Tag Archives: Landscape Contractor

HGTV Blog – Design Happens

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HGTV - Design Happens
HGTV – Design Happens

I am delighted to report that HGTV selected a project I did several years ago to feature on their blog, Design Happens. It’s  title, with an attached link, is  An Outdoor Living and Entertainment Oasis.  It describes the landscape I designed and built for the international film producer, Deepak Nayar and  his wife Mary.

What a wonderful experience it was working with a man who had worked with directors like David Lynch, Wim Wenders, Paul Schrader and Gurinder Chadha, earned Golden Globe, Bafta and Oscar nominations and been involved as a producer for such films as  Slumdog Millionaire, Bend it Like Beckham and Buena Vista Social Club.

When I asked them what they were looking to accomplish, he and Mary told me they wanted an indoor-outdoor expansion of their Sunset Plaza home in the Hollywood Hills that would be conducive to their family (two children and two dogs), and also a comfortable environment for entertaining frequent guests. Deepak suggested that I think of their house as a movie set with focal points when people first walk in and I did just that!

If you would like to see the evolution of the project from start to finish, please check out my three newsletters:  A Sunset Plaza Makeover,  Building A Wall Of Water and Sunset Garden Makeover Completed.

Creating Sunny California Shade Without Breaking The Bank

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Weingart-CenterOne of the joys of living in Southern California is its weather. It’s now the middle of February and the sun is shining, the sky is blue and the temperature is in the 80’s – what more could one ask for? But an irony of our beautiful, sun-drenched out-of-doors is that we must have shade in order to enjoy it and to protect ourselves from the sun’s damaging rays.

As a landscape designer and contractor, there are a variety of structures I can design and build (pergolas, gazebos, arbors, greenhouses) to satisfy my clients’ desire for shade. However, these structures (hardscape) are expensive and usually entail a substantial amount of landscaping to go along with their construction.

But there are alternatives to a permanent structure and while a few of these may require a certain amount of installation, they can be added to an existing patio or deck or poolside without much fuss and without breaking your bank!

Here are the three major categories:

To continue reading … Eva’s Notes & News

A Landscape To Grow With

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Firepit-Kitchen-Pizza-OvenAs you can see from the “Before” picture below, the landscaping of this home’s back yard was, except for the pool, water feature and deck, non-existent!

Before

before

A blank slate is actually better for me as the designer because I don’t have to deal with a lot of existing and unwanted hardscape and/or plant material. With the removal of the palm trees and few other plants, we were ready to proceed with creating what my clients’ desired.

And what they had requested was an environment that was suitable for a great deal of entertaining as well as a place for them, their dog and their anticipated family to grow up in and enjoy. It also needed to be easy to maintain and be as drought-tolerant as possible.

The Kitchen

kitchen

There were two elements that were essential for the design. The first was an outdoor kitchen with a lot of counter space, a barbecue and stove, a pizza oven, a sink with running water, a counter to sit at and a roof that cantilevered out over the seating area, which was to match the existing, but refinished, wooden deck.

The second required ingredient was a fire pit surrounded by a large seating area.

The Fire Pit

fire-pit-2

Between the fire pit and the kitchen lay the existing deck. I used it as the axis of these two elements with the pool creating the third aspect of a triangle that visually tied all three elements together.

The Pool and The Deck

deck-pool

By creating a clearly defined entertainment area, it left the remaining yard to be landscaped as a separate entity.

The Landscape

landscape

Keeping in mind the desire to create a drought-tolerant landscape, the remaining yard was divided into a small area of grass (for the dog and the children-to-be) with the remaining property covered with pea gravel.

To help define the area, serve as backdrop for the entertainment area and provide a view from inside the house, three full-grown olive trees were craned in and planted.

Illumination and Irrigation

landscape-lights

Additional seating was provided at various spots along the graveled area and the trees and property were illuminated with low voltage lamps and spot lights. A drip irrigation system was installed through out.

The Pizza Oven

pizza-oven

While the re-designed landscape has received high marks from both friends and neighbors, the one thing the husband loves above all else is his pizza oven, which, I am told, is in continual use!

SWIMMING POOLS – Ready To Take The Plunge?

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leanderWith summer now in full force, I thought this might be the ideal time to bring up the subject of swimming pools. Of course, this being Southern California a majority of my clients already have pools, but for those of you who don’t and are considering putting in an in-ground pool (above-ground pools I’ll leave to the vendors), here are some things to consider.

malibuMake A Plan

Adding an in-ground pool is not only a major expenditure, it’s time consuming and will disrupt you, your yard and your life. It is a permanent feature of your home and will be an important consideration should you ever decide to sell. So if you’re serious about taking it on, the first step is to review the following and make a plan:

  • Choosing The Site: take into consideration it’s orientation to your home – exits – decks – windows, the view, the sun, the trees, existing hardscape, accessibility for construction equipment, the type of soil and the slope of the land
  • Create A Budget: create a realistic budget detailing all of your desired features and what you think they might cost
  • Review Building Codes: while the details of your community’s building codes should be left to your contractor, it would be wise to get a general understanding of what the codes cover and how they might impact the construction and cost

To continue reading … Eva’s Notes & News

Pergolas For Summer Shade

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Encino-10There is nothing quite as relaxing as sipping a gin and tonic (or your favorite beverage) with friends, sitting in the shade of a vine-covered pergola, on a late summer’s afternoon. I have just completed the construction of two pergolas that are designed for this very purpose, although it may take several years before their vines provide the requisite shade.

