Posts Tagged Landscaping Tips

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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Summertime To Dos

Even though it’s only May, weather is showing us that summertime is coming to town.  Here a little list of things to get done in your yard before summer is officially here:

1. Break out the patio furniture.  If you haven’t taken out of your patio furniture yet, but if not, it’s time to dust off your chairs and tables, and set them out.

2. Speaking of patios… a great way to revamp your backyard is to revamp your patio.  You can go easy and get it cleaned, painted, and sealed – or do more and get cultured stone or stamped concrete installed.

3. Get your sprinklers ready.  Check that your sprinklers are providing full coverage of your lawn and plants.  If anything is broken, or you don’t have an automatic system, consider getting them fixed or installed before summer starts in earnest.

4. Find shady spots.  If you have trees or a gazebo, make sure you have a hammock or bench positioned beneath the shade for your weekend or evening enjoyment.

5. Think about gathering spaces.  It’s always wonderful to have family and friends over – and in the summertime they don’t want to be cooped up inside.  Decide what spaces in your yard are good for getting large groups together and figure out how you’d like to host them.  Do you want a permanent structure – like a firepit with benches or a gazebo?  Do you want a temporary awning that you can roll in and out as heat and sun bathing preferences change?

6. Get your plants in the ground.  If you haven’t gotten new plants in the ground, get them in as soon as possible, unless you plan to keep them in pots until fall.  Summer is not a great time to plant tender seedlings, it’s better to get them planted when the weather is still comparatively mild.

7. Consider what could accent your yard.  Bright pots of flowers, a bougainvillea covered fence, raised beds, a water feature, etc, could all make your yard unique.

Here’s to long, lazy summer days!

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Garden Design Ideas

There are some great garden designs which you can copy for your garden:

1. Traditional kitchen garden.  This is a garden with a central pathway and several pathways leading off so you can reach your square plots of veggies, herbs and fruit.  If you are worried about your soil quality at all, you can always install raised beds with high quality soil.  If you are looking to grow various veggies and herbs, make sure to rotate them and plant them with complimentary plants.

2. Woodland path garden.   This is a garden with benches shaded by trees and complimentary flowers and other plants which can deal with shade.  When accompanied by paths which wind beneath trees, it’s a pretty combination.

3. Hillside garden.  Hillside homes can be tough.  If you decide to install various plants throughout your hillside, make sure that adding extra soil won’t cause any instability in your hillside with proper fencing and so on.

4. Patio garden.  If you have a patio with tiles, you can simply remove some tiles and plant some perennials.  Take inspiration from this yard and add pots and plants throughout your hardscape.

5. Zen Garden.  Zen gardens are peaceful and generally low maintenance.

6. Southern California Garden.  Planting traditional plants all through your garden and pulling from your local resources can not only make a gorgeous garden and attract local animals to your yard, it’s a great way to save on water while still keeping greenery in your yard that aren’t just cactuses.

Here’s to a gorgeous yard, unique to you and your needs.

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Helping the birds out

It’s the time of year when our little feathered friends need your help most.  It’s getting chillier and birdies are migrating straight toward us. Now that you’re probably considering trimming your trees and generally cleaning up your yard for winter, what can you do to help out feathered friends in the wintertime?

Here’s a few ideas:

– Put your lawn and plants to bed by mulching them.  This creates a nice little area for worms and helpful bugs to continue to live, and these bugs not only enhance your soil, but will help feed your little feathered friends.

– Set up a bird feeder.  This includes keeping up your hummingbird feeder.  Hummingbirds migrate instinctively and will return to the last place they fed.  Hopefully this place is your yard.   Additionally, keeping the rest of the migrating birds fed will help them in their journey and create a joyful and colorful yard.

– Install a pond, bird bath or waterfall with little pebbles an inch or less under the water-level for birds to perch on.  Birds love to bathe and drink cool, clean water.  Keeping your pond, bird bath or waterfall up will help your friends in their migration, as well, it will aid them as they wait for spring rains.  Obviously, if you live in an area where you expect freezing temperatures, consult with your landscaper about when and how to create a bird friendly bathing spot that won’t damage your pipes.

– Put up a bird house. If you don’t have cats, you can install a bird house close to the ground, in a bush, or another likely spot.  You can get some really neat and distinctive bird houses – bird houses made of gourds, with scraps of recycled materials, etc.

– Plant a tree or some bushes.  Right now is a great time to plant, as new plants will concentrate on establishing their root systems instead of on new blossoms and leaves.  Additionally, it’ll give your feathered friends new places to perch and rest up for continued migration, or just to batten down the hatches for wintertime.

