Showing by category: Plant Profiles

Proven Winners Spring Trials
I love attending the annual Spring Trials, as it's a chance to see firsthand the latest and greatest from well-respected growers around the country. And even though the plants won't be available for purchase until 2015, it's exciting to know what we can look forward to.  The temptation to grab a few and run is sometimes overwhelming, as I can't stand to wait an entire year to try them in my own garden.  It's sort of like peeking under your parents' bed to see what you'll be getting for your birthday.  Hands off - you'll just have to wait! This read more
Spring’s One-Hit Wonders:  Flowering Quince, Forsythia & Spirea
The other day I overheard two women talking about their spring gardens and one of them stated matter-of-factly that she'd never plant a flowering quince since it blooms for such a short period and then just sits there the rest of the year.  While its true that it blooms only once, in my opinion that's not reason enough to ban it from the garden. Or forsythia, for that matter, or bridal wreath spirea, or any other of spring's magnificent 'one hit wonders'. It's important to remember that not every plant in our garden has to perform and look good every read more
Pyracantha Pandemonium
It started out just like any other January day. For the past week, I had been admiring one of my favorite shrubs growing in my side yard - the humble pyracantha. I had been wondering to myself why more people didn't love this shrub as I do.  Didn't they realize all the seasonal beauty it freely gives to the garden? In the early spring, I’m rewarded with a show of slender branches cloaked in cascades of dainty white flowers. Yes, I’ll admit they smell ever so faintly like old socks, but their month long show of beauty certainly read more
Tantalizing Tillandsias
There's something about tillandsias that makes my heart sing.  Even just saying the word is fun.  Maybe its due to their seemingly endless array of colors, shapes and textures.  Maybe its because of their somewhat freaky appearance.  Or maybe its because they're one of the easiest ways to make a really creative statement in your home. Actually, for me it's all of the above - plus the fact that I'm a sucker for anything that asks so little from me.  I've got enough in my life demanding my attention and the last thing I need is a fussy, high-maintenance houseplant! read more
I’m a caladium convert
I'll admit it - I've never given much thought to caladiums, perhaps subconsciously dismissing them as an uninspired, old-fashioned stalwart. But having trialled several dozen this year (thanks to the good folks at Classic Caladiums) I can proudly say I was dead wrong - there's nothing uninspired with these plants.  I'm officially hooked! Similar to coleus in that they come in a psychedelic array of color combinations, caladiums somehow have more of an air of elegance about them. And when planted closely together in a container, they're simultaneously light and delicate while making quite a visual impact. (more…) read more
Captivating Coprosmas
Time and time again I've had astonished clients ask me 'What IS that plant?' when spotting the smooth and shiny foliage of a colorful coprosma.  Commonly known as a 'Mirror Plant', coprosma's foliage looks as if tiny little elves snuck in and meticulously shellaced each perfectly shaped oval leaf. Yes, they're that shiny. Finding foliage with smooth and reflective surfaces isn't always easy, which is just one of the reasons why I'm such a fan of these evergreen shrubs.  Contrast the mirror-like foliage with a nearby rough and crinkly Leatherleaf Viburnum or Rodgersia and the result will be a read more
Euphorbia euphoria
This weekend my garden will be one of several featured during the 5th annual Garden Bloggers Fling Garden Tour.  Am I nervous having my personal garden shown to 75+ of our country's most amazing, talented and influential garden bloggers?  Uh...YES!  So every day this week I've been working in my garden, trying to keep up with what Mother Nature has been dishing out (crazy winds, rain and 100 degree temps - all within a single week)!  While my roses are now shriveled by the heat and my delicate annuals have been blown to smithereens, my euphorbias look fantastic - seeming read more
Sarcococca and Daphne – the stars of my February garden
Here we are February 1st, and my garden couldn't be smelling any sweeter!  I wanted to share with you two of my winter superstars as they're some of my favorites for adding heavenly fragrance to this typically cold and bleak month.  In my temperate Zone 9 garden, there's still a few random leaves hanging on to their deciduous stems for dear life.  But with each gentle breeze they're quickly losing their grip, leaving behind one skeletal shrub after another.  Thank heavens for my evergreen plants, as now is the time when they take their turn on the stage, no longer read more
Hooray for Heucheras! An interview with Terra Nova Nurseries
Heucheras (aka: Coral Bells or Allum Root) are one of my favorite perennials in the garden, whether adding spots of color in the front of the border, massed together in drifts or nestled into a container.   I'd be lost if I couldn't use these little treasures in my designs, as their foliage comes in just about every color imaginable, they reliably return year after year and they're even somewhat deer resistant. The folks at Terra Nova Nursery (located in Canby, Oregon) have long been regarded as some of the top heuchera breeders in the country, introducing us to some read more
