Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Cambria, California, cottage gardens

We haven't been to Cambria, California, in over 20 years.
Many of the vintage cottages have since been restored, some a little to much for our taste,
but many still retain their vintage cottage style gardens and pickets fences.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

What do you mean, "kill the lawn?"

Ask Me How

I have been seeing these bumper stickers on cars for a while and didn't know what they meant. I decided to find out and I signed up for a weekend 3 hour class at the "Tree of Life Nursery." They offered a 3 hour class on a Saturday that incorporated three topics including "how to kill your lawn," California Native Plants, and tips on maintaining your California Native Garden. Quite often these classes are only held one at a time so it was a good opportunity to take them all at once.

Their were about 36 people all seated underneath the most gorgeous California Sycamore you have ever seen. It was fortunate that we had some shade because it was a very hot morning and getting hotter by the hour. You could not ask for a more beautiful setting for an outdoor classroom.

The first class, the one that resulted in the mysterious bumper sticker, was "how to kill your lawn." I don't know what I thought the class would incorporate, but I didn't think it meant to literally kill the lawn. Surprise! That is exactly what it meant. I didn't realize that killing a lawn was so tricky, but there are two types of lawns that need to be killed in two totally different ways. There are cool season grasses and warm season grasses.

Cool season grasses include fescue, marathon, bluegrass and other grass blends that stay green in the winter. Most of our clients for the Landscape Architecture business we own have the fescue type grasses for their primary lawns. The majority of homeowners in the Newport Beach area want a lush and green lawn all year regardless of how expensive their water bill may be. The other type of grass includes warm season grasses such as Bermuda, St. Augustine, Zoyzia and any other rhizomatous grasses that are brown in the winter.

Cool season grasses, while harder to grow and keep green, are easier to kill. The fastest way to kill it is to smother it with mulch and don't water it, strip and flip it using a sod cutting machine, or rototill it if there are no rhizomatous weedy grasses mixed into it. If you have nut grass weeds growing in your lawn, (like we do in our back yard), you will need a more aggressive approach to removing your lawn - like that of the warm season grasses.

Warm season grasses are easy to grow but much harder to kill. You can not rototill them. You have to hand remove the grass by weeding and digging out the roots which is very labor intensive. You can also use an herbicide. Although very controversial, herbicides are the most effective way to kill the warm season grasses because it kills the roots.

A slow way to kill your grasses is water, grow and kill and repeat the cycle several times until the lawn doesn't come up anymore. This takes a lot of time and your neighbors won't be very happy with you for having such an ugly yard for so long.

After teaching us how to kill the lawn I thought that there would be replacements recommended for a "lawn-like" plant to replace it with. We have a dog and I can't imagine having some sort of lawn type plant for her. However, I was somewhat disappointed not to be given information like that. They did give us a list of thirty plants to put in a low water requiring native plant garden, but they weren't low growing or grass like. My husband and I would like to replace our front lawn to try and decrease our ever growing water bill. Dave, my husband and a landscape architect, has been researching the different grass types that don't need much water or maintenance. So far it seems that the Carex variety of grasses are the best and look decent all year long. Some of the other types tend to need to be replaced every couple of years and who really wants to do that? If you do a google search for images and type in Carex you will see many types of this grass and they are quite attractive. Well, enough for now! This is what I learned in the first hour of class.... Sometime soon I will blog about what else I learned in the following two hours.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

For photos of Landscape Designs by David Pedersen, please see the photos posted on our flickr account:


Thursday, July 23, 2009

Our Australian Cattle Dog

This is Gypsy, our traveling dog.  I needed to take a few photos of a project so I took her with me - she loves to ride in the car.  When we got there I couldn't figure out why she wouldn't look at me or respond to my voice, and then I noticed that she was staring at horses.  She was so totally focused on those horses - she would have loved nothing more than to chase them. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Tree of Life Nursery

This nursery is one of our favorites for California Natives.  It isn't just a nursery, it is a wonderful little destination for a day trip.  They have a gift store with books, flower seeds, gifts and usually complimentary coffee and cookies.  Because it has been hot lately, I recommend bringing your own cool beverages and snacks.

They obviously have a huge assortment of California Natives as well as workshops pertaining to California Native gardening.  Their web site is very thorough and I highly suggest you take a look.


L.A. Fire Dept. approved CA native ground cover

Ornamental Strawberry

This is a very hardy ground cover and spreads rapidly. I love plants that grow easily and are green! It grows wild but is also available at your local California Natives nursery.

