Gossip in the Garden

Harmony in the Garden's Chattier Side

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Drought tolerant superstars for the spring garden

As I write the latest installment of my drought-tolerant series, yet another storm is heading our way.  Its been a soaking wet, record-breaking winter this year, with most counties having now lifted their mandated water restrictions.

But there’s still a few cities that realize this annual rainfall won’t last, and continue to mandate strict water restrictions.

Santa Barbara, for example, has recently banned watering residential lawns to help achieve their city-wide goal of 40% water reduction. (Click here to read an interesting interview about our drought, conducted last week by the New York Times).

Why am I telling you this?  Because even though we’ve had more than enough rain this year, it would be short-sighted of us to think this is California’s new norm.  While I’m thrilled to see my garden bursting at the seams right now after quenching its poor, parched roots, I’ll continue to plant low-water plants.  And should we have another fantastically wet winter this coming winter – great!  But should we return to our low-water norm, my gardens will continue to flourish.

So here we are, heading into spring where color is everywhere right now. It was next to impossible for me to choose which plants to highlight, so I wanted to focus on the most reliable spring bloomers that will put on a show – drought or no drought!

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Previous Articles:
The birds in my garden (plus a HUGE plant giveaway from Sunset!)
  I simply adore the birds that visit my garden. Here one moment and gone the next, their fleeting presence and sweet, sweet songs never fail to cause my heart to skip a beat. And the entertainment they've provided over the years has been priceless, adding so much joy to our lives. Recently, someone was seeing my garden for the first time and wanted to know why I had so many birds when they had so few - what was my secret? There's no secret, of course, but while I showed her around my garden I noticed just how many read more
Kubota Garden – lessons in form and shape
One of the many reasons why I love visiting public gardens is that each one tells a unique story:  why it was created, who was the driving force, the inspiration behind it, etc. Seattle’s Kubota Garden is no exception. Located in the middle of a quiet suburban neighborhood, it’s somewhat of a surprise to find this secret gem nestled among its residential neighbors. Immediately I was intrigued. In the garden is a memorial stone dedicated to the creator of this magnificent garden, with the following inscription: ‘Fujitaro Kubota was born in 1879, in Kochi Prefecture on the island of read more
Drought Tolerant Superstars for the Winter Garden – Part II
The other day someone asked me if I thought California's Governor would declare we’re no longer in a drought.  And if so, would I continue to focus on creating low-water gardens. While I’m rejoicing with all the rain that we've had, with our overflowing reservoirs and abundant snow-pack (as is every other gardener in the state), the question caught me by surprise. Of course, I’m going to continue with my low-water designs! For me, gardening with the drought in mind is a way of life. The fact remains that we live in a summer-dry climate where water read more
Drought tolerant superstars for the winter garden – Part 1
I’m excited to share with you the second installment of my drought-tolerant seasonal superstars. Winter is the time when I tend to receive the most emails from past clients, who are surprised and delighted with how their gardens look during this typically bleak time of year. Even though our Bay Area winters are mild compared to the rest of the country, we do get consistent temperatures that dip into the mid-twenties, along with bouts of heavy frost. Luckily, many of my favorite plants handle these temperatures just fine and are indispensable in carrying the garden through these colder months. read more
Going, going, gone
When the garden begins to shut down and take on its melancholy tones this time of year, I often think of my grandmother. I don’t know why, exactly, but one of the things I often remember is her empathy for fading flowers, in particular roses, that are just a bit past their prime and barely hanging on. ‘Oh, don’t prune that one quite yet – it’s still so pretty’ she’d say as I’d help her clean up in the garden. Or, if I’d begin to tidy up an older bouquet of flowers, she wouldn’t read more
The Getty Museum’s Central Garden
Two days ago I flew to LA for the day to visit my daughter, and on a whim decided to visit the Getty Museum's Central Garden. While I've been there before in the spring and summer, I've never visited in the fall and was excited to see the seasonal changes. The Central Garden differs from many of the other public gardens I've written about in that it was specifically created to be a permanent piece of living art for the museum's collection by the artist Robert Irwin. Before visiting a garden for the first time, I always try and do  read more
My Top 10 Favorite Black Plants
One of my all-time favorite colors to use in the garden is black.  While it can be tricky to find plants that have true black foliage (most are closer to maroon or deep purple), here are some of my favorites that come pretty close. And just in time for Halloween, too! (more…) read more
Drought tolerant superstars for the fall garden
After a lifetime spent gardening in California, one thing I've learned is there's drought tolerant, and then there's drought tolerant.  Many plants that claim to be low-water might do okay for the first year or two, but soon 'cry uncle' when blasted with year after year of unrelenting drought. As a designer, it's a constant challenge to find beautiful and unusual plants that don't just eek along in these difficult conditions but to discover those that actually thrive.  And that's the key word here, having a garden that truly thrives. As we're coming to an end of our 5th year read more
The Bold Dry Garden – a review and giveaway
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure to attend a party celebrating Timber Press's new release, The Bold Dry Garden, written by Johanna Silver (who is also the garden editor for Sunset magazine). The event was held at one of my favorite places, The Ruth Bancroft Garden (appropriate, as that's the subject of the book!)  Not only did I get to spend the morning in a beautiful garden, but Ruth herself was there (no small feat as she's 108 years old!) as well as other key horticulturalists and gardeners mentioned in the book. After listening to Johanna discuss her read more
