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Before & After

Let’s study the before picture…the yard is narrow and deep. The door that you can see in the photo is a second unit. When I was asked to do a drought tolerant landscape design for this house (and granny unit), my client wanted something with color but was easy to maintain. She wanted to create a natural border between her and her rental unit. The focus from her living room became the Basalt fountain in the foreground. This type of fountain is my favorite…the water recirculates from a basin below ground, is covered by a screen, and cobbles hide the basin and pump. Whether you use drilled stones, pottery or build a natural waterfall, having a below-ground basin is much easier to maintain. Very little light penetrates to the water below, so growing algae is not a problem. Also, there is no standing water, which means that mosquitos are not a problem either! The top dressing, instead of bark, is a small type of crushed rock. It sits on top of weed fabric, and the overall effect is not only clean looking,  but the plant’s roots stay cool and moist in the soil, plus the rock can easily be blown with a blower to clean up fall leaves, without the stones blowing away too!

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What to do in fall/winter

Showing these pictures is like showing you a picture of myself when I first get out of bed…not pretty!

This is what my garden looks like at the moment: it’s fall and we’re heading into winter. So what’s to do in the garden?

There are two main pushes in the garden for me: Fall and Spring. It’s fall that I’d like to speak about now. Preparing your garden for winter is like getting a child ready for bed. You make sure they are bathed, teeth brushed, pajamas on, and then the bedtime story and off to sleep. In the morning the hope is that they are refreshed and ready for the day. With the garden, there are many perennials that have blossomed and shined, and now have dried stalks and bases that need cutting back. Ornamental grasses will need hair cuts as well (make sure they are all straw-colored before you cut). After you do the major pruning and cleaning (roses will wait until January for their cutting), I usually prune back shrubs that have grown too big. Next I deal with the weeds. When everything is clean and cut, I spread mulch, and here I’m using the leaves that have fallen that I have shredded, to blanket the beds, and tuck everything in for a winter’s sleep. I know that by taking care of the garden like this, it will awaken again in the spring happy and healthy!

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My Favorite Drought Tolerant Plants…

Many years ago I created a list of the plants that I use most often in my landscape designs. When I design a landscape, I need to make sure that the plants I choose will thrive in our climate and region. Some of the plants on this list would not be considered ‘drought tolerant’, and yet they survive with the heat and cold and thrive on a drip irrigation system. I use combinations of these plants over and over again, creating a bold, textured, sustainable palate.
It’s amazing how when these plants are planted, immediately butterflies and other insects are attracted to them!
It’s time to make the change with our landscapes…and here are some wonderful plants that thrive in our California climate!

Silver Color

Artemesia ‘Powis Castle’/Silver Mnd.
Cerastium – Snow in Summer
Convolvulous – Bush Morning Glory
Grevillea ‘Penola’
Lavender – all types
Santolina – chamaecyparis
Senecio cineraria
Stachys – Lamb’s Ear

Non-deciduous shrubs

Agapanthus – all varieties
Callestemon – ‘Little John’
Cistus – Rock Rose
Coleonema – all types
Correa – Australian Fuschia
Dietes – Fortnight lily
Euphorbia – all varieties
Grevillea – all varieties
Helianthemum – Sunrose
Hemerocallis – Day Lily (there are evergreen varieties)
Pittosporum – all types
Santolina – Viridis
Zauschernia – California Fuschia

Perennial Color

Achillea – Yarrow
Anigothanzthus – Kangaroo Paws
Brachycome – Swan River Daisy
Coreopsis – all types
Echinacea – Purple Cone Flower
Erigeron – Santa Barbara Daisy
Ground Cover Roses
Kniphofia – red Hot Poker
Nepeta – Catmint
Perovska – Russian Sage
Rudbeckia – Black-Eyed Susan
Salvia – ‘Hot lips’ ‘Maynight’, etc.
Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’
Shasta Daisy

Ground Cover

Arctostaphylos – ‘Emerald Carpet or Uva Ursi Cotoneaster – prostrate varieties
Delosperma ‘Cooperii’ Erigeron – Santa Barbara Daisy
Gazania – trailing types Ground Cover Roses
Juniperous ‘Wiltonii’ & other prostrate varieties Myoporum
Rosemary – prostrate varieties Thymus – Thyme
Verbena – ‘Tapien’


Aloe Vera Echeveria – Hens & Chicks
Agave ‘Paryii’ Sedum ‘Autmn Joy’, ‘Angelina’,
Agave ‘Americana’ – Dwarf varieties ‘Dragon’s Blood & ‘Cape Blanco’
Sempervivum – check on cold hardiness (916) 485-4769

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Before & After

I love transforming a yard…look at the before photos. Imagine coming home each day and walking the narrow concrete path and stepping up the dull concrete steps. And then look at the after photos…the concrete walk is gone and a flagstone path that is gently curving now takes you to the door. The steps are of flagstone, there is a small courtyard area and water feature, and now the entry to your home is peaceful, colorful, and a joy to be in!