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!
With California facing the worst drought in its history is it possible for a responsible home owner or property manager to turn a water-consuming landscape into a drought tolerant one and still include grass as part of it’s design?
The answer is …YES!
No-Mow Grass (a collection of fineleaf fescue “grass” species that have been developed over the last 40+ years) is the answer for low-maintenance, low-input, environmentally friendly grassy ground covers. No-Mow is ideal for home, commercial and industrial landscapes that include slopes, median strips, golf course roughs, cemeteries and untrafficked areas of parks.
The Photo Editor of Small-Space Gardening contacted me about a picture she found on on my website of a garden I’d designed. She loved it and asked to use it in their Spring edition. I, of course, was thrilled that they liked it and wanted to publish it, so, of course, I said yes!
And here it is! I am so pleased that it’s in such a wonderful publication — currently available on newsstands. It’s filled with fabulous pictures and great ideas for container gardens, small vegetable gardens, small backyards, color palates, plant selection and a great deal more.
Here is the photograph from the magazine, which they titled “European Charmer.”
Do you want to know: What to plant? Where to plant it? How to plant it? How deep to plant it? How much to water it? What to feed it? How much sun it needs? and What critters will like to eat it? Then, The University of California Cooperative Extension for Los Angeles County is a wonderful resource for almost anything having to do with gardening.
What follows is a wealth of information that flows from the UC system, including listings of their websites, divisions, publications, research papers etc. So, you might want to bookmark this for future reference. Take a look, try out the links and see how much valuable gardening information is available right here at your fingertips.
And if I can be of any assistance in answering your gardening or landscaping questions, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One 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!
While it may feel like spring and look that way as well – given how full the garden outlets are with plants aching to be planted, you still have time to prune and plant bare-root roses, berry bushes and some ornamental trees. It’s best not to wait till March, particularly in the desert areas such as Blythe, Anza Borrego, Canebrake and the hot Central Coast as well as Fresno and Bakersfield.
Now is the time to prune dormant trees and shrubs that will bloom in the summer and fall. These include roses, berries and grapes — and make sure and do it before they begin to bud.
In pruning roses, take out all of the dead canes and any that look diseased. Take a look at the rose’s shape and consider removing crossing canes and particularly those canes that have come out below the graft union. It’s also a wise idea to prune mature bushes down to 18 to 20 inches.
Bareroog planting can provide you with a much larger variety of plants than what is usually available at you local garden center. There are any number of on-line nurseries that can ship bareroot specimens directly to you. Unfortunately, you’ll need to see what’s currently available (most people order months in advance) and how long it will take for the shipment to reach you. But a Google search would be well worth the time just to see what is currently in the market place and what extraordinary specimens you may have missed!
Planting bareroot varieties is relatively simple. Dig your hole at least half a foot wider than the plant and deeper than the roots. You then need to spread the roots apart and fill the hole with a combination of the existing soil and soil that recommended for that particular plant. Water well to make sure all of the air pockets are filled, which may also require additional dirt. Once planted you don’t want the plan(s)to dry out, neither do you want to overwater them so that their roots rot.
A successful gardener is someone who plants well and tends with love and dedication.
Being a landscape designer, I wind up driving all over greater Los Angeles, and, believe me, seeing how many miles I put on my car ever week, the operative word is greater. But what I’ve noticed, particularly as I snail along in traffic, is that our city has a great many balconies but so many of those balconies have no color — no life — they are just empty vessels waiting to be filled.
This is so different than what I experience whenever I travel through Europe — particularly through the southern regions along the Mediterranean. There, you can’t go through a village, a town or a city without seeing color dripping from countless window ledges and balconies.
While our weather is certainly similar to Italy, France and Spain, it seems our relationship with nature is not, and I think that’s a shame. A balcony is a great opportunity to introduce a little nature into your life and beauty to your home. So, here are some really interesting and individually expressed balconies that might inspire you to add to some life to that empty vessel outside your window or even turn it into something spectacular. It’s easy to do, it’s inexpensive and you’ll be amazed at how much happier you’ll feel looking out your window.
As 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!
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.
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
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
By creating a clearly defined entertainment area, it left the remaining yard to be landscaped as a separate entity.
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
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
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!
Ficus Nitida and Ficus Benjamina are not the solution.
Whenever a client asks about installing a hedge they’re usually thinking of planting a row using Ficus Nitida (Retusa) or Benjamina. They have been Southern California’s “go to” trees for privacy hedges for decades, but there are a number of reasons to pass them by. They can be very invasive and their roots grow close to the surface, damaging sidewalks. While they grow fast, they need frequent trimming and are not drought-toelerant. They require a substantial amount of water to establish and a moderate amount once established.
What follows is information on seven excellent hedges provided by the North Park Nursery. If you’re thinking about adding a hedge and are concerned about how it will behave and how much water it will consume, here is valuable information about the best plant material for the job.
