Saturday, January 30, 2010

January Clippings

Spring comes early in Northern California, so the the last weekend in January is a good time to prune roses and cut back ornamental grasses. After two weeks of rain, the return of the sun meant the garden was calling. Loudly. It's satisfying to reduce things to their lowest common denominator once in awhile.

As opposed to, say, letting them stay all wild and woolly! I am a stickler for cutting grasses back hard; fresh new growth emerging from a haystack is NOT a good look. A couple months of lumpishness will be worth it when this Miscanthus wakes up.

I can't believe how big the crown of this Pennisetum spatheolatum got in one year! This tight mound of old stems will give good support to the grass during the season.

Look who was living all cozy in the grass crown; very happy to come out and twirl in the sun!

Soft seedlings of Mexican Hair Grass are appearing here and there, just the way I like it!

Is there anything more promising than the first daffodil buds?

The Spanish Lavender is starting to emerge; a nice contrast to the dastardly oxalis!

Oxalis, Lavender and Daffodil foliage, a classic California winter vignette

This might be more classic in South Africa; Grevillea 'Coastal Gem' and Leucadendron 'Wilson's Wonder' combined with purple sage and blue fescue take over the show during cool weather.

The last seed pods on the Cercis 'Forest Pansy.' Dreaming of purple, heart-shaped leaves in just a couple of months...

Cerinthe major (yeah, again...she's one of those types who start mugging when they see a camera, how can I resist?)

And they are everywhere!

Pretty Tulbaghia simmleri is another lovely winter bloomer. And it's fragrant too!

Ahhhh, saved the best for last; Hardenbergia violacea 'Happy Wanderer' is covering my back fence with loveliness; this is a nice vine to combine with climbing roses on an arbor, as it is so happy to take the winter shift. Thanks for joining me in the garden today!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Foliage Follow-Up - January 2010

Now THIS is more like it. I love flowers, yes I do. But I realized as I was taking these pictures for Foliage Followup that while I decorate with flowers, I DESIGN with plants. I could have a whole garden without flowers, but without foliage of all shapes, textures and colors? Never!

Oh, my! Did YOU know that Mondo Grass has a berry? And not just any old berry, but a perfectly gorgeous BLUE berry? I have never seen this before, what a treat!

Carex 'Sparkler' now there is a fitting name for a plant; this is a lovely choice for adding sparkle to a shady corner.

I use variegated Boxwood as a well-behaved accent throughout the garden, but never, ever as a hedge. A girl has her standards.

The winter coloring of Dodonea purpurea (Purple Hopseed Bush) is all kinds of gorgeous; in summer it is more subtle, but always graceful, and a nice companion to Prunus caroliniana compacta (Carolina Cherry Laurel) for an evergreen hedge.

Coprosma 'Evening Glow' is another favorite accent plant with it's glossy, colorful leaves and compact, rounded habit.

Ilex x. Mondo 'Little Rascal' from Monrovia is a fantastic little evergreen shrub for sun or shade; here it makes a nice groundcover at the base of my bamboo...

Another Nandina 'Firepower' gives a pop of color in the bamboo grove; the groundcover is Isotoma fluviatilis (OR Laurentia fluviatilis OR Lobelia fluviatilis OR Pratia puberula; will someone PLEASE make up their mind what this poor plant is called!?) Whatever its name, this is a white-flowered variety that makes a beautiful green carpet.

The variegated English Ivy planted in the honeysuckle pot gets some nice pink tints in winter.

Protea, Mother Fern, Crassula tetragona, succulents and ivy in peaceful combination on the Buddha porch.

Asparagus Myers (Foxtail Fern) and Fatsia Japonica in a sheltered corner of the courtyard near a carved pine post from Mexico.

Yucca 'Bright Star' is a real cutie in winter with those pink edges.

Oops! Snuck in a Crassula flower! I almost lost this Jade Plant last winter; it's enjoying a more sheltered spot this year and seems quite happy!

And this is why I love Loropetalum; great foliage and flowers, happy in sun or shade, does something interesting all year round. Just don't shear it, please!

Carex testacea is at its glossy green-orange best in winter.

Another all-star in my book; Coleonema 'Sunset Gold' is the kind of plant I place front and center in the garden; soft, friendly, bright and easy-going.

Woolly thyme; fabulous low-water groundcover, softens everything!

Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Golf-Ball' is just a good, good boy.

The Artichokes are looking awesome!

And the Euphorbia 'Helena's Blush' just keeps getting more intense.

