Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Many desert palms are ideal for San Diego

Only in San Diego can we actually be talking palm trees at Christmas time!

The palm tree is so iconic in this town that I thought it warranted its own discussion. There are quite a few that are very drought tolerant but can still give you a tropical look, especially when a few different varieties are used. Please note that while all of these can take heat and low water, some of them can not take the cold that many of our inland cities see in the winter. Please refer to my source, the fabulous Phil Bergman of Jungle Music Palms and Cycads for the complete article.

Here is just a "short list" of palms that are fairly readily available in San Diego, but there are many, many, more that will grow here and can be found at specialty growers like Jungle Music. Each Palm has a link to Phil's wonderful local photos- see if you can identify any of these from around town!

Chamaerops humilis, Mediterranean Fan Palm. This medium sized clumping palm is ideal as a focal point. It is fairly slow growing but can reach 25'. It works especially well in raised planters or as an eye-catcher along a driveway.

Phoenix reclinata, Senegal Date Palm. This is another clumping palm that gets much taller, about 40'. The clumps often lean gently outward, so it needs a large space. It works well as a single focal point in the front of a house or as a large focal point near a swimming pool.

Phoenix dactylifera, Date Palm. This is one of my personal favorites. It has a wonderful upright form with a wide sweeping fan on top- very graceful. If you are familiar with the Ikea/Costco mall in Mission Valley, the parking lot is lined with these palms.

Dypsis decaryi, Triangle Palm. This one I put in the category of just for fun. The trunk has a distinct three-sided triangle shape, creating a unique three feathered look to the

Phoenix canariensis, Canary Island Date Palm. This is the big daddy of palm trees. Many of my clients have called this the pineapple palm because the top is often trimmed into that shape. These are elegant and huge, perfect for an estate garden. They are street trees in some parts of Coronado near the hotel Del.

Butia capitata, Pindo Palm. My bias for plants in the green-blue color range is probably fairly obvious by now, and this palm is a wonderful example. It looks incredible with other plants in the same color range, such as Scenecio mandralascae (blue chalksticks, or blue iceplant) or Agaves. It is known for the downward curve of the fronds.

Brahea armata, Mexican Blue Palm. Here is the other stunning blue palm. (Note the Blue Chalksticks as a groundcover in the photo). This palm is slow growing, which makes it more expensive by the trunk foot (palms are typically sold by the number of feet of brown trunk they have) but this palm is intended to be short.

Arecastrum romanzoffianum, Queen Palm. Queen palms are not my favorite of the palm varieties, but they are inexpensive and quick growing, making them ideal for many residential uses.

Washingtonia robusta, Mexican Fan Palm. This is the palm that lines the streets in California and dangles in the foreground of photos of the Hollywood Sign. They act like beacons pointing you to the ocean in Pacific Beach and stand out in silhouette all over town. That said, this is another palm that is not my favorite. They are so well adjusted here that they can easily set seed in our wild canyon areas and choke off small drainage-ways. Consider a different palm if your yard borders a canyon or mesa open space.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Picking boulders 101

One idea that comes to mind for many people looking to save water in their landscape is to incorporate rocks and boulders. They can be a beautiful addition to your landscape if they are designed and installed artfully, but if they aren't done with a careful eye, they can seem out of place and very unnatural on the site.

If you have existing boulders on the site and you are considering adding more, make sure the new boulders are as close of a match as you can find so that they blend in. By far the best selection of boulders nearby is at Southwest Boulder and Stone in Fallbrook. For those of us coming from the city center, it is a long drive, but well worth it. They offer over 20 types/colors of boulders in a huge range of sizes (including quite large anchor boulders in the 4-5 ton range).

When choosing boulders I start by deciding what primary color I am looking for: browns, greys, tans, reds, creams, etc. Greys tend to have a mountain look, creams look very refined, browns work well with Tuscan or Mediterranean designs, reds look good in a desert landscape.

