Monday, January 25, 2010

It's all in the details

Just a quick photo for today: a wonderful trellis I came across in my ramblings around South Park. There are so many prefab trellis panels out there, but you don't see custom ones very often. This one works wonderfully with its Craftsman home. It looks like a pattern inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright stained glass.

Another thing I like about it: none of the wood used here is expensive or difficult to assemble so it is a great example of how style can trump expense if style is used thoughtfully.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Rushes and Reeds

Ornamental grasses have seen a real rise in popularity recently as a wonderful way to soften a drought tolerant landscape. Less popular, but equally beautiful, are reeds and rushes. They do like a little more water, but with an efficient irrigation system (like a drip system) they are perfectly suitable in your drought tolerant landscape.

I am especially fond of using them in modern designs. Planted in mass, they are wonderful as a way to soften "edgy" architecture. Some of them have the blue/bluegreen coloration I am so fond of, making them a great pairing for other bluegreen plants like Festuca 'Elijah Blue'. Or try the strong contrast with rusty orange by pairing them with Carex testacea.

The reeds I have here (starting at the top right) are Juncus patens 'Elk Blue', Juncus 'Quartz Creek', Chondropetalum tectorum, and Cyperus isocladus. The orange-colored grass below is Carex testacea.

An interesting espalier

An espalier is a tree or shrub pruned to grow in a flat, two-dimensional plane. Typically they are used against walls or fences. Historically, espaliers were often fruit trees, especially apples, because their shape allows the remaining leaves to photosynthesize efficiently, ripening fruit quickly. They are ideal for small gardens and courtyards.

I think this is a particularly San Diegan espalier: an Opuntia (prickly pear cactus) I spotted in South Park. I'm not sure it would have occurred to me, but I like it! After all, they may be a lot of work but prickly pear is edible, either as the fruits, or as nopales.

Here is a more standard espalier of an apple tree:

Other good options for an espalier: figs, lemons, limes, satsumas, plums, and peaches. If you have seen another interesting espalier, let us know!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Garden spotlight: Carmel Valley

This design in Carmel Valley does such a wonderful job of playing with color and texture that I thought it warranted a Project Spotlight. (Sadly, I can't identify the designer because I don't know who did it, but if anyone does, please let me know! I would love to credit them). A few things I especially like about this landscape:

- The color! Drought tolerant landscaping can't be accused of being too grey when there are landscapes like this around. Reds, greens, blues, and all sorts of variegation- this is full of color!
- I like the course textures of the plant material with the Spanish Colonial architecture. The overall effect is both artistic and rustic.
- I like the match of the yellow and green variegated Aeonium with the yellow and green variegated flax.
- I like the pairing of Agonis flexulosa 'Afterdark' with its weeping burgundy foliage and the bolder red of the flax in front of it. Anyone care to identify the flax? Maybe Phormium 'Amazing Red'?
- This garden makes great use of specimen succulents. These larger succulents can be hard to find. I like to check Rancho Soledad nursery in Rancho Santa Fe- not only do they have wonderful large specimens to chose from, but they also take you around their very large nursery in a golf cart, which I always find fun.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Landscaping goes vertical

Vertical Gardens, Living Walls, or Green Walls are all used to describe a fascinating facade of plants applied in the vertical. Many give credit for inventing the art form to French designer Patrick Blanc, but it has proliferated all over the world, especially in urban areas.

Methods for creating vertical gardens vary quite a bit, from full planter pot wall systems, to a smaller scale technique of miniature bag-like plant pockets.

For a dry climate garden, a living wall can be created out of small scale succulents or grasses. A well designed vertical garden can recirculate the water, making it a water efficient way to have a very lush (and very narrow) space. Here are a few examples of living walls from around the world for inspiration:

(Top three examples) Patrick Blanc

Fourth example:
Vertical Gardens, Bangkok, Thailand

Fifth example: local designer Amelia Lima