Walkways and Paths for your Landscape Design

Walkways and Paths for your Landscape Design

Nothing adds a touch of elegance to your lawn like a winding walkway. According to sfgate.com, California homeowners who upgraded the landscape design of their yard raised their home’s market value anywhere from 5.5 percent to 12.7 percent in 2018. Besides its aesthetic importance, a secure pathway will prevent trips or turned ankles at your next backyard barbecue. If you’re ready to make your landscaping stand out, follow these guidelines to create the perfect walkway.


Exploring Landscape Design Ideas for Your Walkway

Establish a Budget

Planning a budget is crucial when you have a landscape design project. Even though you might adjust your budget throughout the process, you’ll benefit from getting an estimation of what you can afford. The costs of materials, tools, and labor are all worthy of consideration.

Decide on a Concept Design

Before you begin laying your walkway, it’s best to decide on a design idea. This serves as a blueprint for installation as well as allowing you to see how the finished product will look. Inspiration can come from anywhere: feel free to visit our online gallery to find your favorite walkway style. You can even get customized concept designs, meaning your pathway will be both original and ideal for your needs.


How Many Options Are There?

Walkways can be built in any shape from a range of materials. If the sheer number of choices seems overwhelming to you, the following tips might help you narrow down your options.


Your walkway’s shape depends on its functionality and location. A straight, wide path makes a powerful and formal statement, while curved paths are more playful. Straight paths are a great choice for the walkway at the front of your home; on the other hand, curved paths create a free-spirited atmosphere for your garden. You can further emphasize the shape of your walkway by lining it with hedging or railroad ties. Walkways may also need to be tiered if there are enough elevation changes along the path.


The most popular pathway materials include concrete, brick, or pavers made from different types of stone (such as flagstone, cobblestone, or limestone). The most practical building material, brick blends seamlessly with many colonial-style homes. Concrete walkways are robust and harmonize with most landscape design elements. On the other hand, pavers afford much more diversity. Available in a spectrum of colors and shapes, pavers can be used to create fresh, organic pathways full of personality. Although it tends to shift due to erosion, pea gravel is inexpensive and easy to replace. Choosing a building material depends on your personal preferences as well as considering each material’s pros and cons.


The pattern of your walkway can range from intricate designs to simple rows. Brick patterns include jack-on-jack (grid), running bond (offset grid), herringbone, and pinwheel. Many people get creative with their walkway patterns and receive breathtaking results. Whatever you decide, it can be a good idea to arrange your materials in a demo pattern to make sure you’ll love the finished product.



Once a design plan is drawn up, you can begin building your walkway. Before you start, you may want to brush up on California’s building codes and buy safety gear such as dust masks and safety glasses. First, the shape of the walkway needs to be determined — straight paths are carved out with stakes, while curved paths are outlined with hoses. You will then need to excavate the top layers of dirt inside this outline. You’ll need to leave enough clearance so that the pavers sit slightly above the ground. A level will be necessary to maintain the correct slope for the walkway; if possible, use the natural slope of the lawn to your advantage.

Walkways usually involve three layers: a base layer of packing material or panels; several inches of sand; and the pavers on top. A piece of 2×4 lumber or hand tamper is used to level out the sand. Once you have a smooth surface, you can begin laying the pavers. If the pavers need to be cut to fit into the walkway (especially if it is curved), a circular saw with a concrete or diamond blade will do the trick. Once the pavers are laid, you should put down spiked edging to hold them in place.

Finally, use a plate compactor to tamp polymeric jointing sand in between the pavers. Any excess can be swept away with a push broom. Repeat the tamping process until the paver joints are filled. Then, hose off the walkway with water to activate the bonding agents in the sand.



Keeping your walkway in prime condition calls for minor upkeep. Even if you laid down a weed barrier, weeding might be essential to keep paver joints clear. Over time, grime can accumulate over the walkway. Using a pressure washer might be necessary to remove excessive stains, but scrubbing the pavers with a wire brush and mild cleaning solution usually works. You can also apply paver sealant every few years to add another layer of protection and revitalize the paver colors.


Decorating Your Walkway

Even though your new walkway shines all on its own, decorating it will add personalized flair. Here are some suggestions to get you started.