Next I look at the weathering of the stones. Rounded stones with no sharp edges look more like they have been eroded by a river so they work well near a water feature. The more angular edged rocks look like they belong in a desert dry wash. Look carefully for quarry markings (like chisel tracks or white scuffs) that give the boulder away as unnatural. Some boulders have beautiful quartz veins or metamorphic swirls and patterns that I find fascinating.

Some boulders are named Moss Rock. These have natural mosses and lichens growing on them. They are more expensive because they can not be fresh from the quarry. They make excellent water features, though, because of the woodsy look of the lichens so they may be worth the cost on the right project, especially if you want an instantly aged look.

When installing boulders, it is important to try to make them look as natural as possible in the landscape. If you have existing boulders on your property (usually found in areas like Mt. Helix, Poway, or Crest), look carefully at how they lie and try to mimic them. No boulder should ever be laid directly on the surface of the soil. In nature, most of the boulder is typically buried. Since the more boulder you bury, the more you have to buy, think about burying about 1/3 of the boulder. Try to hide any chips or broken sides of the boulder underground so that only the most weathered parts of the rock show above ground.

Boulders make great seats, and also good "diving boards" into a pool. Two well matched boulders make a great informal entryway. They are lovely at the edge of a water feature, but be careful to avoid the very unnatural "pearl necklace" look where the pool is completely surrounded by same-sized rocks.

If you want to take it to the next level, there are a few designers in the world who have made an art out of designing with stone. This photo (left) is a completely man-made stream designed by David Duensing using Moss Rock. It is so astoundingly natural that it makes his work look effortless, but it is done with an artist's eye and vast knowledge of geology and erosion. Also, make sure to take a look at the work of Anthony Archer Wills. It is no less than breathtaking.

Want boulders in a garden of your own? Go to our website www.sageoutdoordesigns.com and fill in the contact us form.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Christmas comes to San Diego County

Winter in San Diego!

It snowed this weekend in Julian and I snapped this quick photo of pyracantha dusted with snow in front of my favorite shop in Julian: the American Gardener.

They have two spots in our little mountain town: their garden shop on main street sells incredible natural scented potpourri and wreaths made from garden-finds like oak leaves and rose hips; their antique shop, Oakwood Creek, is filled with wonderful finds like mercury glass ornaments and antique apothecary jars.

Quail botanical garden changes their name

Quail botanical gardens has recently changed its name to San Diego Botanical Garden. Although it will always be Quail to me, I like the change. I hope it will give them a well-earned boost in attendance. Want to learn more about their reasoning behind the name change? They explain here.

To celebrate the season, they are lighting up the garden at night with more than a hundred thousand fairy lights. There will be carol singers, a Pointesettia Garden, and hot apple Cider. Add it to your list of things to do to get in the Christmas spirit. Here is their information:

Garden of Lights
December 10 – 23, 26-30
5:00 pm - 9:00 pm

After the sun goes down, the Garden is transformed into a dazzling winter wonderland with over 100,000 sparkling lights illuminating the Garden for a magical holiday experience. Many of these lights are LED, which are much brighter than regular lights. Adding to the sparkle is the “Poinsettia Garden,” festively decorated with many varieties of poinsettias. Numerous activities include horse-drawn-wagon rides, holiday crafts, marshmallow roasting, visits with Santa, live music, and refreshments. Special Holiday Tales and Tunes for children ages two to six will be offered several nights in December.

Admission: Members, Seniors, Military & Students $8; non-members $12. Children 3–12 $4.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Excellent drought tolerant landscape design

This front yard design was done by Los Angeles based Landscape Architect Rob Steiner, and I like it so much I wanted to show it off as this week's home highlight. It is full of ideas you can apply to your own front yard remodel. Here are just a few:

1) Concrete cutting. Rob Steiner is known for using the existing driveway (patio, etc) but cutting the concrete to remove sections and create artistic patterns for a very contemporary effect.

2) Pathways don't always have to be solid. Rob used square pavers in a very ergonomic pattern to connect the driveway to the front door

3) Interesting fencing: Rob used blue colored lumocite to create a fascinating but simple fence. A low fence like this defines the front yard and contrasts nicely with the gently moving Mexican Feather Grass. Lumocite is semi-transparent, so the effect is somewhat like a Japanese Shoji screen.

