Thursday, January 28, 2010

Let them Eat Cake.

Yeah, sure.

Now I know why Marie Antoinette loved her rose garden so much.

She didn’t have to work in it herself. If she did she would have probably taken a shovel to it and dug the whole sadistic thing up.

From Loropetalum chinese

Yesterday I almost finished the yearly BIG PRUNE at an estate garden .

Despite wearing heavy duty long armed gloves I still received plenty of wounds, one which I may actually have to go see the Doctor for if it doesn’t heal within the next day or so.

The only redeeming quality of a rose garden from my perspective is that as a horticulturist I get paid for maintaining it.

From Loropetalum chinese

That’s about the most positive thing I can say about it.

From California Gardening

Growing an estate quality rose garden is a shit load of work.

After the BIG PRUNE I will be applying 3 sessions of dormant spraying over the next 3 months of dormancy. This is done to curtail ( but it certainly doesn’t stop ) the uninvited dreaded black spot, rust and mildew that will taunt the professional gardener all summer


From portfolioMay08.jpg

In late February I will start applying the well aged compost and mulch around the roses.

This usually takes me about 2 eight hour days to complete.

From California Gardening

In late March the buds will be swollen and the aphids will arrive in thick droves.

I don’t use inorganic pesticides so I will have to spend a series of days hand stripping and water spraying off the aphids and in worse case scenarios will apply Safers soap to the buds.

From California Gardening

Then from April to November I will cut bouquets and strip off the thorns for the estate and dead head the rose shrubs every week and do battle with black spot, rust and if the weather is cool and moist, we’ll have mildew to fight with.

The drip irrigation system will require constant fiddling with as well just to get the right amount of water to the root system in conjunction with the type of weather that we are having.

From California Gardening

Compost teas will be concocted and applied as well as baking soda remedies.

If a leaf is found to have black spot or rust it must be stripped before entering into the house. Gawd help us if there is a spotted leaf !

From portfolioMay08.jpg

A rose garden has one redeeming quality from my point of perspective : Job $ecurity.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

All Wet.

Northern California has been under a cloud of rain storms for the past week and a half.

This is great news for our reservoirs, cisterns and wells.

My own water catchment barrels are full to the brim.

Come this summer when the rain is all but a distant memory some people will be turning on their fountains to once again whet their liquid senses.

I’ve designed a variety of fountains.

Some were designed for meditation purposes while others were designed to mask the noise of adjacent street traffic.

Below is a brief sampling of fountains and why they were designed.

For meditation - we cut and hand carved this Canadian basalt column for a small enclosed

outdoor courtyard

From Water fountains in the landscape

Also designed for meditation. Situated on a roof top high rise in the city.

From Water fountains in the landscape

Purchased from Stone Forest Company. Designed to attract local fauna.

From Water fountains in the landscape

From Water fountains in the landscape

Hand built from New England bluestone and California brownstone.

Set into a circular patio. This fountain attracts the local birds as well as the kids who play in this garden.

From Water fountains in the landscape

Just plain artifice . To move your mind away from the 7 foot tall stucco wall.

Water gently ripples down the face of the glass and stone mosaic inset.

From Water fountains in the landscape

This fountain is set into a retaining wall. It acts as a focal point that is viewed from inside the house.

From Water fountains in the landscape

A simple water bowl meant to encourage wildlife into the garden.

From Water fountains in the landscape

A moderenist hand built New England bluestone fountain. Installed as a focal point and a sitting wall.

From Water fountains in the landscape

A natural granite stone hand carved and set into a stone terrace for quiet contemplation.

From portfolioMay08.jpg

Not really a ‘fountain’ but more of a fun way to cool off on a hot day.

In the center of the mosaic spiral there is a brass water nozzle that when turned on shoots water up from the middle of this bike riding ring.

The excess water goes into a gravity fed irrigation system that waters the orchard and garden below

From Water fountains in the landscape

Monday, January 18, 2010

Hope for regeneration

The affects of the big freeze that we had here in Northern California in early December are starting to really show.

Some of the frost damaged foliage that was left in a state of blackened mush is starting to accumulate a variety of molds and that is a sad sign that a succulent plant is done for.

