Design | Satori Garden Design - Part 3
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A Future Garden for Frankin? Your Vote Can Help!

The Franklin Reading and Learning LibraryI’ve been a parent at Franklin Elementary in Santa Monica so long I can barely remember life before it. Since I’m not planning on any more kids, I can safely say I’ll be there for three more years with my youngest. This is meaningful because I’d like to accomplish something I’ve been wanting to do for so long for the school…..make a beautiful garden the kids can BE IN. Despite the plantings I’ve done around campus, I’ve yet to give the kids a place to sit in and be surrounded by edible, California natives, beneficial plants, etc…. Things they can tend to, study, brush past and observe.
Well, as life often works, as soon as I put that dream on the way back burner I heard about the Treepeople Goodmaker Challenge to green up LA. I felt like a little door (or rather a garden gate) had been opened to the possibility of putting the garden in at last. The winner of the challenge gets cash, materials and volunteers to realize their green space. I’m hoping your vote can get me and the kids all the way through that little garden gate and into a garden of our own….please click here to VOTE

It’s freakin’ fecund!

broken concret path leads to fire bown and fountainAloes and Artemesia in the foreground, outdoor kitchen in the distanceMy client and friend actually blurted “it’s freakin’ fecund!” when I was at her house taking photos of her garden.  I think her description is very spot on given the fact that when these photos were taken the garden was in for just 5 months!  I used mainly 1 gallon plants or flats with a sprinkling of 5 gallon plants.  It’s astonishing how happy her plants are and how quickly they’ve taken hold.  In fact, I offered her a few vegetable plants to stick in the ground right after I planted mine.  Wouldn’t you know it….hers are twice the size of mine and insect free.  I think this is due to the fact that there’s a good amount of diversity in this garden and we added a really nice organic soil conditioner called Tri-C Humate Plus.  The garden is largely native and all the new plantings are low water (except the vegetables which actually don’t get any supplemental water).  This is another Santa Monica Sustainable Landscape Grant garden of mine so this client received $5,000 towards the installation.  Not bad considering this was just a lawn and basketball court.  I’m really proud of this garden for many reasons.  First of all, it’s a total transformation of a backyard that was definitely not picturesque, inviting or sustainable.  This backyard will support some native insects and birds, offer gorgeous views from inside the house and lure the homeowners out to enjoy the beauty.  It’s also a low maintenance garden since the natives only need occasional attention usually in the form of pruning back.  In addition to the plantings we removed an old patio and replaced it with a beautiful permeable patio of Belgard pavers.  We also added an outdoor kitchen and a metal fire bowl by John T. Unger.

A Pocketful of Peace and Tranquility

greening up a block wall with woolys

greening up a block wall with woolys

This summer I had the pleasure of designing another sustainable landscape grant garden in Santa Monica.  This was a particularly fun project for many reasons.  First of all my client was fun and really new what she wanted and finally I was able to design with a lot of succulents.  The garden turned out great and I’ll be posting photos of it soon.  Here on the left you can see a solution we came up with for her tiny side yard.  We removed old concrete, installed decomposed granite and some older pavers she had, installed a cool soothing over-flow fountain and a wall of wooly pockets.  All of those spider plants were already hanging out in the garden so we just used them to dress up the wall.  I can now say that I’m sold on wooly pockets – they are so well made and easy to use.  The plants love being in them because they provide such a nice environment. The last will get in the project requires various types of good and reward your story itself is what an Katharine’s oath come. 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They Call Me Mellow Yellow

lighten up with variegated foliage

lighten up with variegated foliage

I love using variegated foliage to lighten up shady areas or to create interest without depending always on blooms. This is a really nice combination: Coprosma ‘Marbel Queen’, Heleborus and Aeoneum ‘Sunburst’. The Helebore blooms are interesting and last forever; the Aeonium always looks good; and the shiny leaves of the Coprosma are the perfect foil for the chartreuse and yellow of both plants. To create some rest for the eye in this planting I used Pittosporum crassifolium ‘compactum’ which isn’t variegated but gives us lovely fresh green leaves in early spring.

Other tried and true variegated plants I always return to are:

  • Carex elegantissima ‘variegata’ – it has a tiny stripe of yellow on the strap leaf margin.
  • Lonicera nitida ‘Lemon Beauty’ – a smaller evergreen shrub with tidy little variegated leaves of lemon and green.
  • Carex trifada ‘Rekohu Sunrise’ – this was a recent discovery, a thicker leaved carex, happy in shade with a lovely yellow stripe on leaf margin.  Gives a good tropical look.
  • Plectranthus area- for a shady area, tender to fronts but gorgeous fuzzy leaves make it worth the trouble.
  • Ajania pacifica – Pretty scalloped leaves with a white outline, great in a pot.
  • Dianella tasmanica ‘Variegata’- looks like a Phormium but can tolerate more shade and produces interesting blue berry-like blooms.
  • Pelargonium crispum ‘Variegatum’ – one of the more controllable in size, has a nice vertical growth habit and can be made into an adorable tree like form for a pot.
  • Westringia fruticosa ‘Smokey’ – White edges on this tough shrub make it even more sparkly and good looking.

Formal Need Not Mean Thirsty

fluffy botanic balls of loveliness, no?

fluffy balls of botanic loveliness, no?

I’m always on the lookout for a climate appropriate plant that can function in a more orderly, formal fashion since it is a style some of my clients will ask for.  I was walking and was struck by the beauty of this lovely formal garden edged in Westringia fruticosa.  Westringia being from Australia is pretty darn happy in our climate and not too greedy about the water.  If the right variety of Westringia is used (i.e., ‘Mia’s wonder’ or ‘Highlight’) a perfectly sized  3-4′ wide rounded boarder is formed with minimal pruning, thus minimal green waste.  Voila!

Other great garden performers for formal hedges include:

  • Pittosporum crassifolium ‘Compactum’ (super  Australian performer, rounded shape 2-3′ wide)
  • Rosemary (smaller growers like ‘Roman Beauty’)
  • Correa (a gorgeous evergreen shrub from Australia with drooping bell shaped flowers)
  • Lavender ‘Goodwin Creek’ (gorgeous compact grower)
  • Artemesia pycnocephala ‘David’s Choice (California native with low mounding silvery soft foliage)
  • Monardella villosa (California native commonly known as Coyote Mint, good for “informal” formal).

I’d let you know when I think of some more.  Better yet, tell me your pick for a climate appropriate formal hedge.