4) Keep the plantings simple: the more simple the better for a more designer look. Rob used a row of Westringia against the house, a Purple Leaf Plum, Stipa tenuissima, and Miscanthus. The colors of the plant material work with the colors of the house beautifully.

Want to see more of Rob's work? Check out his website. Want something like this for your own garden in San Diego? Check out our website. We'd love to help!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Southern California can do fall color after all

In San Diego, I often meet ex-East Coasters who miss their wonderful fall color and claim that San Diego has none. I would like to change to the record to say that it isn't that we can't plant fall color trees, it is that we don't. Many of my clients chose not to plant deciduous trees, opting instead for the consistency of an evergreen.
What is lost is the gorgeous colorful leaf display in the fall. Here are a few trees that grow well in Southern California, and have a nice fall display.

Starting at the top right:
- Acer fremanii 'Autumn Blaze' otherwise known as silver maple, has a gorgeous red color in the fall. This is a tree that gets very large, so make sure there is room in your garden.
- Pistacia chinensis or the Chinese Pistache, is another great display of red leaves, although it starts off with more of the oranges and yellows and changes over the course of the season. This is a tough tree, so it is good for high traffic areas like parking lots. It has a wide, spreading shape.
- Some of our most reliable fall color comes from our Liquidambars. The varieties come in different shades of fall color from yellow to burgandy, so be sure to check which one you are buying.
- Ginkgo biloba turns a wonderful canary yellow before losing its leaves. Just a warning here though: this tree comes as a male tree or female tree. The female tree produces very stinky seeds and should be avoided!

- Lagerstroemia, or Crape Myrtle, is quite variable but gives excellent color in cold years. Plus, it has a gorgeous summer flower display. Its small size makes it idea for suburban gardens and as a patio tree.
- My personal favorite for fall color is the Chinese Tallow Tree, Sapium seberiferum. It has delicate heart shaped leaves similar to a poplar and turns varying shades from gold to orange to red, often all at the same time. This year has been an excellent year for Tallow Tree color. They are the street tree in Little Italy so stroll by soon and take a look. Or take a look at my favorite specimen on 25th street near B in Golden Hill.

Want to add fall color to your San Diego garden? Go to our web page at www.sageoutdoordesigns.com and click on the contact us link.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Great LA Times article on how to kill your lawn

I always like to post a good "How to Kill Your Lawn" article when I find it. This is from the LA Times, from September 2008. The full text of the article is printed here (my post is abridged).

By Joe Robinson, Special to The Times|September 06, 2008

YOU'D THINK it would be easy to murder a lawn, since many of us have had plenty of success without even trying. But finishing off that green sponge takes a smart strategy, or it may come back to haunt you.

Removing lawn seems basic enough: Dig it up and haul it away. But it's best to subordinate reflex and forgo brute hacking, experts say. "Don't dig up your lawn if you have Bermuda," advises Barbara Eisenstein, horticulture outreach coordinator for the Native Plant Garden Hotline, a collaboration between the Metropolitan Water District and Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden. "Don't rototill. All you're doing that way is planting the grass, because it grows from the stems."

Gerischer says people often make the mistake of hiring a crew that just skims off the top of the lawn, leaving the root system. You're left with the LAWN That Will Not Die. "It can be hard to kill lawn when you don't do it right," he says.

That means bumping off the grass before you dig. Claremont resident Andrea Gutierrez, online marketing director for flower grower Monrovia, stopped watering her front lawn, and after a month it browned out. "We were sure the neighbors were freaking out," she says. She and her husband then plowed the turf, attacking it with a rented mini-Bobcat excavator, counter to the advice of experts, who recommend disturbing the soil as little as possible to avoid activating weeds. The couple did wind up with residual weeds, but the result is a garden of lavender, blueberries, fig trees and blackberries.

