Category Archives: Sustainable

Saucy Succulents Exposed

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I hoped the title might get your attention because succulents are a wonderful and extremely eco-friendly addition to any garden or planter, and, if you don’t already, you should know more about them.

Besides creating colorful planters, as you will see by these photographs, I have included a couple of shots of a front yard I designed using nothing but succulents.

While ripping out a lawn and planting succulents does require a certain up-front expense, in the long run you can save thousands of dollars in water bills, many man-hours of tending, as well as tens of thousands of gallons of water – a great savings for both your pocketbook and environment.

To continue reading … Eva’s Notes & News

A California Shade Garden

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I know the idea of writing about shade gardening while our temperature has been double digit may seem a bit oxymoronic, but what better time to contemplate a cool, shaded garden than during the middle of a heat wave.

Yes There Is Shade In Southern California

If you have native oak trees you can improve their health by planting native plants underneath them, the same thing is true for other mature, large wide-canopied trees that provide shade. And when I say shade, I don’t mean the kind that you get under your porch, I mean there must be some light for the plants to photosynthesize.

California Natives That Grow In Full Shade

These descriptions and photographs come from Las Pilitas Nursery, which specializes in growing and selling native California plants and is an amazing resource for anyone interested in native and drought tolerant gardening or anything to do with California plants and wildlife. Check them out if you want to build a native California garden or just love looking at California’s wonderful flora.

Here a few of the plants you can grow in California shade:

California Ginger

California Ginger is a charming little perennial with a slight spicy smell and heart-shaped. The flower is the best thing about this plant there are three petals with 1 to 2 inch spur-like projection. The inside is white with a red center. The flowers are about 0.5 to 1 inch wide. It is native in the redwood forest and yellow pine forest so it may need a little moisture.

California Pipe Vine

California Pipe Vine, also known as California Dutchman’s Pipe, it is a deciduous vine with one inch purple striped pipe-shaped flowers. Pipe vine likes part-shade and regular water. This California native vine has become fairly drought tolerant with time and seems to grow ok with Salvia spathacea, hummingbird sage on north slopes or under live oaks. This grows in shade in the central Sierras in moist places and the associated plants are Tellima, Heuchera micrantha and Umbellularia californica.

Bush Anemone

Bush Anemone is an evergreen shrub, 6′ by 3′ in the garden. Can be drought tolerant in town, but generally needs regular watering.

Red Stem Dogwood

Red Stem Dogwood is an elegant open shrub with creamy white flower clusters in spring and red stems.

Jack O The Rocks

Jack O The Rocks. grows in full shade but it needs regular water.

Douglas Iris

Douglas Irisis a delicate native iris with purple flowers. It is very drought tolerant in the shade. It likes a little mulch.

Island Alum Root

Island Alum Root is a two foot perennial with 3′ spikes of small pinkish flowers emerging from February to April. Needs part shade to shade.

To discover, learn more or purchase native shade plants check out this wonderful nursery:

RAMMED EARTH – Ancient – Modern – Sustainable

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Rammed earth is a sustainable building technique that’s been around since man discovered that by combining earth, chalk, lime and gravel, pouring it into a mold and pounding it down, he could create walls, houses and fortifications. Ironically, I’m using this ancient construction process to build a series of walls, seating areas and terraces in a garden I’m doing for the one of the stars of the most successful SciFi program currently on network television.

What Is Rammed Earth

As described in Wikipedia, Rammed earth, also known as taipa (Portuguese), tapial (Spanish), and pisé (de terre) (French), is an ancient building method that has seen a revival in recent years as people seek more sustainable building materials and natural building methods. Rammed-earth walls are simple to construct, incombustible, thermally massive, strong, and durable. They can be labor-intensive to construct without machinery (powered tampers), and they are susceptible to water damage if inadequately protected or maintained.

Rammed-earth buildings are found on every continent except Antarctica, in a range of environments that includes the temperate and wet regions of northern Europe, semiarid deserts, mountain areas and the tropics. The availability of useful soil and a building design appropriate for local climatic conditions are the factors that favor its use.

Building With Rammed Earth

Building a rammed-earth wall involves compressing a damp mixture of earth that has suitable proportions of sand, gravel and clay (sometimes with an added stabilizer) into an externally supported frame or mold, creating either a solid wall of earth or individual blocks. In modern variations of the method, rammed-earth walls are constructed on top of conventional footings or a reinforced concrete slab base.

Where blocks made of rammed earth are used, they are generally stacked like regular blocks but are bonded together with a thin mud slurry instead of cement. Special machines, usually powered by small engines and often portable, are used to compress the earth into blocks.

Historically, such additives as lime or animal blood were used to stabilize the material, while modern construction uses lime, cement or asphalt emulsions. Some modern builders also add colored oxides or other items, such as bottles or pieces of timber, to add variety to the structure.

Creating A Temporary Framework

The construction of an entire wall begins with a temporary frame (formwork), usually made of wood or plywood, to act as a mold for the desired shape and dimensions of each wall section. The form must be sturdy and well braced, and the two opposing wall faces clamped together, to prevent bulging or deformation from the large compression forces involved. Damp material is poured in to a depth of 10 to 25 cm (4 to 10 in) and then compacted to around 50% of its original height. The material is compressed iteratively, in batches, gradually building the wall up to the top of the frame. Tamping was historically done by hand with a long ramming pole, and was very labor-intensive; modern construction can be made more efficient by employing pneumatically powered tampers.

Once a wall is complete, it is strong enough that the frames can be removed immediately. This is necessary if a surface texture will be applied (e.g. by wire-brushing), since the walls become too hard to work after about an hour. Construction is best done in warm weather so that the walls can dry and harden. The compression strength of the rammed earth increases as it cures; it takes some time to dry out, as much as two years for complete curing. Exposed walls should be sealed to prevent water damage.

Go Native And Help Save Our Planet

If you’re considering adding hardscapes to your garden (terraces, steps, walkways, retaining walls) you should seriously consider building with rammed earth. It’s beautiful, sustainable and extremely earth friendly.