Posts from the ‘gardening’ category

Cloud Pruning – Part Two

 

In April of 2014 I wrote a blog about the history of Cloud Pruning and offered some basic guidelines.  Shortly afterward, I had the good fortune of designing a front yard in which the client ask me to include the English Boxwood, Buxus sempervirens ‘Suffruticosa” , into the design.  The final intent would be to create several boxwood “clouds”.

The first thing I did was to source the various sizes of round shaped Boxwoods available.  I found the following sizes –

5 gallon – 18” wide

7 gallon – 26” wide

15 gallon – 30” wide

The larger the boxwood the more convincing and dramatic the final outcome will be.  By using the three different sizes, I was able to create a “get the look quick” scenario.  I took great care in placing the boxwood so that the groups appeared to be natural or “cloud like”.  The billowy boxwood “clouds” are now the back bone of this garden and take center stage.  Too often boxwoods are relegated to a hedge along the property line or along the edge of a colorful flower bed.

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I carried the boxwood theme to the three extra-large Zinc planters purchased from Restoration Hardware.  The boxwoods in the containers and in the front yard planting beds relate to the curved walls of this modern home.  The containers also give a classic and clean look to the unique front door.

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The new planting also includes Lavender “Lavandula intermedia “Grosso”, Santolina chamaecyparissus “Nana” and Leptospermum scoparium ‘Snow White”.  These three plants were purposely selected due to their nature of accepting annual pruning.  With time, they will be hand pruned into soft grey-green pillows.  The lavender will maintain a “sphere” shape even when in full bloom as seen in the photo below of another garden three years after installation.

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A mix of textures and the play of light on the carefully shaped shrubs will create a peaceful and meditative space.  I will compose a follow up blog later in the year as the garden grows and include growing and pruning advice.

Forever Ginkgo

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It is a well-known fact that mature trees create a sense of scale and space. Tree-lined streets are charming and grand, so much so that people pay extra to live on them. Granted, it must be the right tree, in the right place, and have good form.

One of my most favorite trees is the Ginkgo. Ginkgo biloba, commonly known as Maidenhair Tree is the oldest tree on earth. It dates back to the age of the dinosaurs and remains unchanged to this day. It has survived over 200 million years because it is strong and tough. One might assume that the ginkgo, with its delicate fan shaped leaves and elegant tiered branching structure would not be so resilient. Its’ leaves and hard wood lure very few pests. If ginkgoes get sick or injured, they can sprout aerial roots under mature branches that eventually grow into a whole new colony of ginkgoes upon contact with soil. Because of their resilience, tame roots, and low water needs, the ginkgo makes an excellent street tree.

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Ginkgoes are show-stoppers every autumn, with rich golden leaves that create the most beautiful leaf litter I have ever seen (besides Japanese maples, another favorite). If you examine a ginkgo leaf you will see that it is unlike any other, with veins travelling from the stem to the tip of the leaf like an elegant fan. They are grassy green in the spring and summer, and then turn a rich, solid yellow in fall before creating a gold carpet on the ground. Because of the thickness of the leaves they don’t create a slippery mess.

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Ginkgoes do have, what some may consider, ‘drawbacks’. The nuts borne on the female ginkgo trees reek of vomit. Then again, the nuts are extremely prized in many Asian cuisines and are difficult to harvest, much like pine nuts. I agree it may not be pleasant if a female ginkgo is planted outside a restaurant or as a street tree in a dense urban area. But there are several very striking and widely available fruitless varieties for this purpose, such as ‘Autumn Gold, and ‘Princeton Sentry’. For this reason, male trees are solely used as street trees these days.

Another ‘drawback’ to the ginkgo is that it is slow-growing. Even if purchased in a larger container size, like a 24” box, it doesn’t have a particularly spectacular form or canopy, arriving only 7’ tall and 2’ wide. Its’ awkward adolescent years last much longer for ginkgoes than for humans, but then again, they can live a lot longer than us. The oldest surviving specimen is 2,500 years!

young street ginkgoes still trying to find their form against a fence

Young street ginkgoes still trying to find their form against a fence

Challenging times for an adolescent ginkgo

Challenging times for an adolescent ginkgo

 

Young ginkgoes being swallowed up by fast-growing loropetalum

Young ginkgoes being swallowed up by fast-growing loropetalum

A cluster of golden ginkgoes peaking above an evergreen hedge

A cluster of golden ginkgoes peaking above an evergreen hedge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So if you are not in the business of flipping houses or are a terribly impatient sort, I strongly urge you to consider a ginkgo. Their beauty, elegance, and longevity will be unmatched in your forever home. Even better, if you are lucky enough to have an established ginkgo, treat it with the reverence and respect it deserves. Consider its’ past and very long future.

