Post Tag: Plants

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 [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 [read more]
Festina Lente – Filoli’s winter garden
 Festina Lente.  Powerful words used since ancient times by the likes of emperors, military commanders, authors, artists and even Shakespeare himself. Translated, festina lente means 'hurry slowly'.  Personally, I think  my neighbor's bumper sticker says it best -  'Hurry up and slow down'. Out of the corner of my eye I discovered this plaque placed high up on one of Filoli's many garden archways.  I pondered its meaning as I slowly wandered through the garden on this cold and quiet [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. [read more]
Goodbye lawn, hello garden!    Part 1
It's a new year and with it comes the oh-so-familiar new year's resolutions.  And while I rarely keep the ones I make (lose weight, exercise more, blah blah blah) this is a resolution that's long overdue and one that I'm thrilled to undertake: getting rid of my unused front lawn. With California's lowest recorded rainfall in its history (that's over 160 years!), the timing is perfect to practice what I preach.  Even though I remove lawns for many of my [read more]
Looking at your garden with fresh eyes
As a designer and a consultant, I'm often asked how I go about deciding how and where to begin when it comes to transforming a garden bed.   I understand where this question comes from.  While visualizing where to begin is relatively easy for me, I realize that's not necessarily the case for others.  In fact, I experienced this feeling myself during my kitchen remodel.  I was amazed at how helpless and overwhelmed I felt when I walked into the tile [read more]
Create longer-lasting fall color in the garden
There's something magical about fall colors in the garden, isn't there?  My favorite time of year is the moment I open my front door and see my Japanese maples and Crepe Myrtle trees have turned their fiery shades of yellow, red and orange - signaling the calm before the storm (the storms from both winter as well as the holiday crush!) While it's easy enough to get fall color from the occasional maple, burning bush or viburnum in your garden, [read more]
Shades of Gray in a No-Lawn Front Garden
I'm thrilled to announce that one of the gardens I designed for a client is featured in this month's Sunset magazine (if you don't subscribe, you can read about it here in their online version). While the folks at Sunset did a fantastic job capturing the drought-tolerant aspects of this garden (the homeowners reduced their water bill by 40%!) I thought I'd go into a little more detail about using the very-gray colored Dymondia margaretae as a lawn substitute, and the [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 [read more]
Transforming a side yard from Blah to Beautiful
In honor of my new book, Refresh Your Garden Design, I'll be spending the next few months writing about the many different aspects of color, texture and form.  Whether its gardeners I've met who have embraced these design principles to the fullest, simple solutions you can use to transform your own garden, or perhaps  specific plants that serve double (or even triple!) duty in the landscape - my goal will be to inspire while showing how the smallest changes can [read more]
I'm over-the-moon with excitement to announce that my new book, Refresh Your Garden Design with Color, Texture and Form is officially finished and will be available in bookstores next month - Oct. 20th, to be exact! After seeing a review copy for the first time last week, I can honestly say that I'm immensely proud of this book for many reasons.  Not only did Christy, the book designer, do an incredible job making it stunningly beautiful, and not only were [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.   [read more]
Mixing flowers and succulents
There's no doubt about it, Debra Lee Baldwin certainly knows her succulents.  But when visiting her Escondido, CA garden again a few months ago, I was struck by something else - the flowers.  Not the flowers of succulents (which are amazing enough), but regular ol' perennial, annual and native flowers that casually grow throughout the garden. My very favorite gardens tend to have a creative and unusual mix of 'styles', filled with unexpected, unique and breathtaking touches - which is [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 [read more]
Using white flowers in the garden
My garden has been on a few different garden tours this past month which, despite the work involved in getting everything cleaned up, is always a fantastic opportunity to see my garden through others' eyes.  Its always interesting to see which plants are a hit, and which ones seem to go unnoticed, and I'm often surprised with the results. While I tend to think of my garden as colorful (sometimes a bit too much?) it was surprising to hear from [read more]
I don't typically read fashion magazines, but living with a teenage daughter means a stack of them are usually lying around the house in one room or another. While I can usually pass them by without feeling the urge to read about 'The Top 10 Must-Have Heels For Summer', I'll admit I'm a sucker for titles such as '10 Ways to Wear 1 Dress'. So with a slightly different twist, here's my version where the star isn't the little black [read more]