Here's my blue Senecio, by the way (he was feeling left out with all the attention his green buddy with the cute flowers has been getting.) Great combination with the Aeonium. Have I ever mentioned that all these succulents came from Succulent Gardens in Castroville? They are an awesome resource for designers. These were donated for the APLD booth at last year's SF Flower & Garden Show, and I got to take them home. Big thanks to Robin Stockwell for his generosity and wonderful plants!

Leucadendron 'Wilson's Wonder' is transforming by the day.

And finally, Festuca glauca 'Elijah Blue' is one of my favorite ornamental grasses; I have probably used more of these in gardens than any other plant. You can see why...

Big thanks to Pam Pennick from Digging for suggesting 'Foliage Followup!' Go to her site for links to more fabulous foliage!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Bloom Day - January 2010

January in Northern California, and the pickings are a bit slim! This is absolutely all I've got, and only one is new, but I guess when compared to snow drifts, it's something! Loropetalum chinense 'Plum Delight' (Chinese Fringe Flower) is one of my favorite multi-purpose shrubs; happy in sun or shade, with these lovely floral explosions in winter.

Good 'ol Cerinthe major (Honeywort or Blue Shrimp Plant) has been unfazed by freezing temps and continues its graceful display. Cerinthe is a generous seeder; plant it once and you'll have it forever (which is not a bad thing!) There is a whole field of it growing in the gravel of my side yard where some of last year's plants were piled! The only thing it dislikes is hot, dry weather.

The yellow Lantana continues to bloom against a warm, south-facing wall, however most of the plant has succumbed to the elements. At some point I will cut the whole darn thing back, and give you all a rest from seeing his smug face...but not yet!

Lovely, lovely Arbutus 'Marina' is my favorite small garden tree. A hybrid of our native Madrone, discovered in San Francisco, this relative of the strawberry tree (Arbutus Unedo) has the same bell-shaped flowers, but with wonderful red bark like a Manzanita.

Still enjoying the unexpectedly lovely blooms of my green Senecio; quite different from the dingy white puffballs on the the blue kind.

Reviled by California gardeners as a virtually uncontrollable winter weed, Oxalis (or Sour Grass, as we called it as children while munching on the crunchy stems) still has a certain cheerful beauty on sunny days. It will be gone with the heat of the summer.

The Grevillea 'Coastal Gem' is really hitting its stride now, the tightly curled buds are flinging themselves open all over the place!

Leucadendron 'Wilson's Wonder' is now revealing its round button flowers; the surrounding bracts will continue to turn creamy gold over the next month or two, getting taller and more star-like .

So what do you plant in a 6" wide strip of soil? That was an easy choice; a couple of sixpacks of 'Snow Crystals' Alyssum has turned into this lovely, fragrant border along the walkway through in my side yard. It even gets watered by the neighbor's sprinklers; you can't get much lower maintenance than that!

Good old Mona Lavender (Plectranthus) rallied through last month's freezes and is looking quite chipper!

Another good month for my Fuchsia thymifolia, which is much hardier than her tender hybrid relatives. This little flower is the size of a pinky fingernail, so sweet.

Last but not least, a new face, (finally!) and one that always says early spring to me. January through March is the season for the Hardenbergia violacea (Lilac Vine) that covers my side fence; it's just getting started, wait until next Bloom Day!

And that is everything that's blooming for me this month! Thanks, as always, to Carol from May Dreams Gardens for being the heart of Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. Visit her site for links to Bloom Day posts from all over the world.

"We can have flowers nearly every month of the year."
Elizabeth Lawrence

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Garden Designers Roundtable: Design Drawing Diversity

I'm taking a slightly different approach to the Garden Designers Roundtable "Regional Diversity" topic by exploring the different ways that designers present their ideas to clients. I asked some of my GDBL co-Horts to send samples of their work, and what I received was even more remarkably diverse than I had hoped. ~Click on any image to enlarge ~

New Jersey designer Susan Cohan uses Dynascape design software, probably the most popular landscape-specific CAD program for PC users. This is an example of a preliminary design plan that she might email to a client at the beginning of a project to whet their appetite. Susan LOVES a salivating client.

California designer Michelle Derviss, an artist since she discovered that crayons were meant for coloring with rather than eating, draws her beautiful plans by hand. This preliminary sketch shows softscape massing and the layering of the exterior stone work and wrought iron railings.

