Living Room

I’ve been moving furniture about. I’ve actually taken pictures meaning to post them, and have re-arranged the furniture before I got to it. I think I’m done, at least for a while. Sometimes I wonder if there really is a point, but the room has improved in both functionality and looks.

This was the old living room, and here is the old dining room. (Their are hyperlinks attached  in that sentence.) We swapped the dining area  with the computer/family area, and it works much better. Otherwise, it’s been fiddling around, swapping couches, chairs, rugs and decoration until I got it how I liked it.

As you notice, I don’t clean up much for my pictures. My house is rarely completly clean with three kids running around. I’m okay with that, so you get my house how it is.

This is an old picture. Looking at this picture makes me miss the green sofa in here. But I also love the green sofa where it is. Maybe I just need two green sofas.

Also old

This picture was taken today. The painting came from my Grandma’s as she was cleaning out her storage room. I love it, it’s an awesome find.

Looking back toward the computer area. And the blue table is randomly in a different spot because this was not taken today. We re-surfaced our dining room table (I still need to do a bit of touch-up paint). Might write more about that later.

I love this line for hanging pictures and children’s art.

Final picture of the computer are. My preschooler is constantly moving pillows around to be comfortable. We also recently printed family pictures. I took them with my point and shoot camera and couldn’t be happier.


Designing a Garden

I designed gardens this years and also installed a few. I’ve recently had some thoughts about the designs and garden designs in general. I read this post about how garden designs aren’t great. I have to disagree a bit: garden design are tremendously useful. But there should be some disclaimers about them as well.

  • Designing a garden is never quite done because the garden is living. Plants will need to be re-arranged, thinned, added to, moved, and even dug out and thrown away. No garden is ever really completed.
  • Every plant reacts differently to a different environment, and every garden has its own unique environment. I can get what I think is a perfect plant arrangement on paper, and it might be in certain situations. But  it could turn out that a certain plant or plant combination just doesn’t work. It doesn’t mean the design is wrong: it simply needs to be modified for the specific situation.
  • Starting out with a design (that will most likely be modified) will mean there is somewhere to start, something to work towards, and something to modify. It’s better than no design at all. Garden designs turn gardening into an enjoyable, manageable task where everything is eventually able to come together and create a unified appearance.
  • Designing is essential to get a good backbone to the garden. The plant material will be adjusted over time as it grows (or fails to grow), but basic plant arrangement, lines, borders  and the structure of it all can be defined by an initial garden design and won’t change too much.
  • Good gardens only come about with good maintenance. Even a low maintenance design needs a watchful eye.

I’m putting this out there, but I’m also moving across the country. Any garden I’ve designed, or you would like me to design, comes with a free yearly consultation by me to see how it is coming along and offer suggestions on continued development. All garden designs really are a first draft, one that will need to be modified over the years.


This is a tip for everyone who wants to make their landscape look better but don’t have the time or money to do a lot: add mulch. Here is one situation where I used this tactic.

The front of this condo complex could no longer be irrigated due to problems with the irrigation system. The grass was dying, although most of the trees in the strip were doing fine. With little in the budget, the solution was to simply kill off any remaining grass and add mulch. The total cost of the project was $500, far less than re-landscaping the area.

The great thing about mulching is it allows for future changes and the gradual addition of plants. The most common solution I see here for cheap landscaping is lawn. Seeding a lawn can be dirt cheap. In the long run, however, the landscape looks boring, the lawn eats up plenty of maintenance time, chemicals and water, and can end up costing quite a bit if you start calculating in all the cost of materials you stick on it.  I think laying out proper planting beds and simply mulching is a much better short term fix and it leads to a better long term solution.

I did a garden design for another client who lacked the several thousand dollars to put it in. The plan turned into redesigning the beds, irrigation system and going ahead with the lawn, but waiting on the other large area of mixed planting. That area will be put in gradually. By mulching the area at the beginning of the project it still looks nice and it will be easy to add the variety of shrubs and perennials over the next few years.

