CALIFORNIA, ITS TIME TO LOSE THE LAWN

I am a Californian, and feel fortunate to live in this amazing place.  I respect its bounty and its limitations. And as a gardener, though I'd love to have plentiful water, I am happy to work with Mother Nature and go 'water wise' in this prolonged drought.

Besides, I'd rather have flowers than lawn anyway! (And the birds and bees are happy...)

I've converted to 'water wise' plantings in my front and back yards.   My neighbors are getting on board as well,  To encourage and inspire them, I've done a bunch of photo mockups showing what their homes will look like with drought tolerant landscaping.

Since I'm a firm believer in pictures speaking louder than words, here are some "mockups" of potential transformations.  Hope it inspires you as well!







DROUGHT TOLERANT COTTAGE GARDENS

Drought tolerant flowers

Here in California and other arid states, we're really having to watch our water.  But that does not mean that we have to forego lush, colorful, flowery gardens!  Thanks to California native plants and many varieties from other dry climates like the Mediterranean and Australia, we have a huge selection of drought tolerant flowering shrubs and perennials to choose from.


YET ANOTHER REMINDER WHY NOT TO SPRAY POISONS

The bush tits in my lime tree reminded me why I don't spray poison in my garden.

Bushtit_1

I've been battling scale on my baby citrus trees.  However, I like to garden "bare", meaning that I don't use many products in my garden other than GroPower fertilizer (which contains humus, love the stuff!) and mulch.  I especially resist using any pesticides, even if they are "organic."  They still kill things.

So,instead of spraying with Spinosad (organic but lethal) I got out a rag and some ammonia based window cleaner, and simply wiped the scale off the branches.  Then I gave the plant a good rinse of water (which also knocked off the ants that were tending the scale.)  It took a few minutes, but it was relaxing, and the plant was immediately free of the pests.

Later in the afternoon, my husband pointed out that there were birds in the lime tree.  Sure enough, several little bush tits were perusing the branches, looking for any remaining insects which they promptly ate. If I'd sprayed with the Spinosad, it would have sickened the birds.

 There are many ways to deal with unwanted bugs on your plants. 

1.  Keep the garden healthy.  Give it healthy living soil, good air circulation, and proper watering.  Healthy plants resist pests on their own.

2.  Keep the plants clean.  Pick up dropped fungusy leaves under the roses, remove brown soggy blossoms from the azaleas and camellias, prune off dead or infested branches and stems.

3.  Use your hands.  I was taught that the gardener's best tool is her fingertips. You can scrape off aphids and scale by hand (use latex gloves if you're squeamish) or move those unwanted tomato horn worms to a "sacrifice" plant.

4.  Use non-toxic solutions.  A bit of dish soap in water will get rid of aphids, or an alcohol/water solution is good to clean off spider mites and scale.  Worm castings, applied regularly, will systemically repel whitefly.

5.  Replace soil in containers.  Certain pests and fungus will go dormant in the soil under an infested plant.  If the problem keeps returning despite your best efforts, think about replacing the soil.

NOW, THE MOST IMPORTANT TIP OF ALL:  

Invite and welcome birds, lizards, and "beneficial" insects into your garden!  They are Nature's best pest controllers.  If you spray a plant with pesticide or BT (which kills ALL caterpillars, including butterfly cats) you will injure and discourage those helpers.

Oh, and remember that hummingbird bathing on the rose leaves that I told you about in my rose post?  A bath laced with fungicide and pesticide wouldn't be much of a treat.

Hummingbird on leaf





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GARDEN PATHS REDUCE LAWN AND WATER USE

Water conservation has become the hallmark of southern California gardening.  Hooray!  This approach can make a garden soooo much more interesting, as we look for alternatives to big flat lawns and single file flower beds.

Garden paths are a great way to reduce the lawn area.  You can put a path in ANY size garden, even a tiny patio.
Back corner after
THIS PATH IS IN A 50 SQUARE FOOT CONDO PATIO!  IT HIDES THE HVAC UNIT.
 Bark, decomposed granite, pea gravel, stone, pavers, and flagstones all make a good path.  Or, use faux grass, which now looks and feels much more natural.

For a path that won't get too much foot traffic, try a fragrant groundcover like thyme or mint.  Or, plant herbs or sweet alyssum between paving stones so that you will get a hint of perfume whenever you walk the path.

Pictures are more fun than words, so here are some examples of what I'm talking about... all of the following are from gardens I've designed.  The materials are inexpensive, super easy to maintain, and easy enough for any do-it-yourselfer to install.

 Lavender pathway
BARK MULCH PATH LINED WITH LAVENDER
After 3
 FAUX GRASS
Citrus alle area after
DECOMPOSED GRANITE
Left front walk march 09
NATURAL FLAGSTONE
PAVER PATH
CONCRETE PAVERS WITH RUBBER BARK MULCH
Path 2
PEA GRAVEL


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WRITTEN IN STONE: A FEW THOUGHTS ON USING ROCK IN THE GARDEN

Stones are the bones of a garden. And, as the fashion magazines show us, good bone structure is everything.

