Although the weather outside is frightful, the garden can still be delightful! Although this cold snap here in the San Francisco Bay Area is causing us to complain and stay inside, there is still a lot to appreciate in your garden this time of year.
Including berries! Berries brighten up any garden in winter. Cotoneaster dammmeri, a groundcover, native Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia), a large growing shrub, and Hawthorn (Crataegus ‘Washington Hawthorn’), a small scale tree, are always reliable berry producers. Holly (Ilex aquifolium) is a classic holiday shrub with its dark green, glossy foliage and bright red flowers. Mahonia varieties produce smoky blue berries, but like Holly, need a male counterpart nearby as a pollinator in order to get results.
Don’t forget to appreciate beautiful bark. Even after these plants drop their leaves, there is a show to behold. Ninebark (Physocarpus) shrubs have rough, peely bark that is a unique garden element. Coral Bark Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku’), a small to medium sized tree, and the Redtwig Dogwood shrub (Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’) have coral and red twigs that really stand out, especially against a darker foliaged evergreen shrub or tree.
And of course every garden should have some winter bloomers, they do exist! Camellias come with bloom colors ranging from pure white to dark red, there are even variegated and ruffled ‘peony form’ blossoms, and different varietals bloom at different times from September to March. But that’s not the only option. The Purple Coral Pea (Hardenbergia violacea) is a fast growing but non-aggressive vine that is perfect on a fence or arbor with it’s pendulous clusters of lilac and deep purple blooms. Heaths (Erica carnea or E. darleyensis) are hardy shrubs with masses of small pink, white or rosy purple flowers, and look right at home in a variety of garden styles, particularly with California natives and Mediterranean gardens. Finally, evergreen perennial hellebores (Helleborus argutifolius) love part shade and come in a range of bloom colors from chartreuse to mauve to burgundy.
Finally, having lighting in your garden will enhance your winter garden, even from the indoors. Using uplights in your lighting scheme can help showcase the structures of the trees, even deciduous ones. Lighting also provides safety during the winter time by highlighting entrances, paths and stairs. It can also be used to showcase garden sculptures, or water features like the photo above, which are focal points all year round. Lighting could also help coax the party outdoors – to the fire pit area or outdoor fireplace for roasting marshmallows, I mean we do live in the San Francisco Bay Area, compared to other parts of the country it’s not that cold!
Enjoy your winter!
There are many ways to create borders in your garden, to delineate spaces, create outdoor rooms, give a sense of enclosure, or add privacy. When we think of hemming in an outdoor space, we often think of wood or metal fences. There are many types of fences, using varied materials- we could do several blog posts just about them! In this post we want to talk about fences but also walls and hedges as ways to border your garden.
Fences are typically made of wood or metals like wrought iron or aluminum. Most cities and counties have a height limit of 6’ for fencing (without a permit variance), which can provide privacy and screening from streets or undesirable views. But fences don’t need to be that high, or be solid, to create a barrier between private and public space. Even a 3’ fence can create a border, or an open style fence like split rails or wire mesh give the sense of entering a space. Fences can also be planted with vines to create a green wall to provide a living fence with seasonal change.
Walls are also a way to border in your garden. Freestanding walls are another form of fence, and can be veneered with stucco or stone to create a more formal and solid barrier. These walls can also be up to 6’ tall, or a combination of wall and fence adds a dynamic twist to your garden edge.
Of course we can’t forget planting borders, like hedges. The old standby, the Boxwood hedge, is often what people think of when hedges are mentioned- and they are often a great choice for a low maintenance, solid hedge. But many plants can be trimmed into hedges, including shrubs that flower, are fragrant, or have interesting foliage year-round. Borders don’t have to be sheared like Boxwood hedges either- a line of perennial grasses or a uniform row of low shrubs can be left in their natural form and still create a strong border.
In the San Francisco Bay Area a garden is an extension of our home. Our unique weather allows us to spend a lot of time outside during the day and into the night. This is a key element of the social fabric that defines who we are. A landscape designer will assist you in creating a garden that reflects and enhances your unique lifestyle. As one often realizes when attempting to design their garden, this is easier said than done.
What many homeowners lack is a landscape designer’s ability to clearly understand the structure of a garden. Principles such as unity, balance, color, proportion, transition and repetition come into play when designing a garden. Further, designs may include specific features or complicated construction elements that require design experience. Some examples of common issues:
* Choosing the right plants for your growing condition (including soil quality, microclimate, sun pattern, deer resistance, seasonal interest and water needs)
* Decreasing maintenance for you and incorporating sustainability for the environment
* Creating privacy and blocking unwanted views while following local specifications for fire and traffic safety
* Ideally locating design elements including water features, pools, entertaining spaces, lighting and circulation
* Creating gathering spaces or outdoor rooms that reflect the architecture of your home and your personal aesthetic and lifestyle requirements
*A creative flair is also an important factor. The landscape designer must unify the physical opportunities and constraints and create a garden that looks good and works well.
