, Green bouquet basil, Cardinal basil, Green ruffles basil, Boxwood basil, Summerlong basil, and Lime basil.

Fennel: The licorice flavored seeds and young leaves of fennel are extremely popular in culinary circles.  Fennel also has beautiful, wispy fronds which can add a fern-like look to your yard.  Some varieties of fennel include: Florence fennel, Sweet fennel, or Bronze fennel.  Fennel can grow in partial shade, so it’s a good plant to help fill in empty spaces where plants that need more sunlight might have difficulties.

Artichoke: Even if you don’t like this delicious vegetable, the fluffy purple flowers can brighten up your yard.  Some of the common varieties are: Green globe artichoke, Baby anzio artichoke, Siena artichoke, Mercury artichoke, Omaha artichoke, Fiesole artichoke, Chianti artichoke, and the King artichoke.

Broccoli: The giant leaves of a broccoli plant are as decorative as a cabbage – and when the vegetable comes up, it can look even prettier.  Some pretty (and delicious) broccolis are: Gypsy broccoli, De Cicco broccoli, Blue Wind broccoli, Amadeus broccoli, Sprouting broccoli, Romanesco broccoli, and Arcadia broccoli.Sage attracting a butterfly

Sage: The delicious smell and the lovely flowers sage produces make it a wonderful addition to a yard – whether that be a yard with other spices in it or a yard only for ornamentals.  Here are some great varieties: Culinary sage, Pineapple sage, Russian sage, Gentian sage, Purple sage, Clary sage, Golden sage, Berggarten sage, Variegated sage, Blue Angel sage, Mexican bush sage, Silver sage,

Lavender: There are plenty of great smelling lavenders, some of which are culinary lavender.  This delicious and sweet smelling herb can make a nice bush and attraction for bees.

Mint: This can make a delicious smelling ground cover and a nice garnish for your food.  Some lovely varieties are: Bowles mint, Chocolate mint, Curly mint, Ginger mint, Variegated peppermint, Corsican mint, Pennyroyal, Spearmint, Peppermint, Apple mint, Lemon mint, and Pineapple mint.

Thyme: Thyme is actually a member of the mint family.  It is an evergreen shrub which can add extra greenary and spice to your yard.  Some nice varieties of thyme are: Common thyme, Lemon thyme, Golden thyme, Doone valley thyme, Redstart thyme, Vey thyme, Archer’s Gold thyme, Bressingham thyme, English thyme, and French thyme.

Lettuce: Pretty, broad leaved lettuce or stout little balls of lettuce can be both ornamental and delicious.  Some good varieties to line your home or flower garden with are: Butter lettuce, Little gem lettuce, Lambs lettuce, Oak leaf lettuce, Escarole, and Radicchio.

There are many, many beautiful and ornamental plants which are also edible.  What are your favorites?

 

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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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Gardening for Privacy

Many homeowners use fences and walls to keep their yards private.  Sometimes these barriers blend well with the surroundings, and sometimes they are an eyesore.  Even if you can’t afford to replace the fencing, or the neighbors are being difficult about it, you can improve the looks of your yard space using different techniques.  Here are a few ideas that you or your landscaper can use to give you the perfect backyard:iStock_000011976361XSmall

Grow a climbing plant.  Depending on the amount of sunlight your backyard gets, you can go with a climbing plant like bougainvillea, grapes, ivy, climbing roses, morning glory, kiwi, chocolate vine, trumpet vine, clematis, hydrangea, passionflower, and more.  Additionally, as plants take time to grow, you can install a pretty lattice against your unsightly wall or fence to help the plant climb – and to add some beauty to your yard.

Make your wall the support for a water installation.  Instead of hiding your wall, try making it a focal point by installing a fountain against it.  The soothing sound of running water and the beauty of your new installation might make it the best part of your yard.

Install art. You can make your walled or fenced enclosure your unique space by installing outdoor-safe art onto it.

Paint it. Your yard can be transformed with a little makeover using a paintbrush and some imagination.  If you feel your yard is a little boring, try choosing colors that will pop.  If you want to ignore the wall or fence surrounding your card as much as possible, try painting it a color that will blend with the surroundings.

Plant against it. Reorganizing your planters by installing them against your fence or wall can make the space more open, while also beautifying the enclosure and making it more fragrant.

Install a screen over it. Make your own wall by installing a bamboo or wicker screen over the existing wall.

These are all place holders for the real fix, which is to get your wall or fence replaced with the material of your choice.  If you are looking to do a full remodel of your backyard, toss around ideas with your landscaper and your neighbors.  It is possible to create a shared wall that will work for everyone.

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Calling all Bees, Butterflies, and Lady Bugs

If you live in a place like Pismo or Malibu beach, you’re pretty likely to see butterflies throughout the year.  But what about more inland cities like Thousand Oaks, Woodland Hills or Simi Valley?  How do residents get a chance to enjoy gorgeous and beneficial winged insects?  Here are some ideas:Honey Bee Polinating Sage Blossom

Get rid of dead or dying plants

Beneficial insects are attracted to bright, healthy plants that will produce plenty of pollen or nectar, or which haven’t been damaged too thoroughly by harmful insects like aphids.  Make sure to prune back dead foliage, remove dead plants, and find out if your plants that seem to be dying can be saved or if they should be removed.

Plant bright flowers with nectar or pollen in them

Butterflies and bees are attracted to areas where they can feed themselves and their fellows.  Try planting vibrant flowers like: marigold, lavender, blood flower, brown-eyed Susan, echinacea, salvia, yarrow, penstemon, salpiglossis, dahlia, scabiosa, gallardia, zinnia,  aster, butterfly bush, butterfly weed, lantana, bee balm, borage, sunflower, alyssum, lion’s tail, coneflower, and many more. Butterflies

There are also herbs that can be used both to attract pollinators and can be used in the kitchen.  Some of these are: fennel, oregano, garlic chives, sage, mint, mustard greens, and thyme.

Plan your garden

You can attract friendly insects with gardens big and small, but usually there is a reason you wish to attract them.  Maybe you enjoy watching butterflies flutter and bees buzz.  In that case, you’ll want your garden landscaped with areas for you to sit down and watch.  Maybe you’re planting pollinators to help with your tomato plants or a peach tree.  In this case, you’ll want to discuss how best to position the plants that attract beneficial insects so that they buzz on over to the plants that really need pollinating.

Take time to enjoy it all

In this hustle and bustle world, it may be hard to find time to contemplate the flowers or watch the bees and butterflies do their thing.  But make sure to make time to enjoy your yard.  Why else have a gorgeously landscaped space which attracts beautiful little insects?

Here’s to a summer filled with bright blooms and beneficial insects.

 

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