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mature ginkgo canopy over pond

A great place to visit and a very Happy Thanksgiving!

A very Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

The beautiful view of the Bay from the rose garden.

The beautiful view of the Bay from the rose garden.

There’s a lot to be thankful for living in the San Francisco Bay area. Not only the beautiful scenery around every corner – bridges, parks, overlooks- but the weather as well. Right now I’m definitely thankful we’ve been having some pretty consistent rain storms. This Thanksgiving the forecast is projected as picture perfect, which I’m also thankful for. Although, I think by Saturday another storm is predicted to hit us so let’s make the most of Thursday and Friday. If black Friday shopping is not high on your list of to dos with your family and out of town guests – I want to share with you a little gem I discovered recently, even though it’s been located right in my back yard forever. It’s the University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley!

 

The redwood forest

The redwood forest

I always love seeing water lillies

I always love seeing water lillies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I recently made a trip there with my mom and sister. We met there one afternoon because we all work close by and had all never been. I was completely surprised by the magnitude of the botanical garden, I had always just assumed it was a small university garden and boy was I wrong. There is so much to explore there, we didn’t even make it to all the gardens because it was the end of the day. The Botanical garden features a collection of plants from the Mediterranean, Asia, Southern Africa, South America, Australia, Mexico/Central America, Eastern North America, the New World Desert and California, not to mention several special collections including an arid house and a beautiful rose garden. It really is quite a collection of species.

 

The flowering Puya

The flowering Puya

I stepped back a little so you can see the whole height.

I stepped back a little so you can see the whole height.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One main reason we finally made it to the UC botanical garden is because they have a very special natural event happening right now, their Puya Raimondii, or Queen of the Andes, is blooming! The Puya raimondii is the largest bromeliad species in the world, classified as a terrestrial bromeliad because it has its roots in the soil. The flower stalk can reach upwards of 30 feet and produce over ten thousand flowers. After flowering and setting seeds, the plant will die. Flowering for these plants “in captivity” is very rare and typically they do not flower until they are about 80 – 100 years old. The Puya at the UC Botanical garden is a young 24 years old, so many are unsure why it is flowering so early, but they all exclaim it is a unique, possibly once in a lifetime experience to see. In fact blooms of a plant this young have never been recorded. It is truly a natural phenomenon occurring right here in our backyard!

 

So if you’re looking for something fun to do in this gorgeous California weather this Thanksgiving weekend consider a trip to the UC Botanical garden. There is so much to explore and definitely something for everyone to enjoy, especially the Puya Raimondii. The park is closed Thanksgiving day, but is back to regular operating hours Friday, 9 am to 5 pm, click here for some helpful hints in planning your trip!

Symmetry

One of the most important principles in achieving balance in a garden is symmetry.   Balance through symmetry can be divided into two schools of thought – Asymmetrical Balance and Symmetrical Balance.

Asymmetrical balance is actually being unbalanced, abstract, or free while still creating unity and balance through the repetition of some garden elements.  Asymmetrical balance is more difficult to perceive and that is the point, it is more natural and relaxed.

Symmetrical balance is where all of the elements of the garden design are equally divided.  Both sides share the same shape, form, plant height, color or planting bed shape.  Symmetrical balance was very popular during the Renaissance period where entire gardens were mirror images from one side to the other.  Formal gardens are almost always symmetrical and give the feeling of stability and order.

Last week I spent a long weekend in New Orleans to attend the California Landscape Contractors Association’s annual convention.  While there, I spent an afternoon enjoying a walk through the famed Garden District.  The Garden District was originally developed between 1832 and 1900 and is considered to be one the best preserved collections of historic southern mansions in the United States.

While taking a stroll along the tree shaded streets I could not help but notice the strong use of architectural symmetry for most of the homes.  Many of the front yard gardens reflected the symmetry of the house.  Most of the homes had nearly perfect symmetry also referred to as “bilateral symmetry” in which both sides are essentially the same but reversed.

Here are two clear examples where the symmetrical house façade is allowed to shine by keeping the landscape to a minimum.  Architecturally strong containers and plant material compliment the design.

