Category Archives: Uncategorized

Landscape Design – Balcony & Container Gardening


Lemmon TreeWith Summer upon us and life moving into the out of doors, I’ve had a number of clients ask what they can do to make their balconies more attractive. Of course, as a landscape designer and contractor, my obvious answer is … “add plants!”

While there are many other things you can do to improve the look or view of a balcony, including furniture, outdoor lighting, umbrellas and a whole host of soft goods, as well as water features, the thing that will brighten up a balcony faster and more economically than anything else, is a well thought out selection of plants.

Balconies, regardless of their size or the amount of sun they receive, can transform a view from the same old building you’ve been staring at since you moved in, into a charming vista. And while it would be ideal to sit out on one and enjoy the view, a view isn’t required or even room to sit.  A simple “Juliet Balcony” (an ornamental stone or decorative iron enclosure outside a window) or even a window ledge is more than enough space to create landscape magic. Of course, the larger the balcony, patio or roof garden, the more creative you can be.

However, before you rush off to the garden store, there are a few things to consider. Balconies, patios and rooftops are often micro climates that present different conditions from the ground below. Spend time during the day observing the space where you intend to garden. And please consider the following:

To continue reading … Eva’s Notes & News


Landscape Design – The Art of Espalier



Espalier, pronounced either “es-pah-lee-er” or “es-pah-lee-ay,” depending on how French you want to sound, is the ancient horticultural practice of controlling woody plant growth—originally for the purpose of fruit production—by pruning and tying branches to a frame so that they grow into a flat plane. The plant is usually, although not always, grown against a structure such as a wall, fence, or trellis and frequently in formal patterns.


Espalier as a technique is believed to have started with the Romans. During the Middle Ages the Europeans refined it into an art. The practice was used to produce fruit within the walls of a castle or a monastic cloister so as not to interfere with the limited open space and to decorate the fortified structure’s walls.

Vineyards have used the technique in the training of grapes for hundreds or perhaps even thousands of years.

Espalier In Landscape Design

Espalier has considerable merit in today’s landscape design where the technique of growing fruit tress or ornamental plants is primarily used as a decorative accent.

An espalier becomes a living sculpture in the garden where the espaliered plants and trees can cover unsightly, boring, or blank, windowless walls or to create a visual screen or barrier—bringing an otherwise boring wall or space to life.

I have used espaliered plants as part of my landscape designs to add height in foundation planting, between widely-spaced windows and in tight, confined areas where spreading shrubs or trees cannot be effectively maintained.

To continue reading … Eva’s Notes & News



It’s Nice To Fool Mother Nature – Forcing Bulbs


Forcing bulbs to bloom is all about fooling Mother Nature into believing that spring has sprung. It’s not difficult or time consuming and the results can be extraordinary.  All it takes is the right bulbs, a glass vase or pot, some rocks, water or potting soil and a few minutes of your time.

Forcing Bulbs

The process of getting bulbs to grow (forcing) occurs when you create a situation inside that replicates what Mother Nature does outside. If you decided you want to bring some garden beauty indoors, make sure you select the appropriate bulb.

The most common bulbs for forcing are narcissus, hyacinths, tulips, crocus and amaryllis. Generally, irregularly shaped bulbs (tulips, freesias) force best in soil, while regularly shaped bulbs (paper whites, crocus) do best over water. Forcing in soil is more foolproof than water, and all bulbs can be forced in soil. You can buy special vases for forcing hyacinths and amaryllis. You can also buy complete kits. Once you know how it’s done, you’ll want to find unusual containers for forcing bulbs.

Don’t be afraid of making a mistake, because the worst that can happen is that the bulb won’t bloom or it rots, but the joy of seeing a plant grow and blossom is well worth it. So be brave and fool Mother Nature, she won’t mind!


  • Ethanol alcohol, which is found in most hard liquors, can act as a growth regulator and keep paper white narcissus shorter and more compact during forcing. Use plain water the first seven to 10 days. Once the green shoots are 2 to 3 inches tall, replace the water with one part alcohol to seven parts water. Foliage will be more compact, but with blooms just as large and long lasting as usual.
  • Pre-chill bulbs (except amaryllis) in bags of damp sphagnum moss or damp potting soil in the refrigerator. Label bags.
  • Choose firm bulbs with no soft or rotten spots.
  • Plant tulips with the flat side of the bulb facing outward. Choose single early tulips. They are easiest since they are programmed to bloom early anyway.
  • Pot amaryllis two weeks apart for a succession of blooms. With amaryllis, the bigger the bulb the better.
  • Discard bulbs after bloom or plant them outside.
  • Change out the water weekly if it becomes murky.

