Posts from the ‘whimsy’ 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.









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.








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.









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.

Succulent Christmas Tree

Rainy Day Fun

Rainy Day Fun

The weather outside is frightful, but we’ve found a way to work with plants. A succulent Christmas tree is a fun indoor DIY project that keeps our hands and minds in the garden.

We started the Christmas tree by forming a cone out of chicken wire. We had big ideas of creating a template to make the cone, but ended up free-handing it. Chicken wire is very easy to manipulate by hand.

freehand cone

The next step is filling the cone with moistened sphagnum moss. Really try to pack it in.

sphagnum cone

We thought it would be fun to string the tree with battery-operated LED lights. So festive!



After you have the base, it’s time to start filling it with your succulents. We had a surplus of Sedum confusum, so decided to create a monochromatic tree – though there is great beauty in using a variety of succulents with lots of different colors. It helps to have a sharp, narrow tool – like a crochet hook or little screwdriver – to create space in the sphagnum moss to insert the succulent stem. Once you get the hang of things, it really goes quickly.

finished tree

After we finished the tree, we decided to decorate it!

This is a really fun DIY project for a rainy day. If you don’t have succulents in your garden, you can typically find groundcover succulent flats at your local nursery.


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.











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.









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










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.








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.

Even More Big Changes at Lazar Landscape


I’m elated to report that we’ve made it through the most disruptive elements of the Lazar Landscape Office Renovation Project! What started as an idea to reuse materials from our landscape installations to create a better work environment turned into a rainy day project for our Lazar Landscape crews that then catapulted us into a massive spring cleanup and office renovation.


Over the course of the past few months we’ve torn down walls, painted the ones we kept, torn out soiled carpets (turns out carpet and building landscapes don’t really go well together), reorganized and decluttered, all while working through one of our busiest winters and springs on record!


The Lazar Landscape Design Crew still has some fun projects in the works to transform our funky old warehouse of an office into an even more enjoyable place to work. It’s so funny that we spend our days and careers here at Lazar Landscape designing and building beautiful, useable outdoor spaces, and all the while we’ve been plodding along in a tired and rundown workspace. It is so refreshing to come to work in a bright, open space, and we feel the great energy flowing into our real work. We’ve been inspired to get inspired!



All of this is leading to the REAL big changes I’ve been alluding to in these posts. Tune in next time for news that we are very excited about!DSC09384

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”.


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.


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”.


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.


Big Changes at Lazar Landscape!


We were elated to receive the much needed rain here at Lazar Landscape. Not only does it put a minor dent in our drought conditions, and calm (at least my frazzled nerves) at the lack of rain, we took the opportunity to keep some of our crews working and start a long overdue office makeover! It was the start of some big changes at Lazar Landscape that we’re excited to share with you in the coming months.


Step one of the office makeover was tearing down a partition wall for an office that was no longer in use. The objective is to create an open seating area as well as improve circulation from our big roll up door. Our office is housed in a warehouse with no insulation. Our design team bakes all summer long in the upstairs loft, and we can’t wait the invite more air and light into our space and winter turns to spring and summer.

DSC09050It turns out that it’s very fun to do “DIY” projects when you have talented craftsmen with you to help you achieve your goals. I’ve been collecting interesting, unwanted wood from our construction projects when I can find it. My vision was to use it as wall cladding in our new seating area. All we needed was a couple of rainy days to get the party started. After months of collecting – and funny looks from my coworkers – it was finally time to start our office makeover. Our clients frequently comment on the speed with which Lazar Landscape crews complete their projects, and our little office project is a fine example. The demolition and cleanup was completed before lunch time. After the first day of rain we had the beginning of our vision completed!


Waiting patiently for a couch

While our main objective at Lazar Landscape will always be on designing and building beautiful gardens, we’re excited about creating a work environment that engenders our creativity. Still on the office makeover docket is a fresh coat of paint, new concrete stain on our ground level. More rain would really be We also have some fun ideas for a reclaimed redwood table for our conference room and a batu wood coffee table for our new seating area. Big changes at Lazar Landscape indeed! Now we have one more reason to pray for rain.

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!


water occasionally

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!














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.

5 green1 blue



3 gray2 purple



6 red4 fuzzy














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.








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.










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.










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.









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.











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.

Fall in Giardino Giusti

Fall has always been my favorite time of year. The changing weather, changing color and desire for soup, tea, & red wine – all things that bring a smile to my face and make me enjoy this time of year a little more. It also reminds me of my fall spent studying abroad in Italy. I was fortunate enough to get to travel the country (and many nearby countries) and it was called fall quarter 2005. One of my favorite trips was a weekend adventure to the city of Verona, Italy with a couple of girlfriends.

We rented an apartment there and had no plan, although we knew we had to visit Juliet’s (of Romeo and Juliet) house – that was definitely on our to-do list, along with exploring another amazing city in Italy. We asked the local man who let us into our apartment what we should do while we were there. He responded (not knowing that we were landscape architecture students) that we needed to visit Giardino Giusti, one of Italy’s most beautiful Renaissance gardens, which happened to just be up the street. We had no idea, but am I so glad we didn’t miss out on visiting this lush, green garden (I mean ultimately we were there to study Landscape Architecture).

Palazzo Giusti  Verona, Italy

Palazzo Giusti
Verona, Italy

Beyond the Garden Wall

Beyond the Garden Wall

Once we got to the garden, we realized we were familiar with it from our history of Landscape Architecture class and text book from a previous quarter.

Giardino Giusti was built in the 16th Century as part of Giusti Palazzo, or Palace. It is a perfect example of an Italian garden.

Cypress lined avenue

Cypress lined avenue

Complete with Cypresses lining the main avenue, formal areas of boxwoods in mazes, and complete with oversized marble statues.

Boxwood mazes

Boxwood mazes

Marble statues

Marble statues

The garden terrace up the hill, at the very top is the great “Maskeron,” an oversized mask sculpture that provides a terrace with great vistas to view the entire city.

The great maskeron

The great maskeron

Views of Verona Italy from the maskeron

Views of Verona Italy from the maskeron

It is a beautiful Italian garden not to be missed. While in Italy we went to many beautiful gardens for class, including Villa d’este, Villa Lante and the entire region of Tuscany, where we were lucky to call home for three months, but Giardino Giusti was definitely one of my favorite adventures during my Fall in Italy.

Fall color at Giardino Giusti in Verona, Italy

Fall color at Giardino Giusti in Verona, Italy