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These two homes are also symmetrical but rely on the plantings to continue the symmetrical theme yet soften the façade by using a variety of planting textures and leaf color.

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In this scenario the landscape planting is not only symmetrical but also an extremely formal feeling with its clipped hard edge.

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Finally, as these photos show, the use of symmetry can even be seen in New Orleans’ most famous landmark, the St. Louis Cathedral.   The symmetry is carried into Jackson Square by the plantings and utility fixtures.

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Symmetry is a powerful tool in the designers list of design principles.  If you are looking for a formal setting, one that contains a sense of order and balance, symmetry is the way to go.

An update on my veggie garden

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Well I am happy to report that my veggie garden is growing quickly! I must say the past rain (wish there was more in our future) really helped my watering schedule and I think was the key to getting our garden established.  We’ve also grown our garden since we last talked – we added a poblano pepper plant and I potted a couple blueberry plants. The blueberries are already producing; in fact I better go out and check tonight! I bought two varieties of blueberries because even though they are self-pollinating – they do better with another variety close by to cross pollinate resulting in a healthier crop, so far they are delicious! I was also just gifted two more tomato plants so it looks like I need to get a few more pots for them – because if you got ‘em grow ‘em and I’ve run out of room in my raised beds!

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In the garden right now my tomato plants are full of flowers and have at least quadrupled in size. I just noticed some grape tomatoes are already starting to sprout – It’s so exciting. It’s definitely time for me to get out there and do some pruning on the tomato plants. When you look closely at a tomato plant you see the stem and its’ branches – which hopefully have flower buds popping now- but you will also notice some additional branches sprouting between the stem and branch. These branches only grow leaves and are referred to as suckers. They are not fruit producing and the plant uses a lot of energy to produce them, so my cutting them back you encourage more energy and growth to be directed to the branches that are tomato producing, resulting in a healthier crop. So that’s definitely on my garden to-do list this weekend.

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My zucchini plant has grown so much – I think it’s more than quadrupled in size. And this weekend, while watering, I noticed a blossom on the zucchini plant – hopefully a sign of zucchini to come!  Even though watering is considered a chore, it really gives me the opportunity to see what happening in the raised beds and I have totally enjoyed it.  It’s really exciting that not only are the plants growing – they are showing signs of what’s to come. 

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Our red pepper plant and the banana pepper plant both have flowering blossoms on their stocks, while the jalapeño shows signs of blossoms to come and the poblano is just a little behind since it’s a more recent transplant.

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Finally, I’m also quite impressed that the cilantro seeds I planted.  I couldn’t find any cilantro plants so I decided to start from seed.  I was unsure how it would go because starting from seed seems like daunting task to me, but they are thriving! The person who gifted me the tomato plants grew all hers from seed – and most of them sprouted, which is why she had extra to share.  I’m so impressed, maybe that will be my goal next year – to start everything by seed.  We haven’t used any cilantro yet, but we are already regularly using our basil plant and it is delicious!

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If you haven’t planted your veggie garden yet– there’s still time!   Even if all you can do is get out there and plant a few tomato plants in pots to tend to – it will be totally worth it!

My raised vegetable beds

Are you ready for it? Spring is here and it’s the perfect time to get your veggie garden growing! Whether you just have a few pots to get started with, or raised beds to fill, get your tomatoes in the ground now to enjoy the fruits of your labor sooner rather than later.

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When searching for raised vegetable bed inspiration online a couple years ago we discovered a local company, Art of the Garden, trying to make it easier to install raised beds in your garden. Their product, the M-brace, is a set of four metal braces that hold your stacked redwood boards in place, up to 14” tall, and that’s it – no tools required! They have fun designs, or come in solid pieces and they are made locally from recycled metal. It’s an awesome concept and after installing them in many of our clients’ gardens I always knew I would be using them once I was ready to build my raised beds. Last year I planted some tomatoes and herbs in pots to test my success with vegetables. This year I have bigger goals, so I contacted Art of the Garden to get my project started.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear they are developing a new product line that allows you to build veggie beds up to 24” tall, the only difference being some tools required. I have always wanted to do two foot high raised beds because we have two small dogs that tend to get in whatever they can. This seemed like the perfect solution and I was so happy they would share the Garden HighRiser prototype with me. Very soon they will be launching the product line and I can say I highly recommend using them in your garden. We were able to construct our beds in one weekend, really one day with some extra help and I am so pleased with the results!

