Saturday, June 6, 2015

Installing Herb Gardens!

Homeowners in Oakland have been installing the herb garden with style and flair this month. One family has transformed their small backyard into a decorative retreat.

Before putting the herb garden in place they had the building blocks laid out with paths and patio (inspired by designer Meagan Siemons)  woven into a small, square backyard. Neighboring large eucalyptus trees (which are not native to this area) were removed and the garden opened up. Since then, they have had something of a view, and began thinking about filling in the raised beds with vegetables and the bare spaces with decorative plants.

The herb garden was delivered with all the material they needed. I consulted with them briefly before the delivery to see if the herb garden would be appropriate for their back yard. Design-wise, there is no correct answer and they could be as creative as they wanted. This family expanded the area with step stones and set out the plants in a pattern, splitting it in two areas across the path. It creates a beautiful space where they can have a coffee, a meal or an evening drink on a warm night with the fragrance of sage, rosemary and thyme keeping them company.

I am grateful to be able to show you these before and after photos. Since gardens are always growing and changing, I will look forward to seeing how it progresses in the coming seasons.

If you want more information about the T Z Landscape Design Herb Garden, there is a page where you can learn more or contact me. It comes with everything you need leaving the design and installation to you.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Story of the Transplanted Japanese Maple and Drip Irrigation

The Japanese Maple that you see in the picture above was once planted in a smallish concrete planter set decoratively in a smallish lawn on a smallish patio. Getting tired of the word smallish yet? My husband and I dug it out of the concrete planter and hauled it up the hill to plant and, against all odds, it has survived. Not only was I advised not to transplant Japanese Maples, but at one point the heavy root ball got the better of us and rolled part way back down the hill. "OK, you can let go now" he said. And so I did. "I was just kidding" he said as the little tree rolled. Or maybe he just said "OK" which I took to mean, you can let go now. But then I'm pretty sure he said he was just kidding. Anyway, we retrieved it and planted it here in its final growing place. It is a terrace set at the top of our garden made of, I assume, large lava rocks that the previous owners had trucked in. So far this hardy Japanese Maple has survived two years past its undignified roll down the hill and it's not because I'm a super attentive gardener. Although I did give it plenty of compost and I had a soaker hose on it turned on twice a week during the summer of last year. This year I've converted to drip which you see installed above. I will put mulch over it when the area is finally weeded (never, oy). Also, since we've had another winter of drought I water it twice a month instead of twice a week.

In case you haven't heard, drip irrigation is pretty efficient. Where spray nozzles of any kind have a tendency to lose water in the wind, there is virtually no loss of water with drip for obvious reasons.

Some people don't like it because it can get clogged. If it is installed with all the correct filters and flow control devices, though, it doesn't get clogged often and can be very good for certain parts of the garden.

Use drip irrigation when planting your new garden bed to keep your plants alive (with a timer you don't have to pay attention to it once programmed) and save water during the summer months!

There is so much more to say about drip irrigation, but truthfully it can get pretty dull and I don't know it as well as the professionals. So here are a few reference sites for you, going from general knowledge to specific videos on how to install your system.

This Old House

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Succulents Again

I have not had a chance to work with succulents much. I've always thought they were best used in terrariums, potted plants and the odd accent plant, but I have been proved wrong. With another year of pending drought the neighbors are rallying with some excellent succulent gardens.

These pictures of the neighbors new and growing succulents are encouraging. The two that I like the most have completely different looks. One bed I saw is placed in the center of the driveway with a wide array of succulents randomly set around the circle, another garden had a foundation border on the edge of the front lawn with a gravel mulch surrounding the plants.

I've made an attempt at identifying some of these plants.

Rhodiola rosea (Sedum) or more likely Leucospermum sp. the Rhodiola has yellow flowers and similar foliage, thanks Kelly!

Senecio citriformus or Echeveria leuchotricha

Kanchoe blossfeliana (maybe)

Echeveria X gilva 'Red' or Sempervivum ginseppe 
Aloe variety
A previous post contains a picture of the garden where the succulent trend started a few years ago. It is literally a mountain of very nicely kept succulents across an entire garden bed.

There is a very great cactus place in Berkeley, CA where I intend to continue my education.

Cactus Jungle Nursery and Garden

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Spring Edibles

Just in time for the west coast spring vegetable planting (and the weekend) I've prepared a plan to start your vegetable seeds directly in the ground. It is unseasonably warm here on the coast of California so these cool season crops might grow quicker than they have in past years. I hope so! It seems unlikely it will get too hot for them and I'm crossing my fingers.

Have you dug up your winter kale and beets yet? No, me neither, but if you have another piece of garden that is not already occupied and ready to be turned under and planted directly, then you will not regret planting these seeds. An amazing amount will fit into a small space. I have a 3' X 16' plot, and am only using 6' of it for this plan.

The Farmers Almanac has a companion planting reference to enhance the greatness of the intensive garden plan. And my favorite The Essential Urban Farmer by Novella Carpenter and Willow Rosenthal gave insight on techniques for planting things so closely, enjoy.
A quick overview of the plan: The 2'10" structure at the top is for the Snap Peas to climb, it will create some shade, but that is fine since there is only a little bit of lettuce on the shady side. The carrots and onions are planted in a hexagonal patterns so that more will fit in the small space. Radishes will mature fast and be harvested before the onions encroach on that space and the lettuce should be clipped when it is baby sized so that it doesn't take over. Marigolds and Herbs will help keep the bugs away. Click the links below to see the seed variety because they will dictate the size of the plant and the length of the harvest to some extent.