LA County Fire Dept. Fire approved CA native tree

Platanus racemosa

California Sycamore

This is my all time favorite tree.  When my husband and I hike in the Newport Coast Area there are natural groves of these in a few spots.  They give wonderful shade and the leaves are so beautiful.  The photo shows very young California Sycamores just installed at the Mesa Birch Park. This park consists of mostly California Natives.  Someday these will be huge and soften the look of the office buildings in the background.


LA County Fire approved CA native shrubs

Achillea Moonshine

Common name: Allan Bloom Hybrid

I have this in my yard and I love it.  The foliage is sort of a grey-green and the flowers are bright yellow.  They bloom frequently and add a mass of yellow color to the landscape.  This also come in other colors including pink.  I haven't been able to find the other colors anywhere local. I have seen this called "Yarrow" also.

The pink and white Allan Bloom Hybrids were found at a park entry in Shady Canyon area.

Salvia greggii

Common Name:Autumn Sage

I don't have red in my landscape anymore but every time I see Autumn Sage in a garden or while hiking in the local mountains, I stop to admire it. I took this photo at the Mesa-Birch
Park that was designed by David Pedersen and consists of mostly California Natives.

Lavandula dentata

Common name: French Lavender

French Lavender is in the foreground of this Shady Canyon landscape, designed by David Pedersen, Inc.  It is hardy and blooms frequently.  We also have this in our front yard.

Botanical Name:Cercis occidentalis 
Common Name(s):
Western Redbud

Although considered a shrub, we often use this as a specimen tree.
The flowers are gorgeous and this has a cottage feel to it.  We recently put one of these in the front yard of a craftsman home and it looks gorgeous. 
This photo was taken on some walking trails on the Irvine Ranch Water District Property.

Fire Resistant California Natives

There are some beautiful choices in plant material amongst the California Natives.  Some natives, however, are prone to drying out and are highly flammable.  My husband and I had two seperate family members affected by the last fire storm in San Diego, one of them even had to rebuild their entire family home.  Because of this, we have been more interested in California Natives that are also considered "fire resistant."  There are lists available now that show which plants are approved both by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California as well as the Los Angeles Fire Department and other surrounding Fire Departments.  No plants can actually prevent a fire from happening, but plants that stay green and have a high moisture content are less likely to add fuel to an already dry, hot, or dangerous situation.  A complete list of fire resistant California Natives are available at this site:  


In my next post I am going to mention a few of the California Natives that my husband and I have used in our own landscapes as well as a few used in one of his projects - a California Native park that was installed recently in Newport Beach, Caliofornia on Acacia Street.  

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Whether you are staying in your home or getting ready to sell it, the statement your home makes from the curb is what gives people their first impression of you and your living space.  The landscape and entry of your home are like the suit you would wear to a job interview. An entry has potential to say something about the people who live there as well as being inviting and drawing you in. 

Needless to say, a special front door in a beautiful wood or an accent color makes a home stand out.  If you have a courtyard entry a handcrafted gate in a style to complement your home is a good idea.  Having beautiful colored perennials or pots with accent plants in them flanking either side of an entry walk also can be an affordable way to make your entry stand out from others.  Whether your home is traditional or contemporary there are many ways to give your home curb appeal with plant material, gates, masonry, and front doors.


Monday, July 20, 2009

Nifty Fifty (no, not your age!)

Nifty-50 Plants for Water-Smart Landscapes

These plants have been selected because they are attractive, often available in retail nurseries, non-invasive, easy to maintain, long-term performers, scaled for residential landscapes, and of course, after established - drought tolerant. 

N-native to California

Botanical Name   Common 


1. Arctostaphylos species and hybrids, N   Manzanita

2. Ceanothus species and hybrids, N   California Lilac

3. Cercis occidentalis, N     Western Redbud

4. Chamelaucium uncinatum    Geraldton Waxflower

5. Cistus species     Rockrose

6. Grevillea species and hybrids    Grevillea

7. Heteromeles arbutifolia, N    Toyon

8. Leucophyllum species     Texas Ranger

9. Mahonia aquifolium, N    Oregon Grape

10. Myrtus communis     Common Myrtle

11. Rosmarinus officinalis    Rosemary

12. Westringia fruticosa     Coastal Rosemary


13. Aeonium species     Aeonium

14. Agave species and hybrids    Agave

15. Aloe species and hybrids    Aloe

16. Calandrinia grandiflora    Rock Purslane

17. Dudleya species and hybrids, N   Live Forever

18. Echeveria species and hybrids    Hens-and-Chickens


19. Bougainvillea hybrids     Bougainvillea

20. Mascagnia macroptera    Yellow Orchid Vine

21. Vitis californica, N     California Wild Grape 


 22. Ceanothus griseus horizontalis species and hybrids, N Carmel Creeper

23. Dymondia margaretae     Silver Carpet

24. Lampranthus species     Ice Plant

25. Lantana montevidensis    Trailing Lantana

26. Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Huntington Carpet’  Huntington Carpet Rosemary

Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Lockwood de Forest’ Lockwood de Forest Rosemary

Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Prostrata’   Prostrate Rosemary

Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Santa Barbara’  Santa Barbara Rosemary

27. Sedum species and hybrids    Stonecrop

28. Thymus pseudolanuginosus    Woolly Thyme

 Ornamental Grasses and Grass-like Plants

29. Cordyline australis     New Zealand Cabbage Tree

30. Muhlenbergia capillaris    Pink Muhly Grass

31. Pennisetum setaceum ’Rubrum’   Red Fountain Grass

32. Phormium tenax and some species and hybrids  New Zealand Flax 


 33. Anigozanthos species and hybrids   Kangaroo Paws

34. Encelia californica     California Sunflower

35. Lavandula species and hybrids    Lavender

36. Mimulus, Native species and hybrids, N   Monkey flower

37. Penstemon, Native species    Penstemon

Penstemon heterophyllus, N   Foothill Penstemon

Penstemon parryi, N    Parry’s Beardtongue

Penstemon spectabilis, N   Showy Penstemon

38. Salvia species     Sage

Salvia Africana lutea    Dune Sage

Salvia chamaedryoides   Gernander Sage

Salvia clevelandii, N    Cleveland Sage

Salvia leucantha    Mexican Bush Sage

Salvia greggii    Autumn Sage

39. Tagetes, perennial     Perennial Marigold

Tagetes lemmonii    Copper Canyon Daisy

Tagetes lucida    Mexican Tarragon

40. Verbena peruviana     Peruvian Verbena 


41. Arbutus ‘Marina’     Strawberry Tree

42. Butia capitata     Pindo Palm

43. Chitalpa tashkentensis , N    Chitalpa 

44. Geijera parviflora     Australian Willow

45. Lagerstroemia indica     Crape Myrtle

46. Laurus nobilis     Sweet Bay

47. Olea europaea ‘Swan Hill’     Fruitless Olive

48. Parkinsonia x ’Desert Museum’    Desert Museum Palo Verde

49. Pistacia chinensis     Chinese Pistache

50. Quercus agrifolia, N     Coast Live Oak



Sustainable Landscapes
for the Future

With San Diegans facing water rationing in the near future, the County of San Diego may soon mandate drought-tolerant and fire-resistant landscaping for all new construction projects in unincorporated areas. The San Diego Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to consider stricter landscape requirements that would swap thirsty vegetation with varieties that use less water and can slow the spread of fire.   Apparently in San Diego 60 percent of residential water usage goes toward watering of landscapes.  By requiring water-wise and fire-wise landscaping, the County can help San Diegans save water, protect homes and even save money.  

Many parts of California are arid and face record drought and dwindling water supplies.  Although you may or may not be able to change out your existing landscape to a water-wise landscape, there are a few simple things you can to conserve water in your yard.

  • Adjust the timer clock for your irrigation system if you have one.  Make sure it is not going off to often for the time of year it is.  In the winter months you may even be able to get away with once a week.
  • If it is raining, turn off your irrigation.
  • Mulch around base of plants to keep the moisture in the ground
  • When possible, use Cactus, succulents,  California natives and other lush plants that don’t require as much water.
  • Group plants together that have similar water needs
  • Plant in the fall if you can, then plants can get established before the heat of summer comes.  Plants will need less water once they are established.
  • Minimize turf.  There are so many great alternatives to traditional lawn and many of them are very attractive.
  • Water before dawn and after dusk to reduce water loss due to  the increased             evaporation during the middle of the day

If you are considering installing a new landscape, David Pedersen in Orange County, California, is qualified and educated in sustainable landscapes.  Water wise landscapes don’t have to consist of just cactus any more.  There are California natives, succulents and many colorful and lush plants that use little amounts of water.  See the link to Dave’s website if you wish to contact him.