Top 10 Favorite Orange Plants
It's that time of year again when our homes and gardens are decked out in orange and black, and mine is no exception.  And what better occasion than Halloween to talk about one of my favorite colors in the garden - orange!  Last year I wrote about my favorite black plants, so it's only fitting that this year's post is all about orange. In all the years I've been designing gardens, it goes without saying that orange is, hands-down, the color that gets picked on the most.  Time and time again new clients request that I not use the color read more
I've been traveling a lot this summer and am so glad to finally be home!  But after nearly five weeks away you can imagine the state of my garden. Fortunately (for my garden, not for me!), my husband was home for most of the time so he was able to keep it watered and somewhat under control - but you know how it is.  While most everything survived, there is an overwhelming amount of staking, pruning and dead-heading to be done. One of the things I was really excited about was to see the progress of the Japanese eggplants that read more
I love Oxalis in my garden. No, not the horribly invasive oxalis that has taken over my lawn, but the colorful and well-behaved hybrids available in nurseries everywhere. Come and take a look.... (more…) read more
Kniphopfias (aka: Red Hot Poker or Torch Lily) are one of my very favorite flowers to add vertical interest to the garden.  Seeing their snake-like stalks rise from a clump of lush leaf blades is always a joy to behold as they stretch their long necks what seems like several inches a day. I don't know why, but they're really not planted enough around here (IMHO!) While visiting a client's garden a few days ago, I was amazed at the size of these kniphofia uvarias.  I planted them last year from tiny little 1-gallons and now they're at least 3-feet read more
I was talking with another gardener last week, when she told me she never plants rosemary in her garden because it's so common. Huh? Of course everyone has their own opinion of what they like and don't like, but not planting something just because it's common?  Oh well - we all march to our own beat. I happen to loooove rosemary in the garden and incorporate it into as many designs as I can.  Whether it's the upright 'Tuscan Blue', mid-size 'Ken Taylor' or the creeping groundcover 'Prostratus' (and everything in between) I can't get enough of this plant. And read more
  Hellebores are typically pretty easy to grow here in Northern California, requiring partial shade, well-draining soil and moderate irrigation.  They come in a staggering range of colors, from the deepest maroon to the palest ivory.  They're usually categorized as either having upright blooms on tall stems  (aka: caulescent) or no stems, typically with downward facing blooms (aka: acaulescent). The tricky part, in my opinion, is placing those with downward-facing blooms where they can be best appreciated.  One solution is to plant them in containers to help elevate the plants to better view their gorgeous flowers. Even though nursery tags read more
While visiting New York's Innisfree Garden last summer, I saw something that I've never seen before - the 'knees' of a tree.  Yes, that's what they're called! From what I've gathered, this is unique to cypress trees that are planted near water.  The roots growing under the water send up woody projections, called knees. What's the purpose?  Scientists aren't 100% sure. Perhaps they're a way to supply oxygen to the roots?  Perhaps they help stabilize the tree in soggy, wet soil?  Either way, they're pretty cool to see! Want to see more?  Click here to read about trees that grow read more
A few weeks ago I spoke at the Laguna Beach Garden Club, and was thrilled when my host insisted we walk along the coastline before catching my flight home. The aloes were in full bloom, the sun was shining, artists were painting, hummers were humming, dolphins were swimming - in short, I was in heaven. Laguna Beach, be still my beating heart   (more…) read more
If you're familiar with my blog, then you know I love grasses.  And luckily they're becoming more and more common in most every nursery, with many selections to choose from.   Yes, grasses are all the rage and for good reason. Why?  Generally speaking, grasses will grow in just about any type of soil, most are drought tolerant and diseases and pests aren't usually an issue.   (more…) read more
While visiting my friends in Connecticut last week I couldn't help but fall in love with the massive Dutchman's Pipevine that seductively draped over their arbor. It's giant heart-shaped leaves seemed to glow from within when backlit by the setting sun. The tendrils gently coiled downwards, adding an almost ethereal appearance to this cozy space. (more…) read more
This year my 'Sea Jade' phormium surprised me by sending up a few tall stalks of flowers for me to enjoy.  Phormiums (aka: Flax) don't always bloom around here, but I think due to our very wet spring they've  decided to reward our patience by showing us what they're really capable of! Phormiums are one of my favorite go-to plants when designing as they provide  tons of structure, year-round beauty and an abundance of foliage colors from which to choose.  But now I can add their gorgeous blooms to my long list of reasons why I love them. See for read more