During their construction, one of my clients asked me where the term “pergola” came from. I wasn’t sure; I said, “I believe it’s Italian but I’ll check and let you know.” I did and found a lot of very interesting information not only about the derivation of the name “pergola” but where the design was first used and how it has evolved over time.

I was right with my guess as to pergola’s derivation; it comes from the Late Latin word “Pergula,” which refers to a projecting eave; and the English term was borrowed from the Italian “pergola,” which means “a close walk of boughs.”.

According to Wikipedia, a pergola, arbor, or arbour is a garden feature forming a shaded walkway, passageway, or sitting area of vertical posts or pillars that usually support crossbeams and a sturdy open lattice. As a type of gazebo, it may also be an extension of a building or serve as protection for an open terrace.

 To continue reading … Eva’s Notes & News

Top Outdoor Living Trends That Add Resale Value

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I am, thankfully, busier than ever – both as a landscape designer and as a landscape contractor. I am working with a number of clients to transform their front and back yards into wonderful, livable spaces that are not only beautiful outdoor environments designed for relaxation and entertaining but are far more environmentally friendly and far less expensive to maintain than the water-guzzling grass that had previously covered the majority of these sites.

Garden Of Eva Landscape Design GroupA great deal of what I’m doing is the design and construction of hardscape environments. This increased interest in construction was highlighted when I came across a survey of 2013 Residential Landscape Architecture Trends conducted by the American Society of Landscape Architects. According to their survey (which follows) American homeowners are increasingly interested in creating outdoor rooms and outdoor kitchens (hardscape) for entertaining and relaxation. The results of the survey confirm what I’ve been hearing: with the economy improving and real estate prices heading upward, homeowners are now willing to invest in their homes. It’s clear that they want to maximize their properties’ enjoyable, usable spaces, to save money on maintenance while at the same timeincreasing their homes’ resale value.

Building What People Want Is A Wise Investment

Encino-9The following survey will give you an idea of how a serious sampling of homeowners are looking to improve their properties. It would be a helpful guide if you too are looking to make such an investment. Because, let’s face it, if you’re going to spend the time, energy and money improving you landscape, you might as well know what most people are looking for so that in the event you decided to sell … those improvements will turn out to be a wise investment.

 To continue reading … Eva’s Notes & News

Raised Bed Gardening

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artistic design garden bedWith spring now upon us, I’ve been asked by several of my clients about the viability of raised bed gardens for growing vegetables and, in one instance, flowers for cutting. They wanted to know how practical they were, the cost involved and if they were really worth the bother? My answer is quite simple; if you’re serious about raising vegetables or creating a cutting garden, constructing a raised bed make perfect sense.

A raised bed makes gardening easy. Filled with the appropriate soil mix, they provide the excellent drainage needed to grow picture-perfect vegetables and flowers.

accessible-raised-garden-beds-placing-raised-beds-like-the-ones-on-1024x768

For many gardeners, not having to bend or kneel to weed and harvest crops is a real bonus. And if your objective is to grow tomatoes, building a raised bed against a sunny wall or fence means that heat-loving crops, such as tomatoes, will thrive and require less watering than those grown in pots.

Here is Wikipedia’s take on Raised Bed Gardening

Overview

Raised beds lend themselves to the development of complex agriculture systems that utilize many of the principles and methods of permaculture (agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient). They can be used effectively to control erosion and recycle and conserve water and nutrients by building them along contour lines on slopes.

This also makes more space available for intensive crop production. They can be created over large areas using any number of commonly available materials and efficiently maintained, planted and harvested using hand tools.

Materials and Construction

RaisedGardenBeds Illustration

Vegetable garden bed construction materials should be chosen carefully. Some concerns exist regarding the use of pressure-treated timber. Pine that was treated using chromated copper arsenate or CCA, a toxic chemical mix for preserving timber that may leach chemicals into the soil which in turn can be drawn up into the plants, is a concern for vegetable growers, where part or all of the plant is eaten.

If using timber to raise the garden bed, ensure that it is an untreated hardwood to prevent the risk of chemicals leaching into the soil. A common approach is to use timber sleepers joined with steel rods to hold them together.

Building Raised Garden Bed

Another approach is to use concrete blocks, although less aesthetically pleasing, they are inexpensive to source and easy to use.

On the market are also prefab raised garden bed solutions which are made from long lasting polyethylene that is UV stabilized and food grade so it will not leach undesirable chemicals into the soil or deteriorate in the elements. A double skinned wall provides an air pocket of insulation that minimizes the temperature fluctuations and drying out of the soil in the garden bed.

Sometimes raised bed gardens are covered with clear plastic to protect the crops from wind and strong rains.

