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Where there’s a will

We literally stumbled on this tiny Polystichum munitum growing in a piece of moss rock about the size of your head. So simple and sweet we had to share.

A Green Roof for our Chicken Coop

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After many months of pondering, I finally planted up the empty void atop our family chicken coop and turned it into a beautiful green roof. Even though the roof is fairly small, I see it everyday from our second story home, so it is very important to me. I considered wanting a green roof with a natural meadow look that would just turn golden in the summer months or a collection of California native wildflowers interspersed amongst creeping sedum. In the end, I chose a mix of succulents and fescues, all very hardy and requiring hardly any maintenance. I am happy with the end result because it is extremely easy to care for, requires very little water, and looks good throughout the seasons.

I chose the succulents because I needed something that could withstand the shallow four inch depth of the roof. I know the groundcover sedums are very popular for green roofs for the very fact that they spread wide without a lot of water and have considerably short root structures. But since I would be looking at the green roof everyday, I wanted something with bolder leaves and more texture. I chose seven different varieties for the green roof including: Echeveria, that has rosettes ranging from one to five inches in diameter. They are different hues of grey-blue, mauve, and burgundy. Interspersed are some Sedum ‘Cape Blanco’ and Festuca ‘Elijah Blue’ to set off the bold leaves of the Echeveria. Along the edges I put in a few draping purple flowering plants, Convolvulus mauritanicus. to soften the edges.

I chose all of these plants for their durability and low water requirement, important aspects to consider when planting a green roof. I will use the spray hose to water them a few times a week, until they get established since I did not set up an irrigation system. I think the succulents will flourish with the temperate San Francisco climate and ability to survive with little water.

One thing I did not anticipate was the chickens eating the succulents when left to freely roam the garden. I went a little overboard at the nursery and bought some succulents to plant at ground level, only to discover the chicks, and my daughter, love to pluck the fleshy leaves off! For now, I am keeping my favorite varieties on the roof to divide and live on so I can root them in the garden beds later on and not care if they get plucked.

Inspired by the Season – Black and Orange Flowers

Fall is in the air. Halloween is nigh. And a favorite baseball team of mine could make history this evening. Here’s to the black and orange!

Fall Is a Great Time for Planting

As the weather turns cool in autumn, and leaves start to change and fall, it’s a great time to plant new plants and transplant shrubs and trees. Although our climate in the San Francisco Bay Area is conducive to planting all year around, autumn planting is particularly good because (ideally) the rains are coming and soil temperature is typically warmer than in spring, which creates a great environment for root growth

It’s also a great time for transplanting shrubs and trees because the cooler temperatures allow for less transpiration and they also benefit from the beneficial environment for root development – and plants are typically in more dormant states during the winter.

Planting bulbs in autumn makes for great spring shows of favorite bulbs like daffodils, tulips, freesia and iris.

If you’re mindful of water use and like natural looking landscapes, consider planting a California native garden, or focus your plant selections on plants that share our Mediterranean climatezones like the Mediterranean and parts of Australia, New Zealand, Chile and North and South Africa.

Give us a call if you have questions about fall planting or plants that work well in our San Francisco Bay Area microclimates.

playgrounds rule

When considering a garden design and construction project you must first ask yourself what do you want to change and why.  I think the answer to that question for many parents is they want a place for the kids to go, have fun and be out of the house – sound familiar?

This garden features a patio for the parents and a play area for the kids

These days backyard play sets, swing sets, and sandboxes are all the rage – it’s like having the benefits of park playgrounds in your own backyard.  There are many options when it comes to themes and features of play sets.  We love working with this vendor, Backyard Adventures, they have tons of playgrounds to chose from and have dealers located all over.

We’ve installed lots of garden playgrounds; from custom to prefab I’m sure there is an option for play areas in your garden.  One couple was looking to install a space for the kids which could ultimately grow up as they did.  The basic idea for construction was to start with deck plans and turn it into a playground.  Ultimately the space can be turned back into a deck for the families’ enjoyment once the kids outgrow the play areas.  The space was easily turned into a two level area based on the topography of the garden.

From the top of the deck a playground slide was installed that travels to underneath the main deck platform where a tire swing hangs.  Also, a simple rock climbing wall was installed for older kids of the family up the side of the two level play area.  A simple playground tarp roof created the fort like atmosphere and sun protection many prefab playgrounds offer.  The luxury of this playground equipment is once you don’t want it to be a play area anymore you remove the playground aspects, do a little repair work on the railings and you have a fabulous deck entertaining space overlooking the garden.

Recently, in another garden, we installed a prefab playground unit from Backyard Adventures in the lowest part of the terraced garden.  To add a bit of whimsy for the kids we added a ladder and bridge from the upper terrace that accesses the top level of the play structure.  From the sound of it the kids are really enjoying their kid friendly terrace and all the ways to access their new play sets, which even includes a swing set!

Should you decide to just install play sets in your garden, remember a good playground surface is very important.  Install a thick layer of playground fiber, or colorful playground rubber mulch, with a bend a board edge or research newer products like rubber playground mats to set your new play sets on top of.

50% of my dogs prefer real sod.

Landscape Terminology: Perennials & Annuals

Perennials                           Mixing up the terminology between perennials and annuals is a common mistake.  And as with most things, there seem to be exceptions to the defined rules, which make identifying plants as either annuals or perennials tricky.  Here are the basics.  Perennials live at least 2 years, many of them much longer.  Technically trees and shrubs are perennials- but most of the time, this term refers to herbaceous (soft-stemmed) plants.  Geranium, Yarrow, Daylily, and Beardtongue all fall into this category.  


Here’s where it can get confusing:  there are deciduous perennials that die back every winter.  Fountain Grasses (Pennisetum) and False Spiraea (Astilbe) are deciduous perennials.  They appear to die in winter, which might cause some frustration with your landscape designer, but not to worry.  They’ll be back!   We also have an advantage, plant-wise, in the Bay Area- there are plants that we can grow as perennials here that behave as annuals elsewhere because of colder weather.  Yet another reason that the Bay Area is superior living!

Fountain Grass

Annuals                                                Annuals live their whole life cycle (germination, growth of shoots and leaves, flowering, seeding, and death) in a year or less.  They can be some of the most colorful, fastest growing, and most exciting plants in your garden, but unlike perennials, they won’t necessarily make a return visit to your garden unless you allow them to seed.  If you cut annuals all the way back before they have a chance to ‘set seed’, you may not see them the next year.  This can be kind of a bummer, because you have to resist the urge to prune plants that look, well, dead.  But you can deadhead them (cut off just the blooms) over the course of their season- this not only keeps the garden looking neater, it encourages the annuals to flower more in order to produce seed.  This is survival of the fittest, people.  Plants will find a way to reproduce!!  There are both cool and warm season annuals . . . we’ll get into that later.  Plants that fall into the annual category?  Love-in-a-Mist (Nigella damascena), California Poppies (Eschscholzia californica), and Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnata).    These are easily grown from seed, or for those of you that enjoy strolling around a nursery, head to Annie’s Annuals in Richmond for 4” pot starts- the selection is spectacular.

California Poppy