Plants are wonderful, but they can often be fairly expensive. Don’t just turn the landscape over to cheap lawn or leave ugly dirt and weed showing: maintain the areas you want for mixed planting beds, mulch them, and than add plants as budget and times allows.

Maintenance on a mulch-only area is simple: hand pull or spray out the weeds. If the mulch is deep enough, there won’t be very many. Wood/bark chips and rocks/gravel are the most common types of mulch and both work fine. Pick whichever look you like best and fits with long term goal of the landscape. Buying mulch in bags gets expensive quickly. Bulk mulch is far cheaper, and is often worth the cost of delivery if you don’t have a truck. (You often need more mulch than you think. For instance, a rear border of about 5 feet deep in a small yard will need around 5 cubic yards of mulch, or 5 truckloads. There’s plenty of good calculators out there to figure out how much mulch you actually need…but basically it’s just a matter of geometry.) Mulch should be put on to a depth of two inches. It will also need to be replenished occasionally ( every 1-5 years for organic mulch/bark chips).

Mulch has the benefits of keeping down weeds; maintaining even soil moisture; decreasing soil temperature; preventing compaction, soil splashing and soil crusting; and adding organic matter into the soil (if you use an organic mulch).  Mulch is a great solution to tons of landscaping problems. Use it.

Landscape Designs

So lately I’ll I’ve been doing in the garden is weeding and picking tomatoes and some other veggies. Lots of tomatoes. But you really can’t have too much. I have been eating large amounts of BLT’s too. They are delicious. I harvested a few leeks (my trial crop for the year, and they turned out better than a bunch of other stuff) and made a leek and potato soup, which was yummy.

Today I went and bought a whole bunch of plants for a landscape project. I would highly encourage people to make planting plans. I see so many gardens planted willy-nilly. But with a good planting plan you know exactly what and how many plants to buy, and make sure you have plants blooming/looking good the entire season. You can also avoid doing things like planting azaleas in Utah (very stupid and any good nursery won’t carry them), buying plants with nowhere to put them, or putting a plant in the wrong place.

Not saying a planting plan is set in stone. I never spec out exact varieties, preferring to finalize those when I buy them. Sometimes you have to substitute out something because you can’t find it. And there is always improvements to make after it’s all planted up, maybe some plants are struggling in a certain spot, or you don’t like the way a certain perennial looks. An occasional spur-of the moment purchase is fine too. (I have chocolate flowers to plant. No idea where yet, but I bought them for 1.5o a piece at a year-end garden center sale. They are awesome plants so very worth it.)

Planting plans aren’t hard to make with a decent plant encyclopedia. I made a bunch of plant lists that I use with my favorite and common plants, and I’ve posted them here.

Anyway, the whole point of this post is I had lots of fun buying lots of plants and a landscape design made that happen.


I went to Disneyland on vacation. I ended up admiring plants. Plants aren’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Disneyland, but they are there and thriving. I’m impressed at the amount they have, even with millions of people going through every year. I didn’t see a single gardener either. (Does this mean they are out there with flashlights?)

The gardens are definitely formal gardens. There are tons of hedges, topiaries, annual plantings in the shape of Mickey Mouse, even a knot garden. Not always my style. But that trip, combined with this post has me thinking that maybe I should give hedge pruners more of a chance. (Sidenote: hedging is a good horticultural practice, but it can’t replace regular good old pruning and should be attempted after someone knows how to prune with a pair of loppers. I’ve seen a lot of butterball figures that are ugly and not healthy for plants.)

My favorite was the Storybook Canal. I went for the enjoyment of my one-year-old son. The rest in my group had very little desire to go on the “boring” ride. So, not expecting much, I found myself in the midst of wonderful miniature gardens. The ride ended up being one of my favorite just because of the cool plants. The guide mentioned that some of the trees (at least one bonsai) were actually planted by Walt Disney himself.