Instructions For Forcing


  • Force in water in a forcing vase. Fill water to just below the bulb. Never let a bulb sit in water.
  • Chill 12 weeks in the forcing vase until roots fill the vase and shoots are 2 to 3 inches tall. Remove from the refrigerator and place in a sunny location.
  • Weeks to bloom: Two to four.
  • Tips: Chilling period is critical for hyacinths to bloom. You don’t have to choose the largest bulbs. Flower spikes can get top-heavy, so be careful vases don’t fall over.


  • Force in soil. Cover bulbs with 1/2 inch of soil. Water.
  • Chill 10 to 15 weeks in the refrigerator.
  • Weeks to bloom: Three to five.
  • Tips: Pack bulbs tightly together with the flat side facing outward. Single early varieties work best. Tulips are the most time-consuming to force.


  • Force in a special vase in water. Don’t let water touch the bulb.
  • No chilling necessary.
  • Weeks to bloom: Four to six.
  • Tips: Start in a warm, dark place, then move to the light when the stalk is 2 to 4 inches tall. Flowering stalk can be top-heavy, so add pebbles to the vase. Choose the biggest bulbs.


  • Force over water in special vases or on a bed of coarse gravel. Plant pointed side facing up.
  • Chill 12 to 15 weeks in a paper bag or forcing vase.
  • Weeks to bloom: Two.
  • Tips: Pack corms tightly together in a low vase. (Corms are technically swollen, underground stems, but are also known as bulbs.) Hybrid crocus perform better than the smaller species types.


  • Force in water on pebbles or in soil. Fill the container with water to just below the bulb. The bottom of the bulb should just be in contact with the water. In soil, pack bulbs in tightly for a nice display of flowers.
  • Chilling period: None required.
  • Weeks to bloom: Five to seven.
  • Tips: Use a container that is twice as wide as high. Place in a cool spot until buds show color, then bring to a sunnier spot to bloom. They can get top-heavy, so be prepared to tie floppy leaves to a bamboo stake.


  • If bulb rots: Water level is too high. The water should just be touching or barely below the base of the bulb and not covering it.
  • If bulb fails to bloom, bud doesn’t develop properly or flowering spike is very short: Not enough chilling. Most bulbs, except narcissus and amaryllis, need to be kept at 40 to 50 degrees F for several weeks.
  • If foliage gets too tall: Bulbs have been kept in the dark too long or did not receive enough sun when growing. An east or south-facing window is ideal.

For more information about forcing bulbs, Google, “forcing bulbs California, or check out California Bountiful – one of the resources for this blog.


Raspberries – The Talk Of The Table


If you haven’t heard, Raspberries are the “it” food of the moment. Dr. Oz swears by their Ketone qualities, and if you don’t know what Raspberry Ketone is, just read “Key Health Benefits of Raspberry Ketone” and you will learn more about Ketone than you’ll ever care to know.

But what I do know is that I love Raspberries, regardless of the fact that they contain, in a single one-cup serving (approximately 30 – 40 berries), 2/3 of your daily intake of manganese (and who knew you needed manganese), 1/2 of your daily dose of Vitamin C, most of you daily doses of vitamins A, B2, B3, potassium and copper and 1/3 your daily dose of fiber. My head spins at the though of how healthy I’m being when I pop a handful (that’s approximately 6 – 8 berries, in case you didn’t know) into my mouth. And if you don’t want to buy raspberries in the market here is a brief introduction on how to grow them.

Selecting Your Berries

It’s important to do a little homework before you start. Make sure that you’re selecting a Raspberry cultivar that is right for your Zone and check out the plant itself, because Raspberries come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors: red, purple, golden and white. I personally recommend choosing an everbearing cultivar because I’m not interested in only having my Raspberries for one month out of the year.