Idaho designer Dan Eskelson adds a new high-tech twist to his CAD drawings. Here he has created a PDF planting plan, with plant names live-linked to their descriptions/care at the Monrovia website. His client loved the interaction. This is a great example of what I refer to as 'live' drawings; when using CAD a drawing is always active and changeable, no matter the level of detail or finish (as opposed to a static hand-rendering which, once complete, cannot easily be changed.)

California designer Susan Morrison uses Vectorworks design software to create her plans. She typically does a multi-page set for her clients, including a landscape plan (shown) hardscape plan and planting plan. While it was a big learning curve to transition from hand-rendering to CAD, Susan appreciates how much cleaner and easier it is for her to draw on the computer. Plus she loves being able to email clients PDF snapshots of work in progress.

This is one of my drawings. I also use Vectorworks (which is pretty much the only game in town for Mac users) but I use it a little differently than Susan. I am a 'pretty picture' designer, and use very few of the tools available in the program, preferring to capture everything in one drawing that develops over time.

This is a preliminary concept plan that shows proposed hardscape in some detail, and the shape and general layout of planting beds. Subsequent revisions will refine the design, but my bias is to get off the paper and into the dirt as quickly as possible, making final decisions onsite with the client and contractor. I call out large trees and shrubs on my plans, but rarely do a detailed planting plan for smaller material, preferring instead to work off a plant palette and create once the plants are delivered. I've been using CAD for four years and adore it; my drawing table is in the garage.

California designer Genevieve Schmidt uses Dynascape to create beautifully refined planting plans that include plant photographs. While she uses her own photos of the plants she uses most often, Dynascape also has plant photos, many from Horticopia. Most of Genevieve's work is planting plans, and her clients appreciate being able to get a feel for the plants used (through the photos) without having to learn botanical names and examine the plans at length.

Another thing Genevieve loves about Dynascape is that she can export a plant list from the plan and create a quote, so she can give her clients and contractors an idea of how much the plants will cost.

Virginia designer Susan Schlenger likes to wow her clients with 3D renderings! With new programs (like Susan's tool of choice, Google's awesome 'SketchUp') such renderings are now within easy reach of designers, and are amazingly effective as presentation tools. While two-dimensional plans may speak to us, few clients can really visualize a garden from them. No such problem here.

Last but certainly not least, California designer Rebecca Sweet likes to do things the old-fashioned way, and is remarkably successful at it! Her hand-drawn plans and detailed plant legends get the job done just as well as anything else. Which should serve as a reminder that the sexiest CAD rendering is worthless without a skilled designer behind it. And it's not only the drawings, however they are made, that are important. It's how we communicate to our clients ABOUT the drawings.

There was quite a lively discussion about this as we prepared for these posts, and I think California designer Ivette Soler summed it up best, so I will close with her delightful and inspiring words:
My way of presenting my work embraces diversity to the core - I do it differently every time, depending on the client. Lately it involves me standing in the middle of their property waving my arms around, 'miming' the garden I have in my mind's eye. I find that for me, selling a garden is tapping into a client's dreams and fantasies, and if I can weave those into a story (with supporting plant images and drawings) the client is usually along for the ride! But for me, the story, the talking, the guiding the client through the wonder to come - THAT'S my biggest tool.

I think as garden designers, we are all storytellers! Capturing the essence of a garden is hard - plans can be too dry, plant photos never REALLY capture the full glory, and although a bouquet of cuttings has always been one of my 'secret weapons' (it's like bringing flowers on a date!) nothing seems to really 'get' the spirit of what a garden can do. That's where our passion fills in the gap, don't you think? I feel it when reading all of your blogs and tweets - the same energy that draws us together as a community gives us the spark to sell "The Dream!"
Enormous thanks to my fellow GDBL bloggers for making this post MUCH more interesting than it started out to be!

The GDBL Bloggers
Susan Cohan (Chatham NJ) Miss Rumphius’ Rules
Rebecca Sweet (Los Altos, CA) Gossip in the Garden
Dan Eskelson (Priest River ID) Clearwater Landscapes Garden Journal
Pam Penick (Austin TX) Digging
Michelle Derviss (Novato CA) Garden Porn
Ivette Soler/(Los Angeles CA) The Germinatrix
Susan Schlenger (Charlottesville VA) Landscape Design Advice
Scott Hokunson (Granby CT) Blue Heron Landscapes
Tara Dillard (Stone Mountain, GA) Landscape Design Decorating Styling
Jocelyn Chilvers (Wheat Ridge, CO) The Art Garden
Genevieve Schmidt (Arcata, CA) North Coast Gardening
Susan Morrison (Concord, CA) Blue Planet Garden Blog

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