The extra help is always a bonus - it's great to have good friends, especially the ones who bring toys.

The extra help is always a bonus – it’s great to have good friends, especially the ones who bring toys.

The tools and supplies required to construct raised beds using the HighRiser is the HighRiser braces, 2” thick redwood boards (you can use different heights of boards, we went with stacked 2 x12s to get our 24” tall), #12 lumber screws, a drill, gopher wire and soil and plants to fill the beds once they are constructed. To make things easier we bought our redwood at Lowes where they will cut the wood for you. I decided I wanted to make two 4’ square veggie beds in my space as opposed to one long one. I just thought it would look cute and be easy to garden in.

In the beginning, setting the first bed up.

In the beginning, setting the first bed up.

The upper boards don't fit debacle photo.

The upper boards don’t fit debacle photo.

We had to start our project first by clearing away the rocks where our beds would go and measuring everything out. It was a lot easier than I thought it would be from the start. Working with the HighRisers was really easy. We were able to assemble the braces to the first round of 2x12s and still move the beds around into position. For extra stabilization we buried the frames a little and checked our levels before committing to their final location. We did run into a little trouble at first because we tightened the braces to the lower 2x12s all the way and we couldn’t fit the next boards on top. Finally, by my friends genius advice, we realized if we loosen the braces on the lower boards a little we could then fit the top boards on, level and secure it all together at once. Thanks Jess, we needed that. Needless to say the second veggie bed we constructed went a little quicker than the first one we built, but I think that is totally normal when doing projects for the first time (think about when you first put something together from Ikea haha). And just like that we had our Raised beds built.

The "hey we got this figured out!" photo

The “hey we got this figured out!” photo

Next we added gopher wire to the bottom of the beds before filling them with soil. Although, knock on wood we don’t seem to have a gopher problem, it would be a bummer to not have put it and then run into a big problem later. We decided to by bags of soil to empty into the beds as opposed to getting yards of soil delivered. We needed 64 cubic feet of soil total (4’ wide beds that are 2‘ tall), 32 cubic feet for each raised bed. Luckily Lowes was having a sale that weekend to kick off spring so it wasn’t as expensive as it could have been, because that is a lot of soil!

On soil patrol.

On soil patrol.

Mustang by the almost all planted veggie beds!

Mustang by the almost all planted veggie beds!

We are going to hand water our raised beds. I watered my tomatoes by hand last year and I feel comfortable I will be able to handle the watering schedule. I figure if you find something you love to do, why wouldn’t you want to do it every day. Plus I hear Zucchinis can happen out of nowhere so you should be diligent.

The final product!

The final product!

I said I had bigger goals this year with my vegetable gardening and I meant it! I’m hoping to share my trials and tribulations in veggie gardening with you all season. Since I had such success last year with growing tomatoes I’m doing more of those this year including – Roma, Grape, Celebrity and an Heirloom variety. I’ve also added Peppers to the mix – I hear they like the heat and it’s hot at my house so I’m attempting to grow Jalapeños, Banana and Red Peppers. I’ve also got a Zucchini plant and various herbs. It’s been about 2 weeks since we built and planted our raised beds and the recent rain has really helped my watering schedule and the plants seem to be happy and growing, so far so good. And I seriously could not be happier with my HighRiser Veggie beds they have completely transformed my yard!

Finally enjoying the sun after all the rain.  Can't you tell the veggies have already grown a lot!?

Finally enjoying the sun after all the rain. Can’t you tell the veggies have already grown a lot!?

Cloud Pruning

After graduating from grad school I completed a fellowship with the Garden Club of Virginia.  The fellowship involved documenting the gardens of Sabine Hall.  Sabine Hall is located in the Northern Neck region of Virginia between the Potomac and Rappahanock Rivers.  The structure is a historical colonial home built in 1737.  The gardens of Sabine Hall were constructed shortly afterward.  The grounds are a series of terraces that follow the contours of the landscape.

On the main terrace, just off to one side, lies an alle’e of English Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens), said to be part of the original planting plan.  The boxwood hedges have been allowed to grow in a free form style and now resemble large billowy clouds.  Walking along the path left an indelible image in my mind.  This was my first encounter with the calculated yet free form style that some call “Cloud Pruning”.