The mystery of the monarch
Throughout my daughter’s life, I’ve tried just about everything I could think of to pique her interest in gardening. And while she’s always appreciated playing in a beautiful garden, I realized early on that getting her excited about working in a garden just wasn’t going to happen. But, I figured if I can get her to enjoy eating from the garden, growing weird things in the garden, finding bugs, and watching birds in the garden then maybe, just maybe, the gardening seed would be planted to emerge one day when she had a home of her read more
The New York Botanical Native Garden
I was so happy to finally have the chance to visit the New York Botanical Garden, during their 125th anniversary no less!   I blocked out the entire day to explore as much as I could of this massive, 250-acre garden in the Bronx, and while I wasn't able to see everything, I did manage to cover a lot of ground. The 3-acre Native Garden was nothing short of spectacular, designed by Oehme van Sweden Landscape Design.  Over 100,000 native plants are thoughtfully placed to not only demonstrate their unique natural environments but also to show how stunning they can be read more
Garden therapy in the midst of trauma – a story and a giveaway
  I've been home from my trip to New York for ten days now and have been excited to share with you some of the gardens I visited but life seems to have gotten in the way - for now, at least. On the last day of my trip, I received a phone call from Dan, my ex-husband, letting me know that he was in a terrible biking accident and has been in the hospital's ICU for the past ten days. An avid biker, he hit a bump while going fast which pitched him to the ground resulting in 9 read more
Wave Hill
I’m bursting with excitement, as my daughter and I are returning to NYC tomorrow for a week of fun and garden-touring. For those of you who don't know, we lived there for two months in 2014 and had such an amazing life-enriching time that I couldn't wait to return, even if only for a few days. Earlier this week I was reading my previous articles about the gardens we visited when I realized I never wrote about my trip to Wave Hill! I had every intention to, as it’s an incredible garden, but my life was sort of thrown read more
My mother and my garden
Boy, did I hit the jackpot when I was born. I’ve always felt that way, even in the midst of my rebellious, bratty teenage years. When my other friends would band together and badmouth their parents to see who’s was worst, I could never bring myself to join in because I knew in my heart just how lucky I was. And believe me, I gave my parents a run for their money and plenty of opportunities to temporarily step down from her ‘Parents of the Year’ post, but they never wavered in their awesomeness. On this Mother's Day, read more
Designing a garden for Sunset magazine.  No pressure…
A few weeks ago, Johanna Silver (Sunset Magazine's Garden Editor) reached out and asked if I would be interested in designing a garden for a forthcoming article, with the emphasis on using plants from Sunset's new Western Garden Collection. Hmmmm....tough decision.  Let me get this straight, I thought, design a garden for Sunset?  Where I can use any plant I want from their collection?  As many as I want?  That's like asking a kid if they'd like to spend a few unattended days in their favorite candy shop. This particular project needed to happen fast, though, so the plants read more
The Water-Saving Garden book party and giveaway
I'm thrilled to be invited to help celebrate the release of Pam Penick’s second book, The Water Saving Garden, with a party that you’re all invited to attend (awesome prizes included!) As a follow-up to her first book Lawn Gone (and one of my personal favorites), The Water Saving Garden delves even deeper into the practical solutions of conserving water in the garden. Living and gardening along the West Coast, gardeners have learned to embrace the fact that drought conditions are a fact of life. Pam’s new book couldn’t have come at a better time!  It’ read more
My February Garden
Thanks to the El Nino weather pattern we’ve been experiencing here along the West Coast (lots of rain followed by unseasonably warm temperatures) my garden is exploding with blooms much earlier that it ever has before. I’m a bit worried that my poor plants are being tricked into thinking spring has arrived, only to be given a dose of harsh reality with a late freeze or two, but no use worrying about it, right?  Instead, I’m just going to enjoy the weather, enjoy the beauty and share some of my favorite late winter plants with you. (more& read more
New Year, New Changes!
January has been a busy month for me, full of exciting changes (including a new look for my website and blog.)   And, in addition to my landscape design business, and writing for Horticulture magazine, I’ve also accepted the position of Seminar Manager for the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show. For the past few months, I’ve been working away lining up some fantastic speakers, (click here to see!)  This year, the show runs through March 16-20 at the San Mateo Event Center.  I’ll be there every day, introducing the speakers, making sure everything runs smoothly, and schmoozing read more
Pumice versus Perlite – Q & A
I was recently introduced to the dynamic brother/sister team, Lexi and Austin Petelski, who own General Pumice Products.  These young and dynamic gardeners have recently acquired ownership of two California pumice mines and are here to help explain the differences between pumice and perlite. Those of us who garden in El Nino's predicted path will find this information particularly useful, as pumice not only helps absorb and slowly release water, but it helps aerate the soil at the same time. Pumice is a fantastic way to help prevent your succulent containers and water-sensitive plants (ie: leucadendrons, euphorbias, proteas, grevilleas) read more
My Top 3 Favorite Garden Tools for 2015
  As we come to the end of another year in the garden, I thought I'd share with you a few of my favorite tools that have made my life just a little bit easier this year. You'd think that since I'm a garden designer, garden writer and an overall fanatical gardener that I'd have every latest and greatest garden tool in my arsenal.  But I don't.  In this department, I'm pretty low maintenance, preferring to use just a few of my favorite standbys.  In fact, it drives my husband crazy as it would make it so much easier for read more