Dramatic, but natural, is the way to go. 

There are volumes written about stone in the garden, so I won't try to cover everything.  I just want to point out a few obvious DON'TS.

DON'T ONE:  Skeletons are meant to be under the skin, not on top of it. Ergo, rocks must look as if they are emerging from the earth, as they would in nature.  Embed them in the soil with uneven edges.

DON'T: 

  Grottobouldermed 

DON'T: ROCKS 2 

DO:

Boulder_Scene 

   

DON'T TWO:  No pearl necklaces.  Mikimoto belongs around your neck, not in the garden.  Maybe its just me, but I absolutely cringe at "necklaces" of little round rocks arranged single file around a tree or edging a garden bed.  Its one thing to use precut pavers, which are meant to give a clean narrow mowing edge and don't purport to look like anything other than artificial structures. (EXCEPT for little circles around big trees in the middle of the lawn, which are tabu no matter what you use.) But if you're going to use natural rock, keep it organic.  Pile stones together, use mixed sizes, make the edge wide.

DON'T:   

 2417012357_930894674d

DON'T: Big%20edging



PLEASE GOD, DON'T:

Edge2 


DO:     

  8_garden_paths

DO:

 Using-mulch-in-your-garden-9 


DON'T THREE:  Keep your girdle hidden.  If you're using gravel or small stones to make a path, you'll need an edge to keep the stone from spilling into the surrounding area.  But please, embed the edge (and no, you can't cover it with little rocks.  I tried that once, quel disaster.)

DON'T: BAD EDGE  


DON'T FOUR:  If you want a stone waterfall, fine.  But don't let it sit there bare, or with a few paltry ferns in pots around the base.  Balance that big slab of concrete/stone/fiberglass with an equal amount of greenery and other natural material.

DON'T:

Falls7

DO:  

 Wf204med   

CLOSING THOUGHT:  Zen garden style is an exception.  Rocks are meant to jut from flat beds of gravel.  But this is a narrow exception: Asian gardens are actually perfect tutorials on how to use stone, and I recommend reading a basic primer, such as Sunset's book on Japanese Gardens to anyone wanting to incorporate boulders or stone in their garden.

Go rock your garden!

WELCOME TO GARDENWRIGHT!

Cottage garden

Fountain area august 2
Specializing in drought tolerant and easy maintenance gardens. 
You can have a lush garden while conserving water. 

 I design with a  "Before and After Photographic Mockup" program.

Elliot before
Garden "before"
Plan B
Garden "Mockup Design"
Its simple!  I come to your site and take photos of the area to be designed.  I will also measure the area and check soil and sun exposure conditions.  We will discuss the type of garden you want.  I use that information and provide you with a 'photo mockup' of how the design will look, along with a detailed list of the plants in the design.  You or your gardener can work right from the photograph mockujp to do the installation (or I can also provide a drawing.)

  Drop me a note at annebirds@gmail.com to inquire about fees and details.

MOON GARDENS & WHITE GARDENS

The warm nights of summer draw us into our gardens like the luna moths who share the darkness.  This is the time of white flowers, glowing in the light of a full moon, candles, and softly lit lamps. These are 'moon gardens.'  One of the greatest pleasures of a night garden is its sweet fragrance.  Being shy in color, white flowers rely on their enchanting fragrance to attract pollinators.


The allure of an all-white garden isn't limited to the night.  The famed white garden at Sissinghurst, created by Vita Sackville-West, remains one of the most enchanting gardens of all time.

A white garden consists, of course, of white flowering plants, offset with rich green foliage.  To add a twist of contrast, some gardeners plant burgundy or chocolate leafed bushes or flowers.


Here are just some of the gorgeous creatures you can use for your own private Sissinghurst... 


NOTE:  Drought tolerant plants are marked with a "DT"
            Fragrant plants are marked with an "F"


ROSES, always


New Dawn climbing rose

Souvenir de la Malmaison, an old English rose  F
Sharif Asama, a David Austen rose   F
Pilgrim, another David Austen   F
Climbing white Iceberg rose
 

PLANTS TO ATTRACTS BUTTERFLIES AND HUMMINGBIRDS
Chamomile
Valerian  DT

White Hebe
Salvia Apiana (White Sage)   DT,F
Salvia Waverly  DT
White Ceanothus  F, DT

                                 White Heliotrope (which smells like vanilla) F   
                        
                                  PLANTS FOR SHADE
Angel Wing Jasmine   F
Diamond Frost Euphorbia  DT
Brugmansia   F   Caution:  This plant is highly toxic



Hosta
Spring Bouquet Viburnum  F  (Berries in winter also attract birds)

South African Jasmine   F
Snowball Viburnum


White Astilbe

Marble Queen Coprosma






BURGUNDY & CHOCOLATE ACCENT PLANTS

Chocolate Chip Ajuga
Chocolate Cosmos
Blackbird Euphorbia

Schwarzkopf Aeonium  DT

Berberis (Barberry)

Cotinus.  A small ornamental tree

Phormium.  DT. There are several burgundy varieties.

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