Archive for Waterscapes

Seven Great Water Features

The sounds of splashing water is always soothing – and it’s a sound we don’t hear often enough of in Southern California.  There are ways for you to enjoy the sights and sounds of water around your home without spending an arm and a leg to keep the water going.  Here are seven great water feature ideas that will turn your backyard into a soothing paradise:

1. Install a fountain.  A fountain is probably one of the easiest ways to get a water feature which lets you hear the sounds of splashing water – without a ton of hassle.  But, if a traditional fountain doesn’t match with your style, there are plenty of other options.  You can have an art installation which is also a fountain, install orbs that are small fountains, or even have a recycled water set up coming out of a surrounding wall.

2. Go with a pond.  Ponds can be big or small, they can include fish and other creatures, and you can even set it up so it doubles as a bird bath. Central Park

3. Incorporate a water feature into your existing landscape.  You can create a little river that falls down the middle of your stairs, a small waterfall that rolls down the side of your hillside home, or a pond for your flat lot.

4. Want to just try out the whole water feature business?  Try a pond in a pot or a bubbling water container.  These are small and inexpensive, but they will give you an idea of how a more permanent feature might match your landscaping.  iStock_000001549219XSmall

5. Think about using basins.  These are a more artistic expression of a pond.  A basin can feed into another basin in a small waterfall, it can be fed by an external pipe, or it can just bubble from a recycling system below ground.

6. Add a waterfall to your pool or Jacuzzi.  Jazz up your spa with a waterfall that feeds into it. Beautifully landscaped backyard pool with a waterfall.

7.  Go pondless.  There are some really great designs that allow a waterfall to drip onto rocks or some other feature.  This can create a pretty sound – and make it safer for kids to play around.

Here’s to a yard that makes you feel happy and calm every time you enter it!

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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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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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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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Prepare Your Yard for Spring

Spring will be here as of March 20th.  The weather is warmer than it was and rain is due to fall.  So, what do you do with your yard to prepare it for the time when Southern California becomes a natural green for a brief time?  Here are some ideas:

Plan your YardLandscape Planning

It’s time to decide what you will be doing with your yard this year.  If you meant to put in sprinklers, or add a water feature, now is a good time to discuss changes with your landscaper.

Reseed your lawn 

First, rake your lawn with a stiff rake to remove any thatch.

Next, seed the lawn.

Finally, water everything.

Pull up any weeds

While not too much grows over a dry winter, we still get weeds encroaching on our lovely flower boarders or lawns.

Clean out your pond or water featurewaterscape and hardscape

In the wintertime, it can be easy to cover over your water feature and let it hibernate.  Now is a good time to reexamine it and give it a thorough cleaning.

Spring Clean your Hardscape

Now is a great time to get your hardscape cleaned off, any grass or weeds that is growing in it scraped out, and even get it sealed in preparation for the rains.

Broadcast Spring Flower Seeds

If you don’t have a lawn, or you have an area where you’d like to see a carpet of flowers, you can follow the procedure listed in reseeding your lawn above and instead of grass seed, you can broadcast seeds for spring flowers.

Clean up your Ivy

Ivy can get out of control fast.  Take this opportunity to remove any ivy growing up other plants, and to remove any dead leaves and stalks piled beneath the ivy which could cause a potential hazard.

Turn your Compost Heap

It’s easy to forget about your compost pile in the winter.  It’s chilly and you may not want to deal with outdoor chores.  But as it warms, it’s a good idea to get out there and give your compost pile a good turn and to wet it down.  Hopefully you will produce some useful compost for spring, summer, and fall.

Start your Seeds

If you like to start plants by seed, try starting some seeds now so you can plant them outdoors when springtime comes.

Here’s to a spring of showers and flowers!


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Fire Prevention Landscaping

While it doesn’t seem like there’s any need to think of fire season at the moment, there are actually things you can do starting this Spring to help prevent fires around your home:

– Create a succulent and cactus garden.  Succulents and cacti retain water, so they Succulent Plantdon’t need to be watered much in general, and they aren’t likely to go up in flames very easily.

You can change this theme up by planting a succulent ground cover in empty patches of garden that would normally collect weeds, dried leaves, and other eye sores and possible fire starters.

– Plant a variety.  Having several different types of plants means that you have something in season all year round.  This helps with fire prevention as you are unlikely to have dead wood or dormant plants.

– Invest in hardscaping.  If you don’t really have the time to keep a yard of plants up, try hardscaping areas you’d rather utilize for relaxation, parties, family gatherings, etc.

– Keep up any plants you have.  If you have a tree, ensure it gets trimmed at the appropriate time.  Make sure to pull up anything dead, and clean up around your plants to keep them healthy and happy.

