Posts Tagged Southern California

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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Keeping Cool and Enjoying the Outdoors – Impossible? Think Again.

We (meaning people with yards) want to enjoy the outdoors in the summertime, without needing an ice bath afterwards.  Is that even possible?  Will we ever be able to stop the extreme heat from ruining an otherwise beautiful day?  I say we can!

Here are some ways to do it:

1. Get an enclosed patio with air conditioning.  I know, this sounds extreme, but it’s actually a great solution to wanting to be outdoors without “being outdoors”.  A few other variations are installing a covered patio with a ceiling fan, or even getting a moat between your patio and the rest of the yard. You’d be amazed at what a professional landscaper can do for you.

2. Setting out a hammock.  Got two trees?  Are they close together?  Set out a hammock!  Don’t have two trees and really want a hammock?  Summer is not the best time to plant trees, but if you have room for them, consider planting a couple of trees this winter.

3. Turn on your sprinklers.  Get childish!  Enjoy a few runs through your sprinklers.  I’m sure your plants won’t mind the drink.

4. Install a water feature.  Cool down your yard with a beautiful water feature and enjoy the sound of running water, the feel of water trickling between your fingers and the general coolness of running water.

Do you know of some great ways to beat the heat?  Let me know!

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Varied Climates and Varied Cultures

I just returned from a trip to the south of England, and while there the contrast between the Southern California climate/yard/home and the English climate/yard/home really struck me.

I am by no means an expert in architecture, but the homes in England are noticeably different from SoCal. For one, they are mostly made of brick or stone – which is of course impossible in SoCal due to earthquakes, but additionally, they are either much more compact or far more expansive than our homes.  We have a tendency of trying for sort of square, individual lots, while the British have homes which adjoin other homes and seem to have rectangular yards (or “gardens” as they say).  Or they have huge manor houses surrounded by flagstone or gravel pathways through well-tended gardens.

Across the pond, they seem to want less grass and more plants like flowers, herbs or vegetables – while in SoCal most yards go for the grassy look.  Which, in my mind is ironic as grass grows like a weed in England, but in SoCal we generally have to cultivate it. The grass is literally greener on the other side.

Additionally, since I went in spring, the daffodils and other bulb flowers were in full bloom, while here in Southern California, we’re just gearing up for a hot hot summer.

It’s fascinating to see the differences in climates and mind-sets between the place where I was born and raised (Southern California – Los Angeles area) and a place from which my family heritage derives (England – we’re actually from the North, but it’s cold up there and I didn’t want to freeze my little toes off).

All in all, the trip helped me appreciate what we have here in America, with our wide lawns and large yards.  But, it also made me think about how best to use the space we have.  We have a vast amount of growing area which sometimes is allowed to become visually repugnant or completely useless.

So, celebrate your space!  Choose the most beautiful or useful landscaping style and stick with it.  Even if you feel you have a tiny little yard, let your imagination grow and festoon the space you have with things you will enjoy.

Here’s to a yard that is just your style!

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Zen and Rock Gardens

At first glance, zen gardens and rock gardens seemed kind of silly to me. However, more I see of them , the more I like them.

If you’ve never seen a zen garden, you should know that the one which inspired me was the zen garden at the Huntington Gardens .

Here is what I think are the advantages of zen or rock gardens:

– Rocks don’t need water – so that keeps your bill the a minimum.  Even if you decide to add a water feature, which can be really very beautiful, you can install environmentally friendly reuse and filter systems which allow you to use the minimum of water to maximum effect.

– You can convert your garden into a picnic or party area easily.  Just add chairs and tables.

– You can go au natural and obtain California rocks only to great beauty and effect.  You can even go further and allow some native plants in your garden which will just enhance the beauty.

– You can also decide on hardscaping only, which tends to last much longer than landscaping – and is far easier to maintain and keep clean.

– If you install a small covered deck overlooking your peaceful zen garden, you can enjoy it year round.

There are some downsides – for example, if you want to go all out Japanese, your garden will be more difficult to maintain unless you’re a bonsai expert.  I know I am a bonsai brown thumb, so hats off to you if you can keep them alive.  Additionally, many Japanese plants do not grow well in SoCal due to the extreme temperatures and lack of moisture, which is why I suggested changing traditional plants out with natives.