The other day I sat down with my father and we were laughing about the time when I decapitated my parents' very first little garden.  I was only two years old, and my dad was anxiously waiting for the day when the new 'seed mat' they had carefully tended over the past few weeks would transform into the promised lush and bountiful garden.  Apparently it was nothing more than a rolled up strip of coir and soil with common flower [read more]
I just returned from a quick trip to Boca Grande, a tiny little island off of Florida, where I spoke about vertical gardening to the island’s local garden club.  Without a doubt, one of the perks of my job is the chance to see new things and meet new people – something I wouldn’t trade for the world.  Whether it’s a local group or one as remote as this, I always leave feeling more enriched than I did [read more]
Lawn Gone!  Book Party, Review and Giveaways
To celebrate the release of Pam Penick's new book, Lawn Gone! Low-Maintenance, Sustainable, Attractive Alternatives for Your Yard, you’re all invited to attend her Lawn Gone Book Party – with some very cool party prizes! Six garden blogging friends and I are hosting 7 great giveaways this week, all related to the theme of – drumroll please – lawn alternatives. Lawn Gone! is, of course, about alternatives to the traditional lawn: all kinds of ground-covering plants, functional and appropriately scaled hardscape, [read more]
There's something magical about a winter garden, and I never pass up an opportunity to visit one - especially one that's known for looking it's best during the bleakest months of the year.  While attending a family wedding in Seattle this past weekend, I had the pleasure of visiting the J. Witt Winter Garden in the Washington Park Arboretum.  I can't emphasize enough what a treat it was to see such unexpected beauty on a cold and drizzly day. The [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 [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 [read more]
Why Grow That When You Can Grow This?
I'm thrilled to introduce one of the best books to hit the stands this year - Why Grow That, When You Can Grow This, by  my good friend Andrew Keys (Timberpress, 2012). Now you may be thinking "Oh - she's clearly biased, no doubt, since she just said they're good friends."  Fair enough.  But if that were the case, I would just say something polite, like "enter now for a chance to win!" and not gush on and on like [read more]
We all tend to collect our memories somewhere - scrapbooks, journals, photo albums, memory quilts, recipes or family movies (just to name a few).  But for many of us, our gardens are what carry us through the years, bringing back fond memories through sight, scent, touch and taste. Personally, I can't help but think of my grandmother whenever I see a towering delphinium.  And the sound of palm fronds 'clapping' in the wind instantly transports me to one of my [read more]
The Layered Garden – Book Giveaway
You know when you see a book and you just know it's gonna be good?  Well, that's how I felt about The Layered Garden, by David L. Culp, and photographed by the talented Rob Cardillo.  And I knew I held a gem in my hands when I read the glowing forward, written by Lauren Springer Ogden - one of my very favorite garden designers and co-author of Plant Driven Design. I love the concept of creating a layered garden as [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 [read more]
There's something alluring about beautiful plants that have a bite to them. In fact, I just attended a fascinating talk by desert-designer-extraordinaire Scott Calhoun, who believes our fascination with plants that make us bleed is akin to the Stockholm Syndrome - ha! While I don't go out of my way to design gardens that will intentionally impale or poison people, I also don't go out of my way to avoid plants that might have potential for pain.  Just like lots [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 [read more]
 I'll admit it - I haven't included annuals in a design in a long, long time. Maybe even never. I'm not talking about the drool-inducing annuals over at Annie's Annuals.  I'm talking about the tried and true (some might say 'boring') ones that have been used over and over and over again. Now, it's not because I'm a plant snob, but simply a result of living in a mild climate.  Here in Northern California, many perennials are actually semi-evergreen, and [read more]
Last week I spent a few days with Jeanette Sinclair (of Woodside Images) in Southern California's charming little town of Santa Paula, visiting Ball Horticulture's Spring Trials to see what new treasures they had to offer the plant world. For those of you who aren't familiar with Spring Trials, Jeanette compares it to New York's Fashion Week.  And if that doesn't clarify things, then maybe their website's description will help: During the course of a week, the world's prominent plant [read more]
I was having a conversation with a new client the other day, and she was asking me how I go about designing a garden.  As we walked through her existing garden, she was afraid it was too early in the year for me to really get an idea of what it looked like, since so many of her plants were still dormant.  She was surprised when I told her that the timing was actually perfect, for it was now that [read more]
Flowers in February? Absolutely!
