Local water “bad girl” makes good

berms surround meadow of Festuca idahoensis

berms surround meadow of Festuca idahoensis

Mix of Phormium 'firebird' and Anigozanthos 'Big Red'

Mix of Phormium 'firebird' and Anigozanthos 'Big Red'

This last summer I helped another lucky Santa Monica resident take advantage of Santa Monica’s Sustainable Landscape Grant program. Her front yard consisted of a pine tree, an olive tree, a few shrubs and a whole lot of grass. Really it was the perfect project because she was excited to remove all of the grass and really loved the structural look of succulents. Removing the grass was especially important because she had been cited for watering overspray and her water bills were high. Because her house is very close to Santa Monica College she needed a design solution that would help block a lot of the trash that would blow into her yard. To this end, we came up with the idea of decomposed granite berms to showcase the lovely Agave medio picta ‘Alba’, Agave attenuata, Euphorbia tirucalli and various other smaller succulents. The berms allow the homeowner a sense of enclosure without really blocking her off from the world. In additon, we created a meadow effect using Festuca idahoensis ‘Siskiyou Blue’. This particular variety is a little tougher to find than the regular Festuca glauca (Blue Fescue Grass) but well worth it because it grows larger and has more movement and interest. turkey Now this local water “bad girl” is not only the proud owner of a sustainable garden she is paying drastically less on water each month.  An important figure to remember is a 1,000 square foot lawn will require about 600 gallons/week.  Since the old lawn and adjacent plantings were about 1,500 square feet, this means about 900 gallons a week was required to keep it alive.  The new garden will take about a third of the water at the outset and less as the garden becomes established.  Now that’s exciting!

Invite the Amazing

   "hey there blue eyes"

My husband sent me a copy of this image not because he was trying to freak me out but because he knows that I appreciate insects and I invite them into my garden. I still get a little jumpy when faced with some of the larger bugs like the creepy Orb Spiders I know are harmless. They particularly love to build webs on our front porch so that when the kids are in a rush out the door in the mornings they come face to face with them. They also love to build just beyond my kitchen window so I can admire their architectural web wonders while I do the dishes. Despite the frequent frights I experience from the spiders and other bugs I encounter, I relish them because I know they are a sign of a healthy garden eco-system. And because I’m a really lazy gardener I absolutely count on this diversity to keep all of my insect populations in check. Spraying your garden as a means for insect control will in the short term address the “problem” insects but unfortunately it will also harm the beneficial insects that are out there fighting the good fight for you every day. Isn’t it better to just invite the beneficial insects to your garden? The easiest way to do this is by having a diversity of plants and plenty of California Natives. Also mulching is another way to create environments for beneficial insects. Another thing I’m trying this year is mixing in some of my edibles with my ornamental plants. I’m trying to see if this will lessen the “all you can eat buffet” of my intensive veggie garden where the aphids attack my broccoli and cauliflower and the snails eradicate my seedling of all types. seo website analysis . Another important thing to remember is that happy plants are far less susceptible to attack. When a plant is stressed it actually emits a chemical that says “come and get me.” So if you have a plant that is routinely ravaged by insects you need to figure if that plants is actually in the right place (too much sun or water? or too little?). Perhaps it’s just a very susceptible variety. I have roses that struggle each year with rust and aphids and I have some that are never bothered by either.

The following is a quick list of things to keep in mind when inviting beneficial insects:
* Low growing plants as cover for ground beetles (thyme, rosemary, or mint)
* Shady, protected areas for laying eggs
* Tiny flowers for tiny wasps, like plants from the Umbelliferae family: fennel, angelica, coriander, dill, Queen Anne’s Lace, clovers, yarrow, and rue
* Composite flowers (daisy and chamomile) and mints (spearmint, peppermint, or catnip) to attract predatory wasps, hover flies, and robber flies

The above list was provided by the following article which has lots of good info:
http://gardening.about.com/od/naturalorganiccontrol/a/Companion.htm