Here’s hoping you have a busy, productive yard this winter!

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Spooky Landscapes

It’s almost Halloween, so I thought I’d bring up some creative landscaping ideas:

1. Line your walkways with lights and small pumpkins.

2. Install gourd and pumpkin bird houses – both to attract birds and to enjoy the season.

3. “Dress up” your trees by hanging fun Halloween decorations from them, adding fake spiderweb or installing a mouth and eyes into the trunk.

4. Add spooky plants.  Plant spindly air plants, line your walk with cornstalks and pumpkins, prop cornstalks by your door, pile gourds and squash around the base of your trees and bushes.

5. Stuff “scarecrows” by buying costumes and stuffing them with straw or stuffing.  You can put them on your porch as a spooky purveyor of treats, or you can prop them up around your yard.

6. Buy real scarecrows and put them around your yard in unexpected places, on a tree branch, hiding behind a tree or bush, or just with their legs showing a la The Wicked Witch of the East.

7. Put fake candles all around your yard (real ones are a fire hazard).

8. Use a blow up display – it will smash your grass a bit, but doesn’t really damage irreparably.

Here’s to a fun and spooky Halloween!  If you have other ideas on how to dress up your yard this year, without damaging your yard, let me know!

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Best time to landscape? Now!

Autumn is always the best time to transplant and plant new plants, as well as trim back your trees and shrubs.

Why is this the best time to landscape?

Well, right now is when your plants are moving slower, getting ready for winter.  As part of this, this is the time they expend most of their energy developing their root systems.  So, if you want to get your space redone, move your plants around, shape your bushes, etc, now is the time to do it.

What else is fall good for?  Here are some ideas:

– “Honey Do” lists.

– Getting your roof fixed.

– Getting lighting installed, either lamps, string lights, walkway lights, or others.

– Planting trees.

– Replanting and overseeding your lawn.

– Shaping your trees and shrubs, both for design purposes and for their health.

– Making sure your gutters are cleaned out.

– If you are going green, getting your gutters to empty into a rain barrel, and forming up your compost heap.

– Covering any bare ground with compost or cover crops.

– Dream and consult with your local landscaper.

Here’s to a gorgeous landscape, all prepared, and ready for next year.

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Time to Get Planting

It’s getting chillier and, as the season changes, the prime time to plant or move plants around begins.   This is because, as the weather gets cooler, your plant itself doesn’t do much growing, but the root systems continue to grow and cements your plant in the ground.  Your plant’s roots will continue to grow until the ground freezes, which – in some parts of SoCal – may not even occur.

So, as you consider what plants you want to put into your yard, consider, what is your yard’s purpose?  Here are some ideas:

1. A place for your kids to play, and/or for you to entertain friends and family.  What accomplishes this?  A row of planters lining a kid-friendly path?  A firepit and barbecue?  An enclosed or open patio area?  A vast lawn for slip n’ slides, picnics, and child’s play?

2. Do you want to be able to eat what you grow? What accomplishes this? Do you want rows and rows of raised beds? Are you going to line your driveway with fruit trees? Would you like clusters of vegetables or fruit plants, or do you want them in the traditional rows? Do you like to put plants in big buckets or pots, or do you want them in the ground? Does your soil need amendment to support the kinds of plants you’d like to grow?

3. Are your goals to have a beautiful place to look at an enjoy? What accomplishes this? Are you trying to attract a certain bird or butterfly? Do you like local plants more, or would you prefer foreign ornamentals, or do you want a mix? How much work do you want to put into this garden?

4.  Do you want a beautiful place for swimming or water activities?  What accomplishes this goal?  Do you want a garden around your swimming area, or just a cement area to put out lawn furniture?  Are you looking at also doing a barbecue in the area?

5. Do you want a combination of all these factors?  How can you accomplish this?  Do you want a veggie garden separate to your pool and entertainment area?    Would you like a gorgeous garden surrounding your firepit?  What works best for you?

6. Do you have a strangely shaped yard?  If so, what do you want to do with it and how can you go about accomplishing your goals?

Now is a great time to look over your goals, consult with your landscaper, and get your goals accomplished!

Here’s to a perfect yard!

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Summertime Dreaming

We’re back in another cold spell.  April is my least favorite month because of the fluctuating weather.  Warm days bring me hope and make me consider spring and summer.  Cold days make me grumble about having to put a jacket back on and wear socks.