Other plants that normally start to push out growth during our mild winter climate are still sitting dormant and showing no signs of regenerative life.

I think it might be too cold for the winter dormancy to break.

Usually I see new growth on many of the aeoniums but they are sitting silent.

Hopefully N. California gardeners will start to see the pushing of new life in the next month in some of our succulent and bromeliad gardens.

From New Album 6/2/09 4:27 PM

From New Album 6/2/09 4:27 PM

From Container Plantings

From Pina Colada

From Pina Colada

From Pina Colada

From Pina Colada

From Pina Colada

Friday, January 15, 2010

Bromeliads, Succulents, and Herbs.... oh my !

This incredibly cheerful , textural and diverse deck top planter box belongs to the treasurer of the Bromeliad Society of San Francisco, Harold Charns and his gracious wife Rose.

Last year The Charns opened their home and garden to the members of the Bromeliad and Cactus & Succulent Clubs as part of the annual S.F. Bromeliad Garden Tour.

Never have I seen such a fantastic textural tapestry of diverse plants in one large planter box.

Bromeliads commingle with succulents and herbs, orchids and perennials.

From Bromeliad Society Tour 2008

From Bromeliad Society Tour 2008

A simply beautiful succulent pot

From Bromeliad Society Tour 2008

A small water garden also residing on the deck

From Bromeliad Society Tour 2008

Don’t you love the coloration ?

From Bromeliad Society Tour 2008

For more information about landscaping with Bromeliads check out the website of the Bromeliad Society of San Francisco and if you are in the area please feel welcome to come to our monthly meeting on the 3rd Thursday of the month.


Day: 3rd Thursday of the Month

Time: 7:00 pm setup, 7:30pm call to order

Location: S. F. County Fair Building, Recreation Room

9th Avenue and Lincoln Way (entrance to Golden Gate Park), San Francisco

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Some things need to be left behind

I just finished reading an article written by Marni Jameson in my local newspaper the Marin IJ .

She admits that she has 3 brain cells and I agree.

Marni Jameson wrote in her January 9, 2010 article about DIY design trends from the last past decade and proudly placed a color photograph of a wood burning fire pit showing how fantastic this source of pollution is.

If wood burning fire pits were the trend for the last decade then the new trend for the next coming decade and beyond should be all about adopting clean burning gas and eco fuels that do not pollute the air and send thousands of children and adults to the hospital with asthma and respiratory disease complications.

Burning wood for out door decoration and ambience is down right environmentally irresponsible.

*Particulate pollution is the most important contaminant in our air. ...we know that when particle levels go up, people die 1. " Indeed, wood smoke is chemically active in the body 40 times longer than tobacco 2.

It is no coincidence that we have Spare the Air days here in Northern California.

Does Marni Jameson think this is because we have fantastically clean air free from wood smoke pollution ?

Or that there is a strong presence of The American Lung Association because there is no asthma problems from our poor air quality ?

Regenerate some brain cells Ms. Jameson, and do us a favor and do not advocate and promote products that send thousands to the hospitals and pollutes the air that we breath.

* 1 + 2 - Burning Issues web site : - american lung association

OUT - 19th century heavy polluting technology -

From random photos

IN - 21 st century clean burning , no polluting technologies.

From random photos

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Garden Designers Bloglink: Regional Diversity in Design

Terroir - A sense of place.

Northern California with its golden rolling hills and endless sun soaked days is a gardeners dream come true.

Our Mediterranean climate offers the gardener about 9 months of mostly sun filled uninterrupted gardening time.

Because we receive most of our rainfall during the winter months

( December through March ) it makes sense to collect as much rain water as possible to store for our long dry season.

Conscientious gardeners can be found setting up rain barrel collection systems to their home’s down spouts as well as installing underground water disbursement systems that keeps storm water runoff from draining out into the San Francisco bay.

Photo below: gravel disbursement swale / dry stream bed. Derviss Design

From Before and After

During our long dry season it makes practical sense to plan for a garden that can tolerate a substantial amount of drought and endless days of sunshine.