For over 30 years, Lazar Landscape designers have developed gardens that reflect our clients’ lifestyle and are sensitive to the restrictions of our environment. In addition, as part of a Design – Build team, our landscape designers have a strong knowledge of construction techniques and are involved throughout your entire construction project. A very beneficial element to your project when going with a design – build firm.
Our clients include families, couples and individuals with varied needs, wants and budgets. Some are seeking privacy, others want to include their neighbors and increase their connection to the community. Some are avid gardeners, while others would rather not spend time on garden maintenance. It’s our job to come up with solutions to challenging problems in your outdoor space, and make the most of your property so you can take advantage of your unique San Francisco Bay Area lifestyle.
Think Ahead! Considering your next garden project? Construction may slow down in winter, but that’s why this is the best time to get designing! Start planning your project now – so it will be shovel ready in spring – and ready for you to enjoy all summer long. Call Lazar Landscape today to speak with a designer and find out how to move forward. Contact a landscape designer at (510) 444 -5195 to discuss your individual landscape design and construction needs.
Japanese gardens immediately evoke a sense of calm and serenity. When I think of Japanese gardens I envision mossy granite stepping stones meandering through a shady forest and delicate yellow Gingko leaves fallen on the ground. I think of gravel and evergreens and maybe even a trickle of water. Why is this, and what makes Japanese gardens different from other garden styles?
Traditional Japanese gardens are a true art form creating stunning, graceful and dynmanic combinations with stone, gravel or plants. Evergreen plants provide a calm backdrop for seasonal blooms and autumn leaves. Color is used sparingly to provide the most impact amongst the evergreens. The use of a majority of evergreens creates an immediate sense of tranquility because many different leaf and flower colors can be stimulating to the viewer.
Detailed paths make you slow down to observe the detail of what the path is made of, as well as intentionally guide you in different directions to appreciate views. Rather than strong axially views, Japanese gardens are more natural and full of discovery. Meandering stepping stones with moss, or paved stone paths combining smooth pebbles and rough irregular granite pieces create art under your feet.
Balance is valued over symmetry. Boulders, in groups of different shapes and odd numbers are selected and placed strategically to mimmick the random beauty of wild mountains. Hard boulders are softened by carpets of gravel or groundcover below to echo the rivulets of water. Hard boulders are softened by a trickle of water to mimick waterfalls or the sound of rain.
While there are many more subtle and complex components of a traditional Japanese garden, it is easy to be inspired by how they make you feel. Whether you are lucky enough to walk through one and experience it, or just by looking at images, think of what appeals most to you about Japanese gardens and try to incorporate that into your own garden. Here are a few images of Japanese inspired gardens we’ve installed over the years.
The stormy weather hitting the bay area this past weekend and week makes me want to just snuggle up on the couch and watch the rain, from the comfort of my living room, not bothering to venture out in it. For me the weather seems like a very drastic change because I was just in Kauai on my honeymoon, enjoying the 80 degree sunshine-y weather by the pool (with a little rain for cooling). To warm up your week I figured I could share my experience on the “garden island” and some tropical garden inspiration. You just cannot go to Hawaii and not be inspired by the tropical plant pallet, even the plants just along the highway!
I love seeing all the Torch Ginger blooms, Plumeria flowers and Dendrobium Orchids planted in the ground as we explored the island. You also can’t help but fall (back) in love with Palm trees while in Hawaii. The tropical ferns add texture and interest to planting beds and create a very lush look. While on a day trip to Waimea Canyon State Park I discovered Kauai’s own vertical gardening techniques – ferns just growing on the dirt “walls” along the road – at least 12 feet tall. A very beautiful and natural sight.
One plant I saw everywhere that we are familiar with here in the Bay Area is Bougainvillea. The Bougainvillea can be a tricky plant to grow in our climate, particularly in the East Bay where we get frost, but in Kauai I saw it everywhere – including along the highway, growing as a shrub! Made me laugh to see a plant I have heard so many people try to grow without success and in Kauai it’s a highway plant! In the bay area we are fortunate enough to be able to grow some varieties of tropical and sub tropical plants, but they are not as lush as I found them in the tropical island region.
We stayed on the south side of the island near the town of Poipou, our resort, the Grand Hyatt, had beautiful, lush grounds with many different tropical plant varieties. I noticed this particular planting on our last day at the front entrance. It could be recreated at home in the bay area if you did desire a tropical look in your garden and lived in a sunset zone that has coastal influence.
Of course some of the plant varieties would have to be switched, like the orchids for a plant with a similar effect, like a daylily (Hemerocallis spp.). A sub tropical garden look can happen in areas of the Bay Area, you just have to use hardier varieties that will survive outside of tropical areas like Kauai. We have installed quite a few successful gardens filled with beautiful Torch Ginger plants, Bougainvillea, Birds of Paradise and ferns in the San Francisco and Oakland neighborhoods. If you are interested in a tropical plant pallet be sure to do your plant research to pick the best varieties for your location. If you need help and advise feel free to contact us, we’re here to help and especially love creating plant pallets, contact us today! Hope the thought of a tropical paradise warmed your stormy day up, even just a little!