Order your seeds today and don't forget the floating row covers! They keep the moisture in, the bugs out, and the seeds are already sprouting in the first week. I am not affiliated with these vendors, but I know you can count on them, received all my supplies quickly and successfully from these guys.

Seeds from Johnny's Seeds, Radish, Carrot, Snap Pea, Onion, Lettuce
Floating row cover from Henry Field's.
They sell a nice small piece for the smaller gardens (61" X 25')
Floating Row Cover, just lay over the planted area
Radishes already sprouting

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Naturalized Bulbs

Daffodils and Summer Snowflake

readily adapt and have naturalized in my San Francisco East Bay Hills Garden. While they last only a few months at most, they are worth it. The Daffodils give me color and somehow, happiness? and the Snowflake really fills in when it's needed since just a small change in temperature causes them to spring forth as if it were a fully fledged Spring. Right now, by the calendar, we are another month and half away from Spring, yet the Daffodil and Summer Snowflake are flourishing. I have not planted any of these in years and they keep coming back, yay, thank you!

Common Name: Daffodil
Botanical Name: Narcissus sp.

Common Name: Summer Snowflake
Botanical Name: Leucojum aestivum

You can find these bulbs planted all over the area of San Francisco called the East Bay Hills which includes Oakland and Berkeley. They adapt to clay soil and some varieties of Narcissus are native to California.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

No Summer Water Garden Design

Here is another easy to install drought tolerant garden for fifty square feet. And, just so you don't forget about the herb garden, there is an analysis of it on Tracy's Lookout, where I keep some blog posts not directly related to Garden Design.

So, off we go...

No Summer Water Design Description

I am desperately trying to find an alternative to ivy which looks green and lush year after year with no summer water and no attention except to clip it back because it refuses to stop growing. 

I, being me, have chosen to be adventurous, and choose plants that I have not had any personal experience with. Except the Dryopteris, they are all a mystery to me, so I am planting them on my front hillside to see how they do among the long standing Sword Ferns and a few perennials that stoically stick it out despite the ivy. The bulbs, Brodiaea and Anenome, I found at Costco, but I have not yet begun my search for the other two. Since I will be installing this garden in my own landscape, expect a post of an analysis when I've tried it out. If you decide to try it - please let me know and I'd love to include that with my analysis.

The Plant List

Dryopteris sp.

Dryopteris arguta
A native California Fern that I tried planting in my 'wet zone' of the garden. I suspect I killed because it got too much water. Imagine, too much water.
Sidalcea malviflora
A flowery little pink round thing that I found in my book.
Bulbinella floribunda
A spikey yellow flowered plant that resembles the Red Hot Poker, but needs less water, also found in the book and not yet seen in real life. :-)
I found a 120 bulb count bag of these at Costco that I have begun to plant. I refuse to water them myself in order to let nature takes its course this spring. Crossing fingers.
Also 100 bulb count bag of these found at Costco. I've buried some and hoping for some rain in the coming months.

This year, it is already like spring except it is January. While the East Coast has been taking a brutal beating as far as weather goes, the Western side of the US is enjoying hiking weather no colder than 55 F degrees. It is not good, even the Sierras have no snow... we are going to be flushing the toilets with leftover water from the sink at this rate. Not a pretty sight. Hopefully this design will help the garden be enjoyable while staying within your individual water companies water restrictions this summer.

As for the design, the layout of the plants is totally optional. These drawings give you an idea of how many of the plants you need for the 50 square feet. I suggest overlapping a little since each plant will go dormant at different times and you want it to look as filled in as you can for as long as you can.

Update: the Sidalcea and Bulbinella may be difficult to find at the local nursery, but if you order this garden through me in 2015 the wholesale nursery claims to have them, or order the seeds through UK based Plant World Seeds to experiment with different varieties of Bulbinella.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Easy to Grow Camelias

I can't say enough great things about the simple Camelia. They are a throwback from the past generation of gardens. Where there are still mature Junipers, Rhododendrons and Azaleas there are almost always a few mature Camelias. I had that garden when we first bought the house and it was beautiful for the first few years. Rhododendrons, Azaleas and Camelias really know how to flower.

Unfortunately, because of a combination of the manual watering system, our lack of water during the summer months, and my unwillingness to over water the landscape, most of the Rhododendrons and Azaleas slowly died off. They are  more suited to the Pacific Northwest where precipitation is more reliable all year.

In my garden, the only thing that has survived to this day are the Camelias. I cut them and they grow back. I never water them and they bloom every spring. They are one of the best plants to grow in a Central California garden, and with so many options of colors and types, they can keep you occupied almost as long as the roses do when you are choosing which one to buy.

Botanical Name: Camelia japonica (with many, many varieties, other species and cultivars)
I grow them in Oakland, CA. You need to take care of them for the first few years after you plant them at which time they should have a well draining soil and moderate to regular water. Once established they will outlive all the plants.
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