But, April is a great month for us all to dream about summertime.  It’s time for you to get prepped for the heat which is coming.  What does that mean you should do?  Here are some things to make sure you put on your “to do” (or “honey do”) list:

1. Make sure the timer on your sprinkler system is set.  Your lawn should be given a bit of time to let your soil dry between watering, but you don’t want it to be too dry.

2. Check your soil quality.  Right now is a great time to loosen up any clay soil by sprinkling some Epsom salts or Gypsum over your soil, then water periodically.

3. Plant all you can! Anything which you have in pots or any starts you were planning on buying should go into the ground ASAP. You want to have them in and partially established before the heat gets too much.

4. Feed your plants. If you’ve been keeping up a mulch pile, now is the time to spread that compost over the bare soil around your trees, flowers, etc. If you don’t have homemade compost, it’d be a good idea to buy some and cover up the bare soil to prevent it from drying out.

5. Get your lawn in shape. It’s not the time for re-seeding, but you can put down sod now and get it semi-established before summer.

6. Install sprinklers. I’ve tried to maintain a lawn in Southern California with no sprinklers before. It’s physically impossible.

7. Get everything you will need to make your yard how you want it. Hanging baskets, lawn furniture, a hammock, etc. If you need to hire a landscaper start interviewing now.

Here’s to a nice warm summer, with beautiful blooms and and a fun time in your yard.

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Landscaping for Hillside Homes

As we all know, Southern California is not Florida or Kansas – there are mountains and hills EVERYWHERE.  So, if you live in one of the many gorgeous hillside homes here in SoCal, how in the world do you both approach landscaping, comply with the safety regulations inherent in living on the side of a hill, and really get to enjoy your land?

1. Think of your neighbors. 

Before embarking upon any project to improve your hillside property, consider your neighbor’s needs as well as your own.  Will you need to ask their permission to create a fenced off area on your property line?  Are you considering any improvements which will block their view?  Will any work you do erode their property?  Check to make sure you won’t be hearing complaints from those you must live near; it will make your life much easier in the long run.

2. Examine how nature beautifies hills.

Natural hillsides can be a source of inspiration for your own hillside property.  Mother Nature uses deep-rooted plants, like our native California Oaks, along with well-placed rocks, various native grasses and sensible grading to create lovely, sustainable hillsides.  Your home, however, may be on the side of a hill which mankind has already graded in a sharper, less sustainable fashion, so terracing can help make it look more pleasing to the eye and help prevent landslides.  It’s best to consult a professional landscaper on these points, as they will have some idea of the safety measures which need to occur to make your hillside land both beautiful and safe.

3. Try for low-maintenance.

Unless you love hiking, try to make sure your hillside is as low maintenance as possible.  Add steps to easily access any decks, terraced gardens, etc, so you can access the parts of your property you may want to visit or give special attention.  On the portions of your property you’d rather keep “hands off”, plant indigenous plants which will thrive without much care.  Make sure to install a variety of plants – like shrubs, trees and ground cover.  This will help your hillside retain more soil during the rainy season.

You can also install a dry creek bed in the “hands off” portions, to help prevent erosion.  Also, if you have a rock outcropping with little to no soil, check with a landscaper.  It may not be plantable and may actually be aiding the stability of your land.

4. Enjoy the view.

Install easy-to-access look out points around your property.  Think about installing a bench alongside your steps, or a deck with a particularly pleasing view of the sunset to sit and get away from it all – besides, what’s the point of a hillside home if you don’t have a chance to enjoy the view?

5. Add hardscaping.

As mentioned above, easy to traverse steps to portions of your landscape which you want to access are a great idea, but why stop there?  Install a deck with a barbecue for friends and/or family to gather and enjoy.  Add a fire pit where you can roast marshmallows or enjoy fine company.  Install a terrace with a traditional zen garden, or a vegetable or flower garden.  Add a wooden patio under a sprawling oak.  Get the most out of your land. 

If you are a more adventurous sort, add rope ladder access to your deck or terrace, to give your home a tree house feel. 🙂  Just make sure a) it’s installed by a pro and b) there’s a soft spot below to land, in case of any missteps.

6. Consult a professional.

Hillside landscaping is not a “DIY” project.  Always consult a professional landscaper knowledgable in Southern California hillsides and the appropriate regulations before embarking on your project.  Hillsides are a very special beast and you do not want to start out terracing, adding decks and steps, building a retaining wall, etc, without professional assistance.

Here’s hoping you always get the most out of your landscape!

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