Archive for seasonal landscaping

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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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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Five Last Minute Tips to Spruce up your Yard

With holiday season in full force, you may have been concentrating completely on decorating your interior, getting menus together, and wrapping presents.  If you take a moment to look at your yard, it might need a little pick-me-up.  Short of calling your local landscaper, how can you make it look more welcoming?  Here are five easy, quick tips for you to do before your guests begin to arrive:

Tip #1: Clean up.  This may seem obvious, but give your yard a quick once over.  Rake up any leaves, pick up any garbage that has blown on to your lawn, and trim off anything dead in your yard. Pink-white senecio cineraria

Tip #2: Plant something bright.  Are there some spots that are tough to look at in your yard?  Distract attention by bringing color to your borders and popping some pretty flowers into those empty beds.  Some good plants for cool-season color in Southern California are: cineraria, pansies, candytuft, heath, primrose, snapdragons, English daisies, calendula, cyclamen, hellebores, cool-season poppies, ornamental kale, ornamental cabbage, and more.

Tip #3: Decorate with potted plants.  Don’t have time to get on those hands and knees and plant some flowers?  Try decorating with lovely pots and pretty plants.  You can add any of the above flowers to draw the eye to your front porch, line your walkway with potted plants, or prop them in an empty flower bed to bring it a little cheer.

Tip #4: Cover bald spots.  Warm up chilly ground with some pretty mulch – bark mulch can often dress up some bare ground and make the ground healthier for next year!Light wrapped tree at Twilight

Tip #5: Bring your tree outside.  You may have a gorgeous, dressed-up tree indoors.  Celebrate the theme by dressing up a tree or two that is sitting outdoors.  There are fun, outdoor bulbs you can use, outdoor string lights and so much more.  Additionally, you can add some pretty boughs and wreathes around your yard, along handrails, or even on dividing walls or your fence.  Don’t limit the festivity to the indoors.

Here’s to a wonderful – stress free holiday season!

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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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Fun Ideas for Enjoying Your Backyard in the Colder Months

Even though we are approaching the cooler months, we can still take advantage of our backyard spaces.  Here are some fun and creative ideas for making your yard the go-to place over the winter and spring:

  • Keep it shady.  It seems counter intuitive to utilize your trees when it’s not hot, but when it’s threatening rain, setting up a little conversation area beneath a tree might be just the right spot.  You can use a fun colored Backyard pavilionbackyard umbrella or pull down the patio covering to achieve a similar affect.
  • Cook outside.  Just because it’s fall or winter doesn’t mean you have to abandon the barbecue.  Set up an outdoor kitchen and enjoy the food from your enclosed patio, dining room, gazebo, or firepit.
  • Plant a variety.  The holidays don’t have to leave your yard barren.  You can plant new bushes, trees, and seasonal flowers.  These plants will not only look great, you will get birds and other animals visiting over the winter and give them a place to hang out when other homes may have a little less variety for them to enjoy.
  • Build an outdoor space you can enjoy all year round.  If you don’t have a patio, deck, pavilion or other place you can enjoy throughout the year, it may be time to build one.  One thing to think about is whether you want an outdoor fireplace, firepit, or kitchen area.  Also, consider if you want want the option to remove the roof covering or if you want something permanent.iStock_000016466276XSmall
  • Revamp that tool shed.  We all have seen an old, dilapidated tool shed in someone’s backyard.  If that someone is you, consider making that old structure into a space you, your family, and your guests can enjoy.  You can tear it down completely and create a hardscaped area to enjoy or you can revamp it into a fun hang out.
  • Place covered spots along your walkways.  If you have benches along your walkways or paths, put a cover above them so you can sit snug, even if it’s raining, and enjoy the outdoors

All in all, you aren’t banned from the backyard just because of some chilly weather.  Make your own space that you can enjoy all-year-round.  Here’s to a fun and creative holiday season!

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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 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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Fall Lawncare

This time of year is a great time to focus on your lawn.  So, here are some tips for your caring for your lawn, during this time of year: mowing lawn

1. Feed your lawn: The type of fertilizer might change depending on the type of grass, but pretty much any kind of grass can benefit from fertilizer this time of year.

2. Spread some seeds: Overseeding can give your lawn new life.  A general rule is to mow your grass very short, then apply seed generally.  After this, it’s a good idea to add mulch and let your grass grow.

3. Help out damaged sections: You can remove damaged sections of grass, work in compost, aerate, level the surface and plant new grass.

4. Get help with weeds: Weed and feed is one version of weed control.  You can also identify weeds and use good ol’ elbow grease, or you can rip up your old lawn complete, add compost and other soil amendments, and then replant from there.

5. Change up your grass type:  There are so many types of grass available nowadays.  Check out other options if you are sick of your lawn’s look or the maintenance it needs.

There are many other things you can do to improve your lawn.  Check out more tips here.

Here’s to a lawn that stays green all year long!

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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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Trimming up your Yard

It can be a little daunting and even frightening to prune up your own trees or bushes.  However, this is traditionally the time of year when pruning and cleaning up your plants occurs.  Pruning your plants – or at least removing diseased or dead growth is a great way to help contribute toward fire prevention in your neighborhood, and to help your plants get refreshed and reinvigorated for Spring.

With this in mind, here are a few tips for trimming trees and bushes in your yard:Pruning

Tip #1 Try trimming down any dead, diseased, or damaged stems.  Remove any water spouts or suckers as well.  This cleans up the plant and helps it concentrate on developing healthy limbs.

Tip #2 Be aware of what you are trimming. Rose bushes, flowering plants, evergreens, and fruiting plants may require different pruning methods or need to be pruned at different times than everything else.

Tip #3 If you’re nervous about pruning a plant too far down, don’t do it.  Get a professional to help you out.

Tip #4 When clipping hedges, be sure to shape and keep maintaining them until about 6 weeks before your area’s first frost.  There are some areas of Los Angeles that don’t get any frost until mid to late December, so be sure to check when the first frost for your area usually is.

Tip #5 If you’re afraid your plants have a disease, get it checked out by an arborist.  They might be able to help your plant or tell you the best time to prune so the disease doesn’t fester.  Additionally, if you are worried about disease, be sure your aborist or you clean the shears after trimming a diseased plant and before using them on a healthy plant.

Tip #6 Deadhead any flowers.  You can do this pretty much any time of year.  If you have flowering bushes or trees and the flowers have faded or are dead, you can clip off their heads.

Tip #7 Only use very sharp tools.  Clean cuts will heal better and faster than dull, hacking cuts.

Tip #8 Don’t paint or tar wounds.  Some people feel that paint or tar closes up pruning wounds, but this isn’t true.

Tip #9 Mulching may be as important as – if not more important than – pruning.  By mulching you are feeding the plant and helping it out over winter.  Pruning directs the plant’s energy away from diseased parts and back into the healthy growth of the plant – but a plant cannot grow without healthy soil.

Here’s to happy, healthy trees and bushes.

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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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