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Typical of most classical styles, cloud pruning has become popular again.  However, this time around most people do not want to wait decades for a boxwood hedge to grow large enough to be shaped into soft curves.  In today’s “get the look quick”, there is a trick.  Select different sizes of boxwood plants from the nursery and plant them close together.

One key item is to select the largest size boxwood available to you.  These large boxwoods will be the back bone of the new hedge and give the new planting a sense of age.  Along with the large boxwood, select medium and smaller size boxwoods.  Placing all three sizes together will create a sense of drama.  In addition, you begin to form the outline of the boxwood cloud.

The “cloud” will still take several growing seasons to look mature but you will be ahead of the game.  The goal is to have each individual boxwood grow into it’s neighbor so that it appears to be one plant.

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I recently found English Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens “Suffruticosa” in the following sizes –

5 gallon – 18” wide

7 gallon – 26” wide

15 gallon – 30” wide

Using these three sizes together in a calculated and balanced manner is a quick and easy way to get a “cloud”.

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The maintenance on a boxwood cloud is seasonal.  Several times a year, hand pruning should be done to maintain and delineate the shape.  Keep in mind, the boxwood cloud may always be a “work in progress”, typical of many plants in the garden.

 

Let’s talk drought tolerant plants.

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Planting landscapes with drought tolerant plant species is not a new idea. It is, however, a hot topic given the current rainfall totals in California. It’s also been a hot topic recently in our office, not only because of the current rainfall totals, but we’ve also been submitting plans for permits to a couple different cities and their planning guidelines now require that proposed plants in the landscape be comprised of at least 75% California native plants. This, I assume, is to promote the use of drought tolerant plants and to continue to implement the natural landscapes within the cities.

In our office we live by the Sunset Western Garden Book (a must have for any gardener) but also by the EBMUD resource Plants and Landscapes for Summer-Dry Climates of the San Francisco Bay Region. This book is a wonderful resource when planning a beautiful, drought tolerant or water conserving garden. You see it’s a common misconception that all California Native plants are drought tolerant. California has a very diverse climate with many different types of ecosystems. We are home to the Redwood forests and the desert – two very different systems. Many native plants can be found along streams and require a lot of water because that is where they naturally thrive. When planted away from a water source they would not tolerate a drought.

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Planting California native plants is a good idea, but another similar misconception is that all drought tolerant plants are California natives. Many plants listed in the EBMUD book come from other Mediterranean climates similar to California (summer-dry) and are drought tolerant. They add beauty, variety and interest to the landscape while acknowledging that in California drought is always a possibility. A drought tolerant landscape does not have to be boring and dry. It can be lush and colorful. We love using drought tolerant, Mediterranean plants in our planting plans and although they aren’t classified as California natives, they have naturalized (they reproduce and flourish without assistance from people) and create beautiful gardens.

Rules are rules though and with a mix of California native plants and other drought tolerant plants we will continue to make beautiful gardens that conserve water in these cities. Just remember although they are called drought tolerant plants, they aren’t actually drought tolerant until they establish a good root system. Once they are established, (after an average of one to two years) they will continue to thrive with rainfall and supplemental water from irrigation during the dry months.

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5 Reasons Succulents Don’t Suck

Being in the landscape profession I’m commonly asked about all things pertaining to your garden. People want plant advice, pest advice, pruning advice – you name it I’ve probably been asked about it, which I love, because that’s why I’m here. If I don’t have the answer, I want to find it because there really is so much to learn about our gardens, especially ones we are trying to create. One of my favorite conversations I’ve had about plants was with a neighbor of my good family friend. Somehow succulents came into conversation and she went off about her extreme dislike claiming, “of course succulents suck – it says it in their name SUCC-ulents!” HaHa. I can appreciate differing opinions, but because I have a love of succulents I’m here to tell you 5 reasons Succulents don’t suck!

 

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water occasionally

1. They are extremely drought tolerant. Now I say this with caution because around our office we all know they need occasional water, but we all admit they look better when watered regularly. Succulents require little watering because they retain water in their tissue, typically referred to as thick and fleshy. With the drought we are only beginning to deal with here in California, maintaining a garden with plants that can handle little water, also known as drought tolerant plants, will make your life a lot easier, reason one they don’t suck!