While visiting the garden of one of my favorite clients yesterday I was really pleased with how it looked in the middle of February.  When designing, one of my priorities is to create a garden that looks good throughout the year.  Luckily, living in Northern California's zone 9, this is a very attainable goal.  However, so many clients think I'm exaggerating and doubt that it'll really look good in January and February. Even though we get temperatures that dip into [read more]
Have you ever toured a garden, when the moment you stepped through the front gate you were instantly transported to another time and place?  That was the case with Lecia Davis's magnificent garden in Laguna Beach, California. I had the opportunity to visit this exquisite garden a few weeks ago and was completely caught off guard.  I lived in Laguna Beach 18 years ago, and had forgotten just how beautiful this area is. Lecia's home and garden reminded me of [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]
Sure, it's tempting to title this post Deer-Proof Plants or something of that nature but truth be told, deer will eat just about anything when they're hungry.  And not only that, they're some of the craftiest animals around when it comes to sneaking into your garden.  The second you leave your gate open, they let themselves in and prune your roses to the ground. Instead of fighting this constant, never-ending battle with deer I've found it much easier to accept [read more]
Lani Freymiller’s Garden – Green and Serene
As part of my ongoing series, Gardeners and their Gardens, I'd like to introduce you to a garden I visited a few months ago in southern California. I believe each garden is an expression of its creator's soul, and that if you pay attention, you can literally feel the blood, sweat and tears that went into it’s creation.  You know that feeling when you walk into a garden, no matter how large or small it is, and you’re [read more]
Dr. Dirr’s Encyclopedia of Trees and Shrubs
Thanksgiving has come and gone, as has the turkey, the leftovers and the relatives. Having survived Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and now Cyber Monday, it seems to me the world is in a shopping frenzy.  Everyone is in a mad race to find the perfect gift for their loved ones and it's pure mayhem out there. This holiday season I'm working very hard to keep things simple in my life by focusing not on consuming, but on appreciating.  I've [read more]
I don't think I've ever been as rude to another designer as I was when I saw this garden. A few weeks ago I visited my good friend Debra Lee Baldwin who graciously introduced me to a wonderful landscape designer, Frank Mitzel of Aesthetic Design.   Frank kindly took us to see a garden that he and fellow designer and contractor Randy Laurie created in the Mission Hills district. After meeting Frank in front of the house and exchanging a little [read more]
Top 10 Favorite Black Plants for Halloween
It's no secret that one of my favorite colors in the garden is black.  It's pretty hard to find plants that have  true black foliage (most are more like maroon or deep purple), but here are some that come pretty close. And just in time for Halloween!     (more…) [read more]
I'm so excited to be participating again in another fabulous Garden Bloggers Bloom Day! For those of you not familiar with what ‘Bloom Day’ is, it’s a blogging tradition started by May Dreams Gardens where, on the 15th of each month, garden bloggers everywhere have the opportunity to show you what’s going on in their own gardens.  My  garden is located in Los Altos, California (USDA Zone 9B) This summer, my garden has been largely ignored due to [read more]
Do you know how easy it is to get several plants for the price of one?  Some of my favorite 2-for-1 plants (actually it's more like 10-for-1) are coleus.  Just snap off a stem, stick it in a glass of water for about 10 days, and when you have lots of little roots you just plant it in the ground!  I do this every summer, buying a single plant and propagating many more for our long growing season.  You can [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]
50 Beautiful Deer Resistant Plants – Book Review
50 Beautiful Deer-Resistant Plants  The Prettiest Annuals, Perennials, Bulbs, and Shrubs that Deer Don't Eat Written by Ruth Rogers Clausen Photography by Alan L. Detrick (Timberpress) I usually don't review many books, but when a title comes up that I deal with on a daily basis I'll make an exception!  Deer are one of the 'challenges' (and I use this term loosely) I face most often when designing gardens here in Northern California.  Most of my clients live in the [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. [read more]
As a garden designer, I've noticed a growing trend over the past few years: more and more people are wanting to replace their unused, water chugging, labor intensive front lawn with a beautiful low-water, low-maintenance garden. These days it seems no-lawn gardens make up about 75% of my business.  The remaining 25% are people who'd like to remove their front lawn but aren't quite sure what to do once it's gone. I hear variations of the same concerns:  it'll look [read more]
I love all gardens. I don't think there's a single style that I don't appreciate.   And that's part of the charm of gardeners - we're all so different yet we all appreciate one another's passion.  Sometimes the differences are subtle, sometimes they're as opposite as night and day. But either way, part of the fun of discovering a garden is learning about the gardener who created it. This is the case with two gardens I had the pleasure of [read more]