The excavation approach is just one way to go grassless. Other options:

* Layering. This approach is increasingly popular among those who want to avoid chemicals, but it takes time. Cover the turf with six or more layers of cardboard or newspaper. On top of that, add 4 to 6 inches of organic mulch -- chopped bark, leaves -- and water. The layers prevent any light in or growth up. Grass dies in two months. Then you can dig right through the mulch and newspaper and plant in the soil.

* Spraying. Many gardeners prefer not to use herbicides, but Tom Smith, a turf specialist with the Institute of Agricultural Technology at Michigan State University, says an agent such as Roundup is one way to go, particularly if you're going to replace the grass with something else. The spray is "absorbed by the plant and root system but doesn't have a soil residual," he says. Spray it once or twice, and in seven to 10 days the fescue has moved onto the big golf course in the sky. "It's the simplest solution," says Catie Lee, who runs CRL Landscape Design in Encino. She says that almost all of her clients are trying to lower water consumption and are looking to replace some of their lawn.

Want to take out your lawn and replace it with a gorgeous drought tolerant garden? We can help! Go to www.sageoutdoordesigns.com and click on the contact us link.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Solar Path Light

Currently, most solar garden lights are gawky and awkward, shaped like their predecessors but with a small photovoltaic glued on top. Add to that the fact that they cast a dim glow for a few hours after sunset (at best), and I find myself talking clients into a hard-wired low voltage outdoor lighting system instead. So when I came across this prototype for a solar garden light, I was excited that a designer was finally heading in a new direction.

These fixtures, by designer Damian O'Sullivan, were displayed in the New York MoMA until May 2008. (I came across them on the Sietch Blog). He calls them the Solar Lampion. His exhibition focused on design's reaction to changes in technology and science. Hopefully, this is one case where art will inspire a change in product design and put an end to those gawky awkward lights we have all gotten too used to seeing.

Want to add night lighting to your garden? Ask us how! Please go to www.sageoutdoordesigns.com and fill out the contact us page.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Aqua Box for easy small fountains

I just learned about this company, and I wanted to pass the information along. I think a small fountain feature still has a place in a waterwise garden, as a small oasis that draws wildlife and provides wonderful dancing sound and movement. Using this company's product, making your own small fountain just got easier. Aqua Box is an underground ricirculating system: just add the feature itself and some gravel or pebble to hide the system, plug it in, and you are ready to go.

A few places I like to go searching for features: Planter Paradise on Chase Street in El Cajon for amazing deals on pottery, Rolling Greens in Los Angeles for more designer pottery, and Stone Forest for beautiful carved stone bowls, pillars and basins.

Want your own small fountain feature? We'd love to help! Go to www.sageoutdoordesigns.com and fill in the contact us form.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Style trend: Junipers?

Lately I have been noticing that in the world of popular drought tolerant plants, there is one genus that teeters on the edge of popularity but hasn't quite made it back into style yet. In the debate, I am on the side pushing to bring back the juniper.

Junipers have a reputation: dated. They remind us of gardens that have been neglected since the 1960's. Hollywood Twisted Junipers, especially popular in the 60's, grow very large in their old age, and are by far the plant I remove from gardens the most often.

I think that they are about to see a huge rise in popularity and here is why: They are drought tolerant and they are green. Really green. Green-green in a way that most drought tolerant plants are not.

A few other reasons to recommend them:
They are so easy to grow. In fact, this is why I think they have such a bad reputation. They are still here from the 60's! While many garden plants have long since kicked the bucket, these just keep on growing.
They come in a huge variety of sizes, shapes, and colors. They do not all have to be the huge shrubs we remember. Plenty are only 12"-18" tall, and many others are compact groundcovers.

So here is to rooting for the junipers! The one shown above is Juniperus scandia (18 tall). Below is Juniperus 'Old Gold' (3'), Juniperus 'Blue Chip' (8"), Juniperus 'Armstrongii' (40"), and Juniperus 'Arcadia (24").

Giveaway winner!

The winner of our first ever giveaway is Angela! Congratulations!

Angela- You don't have to do anything, a rep from All Modern will contact you by email.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Our first ever giveaway!