 

Echeverias

Echeverias

Echeverias

Echeverias

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Reason number two, if you live in California you can probably plant them in your garden. There are hardier varieties than others, I would love to have agave attenuata in my garden, but it needs more of a coastal influence with less frost threat – with the first frost at my house it would for sure die. This winter has been exceptionally cold, multiple days below freezing, so I did lose some succulents and I have been covering some for frost protection when I know the morning temps will dip close or below freezing, but with that being said I now know what to add more of in my garden – Echeverias! Upon further research I’ve learned a lot of echeverias are hardy to 15 – 25 degrees Fahrenheit! A win for my garden come spring when I’ll plant some more and may not have to worry about extra frost protection come winter!

 

My Green thumb in actions!

My Green thumb in action!

From one plant to many!

From one plant to many!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Reason number 3, they naturally make you feel like you have a green thumb. If all their needs are meet, occasional water, good drainage, and full to partial sun they naturally spread, or clump, and multiply. These “babies” can also be divided and spread to continue the massing in other areas. My friends and family have benefitted from my succulents, it’s easy to cut a few rosettes off and send them home with them to just stick right into their dirt. It’s fun to see them spread and grow, plus I feel like once you have success with one, you’re hooked because your green thumb has never felt so good.

A project in construction, with tucked in succulents

A project in construction, with tucked in succulents

My succulent wreath over a year old, could use some new plants!

My succulent wreath over a year old, could use some new plants!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. The number 4 reason succulents don’t suck is their shallow root system. Unlike other garden plants, the roots of succulents are extensive, but shallow. This allows them to be used in unusual circumstances. Including, planting them in pockets of drystack walls, or tight places. Also, using them for projects, such as living wreaths and walls, or accents tucked into your garden containers.

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5. And finally, reason number 5 Succulents don’t suck – they are interesting, unique, beautiful and colorful. They come in many unique shapes and sizes, and succulents don’t just come in green, there are many varieties of reds, purples, pinks, grays and even blues. Some are varieties are even fuzzy, which can add interest and texture to any garden. I hope these 5 reasons alone have encouraged you to try planting a few in your garden, especially if you’re someone who thought succulents suck, because I’m pretty sure you won’t be saying that any longer!

Ornamental Grasses

Today’s garden differs from gardens of the past.  This is partially due to the fact that in today’s garden so many varieties of plants are available to the designer.  One category that has risen in popularity is Ornamental Grasses.  The fact that ornamental grasses offer so much and ask for so little may be the reason. Ornamental grasses have a way of bringing motion, beauty and softness to garden beds and borders.  Ornamental grasses can play a supportive role to other plants or be the star of the garden and provide the focal point.

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There are many ways to use grasses in the garden.  Here are a few suggestions.

 

Grasses can be used in containers and planters.  Grasses mix well with annuals, perennials and succulents adding texture and movement to the arrangement.  Used alone, in a large container, grasses will create a dramatic effect.

 

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As a ground cover grasses provide neat little tufts.  Mixing low grasses, such as Pennisetum, Carex and Festuca, with natural looking “umbilifers’ such as Yarrow (Achillea Sp.), Chelsea Cow Parsley (Cenolophium denudatum) and Queen Anne’s Lace ‘Ravenswing’ (Anthriscus sylvestris ‘Ravenswing’) creates an interesting meadow effect.

 

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Use grasses as hedges and screens.  Tall grasses such as Calamagrostis ‘Karl Forester’ or Miscanthus sin. ‘Morning Light’ create wonderful seasonal screens that catch the light and move gracefully in the wind.

 

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Ornamental grasses can be companions to perennials.  Medium height grasses, such as Mexican Feather Grass (Stipa tenuissima) or Blue Oat Grass (Helictotricon sempervirens) mix well with perennials such as Euphorbias, Lavenders, Salvias and Sedums.  Grasses will give the perennial flower border greater depth and color.

 

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Now that we are officially in the midst of a drought, grasses are the perfect choice.  Weekly irrigation is sufficient for most established grasses.  Another benefit is that grasses don’t require fertilizer and look better left on their own.  In fact, pest and diseases rarely affect grasses.

What grasses do require to look their best is cutting back once a year in the late winter or early spring.  Cut the clumps back to just a few inches when new growth appears at the base.  You should also divide grasses when they outgrow their area or develop bare centers.

Finding grasses in the nursery was difficult to do 25 years ago.  Today most nurseries carry a wide variety of grasses.  The popularity of grasses has risen because they require low maintenance, have a long flowering season and are rarely bothered by disease and pest.  Today you can find a dramatic array of grasses for many landscape uses.