Landscape Contractors

Recently, a weedy duplex near where I live received attention from a local landscape company. Within a few days, they had removed the weeds, put in some sod, various other shrubs and plants, and plenty of bark and rock mulch. This was all in mid-July, the hottest time of the year, but with proper irrigation it has all flourished and nothing is dead.

It’s nothing tremendously special, but a thousand times better than the weeds before. I wish they would have at least buried the rocks a bit so they look more natural, but no real complaints. The narrow park strip in this property was also dealt with well. I hate grass in park strips. Perennials are a good option if you have the room. But if the strip is narrow, I like this:

Rock mulch. No irrigation to water the cement, and no plants to get tramples and die. Narrow park strips just aren’t that functional. The only other option I would consider is low ground covers that can take a bit of traffic with a drip system. But the rocks are a lot easier.

Landscape contractors aren’t the cheapest way to create a garden, but they are fast and easy. Landscapers (good companies) also know what they are doing and avoid a lot of mistakes. They uses good plants, put in a decent irrigation system, and (hopefully) plant everything properly so it doesn’t die right off. The professionaly landscaped yards tend to have the same look about them around here. Curves, shrub beds with bark mulch and only a few different types of plants, and lawn. It’s better than what I normally see: lots and lots of lawn with teeny tiny planting beds.

Someday I will inspire someone to have only a bit of lawn and lots of neat plants. And it doesn’t have to include curves. (Not that there is anything wrong with curves. Just landscaped curves are so predicable and boring.) Or even better: I can do it myself. I will celebrate the day I get a house with a yard: and I won’t go out and hire a landscape contractor.

Curb-Side Makeover

On of my relative’s house is a very plain manufactured home:

I gave them a landscape design for a present and recently finished the front planting bed. I wanted to get rid of the look of the manufactured home, and add lots more plants. I went with plants that mirrored the blue-grey and maroon in the house color, focusing primarily on foliage color. There are actually lots of interesting blue-grey/purple-leafed plants out there, so it was a fun design to do. The following plan could be planted more heavily, but I decided it was  good enough start.

I also decided to experiment with a digital makeover. I saw some on another garden blog and wanted to give it a go. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it might be, and the results are dramatic. I think people are much more likly to follow a landscape plan when they can see it as it would turn out. Overhead plans are functional, but don’t have the wow factor. Here’s the generated image of the matured landscape:

I’m pleased with how it turned out and have shared it a lot. It is the first of a lot more mock-ups follow: I enjoy doing it and it helped my planting plan as well.

Revamp This Garden

The season is winding down. My vegetable garden was cleaned up over a month ago, and I have had little to do gardening wise. Lately, I have been thinking a lot about design, and brainstorming of ways to improve the gardens of houses in my area. I currently rent the upstairs of a house with a much neglected yard. One of the first things that I did when I moved in was evaluated the situation. Here’s the current landscape:

Like much of the landscapes in my yard it has a total of three plant–Kentucky bluegrass, Tam juniper, and a Norway maple. Definite room for improvement. There isn’t a lot of space, but I’m sure I could do better than what’s there.

You can’t see it in this picture, but the maple has been pruned (and not with great care) to make way for traffic going up the side alley, and power lines above. It is a horrible looking tree. The junipers have been neglected, and are out of place. Both the tree and junipers need to go. The lawn has been horribly neglected. Any semblenance of rountine mainteance doesn’t exist for the lawn, besides regular mowing. It needs a dose of lawn weedkiller first, and then reseeding to help the bare spots. To help prevent it from returning to the sad state it is in, it needs better irrigation. But the lawn is too small to serve any useful purpose. I think it should go too.

Now with a bare slate, this small garden can be filed with plants. All of it could be transformed with variety of perennials, dwarf shrubs, ornamental grasses and a small ornamental tree. In many gardens, I think that owners hold on to what is there too long. Getting rid of what’s there and staring over can seem a little daunting, but it can be done in phases. Its much easier to deal with new plants in the right place, than old diseased plants that just don’t fit.