This translates into planting large trees on the south west side of the house to create shade and to use a palette of drought adaptable plants.

Experienced gardeners will also limit or completely omit their use of water dependant turf grasses and many will install an automatic drip irrigation system to assist in regulating their water use.

Photo below : drought tolerant planting + drip irrigation system by David Feix

From Bromeliad Society Tour 2008

Many of the home sites in suburban and urban Northern California are quite small in comparison to the lot sizes in the mid west and the eastern seaboard.

For this reason paired together with our rainless long summers we tend to live a substantial amount of time outdoors.

We extend our interiors to the exterior by using our patios, terraces and decks as outdoor living rooms, kitchens and family rooms.

Photos below : Napa Valley alfresco living , designed by Alida Blair Landscape Design

From Alida Blair Landscape Design

From Alida Blair Landscape Design

For the professional landscape designer styling a garden in Northern California is a tremendous amount of fun due to the wide variety of architectural styles and ethnic cultures that have established themselves here.

Spanish colonial architecture, your basic rambling ranch, California craftsman's bungalow style, and the ubiquitous stucco cottage are all common architectural styles dotting the undulating hills and valleys.

Photo : Two story ranch style home on the coast with a heather garden. Derviss Design

From portfolioMay08.jpg

Photo : Classic Spanish style home with stucco walls, a central fountain, and Mediterranean styled plantings. Derviss Design

From portfolioMay08.jpg

Photo : A high rise roof top Asian meditation garden in downtown San Francisco. Derviss Design

From Water fountains in the landscape

There is also an active culture of avant garde design. Many of the trends that migrate across the country originated from California , especially Northern California which is known for its strong population of landscape designers such as contemporary Topher Delaney and Bernard Trainor to the honored legends of Thomas Church and Lawrence Halprin.

Photo below: Design by Suzanne Biaggi for the 2009 Late Show Garden in Sonoma.

From cornerstone garden show

Photo below : The Blue Garden by Shirley Watts, San Francisco

From AIA garden tour 2009

Photo below : An iconic Thomas Church garden in Sonoma CA.

From random photos

I have heard that the Northern California chapter of the APLD is going to be having their annual meeting sometime soon in Northern California.

It is my hope that when the designers from other parts of the country come to visit Northern California that they will experience our terroir by enjoying dining alfresco underneath a bosque of olive trees, inhale the sweet musk of our rolling vineyards and explore the avant garde gardens in the city and suburbs beyond.

Photo below : Meadow planting at Cornerstone Garden by John Greenlee

From cornerstone garden show

Photo below: Seating under a bosque of Olives in Marin County. Derviss Design

From Loropetalum chinese

Photo below: Residential garden Design by David Feix, Berkeley .

From david's garden photos

Photo below : Small S.F. city back yard packed with bromeliads, design by David Feix .

From Bromeliad Society Tour 2008

Photos below : An Oakland hillside garden designed by Sheri Merciari

From Bromeliad Society Tour 2008

From Bromeliad Society Tour 2008

From Bromeliad Society Tour 2008

I’d like to thank Scott Hokunson of Blue Heron Landscape for organizing this blog a rama.

If you are interested ( and you know you are ! ) in exploring the musings of the other landscape designers involved in this blog fest please visit their blogs.

Susan Cohan / Susan Cohan Gardens (Chatham NJ) - Miss Rumphius’ Rules

Rebecca Sweet / Harmony in the Garden (Los Altos, CA) - Gossip in the Garden

Dan Eskelson / Clearwater Landscapes (Priest River ID)Clearwater Landscapes Garden

Journal -

Laura Schaub / Schaub Designs Fine Gardens (San Jose CA) - Interleafings

Pam Penick / Penick Landscape Design (Austin TX) - Digging

Michelle Derviss / Michelle Derviss landscape Design (Novato CA) - Garden Porn

Ivette Soler / (Los Angeles CA) - The Germinatrix

Susan Schlenger / Susan Schlenger Landscape Design (Charlottesville VA) - Landscape Design Advice -

Scott Hokunson / Blue Heron Landscape Design (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 L. Morrison / East Bay Area - Blue Planet Garden Blog