Posts Tagged 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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Planting Somethings Beautiful and Delicious

Usually this is the time of year when many start thinking about the shape of our yard and how they want it changed.  It’s always nice when plants serve a dual purpose and when you think about the shape you want your yard to take, consider planting something both pretty and edible.

“Kitchen gardens” and other terms often make one think of a traditional English garden or some kind of a garden patch, but that doesn’t need to be the case.  Check out these techniques for planting food that both look and taste great:

1. Use edibles for a border. Plants like cabbage, kale, chard, strawberries, mint, sage, or lavender all make a gorgeous edible border.

2. There is something romantic about a vine growing up a wall or around a fence.  Coax some edible vines up your garden wall.  There are plenty of great food plants that look nice and grow on a vine.  These include: eggplants, cucumbers, grapes, peppers, tomatoes, zucchinis and peas. Bright Veggie Garden

3. Enjoy something yummy and some shade from a fruit tree.  Great trees are: lemon, lime, orange, peach, apple, and many others.  There are many other trees with edible flowers or seed pods like redbud or bottlebrush.

4. Plant a ground cover of food plants or herbs.  Instead of growing grass around pavers, try something edible like strawberries, lingonberries, cranberries, wintergreen, thyme, mint, and prostrate rosemary.

5. Line your walk with edible bushes.  Plants like blueberries, Barbados cherry, loquat, elderberry, and hazelnut are all delicious and beautiful additions to a yard.

These are just a few of the ways you can rearrange your yard this year.  Here’s to a gorgeous and delicious front or backyard.

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10 Tips for Sharing your yard

Dogs are fun and fantastic companions.  They also need a bit of space to stretch their legs.  This is where your yard often A kid and his dogcomes into play.  If your dog is anything like mine, he or she is probably a little temperamental about what they love in your yard, and what they won’t go near.  Sometimes what they love is the exact item you don’t want them to get into.  Here are some fun ideas for sharing your yard with a canine companion, and for keeping them out of the portions of your yard you want to keep for yourself:

1. Use raised beds or low fences to delineate areas where you’d like to keep your dog away.  Many dogs are decent jumpers, but if they are trained not to get into your beds or to jump a low fence, you can probably keep the veggie garden safe.

2. Install low-impact hardscape.  You’ve seen a dog slide on a wood or linoleum floor.  You don’t want your backyard to be a place where he or she slips and slides, but you also don’t want your yard to be uncomfortable on their paws.  Try getting smooth flagstones set in pebbles or grass.

3. Use fine mulch that won’t stick in the paws or dig into the skin of your pet.

4. Be sure to plant dog-friendly plants.  Plants like grapes, lilies, sago palm, azalea,  and daffodils are poisonous to dogs.  So, if you have a dog that likes to gnaw on your plants, don’t put these in your yard.  Also avoid planting anything that might have a burr-type seed like foxtails.  These can get into the fur, paws, nose, and ears of your pup and might create an infection.

Some friendly plants that can usually stand up to bigger dogs are: African boxwood, artemisia, canna, ginger, lilac, osmanthus, pines, and more.Shady dog house

5. Give your dog a shady place to rest.  Whether you will be outdoors with your dog, you have a doggy door, or your dog loves to hang out outside, it’s always smart to give them a nice, cool place to rest.  It’s also a good idea to keep a filled bowl of water there as well, so they don’t get overheated.

6. Make a path.  Most dogs love to run and explore.  A path gives them a natural place to jog, patrol your property, and generally feel like they are in charge of things.  Give them a nice pathway of dirt or low-impact hardscaping for them to jog along and be your home’s security system.

7. Build a fence or a wall.  Some dogs love to dig underneath your wall or your fence.  You might need to get a landscaper to install extra protection – underground.

8. Give your dog a way to get wet.  While it’s cooling down now, it’s usually HOT in Southern California – especially if you’re wearing a fur coat 24/7.  If you have a pond or are installing a water feature, see if you can make it a dog-friendly cool-down zone for your four legged friend.

9.  Install a walk up area.  If you have a hillside home or really any home with an incline or with elevated areas you don’t mind your pet wandering into, give your dog some steps or an easy incline to walk up.  Remember, even if your dog is just a pup, keeping them from jumping up and down can save their joints later on.

10. Try to use fewer chemically-based fertilizers, herbicides, or pesticides.  If you do need to spray your yard or lawn, make sure it had dried at least 24 hours before you let your pet loose out there.

Here’s to healthy, safe, and happy pets!

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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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10 Ways to Create an Entryway that Pops

With family occasions like Thanksgiving, Chanukah, Christmas, and others coming up, it’s important to make your visitors feel right at home – starting with their entrance into your house.  Here are some tips to creating a gorgeous, welcoming entryway to you home:

1. Trim down or replace any overgrown shrubbery.

2. Make sure your walkway and entrance are well lit.

3. Showcase your home.  Keep your front yard open so your home itself is visible and not hidden.

4.  Make your yard noticeable.  Flowers with bright colors, a unique walkway, interesting lighting, all add up to a home that gets noticed right when company drives up.

5. Add some curve to your flower borders.  Curved flower border

6. Keep the front of your home clean.  Don’t just clean up for guests on the inside of your home, cut back dead branches, sweep up dead leaves, pull out any dying plants, and make your yard look good.  Not only will your home look better, you’ll help keep the space fireproof.

7. Give the outdoors some scent.  Plant jasmine, lemon trees, magnolias, and more to give your guests a fragrant walk up to your yard.