– Think about waterscapes.  Waterscaping is not only gorgeous, it is a natural fire-prevention tool.

– Ensure you understand proper fire control procedures.  This has a double meaning: 1. Ensure you have the proper tools and equipment available if you have a firepit or some kind of outdoor fireplace, and 2. Research your local requirements for a fire-free neighborhood.

Here’s to a fire-free year!


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Fun Waterscaping Ideas

Waterscapes aid your landscape in many different ways.  Water features block ambient noise, add beauty, and (in some cases) allows an environment for new, low maintenance pets.

Here are some fun and interesting ways to incorporate waterscaping into your yard:

Create a space for small creatures

If you have plants of varied heights and types, it’s likely you will attract birds, butterflies, bumble bees, and other varied creatures that are fun to watch.  You can add to that attraction with a nice water feature.  There are a couple of approaches to this:

Traditional bird bath.  Just a plain-Jane birdbath.  Simple and effective.

Artsy fountain.  The idea is to provide these creatures with a place where they can access water.  Interesting fountains surrounded by small, damp stones can give various animals many places to rest, bathe, and drink.  The idea is to provide a perch in water deep enough for a small bird to bathe, and shallow enough that they won’t worry about losing their footing and drowning.

Small fountains for small spaces

If all you have is a terrace, deck or balcony, you can add a small fountain to your space in order to block out the ambient noise.

Small fountains can also be a gorgeous focal point for an entryway, for a back patio, or for that uneven portion of lot that you don’t know what to do with.

You can add a small fountain by installing a terracotta pot which appears to overflow into surrounding rocks, and with the watering then recirculating back into the fountain.  Another idea is to install a small sculpture or art piece with the same principle.  Or to install a waterline which runs up an adjacent wall and lets the water out through a spigot or piece of tile work on the wall.

Install a water feature disguised as a raised bed

That just sound weird, right?  But you can hide a pretty little water feature in among your raised beds.  Add some lily pads, maybe a turtle or a couple of fish, and you have a raised pond that accents your existing raised-bed look.

Plan for a shallow streamBackyard waterfal

What is better than the sound of a babbling brook?  Maybe the sound of a breeze rustling the leaves above your head as you lay back in your hammock and enjoy the harmonious sounds of nature.

If you prefer a little bit of drama, you can get a small stream installed which ends in a little waterfall.  This can be especially beautiful on a multi-level yard.

Allow water plants to run wild

If you have an existing water feature that you’d like to spice up, or if you want the sound of running water, but want to keep the motif green, try adding plant life.  There are some really gorgeous water plants that can add texture and dimension to your landscape.

Here’s to a visually and aurally beautiful yard!

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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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The Fun and Beauty of Waterscapes

Southern California is a dry place to live – which means waterscapes a beautiful and pleasant addition to landscaping.  Here are some ideas with regard to adding these to your landscape:Central Park

Fountains: Fountains come in all shapes and sizes, from art instillation with water running through and around the sculptures, to the classic three tiered fountain, to mini pools, fountains are a great way to both decorate a yard and to help cover up any exterior noise.  I especially love fountains for homes near the freeway or a major street – as they block out traffic noise effectively.

Additionally, when summertime hits us again, fountains make a yard feel cool and breezy.

Bird Bath: This is an easy, classic water feature.  Not only is it a pleasant little feature for your yard, it’s a great way to attract birds year round.  I keep my bird bath under my orange tree – at the tree line.  This way birds attracted by the fruit, the flowers, or the shade can also have a cool place to drink.

– Pond: Ponds are always a fun feature for adults and kids.  They can be created to recycle water, you can plant pretty lilies, cat tails and more – and you can use them for lovely fish.  The only real drawback to owning a pond is that oftentimes raccoons will come along for a fish buffet.  However, there are things you can do to deter racoons like:

a. Sprinkle the area around your pond with cayenne pepper.

b. Chop up a yellow onion and set the slices around your pond.

c. Install motion activated lights around your pond area.

d. Sprinkle black pepper and cinnamon all around your pond.

These are some ideas.  Another idea is to make sure you have any other food items that may be attractive to raccoons locked up as well as you can.

– Swimming pool: This is the classic water feature.  It requires a large space so that it can be installed, and needs regular maintenance once installed.

– Jacuzzi: If you don’t have enough roof for a pool, a jacuzzi can be a great option and a lot of fun.  On chilly winter nights, or even on a sunny day, a jacuzzi is a fun place for everyone to warm up and enjoy the water.

These are just some ideas!  If you have favorite water features – let me know!

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