Archive for Trees

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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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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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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Consider Going Native

Southern California native plants are gorgeous, and – once established – they can cut down on the water bill.  Not only can adding natives to your landscape help keep your yard green with less water, they also attract native animals like birds, butterflies and more.

Here are some great natives to consider planting:

Full Sun/Flowers or Flowering ShrubberyCalifornia Golden Poppy

Hollyhock, California Poppy, Fried Egg Flower, Godetia, Pineleaf Penstemon, Broadleaf Sedum, Eaton’s Penstemon, Calliopsis, Hummingbird Trumpet, Black-Eyed Susan, Sea Pink, Desert Evening Primrose, California Buckwheat, Bigleaf Lupine

Partial or Full Shade/Flowers or Flowering Shrubbery

Baby Blue Eyes, Ribes Currants, Mock Orange, Snowberry, Meadow Rue, Coral Bells, Coastal Sage Scrub, California Lilac, Bush Sunflower, Chaparral


Fir (red/white), Big-Leaf Maple, Desert Ash, Californa Black Walnut, Sugar Pine, Honey Mesquite, Velvet Mesquite, Douglas Fir, California Oak, Blue Oak, Engelmann Oak, Mountain Hemlock

These and many other plants make a great addition to any yard.  When landscaping, give some thought to native plants.  They can help you save on your water bill, are less of an effort to care for, and attract wonderful animals.



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Making a Small Yard Look Larger

No matter the size of your yard, chances are you would likely like to maximize the space, making it feel larger than it actually is.  Here are some ideas on how to do just that:

Plant a variety of small trees through your yard. 

This has two functions:Small Fruit Tree

1. It creates the illusion of more space as there is hidden space behind the trees.

2. It allows you to create little hideaways.

Additionally, there are some great fruit and nut tree varieties that are breed small so they are easy to pick.  This is a great option for small, yet useful trees.

Decorate your gathering space.

It’s easy to give up if you have just a little cement patio or pad for your friends or family to gather.  But, if you decorate the space with a central piece, like a wrought iron table surrounded with hanging plants or vines, or by installing a firepit with comfy chairs all around it, you can fit more people than you may imagine, and relatively comfortably.

Create spaces from which you can enjoy your yard.

You may have a small yard, but by installing a bench surrounded by flowering plants, or a hammock between two small trees, you can enjoy your space from new angles.

Install strategic lighting.

Lighting is useful for many reasons.  The most obvious reason is that you can see where you are going when walking up a pathway at night.  However, you can use lighting to highlight your favorite parts of your yard, or to light up a gathering space.

Add texture to your yard.Bird on a birdbath

Even if all you can fit is a small bird bath among a patch of flowers, try adding different levels and types of features.

For example, in a very small yard, you could have a small tree with a bird bath beneath it.  Or you could cover up unsightly fencing with grape and rose vines, while also cultivating a small vegetable patch.  Or you can install a firepit at one end of the yard, circle it with comfortable chairs, and install a tier of garden behind or beside the gathering space.  Or – if your yard is all hardscape – install a water feature as a central piece and place pots of flowers strategically around the rest of the space.

Another easy way to add texture is to simply pick a signature color or plant that will pop.  For example, if you grow grapes, you may want to plant a bright rose at the far end of your vines.

Make it yours.

Finally, and the most important part of any of this is to make the yard your own space.  If you have your own dreams, make them work for your yard.  No one else has to live with it except for you!

Here’s to a beautiful and enjoyable yard!

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Impatient for Gardening

Are you as impatient as I am to get something going in your garden or in your borders?  Here are some great plants you should be able to sow now – anywhere from Agoura Hills to Glendale, from Silver Lake to Miami Beach:

– Bare roots.  It’s about time to buy and plant your bare roots.  Do you want to Flower  Almond Treeplant fruit or nut trees, grapes, or berries?  Now through February is the traditional time to get the bare roots from which these grow into the ground.

A tree is a big commitment, so make sure you have decided on the landscaping aspect of this.  Your tree will need a spot with plenty of sunlight, good soil, and lots of water.  This may mean you’ll have to get sprinklers installed by your landscaper to feed the tree and encourage its growth throughout its life..

– You can so some veggies directly outside: garlic, peas, collards, chives, parsley, kohlrabi, spinach, celery, turnips, and more.

– You can also sow seeds for flowers like shasta daisies, forget-me-nots, baby’s breath, cornflower, foxgloves, Sweet William, wildflowers, etc.

– You can buy already sprouted flowers too and transplant them.  Some good ideas for this are: Azaleas, Bleeding Hearts, Gardenias, Primrose, Rhododendrons, and more.

– Also, if you don’t have much of a yard, you can enjoy color this winter a different way.  Provide a birdhouse for your local birds, set out a feeder, and watch your chirping visitors.

So, don’t start feeling things are dull around SoCal this wintertime.  You can still plant and enjoy a spray of color!

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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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