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Satori Blog

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.
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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.

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Those Amazing Aloes

Aloe plicatils in bloom
Aloe plicatils in bloom

I’m always on the look out for a beautiful, tough, structural “living sculpture” for the garden and I think Aloe have it all.  This Aloe spans out from it’s thick base and over the years adds arm by arm of reaching fans.  It’s coral blooms last forever and it’s super slow growing nature make it an excellent container succulent.  It’s really nice that there are no spines to worry about – so planting near a walkway or by a pool is no problem.  Imagine this Aloe lit in a way to show it’s silhouette against a wall.  To see more Aloes than you ever thought existed visit the Los Angeles Arboretum.  The LA Arboretum has over 1/4 of the worlds species of Aloes.  Aloes are tough and beautiful.  Look how great this Aloe functions as both a lovely front yard focal point and a prickly security barrier near the window and house.  Aloes in bloom are a sight to behold 🙂

Body Guard by Aloe
Body Guard by Aloe
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Enhancing Through Illumination


images courtesy of moyer design

images courtesy of moyer design

a landscape structure becomes even more beautiful with the right lighting

a landscape structure becomes even more beautiful with the right lighting

Now that I finally have the “bandwidth” to tackle my outdoor landscape lighting I’m noticing how the right lighting actually makes an outdoor space more attractive.  It’s sort of like when you go to a beautiful restaurant and they have expertly thought of just the right lighting to make each diner look their best.  The lighting is soft, it gently washes over the surfaces and it doesn’t stare you in the eye.  The right lighting brings out your best features and lets the not so great ones stay in the dark.  Landscape lighting is exactly like this!

In the mild climate I live in, most everyone entertains outside.  If your landscape is shrouded in darkness you are missing out on showing off it’s beauty and your investment.  If your landscape is poorly lighted you may be sending glaring light into your guests eyes or asking them to walk through your landscape in uncomfortable darkness.

Take note of your lighting:  Do you see the light sources?  If so, you probably have considerable glare and “hot spots”  Are your pathways and stairs adequately lit?  It doesn’t need to be bright, just a low even lighting in primary traffic areas is great.  Are you sending a lot of light up into the sky or into your neighbors property?  Many cities now have “dark sky” ordinances that cut down on light pollution.  Are you taking advantage of down lighting from structures and trees?  Down lighting can be an excellent, non-intrusive way to light the landscape and create ambiance. Crazyspieler

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