This is the time of year when camellias, the workhorses of my Zone 9 winter garden, get their moment in the sun (so to speak). I haven't always liked camellias, but over the years one of my favorite gardening friends has convinced me of their reliable winter beauty. As I look around my garden, I have to laugh as it seems she's been very persuasive.  I have dozens of varieties in my garden and am so thankful that I do!  When its cold and rainy outside I can't deny I'm happy for these bright spots of color in my garden! read more
  Many of my clients love tulips, wanting them planted in their gardens to enjoy for years to come.  They show me catalogues that are marked with the tulips they want: frilly parrots, fancy long-stemmed varieties, or specifically chosen color palettes to fit in their garden. They always look a little crestfallen when I tell them that these beauties don’t really do well in our mild climate and might be best considered as annuals, after refrigerating them first for several weeks. Once they adjust their expectations, they’re usually fine with this alternative.  After all, there’s something deeply read more
  I have a new favorite plant that I've been using in my designs now for the past few years - it's Francoa Ramosa and I just adore it! It's categorized as a perennial, but in our Zone 9 climate, it's evergreen. The snails pretty much leave it alone, it grows like mad making it easy to divide and give away to friends, and as if it needed anything else in it's favor, it seems to be fairly un-thirsty (even though it's supposed to love a moist environment). The common name for Francoa is 'Bridal Wreath', as the tiny light read more
Eureka lemon trees are notorious for producing freakishly shaped lemons - especially along the cooler coastal climate (like ours in the Bay Area).  Personally, I like the occasional odd-ball that my tree kicks out - and so do kids.  But if more and more of your lemons are turning out like this you may want to take some action. What causes this?  It's a weird little bud mite which sucks the sap from the lemon flower, causing the poor flower to have a misshapen ovary - resulting in, well, freaky looking lemons. I came across this description of what the read more
It's January here in Northern California and today I ate the first (of many) oranges off my 'Washington Navel' tree. I love that first, sweet-with-a-hint-of-sour-taste the season's first orange gives me.  I look forward to it all year, beginning in late spring when my garden is blanketed with the scent of its heavenly blossoms, then again in the fall with its swelling green 'tennis-balls', and then again in late winter, when my dreary winter garden is punctuated with bright orange balls of color. (more…) read more
. Roses, roses, roses...nothing says 'spring is right around the corner' more than all the bare-root roses in stock right now at the nurseries. Especially when you see their hopeful, little leaves starting to emerge from their stark stems. And now's the time to buy them, as they're such a better deal when sold bare-root ($15) versus when they're re-potted into a 5-gallon container ($35.00) And while it may seem a little early to start thinking about which roses you'd like to add to your garden this year, you'd better hurry up and decide, as bare-roots seem to only last read more
'What the heck are these things growing on this gingko tree?' That was the question everyone was asking a few months ago while on the Sacred Heart Holiday Home Tour in Sacramento, CA.   After doing a little research, I found out that these growths are really, really rare. The Japanese call these growths Chichi (which translates into 'nipples'.)  And it turns out these aerial roots are formed on ginkos that are at least 100 years old. These aerial roots will continue to grow downwards, eventually reaching the ground, taking another hundred years! Some people in Japan use these roots to read more
  Pruning hydrangeas in Northern California is entirely different from the colder parts of the country. What you read in most gardening magazines doesn't always apply here because our hydrangeas are looking pretty awesome right now! I mean really...who in their right mind would want to prune off these gorgeous blooms! The photo at left was taken December 7th and see how beautiful my hydrangea bush still looks? Many garden magazines are printed back East, where their hydrangeas are already covered with a lovely blanket of snow, securely tucked in for the winter. Here in the Bay Area, though, most read more
In love with my Rogers Red grapevine, that is.   Vitis californica 'Roger's Red' is a California native, grows with very little water, quickly reaching a massive 30x30 - growing 3 to 6 feet per year!  It produces TONS of grapes which are filled with seeds, so while they're not the first choice for a quick snack, they're great for the birds or for making grape juice. Okay, enough about the specifics - let's get to the real reasons I love this vine.  FALL COLOR!  This vine is growing on my arbor, and it tenderly (okay - thuggishly) embraces my read more
Why do variegated plants revert back to solid green over time? read more
What do you do when Mother Nature showers you with grapes? read more