Best Screening Trees
What makes the the perfect screening shrub? The answer to this question may vary depending on the individual, but. generally, the desirable characteristics are as follows:
Between 15 and 20 feet tall.
Evergreen and dense.
Tolerant of full sun.
Low maintenance, particularly low water use.
Podocarpus, fern pine, yew pine, yellow wood, Japanese yew
Scientific Name:Podocarpus sp. Height: 50 to 100 ft Sun: Part shade to full sun Water: Low to moderate Description: One of the tallest trees on this list, we love podocarpus because it is an extremely resilient, fast-growing tree that is tolerant of full sun and low water. It can also stand part shade and holds up against windy, salty, coastal conditions. In addition, it responds well to pruning and shearing, meaning it can be managed at any height and made into a formal hedge. Of course, you can always choose to leave these trees in their natural form for a more organic appearance. There are a few varieties to choose from, including P. henkelii, which has long, slender and drooping leaves, P. gracilior, with fern-like foliage and P. gracilior, which has pine-like foliage and can be found in a variety called ‘Icee Blue,’ which has fabulous steel blue coloration.
Pittosporum, kohuhu, ‘Silver Sheen’
Scientific Name:Podocarpus tenuifolium Height: 20 to 30 ft Sun: Part shade to full sun Water: Low Description: Pittosporum tenuifolium is a drought-tolerant New Zealand native that makes an excellent screening shrub here in Southern California. It tolerates full to part sun and can be either sheared into a more dense formal hedge or allowed to assume a natural, upright and wispy form. The most popular cultivar for use in home landscaping is ‘Silver Sheen,’ named for the grey-green tops and white undersides of its small leaves, which appear to flicker when caught in a breeze. The dark stems on this variety make it a striking choice indeed. Other varieties include ‘Gold Star,’ ‘Gold Sheen,’ ‘Marjorie Channon’ and ‘Irene Patterson,’ which come in different shades of green, variegated or otherwise, with bright red to deep black stems.
California Bayberry, California Wax Myrtle, Pacific Wax Myrtle
Scientific Name:Myrica californica Height: 15 to 30 ft Sun: Part shade to full sun Water: Moderate Description: A shrub native to the West Coast from Washington to Southern California, it has slightly fragrant, evergreen leaves. Best used along the coast, it is tolerant of sandy, loamy and clay soils, high winds and salt spray, making it an excellent windbreak along the coast. Needs some protection from sun and supplemental water when used further inland. Beautiful natural form, does not tolerate shearing.
Privet, wax leaf privet
Scientific Name:Ligustrum japonicum ‘Texanum’ Height: 8 to 10 ft Sun: Part shade to full sun Water: Moderate Description: Many gardeners are averse to planting privet because it has a reputation as being invasive and aggressive. However, in spite of these characteristics it makes an almost perfect hedge: fast growing, dense, evergreen foliage, tolerant of shearing with profuse white flowers. We recommend choosing the cultivar ‘Texanum,’ which is a less aggressive variety that only grows to half the size of the species. Will .ppreciate supplemental watering during the warmer months.
Scientific Name:Juniperus chinensis ‘Spartan’ Height: 10 to 15 ft Sun: Full sun Water: Low Description: There are many species of vertical-growing juniper that make excellent wind breaks and privacy screens. ‘Spartan’ is a cultivar we love for its moderate height, vertical form and rich green foliage. It is very responsive to pruning, and tolerant of heat, cold, wind and drought. Requires very little maintenance once established. Other similar choices are Juniper ‘Skyrocket’ and Cupressus sempervirens ‘Tiny Tower.’
Scientific Name:Bambusa sp. Height: 15 to 30 ft Sun: Part shade to full sun Water: Moderate Description: Bamboo is an excellent choice for a fast-growing, tall privacy screen with a tropical look. We recommend choosing clumping varieties that will not invade the rest of your yard – a favorite is the cultivar ‘Alphonse Karr,’ which has beautiful golden yellow stems and can be maintained at whatever height you desire with occasional pruning. Note that bamboo is a messy plant and tends to drop lots of leaves.
Bay laurel, sweet bay
Scientific Name:Laurus nobilis Height: 15 to 25 ft Sun: Part shade to full sun Water: Low Description: Similar in appearance to privet but lacking flowers, bay laurel is a slower-growing, less-aggressive shrub that can be sheared into a formal hedge and is tolerant of full sun and low water. Very low maintenance and can be allowed to assume its natural form for an organic look.
Thanksgiving has always been a very special holiday for me. It combines three things I care deeply about: my family and friends, the wonderful life that I’ve been given and the bounty that nature provides us.
In planning my Thanksgiving I thought it might be fun to select some very special Thanksgiving table decorations that display some of nature’s bounty. Almost everything in these stunning designs can be found in the garden or in the vegetable section of your grocery story. Add a few candles and a little imiganation and you’ve got yourself your own fabulous Thanksgiving table.
Happy Thanksgiving – may it be a loving and delicious one!