Install Solar Lights

Going outside in the dark can be hazardous. An easy and attractive way to avoid falls is to line your walkway with path lighting. You can choose from a spectrum of LED fixtures, solar lights, and lamp posts. As a bonus, ensuring your yard is well-lit also increases home security.

Plant Flowers

A row of colorful blossoms will beautifully complement the more neutral tones of your walkway. Low-growing plants like salvia, daylilies, and phlox will proliferate in any patchy areas. The climate of the Scotts Valley region is favorable for most kinds of plants, but you may need to research how to best care for your flowers.


proper watering for garden

Water is Important for Your Garden

Did you know that every plant in your garden beds and each blade of grass on your lawn contains at least 85 percent water? This is why professional landscape design often starts from a place of visualizing water usage and flow (especially here in California where every drop literally counts).

It is also why even the best landscape design ideas, once implemented, may fail to survive and thrive if your new greenery gets too much or not enough hydration. Some plants simply need more watering while others need less, especially as the seasons shift.

And there is no doubt that calculating just the right amount of water is becoming more challenging with the onset of climate change, which is why we wanted to share these general tips you can apply to your own landscape greenery.

What Does Hydration Do for Grass and Plants?

Hydration offers much more than just nourishment to your garden, lawn, trees and landscape.

Let’s take a closer look at what happens out there on the lawn right after you turn the sprinkler system on.


Plants can’t order takeout or go through the drive through when they are hungry. They have to make their own food from scratch in-house. They do this through a process called photosynthesis.

You probably remember photosynthesis from your school biology textbook. The “photo” in this word refers to light – specifically, sunlight. The “synthesis” refers to how plants use water, sunlight and air to make their food, which is glucose, a simple sugar carbohydrate.

So even though you probably have bags of fertilizer and additives labeled “plant food,” these really aren’t true food sources for your lawn and garden. They are simply boosters that help plants and grass make food more quickly and efficiently.


The word transpiration basically means “sweating plants.” Plants don’t sweat through pores like people do. Rather, they sweat through tiny holes in their leaves that are called stomata.

What makes a plant start sweating? They do this for basically the same reason that people and pets sweat – to try to self-regulate their temperature. A plant or blade of grass will start sweating, or transpiring when it gets too hot. The act of sweating cools the plant and keeps cells from dying off.


While it is true that plants can’t order takeout, their cells actually can – and do. Circulation is the process by which hydration transports vital nutrients from the surrounding soil and air into the plant, delivering them to each cell inside the plant’s structure.

In this way, hydration functions a lot like your own circulatory system, carrying nutrition to the cells and then transporting away waste and unnecessary by-products.

Keeping Your Lawn and Garden Well Hydrated Isn’t Always Easy

There is a reason we get so many calls from new clients who want to know if it is possible to save their soggy or bone-dry lawns, leaves and foliage. It isn’t always easy to care for plants in the way they need!

So now let’s take a look at some general tips to help you keep your grass, garden beds, lawn and landscape happy and healthy.

Study what each varietal needs.

Different plants can have vastly different care needs and requirements. Some are quite tolerant of dry conditions from the start and others only after they have become established.

Some are literally thirsty all the time and can’t see to ever drink enough. And some plants fall somewhere in between.

While it can take a bit of work on the front end, plotting out what each plant under your care needs from you, including moisture requirements, can make your lawn and garden care strategy so much easier as well as less costly.

Hydrate in sections.

First, it is important to plan out your strategy in advance in sections. This not only conserves resources (and your monthly hydro bill) but also allows for each area to get the moisture it needs, neither too little nor too much.

Here, it is also vital as much as you can to ensure your landscape design groups like-needs plant life together. It is much harder to care for plants with very different care needs when they are placed side by side in a garden bed!

If you have inherited a landscape design where unlike varietals must share available moisture, one good tip is to use spikes or straws to deliver hydration individually to the plants that need more while sparing those that need less.

Ultimately, when time and budget allows, you may want to consider some different landscape design ideas to lessen your workload and ensure the survival of your plant life.

Use tools to conserve moisture.

There are lots of strategies you can employ to conserve moisture and also protect your wallet. Timed sprinkler systems, where available, are a great aid to this end.

Mulch offers an easy, economical way to hold moisture in without risk of leaving the roots over-saturated. The mulch will absorb moisture that might otherwise drown the roots, holding it close so the plant can make use of hydration as it needs more.