With help from the folks at All Modern, we are hosting our first ever Kate Presents Giveaway! All Modern has a great selection of contemporary furniture and accessories. If you find it a little tough to navigate straight to their modern outdoor section, try clicking here and it will take you straight there. I love that the prices are shown clearly on each piece, so you don't have to wait days for a sales rep to get back to you.

Our giveaway item is this fabulous stainless steel watering can. I love how its clean lines blur the barrier between beauty and functionality. Want it for your very own? Here is what you do:
To Enter This Giveaway, leave a comment on this post

2. Only one entry per person, please

3. Only Continental U.S. Residents are eligible to enter

4. A winner will be randomly chosen on 10-23-09, using www.random.org and will be announced on the blog on 10-26-09.

Thats' it! The more entries the better so please feel free to tell all your friends to try for it as well!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Follow-up on Buddleia's

Thanks to Jeremy for his comment on my last buddleia post. This Buddleia is absolutely amazing- when can we get it here?!

This is Buddleia 'Bicolor', a new two-toned flower in lavender and orange. Does anyone know where to get it locally? Here is where he found it, a British website. If we have any nursery professionals on here, please leave a comment and I'll post it, or if anyone has seen it at a southern California nursery, please do the same.

Got a xeriscape plant you think we should all know about? Post a comment and I'll highlight the plant.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Seeking: designer to share studio space

I have a goregous new studio space on 25th Street in Golden Hill in the 830MXD building. I am looking to share my 350 sq.ft. space with another designer. The rent will be $375 a month, furnished with a "L" shaped desk suitable for a workstation or drafting. The office has it's own bathroom and kitchenette and a small balcony. It is available Dec 1.

If you don't know the building, 830MXD is the brainchild of architects Mike Burnett and Craig Abinella. The mixed use building houses an architecture firm (theirs), a cafe and wine bar called Counterpoint (to open this month), an artist, a graphic designer, a non-profit, live-work spaces and a few apartments. It has recently received quite a bit of press as a key step in the redevelopment of the Golden Hill area.

Please give me a call at 619-618-6410 if you think you might be interested in the space!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Affordable modern fountain

From time to time, I like to highlight a product or reseller that I stumble across. In a recent search for an attractive small fountain for a mid-century modern project, I came across One Stop Modern. They have a reasonable selection of modern fountains, planter pots, and other small finds. Here is a link to their fountain collection.

All of their fountains have clean lines and are simple recirculating bubblers- just add water and a power source.

Want to add a fountain to your San Diego landscape design? Please go to www.sageoutdoordesigns.com and fill in the contact us form. Sage Outdoor Designs is a San Diego landscape design firm. Our Principal, Kate Wiseman, has been a San Diego landscape designer for the past ten years- ask how she can help transform your garden into the one you always wanted.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Brighten up your yard!

Whoever said plants had to be green? Colored foliage adds interest to your garden all year round, even when there are no flowers in sight. This group adds a real pop with striking chartreuse, yellow, and pink foliage. Use them in a spot where you want something very eye-catching.

The plants here are: Osmanthus 'Goshiki', Heuchera 'Key Lime Pie', Lysimanchia 'Goldilocks', Coprosma 'Evening Glow', Coleonema 'Sunset Gold' (also called 'California Gold'), Abutilon 'Gold Dust', Agapantha 'Summer Gold', and Abelia 'Kaleidoscope'.

Want your own bright and bold San Diego landscape design? Please go to www.sageoutdoordesigns.com and fill in the contact us form. Sage Outdoor Designs is a San Diego landscape design firm. Our Principal, Kate Wiseman, has been a San Diego landscape designer for the past ten years- ask how she can help transform your garden into the one you always wanted.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

What's blooming now?

In San Diego we are currently right on the middle of our first Santa Ana for the year. My garden is looking a little dried out and weepy, but still full of blooms. One of the best blooms right now is from the Butterfly Bushes: Buddleja. Here are a few locally available varieties of Buddleja davidii: Buddleja 'Pink Delight', Buddleja 'Royal Red', Buddleja 'Navajo Blue', Buddleja 'Black Knight', and Buddleja 'White Profusion'. The flowers have a honey sweet smell that butterflies (and people) love.