In addition to wood, stone, concrete, cinder block, galvanized culverts, stock tanks, Cor-Ten steel and pre-manufactured raised bed products, there is a new fun product that not only provides an interesting solution to creating a raised bed, it helps deal with the problem of what to do with plastic by creating a Lego-like modular system of interlocking blocks for easy assembly

togetherFarm-box-edge Check out this simple but ingenious design solution at Urban Gardens. And here are 8 materials for raised bed gardens described in an excellent article in Houzz.

The Yin and Yang of Landscape Design

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Oasis

Water Features

Water features come in every conceivable size and description and they are an ideal addition to a landscape that will be planted with native and drought-tolerant plants.

It may seem incongruous to think about creating a stream or pond or placing a fountain in a landscape that looks more like a dessert than a sylvan glade, but the right feature can not only give your landscape a focus, it can act as a stunning counterpoint to rocks and stones in a succulent filled, “green” garden.

Just think of an oasis in the dessert – the yin and yang of landscape design – polar opposites but perfect complements.

If you’ve come to the realization that pouring water on a lawn is not only wasting a precious resource it’s wasting your money, then the time has come to pull out that lawn and give yourself a blank canvas to work on.

Here are some ideas that I hope will convince you that having a yard that can pass as a putting green is not only inappropriate, given the drought conditions that Southern California is now facing, it is boring!

 To continue reading … Eva’s Notes & News

A Succulent Garden Takes Shape Before Your Eyes

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A client of mine created an interesting time-lapse video showing the installation of succulent and drought-tollerant plantings in his front and back yard, which I designed and built for him. Take a moment to watch it unfold as my guys goes about their business.

Planning A Vegetable Garden

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Vegetable Garden Planning for BeginnersI’ve just had a request from a client to replace a chunk of her back yard (all grass requiring a lot of water) with a vegetable garden. She decided that if she has to pay for water she might as well as get a return on her investment. I thought other folks might be interested in getting a return on their monthly LADWP (Los Angeles Department of Water and Power) contribution so here is a primer from The Old Farmer’s Almanack on Vegetable Garden Planning for Beginners.

Smaller Is Better

If you’re a beginner vegetable gardener, here are basics on vegetable garden planning: site selection, plot size, which vegetables to grow, and other gardening tips.

Remember this: It’s better to be proud of a small garden than to be frustrated by a big one!

One of the common errors for beginners is planting too much too soon and way more than anybody could eat or want. Unless you want to have zucchini taking up residence in your attic, plan carefully. Start small.

The Very Basics

First, here are some very basic concepts on topics you’ll want to explore further as you become a vegetable gardener extraordinaire:

  • Do you have enough sun exposure? Vegetables love the sun. They need at least 6 hours of full sun every day, and preferably 8.
  • Know your soil. Most soil can be enriched with compost and be fine for planting, but some soil needs more help. Vegetables must have good, loamy, well-drained soil. Check with your local nursery or local cooperative extension office about free soil test kits so that you can assess your soil type. See our article on preparing soil for planting.
  • Placement is everything. Avoid planting too near a tree, which will steal nutrients and shade the garden. In addition, a garden too close to the house will help to discourage wild animals from nibbling away your potential harvest.
  • Decide between tilling and a raised bed.  If you have poor soil or a bad back, a raised bed built with nonpressure-treated wood offers many benefits. See more about raised garden beds and how to build them.
  • Vegetables need lots of water, at least 1 inch of water a week. See more about when to water vegetables.
  • You’ll need some basic planting tools.  These are the essentials: spade, garden fork, soaking hose, hoe, hand weeder, and wheelbarrow (or bucket) for moving around mulch or soil. It’s worth paying a bit extra for quality tools.
  • Study those seed catalogs and order early.
  • Check your frost dates. Find first and last frost dates in your area and be alert to your local conditions.

Deciding How Big

A good-size beginner vegetable garden is about 16×10 feet and features crops that are easy to grow. A plot this size, planted as suggested below, can feed a family of four for one summer, with a little extra for canning and freezing (or giving away).

Make your garden 11 rows wide, with each row 10 feet long. The rows should run north and south to take full advantage of the sun.

Vegetables that may yield more than one crop per season are beans, beets, carrots, cabbage, kohlrabi, lettuce, radishes, rutabagas, spinach, and turnips.

Suggested Plants for 11 Rows

The vegetables suggested below are common, productive plants but you’ll also want to contract your local cooperative extension to determine what plants grow best in your local area. Think about what you like to eat as well as what’s difficult to find in a grocery store or farmers’ market.

(Note: Link from each vegetable to a free planting and growing guide.)

(Note: If this garden is too large for your needs, you do not have to plant all 11 rows, and you can also make the rows shorter. You can choose the veggies that you’d like to grow!)

When to Plant?

Try our Garden Planner

It’s easy to plan your garden with our Almanac Garden Planner!
This planning tool spaces out your vegetables for you, provides sowing dates, and has many free garden plans for inspiration! Try it for free here.

Related Articles

Other Resources

There are numerous sites that deal with all aspects of this topic, so just search Google or check out these previous blogs: Growing Tomatoes in Southern CaliforniaVegetable Gardens – Good For Your Health & Pocketbook, and Creating Your Own Victory Garden.