Visual inspection is sometimes the hands-down best way to tell when your plants are getting too much or not enough moisture.

Do you see yellow leaves or wilting stalks? Is the soil surface around the base of the plant slick or slimy or – worse – stinky? These are often signs that the roots are drowning in moisture.

Is the soil surrounding the base of a plant dry, cracked, more like a desert than an oasis? Some plants like this but most can only endure, hoping that the signs of moisture-depletion are seen, noticed and quickly remedied.

By using these tips and tools and getting to know each plant individually, you can begin to feel truly confident in caring for your lawn and garden as a whole while tending to each plant’s needs.

Fall Landscaping: Getting Your Garden Ready for Winter

Summer is on its way out, and fall is fast on its heels. Cooler temperatures and shorter days are becoming the norm, which means that the growing season is just about over. You may still have a few crops that are thriving and continuing to grow, but most of your plants are slowing down and dying.

Now is the time to get your garden ready for winter and do some fall landscaping.

Getting Your Garden Ready for Winter

Many people believe that cold temperatures are what bring plant growth to a halt during this time of year, but it actually has to do with the amount of daylight each day has.

Thus, even if you live in a temperate climate, you will see your plants slow down and/or stop producing. This is the time when you need to get your garden ready and do some fall landscaping. Below are some tips on how to do that.

Get Rid of Old Plant Growth

If you still have some plants that are producing, feel free to leave these until they are finished. If you have other plants that are spent and they are turning brown and dying, remove these from your garden. How you dispose of them will depend. If you have a compost pile, they can be placed in there.

If you have any root crops such as carrots, parsnips, beets, rutabagas, or turnips, these can remain in the ground for longer than aboveground plants. However, you’ll want to harvest them before you do any of the work listed below in your garden.

If you have potatoes, these can also stay underground if you so choose. If you have any that are above the soil, you will need to remove them so that they don’t become food for insects or rot in the fall sun.

Prepare the Soil

Once all of the plant matter has been removed, you’ll then need to prepare your soil. This includes tilling it. This will expose any insects that might try to overwinter in your garden. Getting rid of them now during your fall landscaping will reduce issues with pests when spring rolls around again.

After the garden has been tilled, you can then add a layer of compost, aged manure, leaves, or lime (if needed). All of these items will protect the soil over the winter months, as well as add nutrients to the soil.

If you want, as part of your fall landscaping, you may plant some cover crops that thrive in the winter months. This would include winter rye, Stonehenge cabbage, Southern Giant mustard, broccoli, or frisee, among other choices. These will keep your soil protected and add nutrients so that it is ready for your crops next spring.

Take Care of the Weeds

When you remove the plants and till the soil, this should take care of most of the weeds that are also growing in the area. However, if you have some stubborn ones that have taken over a section of your garden, you might consider covering them with black plastic or cardboard.

You’ll want to leave this in place throughout the entire winter, right until you’re ready to plant again next spring. Covering the weeds and blocking the sun should kill the plants and reduce the number of sprouting seeds.

While you are outside working on your garden, you might also take some time to get the rest of your yard in fall shape. Below are some of the things you can do to make your house look amazing during the fall season.

Plant Trees and Shrubs

Fall is the best time to plant trees and shrubs. Locate a place in your yard where you want to place them, and then prepare the soil. Dig a hole large enough for the root base. You’ll also want to plant the shrubs and trees deep enough that the roots will be covered, but not so deep that they can’t get water. Give the plants some support so that they don’t get knocked over in any fall storms that might tear through the area.

Maintain Borders

Whether in your garden or in the flowerbeds around your home, now is a good time to ensure that plants are staying within their borders. If you have shrubs or flowers that are growing over their enclosure, take the time to trim them back. Now is also a good time to remove any dead foliage and weeds.

If the grass has been encroaching on your garden area, remove it when you remove the dead crops. Try not to till this into the soil, as you may inadvertently get seeds mixed in. If that happens, you’ll have to deal with a lot more grass in your garden when spring rolls around.

This is also a good time to inspect your trees and see if there are any dead branches. If so, take care of them so that they don’t break and fall over the winter. You may also consider doing the same for any bushes you have in your yard.

Clean the Leaves

If you have trees in your yard that are shedding their leaves, as part of your fall landscaping, rake these up. You can put them on your garden to help with soil nutrients, or you can place them in your compost pile or dispose of them properly.