Buddlejas grow very quickly, so keep your eye on them and trim them back severly in the winter. I pinch mine to keep them in line through-out the year as well. Otherwise, they will be 12 feet tall and gangly, much too large for my small garden.

Want your own amazing San Diego landscape design? Please go to www.sageoutdoordesigns.com and fill in the contact us form. Sage Outdoor Designs is a San Diego landscape design firm. Our Principal, Kate Wiseman, has been a San Diego landscape designer for the past ten years- ask how she can help transform your garden into the one you always wanted.

Monday, September 21, 2009

I want to remove my lawn, now what?

You want to take out your lawn to save water, but when you sit back and look at your front yard, you can't even begin to think of what could go in to replace it. Now what? You know you certainly don't want gravel, like they did in the 70's....

Here are a few ideas for how to think of a lawnless yard design:

A good place to start is with foundation plantings. They can be expanded in width and include ground covers, xeriscape plantings, perennial flower beds, and tiered shrub plantings. Layering gives a design a lot of depth, but it also has the side benefit of taking up a lot of space. Start with a shrub that is 3' tall and wide. In front of that, place a smaller shrub, say 2' tall and wide. In front of that try some perennials that are 1' tall and 2' wide. In front of that, a low groundcover could easily take up 2'. This simple planting scheme just took up almost 10' of width!

It doesn't tend to look very nice if you just switch lawn for groundcover, so these are a great option if you think of them as part of a graden design, not the whole design!

These are plants which spread across the ground but do not grow tall, so no cutting is required. Areas planted in groundcover need little to no maintenance.
- many varieties are available, including flowering groundcovers which offer color and add emphasis to the seasons.
- during the first year, new plantings of groundcover will require weeding and mulching, but once established, little care is needed.
- groundcovers usually need an edge barrier to contain them.
- not as durable as grass for high traffic areas.

The most common method for reducing lawn size is to replace the turf with beds of perennial shrubs, often bordered with flowers.
- give seasonal color and texture to the landscape.
have few serious insect or disease problems.
- tolerate difficult growing conditions better than most ornamentals.
- many grow rapidly and may require some yearly pruning. Pruning is done just after the shrub flowers, regardless of the time of year.

Patios and Pathways:
Patios and pathways are a wonderful way to use space in a garden. Just by adding a 4' wide path to the scheme we discussed above and repeating the scheme on the far side will take up almost 25' of width from your garden. This is as much space as many urban and suburban homes have between the street and the house!

Want your own amazing San Diego landscape design? Please go to www.sageoutdoordesigns.com and fill in the contact us form. Sage Outdoor Designs is a San Diego landscape design firm. Our Principal, Kate Wiseman, has been a San Diego landscape designer for the past ten years- ask how she can help transform your garden into the one you always wanted.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

San Diego Bougainvilleas

After our last few weeks of hot weather, many San Diego garden plants are wilted and not looking their best. The absolute exception to that is our Bougainvilleas. They thrive in the heat and are looking great! We have so many gorgeous bougainvilleas here that I thought I would show of few that are easy to get and do well. Shown above from left to right:

Bougainvillea California Gold, Bougainvillea Sundown, Bougainvillea San Diego Red
Bougainvillea Royal Purple, Bougainvillea Orange King, Bougainvillea Miami Pink
Bougainvillea La Jolla, Bougainvillea James Walker, Bougainvillea Afterglow
Bougainvillea Jamaica White, Bougainvillea Barbara Karst

Bougainvilleas have root systems that get damaged very easily when planted. To avoid this, follow the advice from Sunshine Gardens Nursery here. For best flowering, stress the bougainvillea a little by keeping the soil just on the dry side.

Want your own amazing San Diego landscape design? Please go to www.sageoutdoordesigns.com and fill in the contact us form. Sage Outdoor Designs is a San Diego landscape design firm. Our Principal, Kate Wiseman, has been a San Diego landscape designer for the past ten years- ask how she can help transform your garden into the one you always wanted.