The everbearing variety called “Summit” will produce fruit until the first frost, so that not only can you eat your fill, you can share it with whomever you like. And whomever that might be, will like you a lot for your generosity.  But there are a number of everbearing cultivars that you can pick from or add to your berry patch including “Fall Gold”, “Golden Summit and “Golden Harvest.”

Planting Your Berries

A healthy, productive Raspberry plant will, over the years, produce numerous underground runners that will spread out from the original plant creating multiple new plants. So you should be careful about planting them too close to each other. If you’re unsure of the proper spacing, consult the nursery or the mail order house that you order your “dry-root” plant from.

Early spring is the ideal time to plant Raspberries, and while they can be planted during the summer, it may take them a year to produce fruit. And if you do order or purchase dry root plants, you’ll need to soak them in warm water (some people add half-strength B1 growth stimulant to the water) for six hours.

Pruning Your Berries

The normal method of pruning Raspberries means cutting all of the canes down to the ground in early spring. This will, however, prevent the plant from bearing fruit until the fall. Another approach is to cut the 1-year old canes to just below the fruiting area and cut the 2-year old canes off at ground level. This allows the 1-year old canes to begin bearing fruit in July and allows the new leafy canes to grow up between the old canes and begin producing fruit in late summer.

Now that you’ve got your Raspberries planted, just water, feed them and enjoy the bounty that they will provide.

For more information on growing Raspberries simply Google “How to grow Raspberries” and you will have multiple articles on the subject.


Landscape Lighting – There’s No Space Without Light


Now that it’s getting dark at 5:00 p.m. I’ve been asked by a number of people what would be involved in transforming a dark or poorly illuminated landscape into something magical.

Low Voltage Landscape Lighting

The answer is a landscape designer, an outdoor lighting specialist, or you – if you’re so inclined, who understands how to use light to illuminate walkways, water features, architecture, trees and shrubs and has the knowledge, experience and budget to select the right instruments and equipment for the job.

I first wrote about the many reasons landscape lighting is important in my July 2011 newsletter, which, should you be interested, you can read here Landscape Lighting – Illuminate The Night.

Low Voltage Landscape Lighting

This newsletter offers an overview on the use of “low voltage” lighting because I believe it is the easiest to install, most cost effective and aesthetically pleasing system for residential outdoor lighting.

To continue reading … Eva’s Notes & News


Happy Mother’s Day



The earliest Mother’s Day celebrations we know of were ancient Greek spring celebrations in honor of Rhea, the mother of the gods; the ancient Romans also had another holiday, Matronalia, that was dedicated to Juno. But those were in honor of one particular mother. England’s “Mothering Sunday,” begun in the 1600’s, is closer to what we think of as “Mother’s Day.” Celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Lent, “Mothering Sunday” honored the mothers of England.

In 1907, Anna Jarvis started a drive to establish a national Mother’s Day. In 1907 she passed out 500 white carnations at her mother’s church in West Virginia–one for each mother in the congregation. In 1908, her mother’s church held the first Mother’s Day service, on May 10th (the second Sunday in May). That same day a special service was held at the Wanamaker Auditorium in Philadelphia, where Anna was from, which could seat no more than a third of the 15,000 people who showed up.

By 1909, churches in 46 states, Canada and Mexico were holding Mother’s Day services. In the meantime, Ms. Jarvis had quit her job to campaign full time. She managed to get the World’s Sunday School Association to help; they were a big factor in convincing legislators to support the idea. In 1912, West Virginia was the first state to designate an official Mother’s Day. By 1914, the campaign had convinced Congress, which passed a joint resolution. President Woodrow Wilson signed the resolution, establishing an official national Mother’s Day on the second Sunday in May.

Many countries of the world now have their own Mother’s Day at different times of the year, but Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Japan, and Turkey join the US in celebrating Mother’s Day on the second Sunday of May. Britain still celebrates Mothering Day on the fourth Sunday of Lent–but they now call it Mother’s Day. By any name, and at any date, it’s a special day to honor a special person.

Give the gift that keeps on giving, a live plant that you can add to your garden.  Or better yet, take your mother or your wife to a nursery and have her pick out a plant. Then plant it in the garden so that every time she looks at it she is reminded of your love for both her and our planet.