Another great resource is http://www.grinningplanet.com/2005/04-26/beneficial-insect-natural-pest-control-article.htm
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My Rose Pruning Experiment

Joseph's Coat Climbing Roses

Joseph’s Coat Climbing Roses

For years I’ve been suspicious that I could get more out of my already great climbing roses.  They are the “Joseph’s Coat” climbers and they reward us every summer with two big waves of blooms.  The roses start out a truly stunning coral/red then change to more of an orange and then to a yellow, thus the name “Joseph’s Coat”.  I was quite comfortable pruning my other roses but the climbers intimidated me.  Finally, this February I was feeling particularly empowered and did a test of sorts.  I did the pruning of the roses on the left as instructed in Fine Gardening’s Guide to Pruning Climbing Roses and let my gardener do his thing on the right.  Soon as the warm weather hit I noticed a much thicker, tighter growth on the roses I pruned.  My pruning had encouraged more blooms exactly at the height I wanted (just above my other plants in that bed).  Yippee!  When I did the pruning I had paid special attention to securing the remaining canes on the wall either horizontal or sometimes even bending down.  As mentioned in the guide, this suppresses the hormones that would normally allow the uppermost bud to become dominant, instead they all bloom.  Plants are so cool.

Is Puttering the Answer?

the little Euphorbia tirucalli now sits protected, hopefully its bad luck days are over

the little Euphorbia tirucalli now sits protected, hopefully its bad luck days are over

The answer to what you might ask. Well, yesterday was Saturday and I felt out of sorts. Not so much sick but more worn out. Everywhere I looked seemed to call out for my focus and attention and I felt I had really given it my all by the end of Friday. My backyard was calling my name too – there were things that I had both put off and acknowledged for weeks if not months. There was the citrus in a broken pot – the result of an over zealous water balloon fight. There was an Euphorbia tirucalli that must be a magnet for errant lacrosse balls because it’s always knock out of it’s (now broken) pot. And then there were those poor sweet pea seedlings that were grown as part of a science fair project just languishing without a place to anchor themselves.

I plowed straight ahead methodically moving from one area to another not really thinking what needed to be done but rather what I was doing which was enjoying a gorgeous day in the garden with my own little chatterbox to accompany me (that would be my daughter). Halfway into my tasks a nice calm set in and I realized I can’t approach my garden “tasks” with the same attitude I do with some of the household ones. First of all they aren’t things to just tick off and “get ‘er done” they are moments to savor and they are opportunities to take note of where my garden is heading and what it’s telling me. Of course what my garden had to say is “you better hurry up and get those vegetables in” and “I thought you wanted Dahlia’s this year, get a move on sister.” Okay, so maybe I haven’t reached a zen-like state yet in my garden but I did feel a huge calm when I looked out my window this morning and saw those sweet peas in a new home at last.

Shabby Chic Garden? You bet.

catching salamanders in the creek

I had the wonderful pleasure of visiting an old school buddy in February (we met in first grade).  Those are her kids and mine catching salamanders out in the creek that runs in front of her house.  She and her husband and their combined brood live in the foothills in an area called Tollhouse.

Being a country girl, I’ve always had a soft spot for the foothills.  My mom and dad used to take me up to the foothills to pick wild watercress.  I loved hoping from one rock to the other across the river. It was rainy that weekend and everything was green and moss covered.

We didn’t get to explore much because of the downpours but what I did see was a fun little garden filled with Tracy’s flea market finds and other treasures.  It reminded me that we can all use a little more light-heartedness when we adorn our outdoor spaces.

moss covered everything

moss covered everything

I love it when people put found objects or little treasures of some type in their garden – why not?  We accessorize inside our home with photos and objects d’art.  Someone who is a master of this is Thomas Hobbs, the amazing landscape designer from Vancouver Washington.  His book The Jewel Box Garden (listed in The Books I Love) is all about creating drama in small spaces with not only plants but with objects of all kinds.

rusty iron, chickens and a pig statue used for great effect

rusty iron, chickens and a pig statue used for great effect

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