8. Add pizazz to your yard with ornamental grasses, art installations or natural accents.

9. Fix up your walkway.  Your front walk is the path to your front door.  Fill in any cracks, seal the concrete, or get it completely redone with an accent rock or brick.

10. Add color.  Don’t be afraid to plant something that changes color or which has unexpected pop in all seasons.

Here’s to a vibrant front yard and some very happy holidays!


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Great Fall Garden Ideas

It’s almost Fall, which usually means dry, hot winds, and brown lawns.  It’s a time when we all want more color in our yards.  Here are some ideas to accomplish just that:

    • Fill your yard with plants that bloom all Summer and Fall. There are a number of great, late blooming plants available for your yard – like African Lily, Agastache, Anemone, Asters, Balloon Flower, Beach Rose, Blanket Flower (Gaillardia), Coneflower (Echinacea), Coreopsis, Daylillies, Dead Nettle (Lamium), Dianthus EverLast, False Sunflowers (Heliopsis), Gaura, Geraniums, Globe Thistle, Hibiscus, Lavender, Leucanthemum, Moss Rose, Mums, Phlomis, Phlox, Pinks (Dianthus), Salvia, Sagebrush, Speedwell (Veronica), Sundrops, Thyme, and Yarrow.  When each plant blooms depends upon the variety, but there are a ton of great flowers that thrive in the heat of Summer and Fall.
    • Plant trees and shrubs that change color in the Fall.  Trees like maples, oaks, and dogwoods can change colors, even in a Southern California landscape.  Shrubs can also give you that bright Fall color – notably American Fall treeCranberry Bush, Burning Bush, Sumac, and Oakleaf Hydrangea.
    • Include roses in your garden landscape.  Roses generally bloom more than once – depending on the type.  Some great bloomers are: Hybrid Tea, Shrub Roses, Bush Roses, Everblooming Climbers, Miniature Roses, Floribunda, and more.  Again, you have to consider the exact type of rose before knowing whether or not it will bloom more than once.
    • Add structural landmarks.  Adding structure to your yard with benches, a pagoda, terraces, and more can give you a place to observe the changes in your yard from – and a place to look out to when the plants officially die down during the winter.  Another structural landmark you can add is a water feature like a river, pond, waterfall, or spout.  These can make your Fall yard feel a little damper and cooler during the warm Santa Ana winds.

It’s still warm this time of year, so be sure to go outside and enjoy it – even though summer vacation is about over.  Here’s to a warm, vibrant Fall.

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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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Fabulous Firepits

The yard can be a lot of things to different people.  In the summertime, it’s often used as a space to spend time with and entertain friends and family – especially in summer.  In order to have such a space, one has to consider the time of day when people will be over and what you like to do most.  This will lead you to the best changes to your landscaping in order to make it a space that works for everyone.iStock_000017779814XSmall

One great type of gathering space is a firepit.  It might seem a little counter-intuitive, since we live in sunny Southern California.  However, while it’s sunny during the day – it can get downright chilly at nighttime.  Also, you don’t have to keep a fire going in the pit at all times.  It is simply a great focal point for a gathering space, which is also useful and which can be really fun.   Here are some great firepit ideas to consider for your yard space:

  • Campfire style: A built-in, natural looking firepit might be the perfect space to gather in a hillside home or with a more rustic-style home.
  • A round firepit with circular seating: Allowing all of your guests to gather around the fire and converse is a past time that has carried on throughout the ages.  iStock_000017473871XSmall
  • Geometric-styled firepits: Playing with shapes can add character to your yard and make it a conversation piece – as well as a place to talk!
  • A sunken firepit: If your yard has a step-down space you aren’t sure what to do with, it might be just the space for a firepit.
  • Built-in fireplace: An outdoor fireplace can bring the gathering outdoors – even on dry winter nights.
  • A mock fireplace: Positioning a fireplace against a wall of brick or stone can make it feel as if you had an outdoor fireplace, when it’s just a firepit.
  • Artful firepits: You can do so much with firepits – setting up a gas flame that appears to be coming out of water or gravel can lend surprising elegance to a space – while making it a piece of art when the flame is turned off

There are plenty of fun styles for firepits – they don’t have to be portable metal tubs anymore.  So, here’s to a summer filled with light and laughter!


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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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Weeding Made Easier

No one likes to weed.  It’s uncomfortable and strenuous work, and often can feel as if it is never ending.  However, there are ways you can make the weeding process a little easier.  Here are a few:

– Try using a weed and feed product.  There are many products that work to kill weeds while fertilizing your lawn or plants.  Take a look and see what is available in your garden store.Pulling Weeds

– Keep your plants and lawn healthy.  One great weed prevention method is keeping the plans you intend to live in a certain area healthy with fertilizer, mulch, and more.  Using mulch does double duty – it protects the plants you want while making the soil looser so you can yank out the weeds you don’t want.

– If your yard is really weed-choked, consider starting over.  Talk to your local landscaper about your options.

– Grow another aggressive plant.  There are many types of plants that might be able to out-grow your weeds.  Mint and grass are very aggressive plants, and there are many others that could out perform the weeds that are troubling you.

– Keep your yard aerated.  If your soil is solid, it may be hard for anything except weeds to grow in it.  Additionally, hard soil makes it difficult to yank out the weeds.  Try aerating or amending your soil as much as possible.

Here’s to a weed-free yard!


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