As fall draws near, the growth of the plants in your garden and around your home will slow down or stop. To keep your landscaping looking amazing and to have your garden ready for next year, there are some things you’ll need to do, including removing dead plants and preparing the soil.


Easy Halloween Landscaping Ideas

Fall is here and natural leaf colors are nature’s way of showing off her beauty. It is also time for Halloween. That does not mean everything has to be work and no play when it comes to Halloween landscaping.

Think about ways you can use lawn clean-up to have a little fun. Halloween is a great time of year to decorate your house and yard. Leaves can be used to fill “jack o’ lantern” bags and straw bales bought for mulch can be stacked decorated with corn stalks.

Here are some fun ideas to consider when designing your Halloween landscaping. The sky’s the limit but remember to use materials that will withstand weather changes such as rain and wind.


Everyone loves pumpkins that become jack o’ lanterns for the season. Carving is traditional, but you can also paint faces on them or use permanent markers to make fun or scary faces.

Create a pumpkin patch in the front yard by lining pumpkins in rows attaching them with a leafy plastic vine. Another suggestion is to decorate their faces with glow in the dark paint so their expressions only show at night.


What Halloween landscaping would be complete without a graveyard? You can create illuminating stones that will glow after the sun goes down. Make a headstone mold using a plastic or a metal rectangular tray. Mix concrete, water, and illuminating powder (about 15% illuminating powder to the concrete powder) let set and decorate. Use paver bricks front and back to prop the headstone so they stand up.


If you have a sidewalk or steppingstones, some bloody footprints can give a chilling effect. Using an old shoe and some washable red paint, paint the bottom of the shoe and “walk” the red prints up the path to the door.

Glow in the dark paint would give a ghostly effect. You might want to add some drops of “blood” to create a more realistic effect.


Hands coming out of bushes, a grave, a straw bale, or a tree trunk can easily be made with plastic or latex gloves filled with dirt. With a little imagination and some paint, they can be decorated to look like a skeleton’s hand.

Use masking tape to create the bone stencil to place on the gloves, use black spray paint on the gloves, then peel away the tape when the paint has dried.


Fluttering ghosts give a great Halloween landscaping effect, and they are easy to make. Using white trash bags as the body and blown-up balloons as the head, tie fishing line around the bottom of the balloon after inserting the “head” into the trash bag. Make a large loop of fishing line into the bag above the head as the hanger. Hang from trees, porches, or fence posts. If you want to decorate the faces, use a permanent marker or paint.

Smokey Bubbling Cauldron

If you have an old cauldron or large stew pot hanging around, Halloween is a good time to bring it out. Fill the cauldron halfway with hot water plus a small amount of dish soap. Using heavy-duty gloves or tongs, add some small pieces of dry ice to the cauldron. Mists of fog and bubbles will pour out of the pot. A word of caution: do not touch the dry ice with bare skin.

Bales of Straw

The straw bale can be used as the body of a sitting scarecrow. Place the bale on end adding stakes to secure it. Set a jack o’ lantern on top as the head on the bale. Place an old shirt around the upper part of the bale as well as placing a pair of old pants around the bottom of the bale. Stuff the arms of the shirt and the pant legs with dried corn stalks. Add an old hat to the top of the jack o’ lantern and secure.

Mummy Style Door Decoration

All it takes is a roll or two of white crepe paper, a sheet of black construction paper, one sheet of black construction paper, some tape, and a pair of scissors to convert your door. Wrap your door with the crepe paper to look like it is bandaged. Using the pieces of construction paper, make eyes and attach them to the upper part of the bandaged door. On Halloween night, play scary laughter sounds coming from behind the door.

Lighted Walkway

Fall is the season for mums. Why not line your walkway with potted mums and use mini lights to light the way. String the lights through the mums and for added effect, place “cobwebs” lightly over the top of the flowers. You may even be inspired to add some lightweight plastic spiders.

Create your own Halloween layout using a combination of these easy design elements. As a reminder, fall is the time to prepare your landscape for the winter season.






Fruit Trees You Should Plant in Your Garden

Creating a space to grow your own fruit becomes increasingly popular as people realize the numerous benefits. When you raise your own fruits, you know exactly how they have been grown and can control the chemicals used on them.