So here’s wishing you peace and tranquility as you improve your landscape.

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Fire Prevention

It’s about that time of the year again, when the hot Santa Ana winds sweep down, some kid throws a careless cigarette into a pile of dried out weeds and fire interrupts our lives .  I explained to a friend from Oregon once that in Southern California we have three seasons, Flash Flood, Summer and Fire.  Last year demonstrated my point perfectly, with part of the Los Angeles National Forest decimated by wildfire.  The year before, fire swept through Malibu and a year before that, San Diego was hard hit with fire.  Already this year, there was a fire in Griffith Park – an area recovering from a fire set just a couple of years ago.

So, enough said about the ravages fire can cause in our Southern California dry season.  What steps can you take to protect your landscape and home from fire?

1. Make sure all plants are pruned back and dead ones are pulled out.  Don’t let those dead, dried up husks just lay around.  Get out there and yank out any plants which were under watered or are annuals and are just dead due to their regular life cycle.  Same goes for plants with dried, dead leaves or branches.  Prune those back.

2. Keep up regular watering.  I’m sure you have a watering system in place.  If so, keep that up.  If you’ve been letting your lawn do a rolling brown out, try reseeding – either dyi style or by hiring a landscaper.  You can get insta-green lawns by buying sod, but that’s a much bigger project for which you will definitely need professional landscaping help.

3. Turn your compost regularly.  It hasn’t been too hot, but that sun is still glaring down at us and heats the ground and your compost.   The inside of those piles get extremely hot from both the heat and from the bacteria breaking down the vegetation in your mulch pile.  Make sure to turn that pile so the heat doesn’t build up too bad and so the wet, rotting stuff in the middle gets to dry out on the outside – and your dry stuff gets wet and rotting.

4. Keep your outdoor fire pit well maintained. Debris lying around your fire pit could catch fire and go out of control.  Even if it doesn’t go out of control, fire damages things quickly.  Unless you really really want to replace your back patio, you don’t want to have scorch marks all over the place.

5. Make sure your water features are clean and well-maintained.  Water features aren’t a fail safe for fire prevention, but they don’t help much if you need water quickly and they are weed choked.

6. If you have trees which drop leaves, rake those up consistently.  Same principle as cleaning out dead plants or pruning plants – you don’t want anything dry or dead lying around. 

7. Have an evacuation plan.  If the worst happens and your home is at risk, realize that your life and the life of those you love (your spouse, your children, your dog or cat) are more important than the things you own.  Make sure you have an evacuation plan in place – including a friend or relative in a completely different location who you can move in with temporarily.  Evacuation staging points are fine, but it’s nicer to be around those you love when the things you own are threatened.

So, here’s hoping you have a fire-free fall!

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Cooling Down your Landscape with Waterscaping

Waterscaping is a beautiful way to make your landscape fresh and cool.  Traditionally people have installed a pond in their yards, added a filter and some fish or turtles and viola! there was a waterscape.

Ponds aren’t your only option for adding water to your landscape though. There are pondless waterscaping options, like waterfalls or streams, that are becoming more and more popular. These are often a cleaner option as the moving water is less likely to accumulate algae, or become a breeding ground for mosquitoes. If you have your heart set on fish though, it may not be the best option for you.

Waterscapes are a higher maintenance and sometimes more expensive addition to your landscape, but they have advantages, such as adding beauty, creating a place for you to have fish or turtles, and making your yard feel cooler in the summer months. Also, you often get that wonderful burbling brook or rushing waterfall sound with waterscapes, which can block noises off and make your yard that much more pleasant to be in.

A word to the wise with ponds: I had a pond in my yard and spent quite a bit on gorgeous fish, which I really liked and who would come to the surface to great me whenever I came outside. That is, until raccoons decided my pond was their new fishing spot. It broke my heart to lose those sweet fish, so if you are extremely attached to fish or want to buy expensive or designer fish – make sure you research what might eat them in your area and ways to prevent those animals from accessing your pond.

Need ideas? Check out these pictures of some great Southern California Waterscapes.

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