In addition to the obvious benefit of fewer chemicals than commercially grown fruit, home-grown fruit usually is more flavorful and tastes better. Most fruit trees are also visually pleasing and add a delicious smell to your outdoor space.

Planting fruit trees could even increase your home’s value. When choosing the type of fruit trees, you must think about many factors, not just what types of fruit you enjoy. Some fruits trees you could plant in your backyard for your next landscaping project include:

Plum Tree

For a small tree, the plum tree tends to bear lots of fruit. Planting one in your lawn will not take up as much room as most other fruit trees, but you will still be able to enjoy its delicious produce.

Generally, plum trees begin to produce fruit four to six years after being planted. They require pruning, and the right climate to bear fruit. Most varieties are self-fertile, meaning they do not need another plant with which to cross-pollinate. However, you should research the specific variety you plan to purchase.

Also, you might consider consulting with a professional gardener or landscaper. These compact producers survive best when planted during the winter. This time frame allows them to become firmly established in the ground before growing buds in the spring.

Cherry Tree

While having a cherry tree might seem unusual at first, the fruit can be used for a variety of recipes or eaten straight from the tree! They also produce beautiful blossoms each spring, as evidenced by the numerous paintings and pictures of them! These beautiful, unique trees will soon become conversation starters. They also blend in well with landscaping.

As with plum trees, make sure you purchase self-fertile ones. One concern with cherry trees is flying birds and insects. These creatures naturally love cherries! Research natural methods to keep insects away. You may also want to consider screens during certain seasons.

Over 97% of sweet cherries grow in California, Washington, and Oregon because the cherries do flourish in this climate. Cherry trees usually start producing within four to seven years of being transplanted. However, some varieties produce sooner.

Peach Tree

Most people think of the deliciousness of the fruit when they think of peach trees. However, there is more to them than the taste!

The colors of peaches contrasted with the green of the tree make a beautiful addition to any outdoor space. The yellows, oranges, and reds pop and almost look like flowers. After your neighbors get over the beauty of your fruit tree, they will want to sample your fruit.

Most peach trees are self-fertile. These types grow well in California. Peach trees do require some maintenance such as adequate watering during the summer and fruit thinning. They produce fruit relatively fast and can take as little as 3-5 months to bear fruit if planted from a graft. You should harvest your delicious peaches in mid to late summer.

Apple Tree

Most people automatically think of apples when you mention fruit trees. These trees often present a challenge for gardeners and can be exciting to grow. Nothing makes fruit taste better than knowing the effort put into a harvest!

A seedling tree will produce fruit in about six to ten years. You can reduce this time by carefully choosing the breed of the apple tree you plant. Most apple trees require another tree for cross-pollination.

Consult your local nursery or gardening expert to learn more about which varieties require cross-pollination and purchase accordingly. Imagine a pair of them lining your driveway!

You should also consider how the sun falls on your lawn. Lots of sun is essential for all apple trees. These fruit trees need good drainage too. You may consider adding or changing your landscape to improve your drainage. Like the cherry tree, apple trees produce beautiful spring blossoms that will later turn into apples.

Design and Maintenance

The key to a beautiful garden that produces quality fruit for you to enjoy is design and maintenance. First, you must be willing to put time and effort into your landscape. Finding the right variety of tree for your area takes research.

Most people will have better luck and enjoy their garden more if they consult a professional during the design phase. When speaking to a professional, or doing research on your own, you must choose the locations for your trees based on the  needs of each plant. Aesthetics should always be thought of after the needs of the plants, not before. If you know you want a tree in a specific place in your outdoor space, find a plant that will flourish in the space. Avoid making the mistake of thinking any plant will work there.

Also, consider the accessibility of your plants. When it needs to be pruned or staked, will you be able to easily get around it? Each type of fruit tree has different needs. Some need to be staked to grow tall and strong. Others need lots of space to grow and spread their limbs. Others are climbers and need a trellis or other wall structure on which to grow.

After you have decided on the design of your outdoor space, you can get to work! In order to do so, you will need some commonly used tools. For example rakes, shovels, a wheelbarrow, and gloves make work easier, faster, and less frustrating. Use these tools to prepare the soil and plant your trees. Pay attention to the directions given with each tree and follow them precisely.


Dangerous Plants Hiding in Your Backyard

If you are like most people, working in your garden is relaxing. But what if it could also be dangerous? As it turns out, there are actually quite a few plants that could potentially be hazardous for your health. They may be growing right in your own backyard. It is even possible that you planted them there yourself, in pursuit of a beautiful backyard landscaping project.

Most Common Hazardous Plants

Poison Ivy is one of the most widely found plants, yet one of the most hazardous. Nearly every gardener has at least heard of it.  It generally causes an itchy rash that may or may not require medical attention, depending on the level of exposure and your tolerance to the plant. It is best to avoid this poison ivy whenever possible any time you are working on your landscape maintenance.

The American pokeweed is also a very common plant found nearly nationwide. Unfortunately, the dark purple/blackberries that grow on this plant are poisonous, especially for small children. Ingesting them can make you very ill.

Tulips, daffodils, hydrangea, wisteria, and rhododendron are all plants that are commonly found in gardens and backyards because they produce beautiful and colorful flowers. However, each of these plants can be very dangerous if they are ingested by people or animals. This may not be enough of a reason to want to get rid of all of them. If you have no concern of a person or animal ingesting something from your landscaping, then it would not matter if these are present.

These plants are all quite beautiful and are often used in lawn and garden maintenance or design, to create areas of bright colors. Other examples of hazardous plants include:

  • Oleander
  • Rosary Pea
  • White Snakeroot
  • Deadly Nightshade
  • Water Hemlock
  • Rhubarb
  • Foxglove
  • Dieffenbachia
  • Yew
  • Philodendron
  • Devil’s Helmet
  • Angel’s Trumpet

If you have small children or pets that play and spend time in your yard, it is very important to ensure that you do not have these plants in an easily accessible area. For many of these hazardous plants, a significant amount of the plant has to be ingested for it to pose any kind of problem. In the case of rhubarb, for example, a person would need to eat around twelve pounds of the leaves in order for it to really make them sick.

Some of the other plants are extremely toxic and can make a person ill even in very small amounts. Deadly nightshade is, of course, one example, but so is the lily of the valley and foxglove plants.

Some of these plants do not even have to be ingested in order to make a person very ill. Deadly nightshade can cause skin irritation by simply touching it. The devil’s helmet plant is beautiful, but it has been known to be deadly from just touching it.

What Should You Do To Protect Your Family and Pets

Pictures of all of these plants can be found online. It would be a good idea to familiarize yourself with their appearance. This will allow you to identify any of these potentially dangerous plants that may be in your backyard or garden. Then you can decide if you want them removed or if you are comfortable with their location.

In some cases, the plant may not pose any kind of threat, particularly if everyone that comes into your yard knows not to eat anything that they may find. For example, with tulips, the bulb is the most hazardous part of the plant, so as long as no one will be digging up your tulip bulbs and eating them, everyone will be perfectly safe.

If you decide that you would be more comfortable removing a hazardous plant, landscaping companies are best suited to help you with a safe removal, particularly when it comes to some of the more deadly varieties of plants.

This is especially true with those plants that can be dangerous or deadly simply from coming into contact with your skin; a professional will be much better suited to handle the removal, as they will be aware of the potential hazards of the plant and have the necessary equipment to safely remove and dispose of it. Sometimes simply pulling it and putting it in a trash bag or composting it can be just as dangerous as leaving it in your yard.



Understanding Available Sun for Your Landscape

Sun is one of the most important factors in whether the plants around your home flourish or just wither. Simply put, the available sun is the amount of sunlight that areas of your landscape will get. The available sun should be the first consideration when working on the design of your garden. Well placed plants will reward your hard work and planning with beautiful blooms and foliage throughout the year.

Making a Sun Map of Your Landscape

One great way to get familiar with the amount of sun that’s available in your landscape is to make a map. Grab a sheet of graph paper and draw your property. First, make a note of any features. Block out the driveway, draw the house, the garage, and any outbuildings such as sheds.

Once that’s out of the way, take a step outside. Do you have any large trees making shade? Does your house cast a shadow that lasts all day? Anything that creates permanent shadow should be noted. These areas should be labeled, “full shade.” Then you can start paying attention to smaller shadows that only last through the morning and evening. Those areas are known as “partial shade.” Areas that receive sunlight all day should also be added to the map, particularly in areas you plan to plant in. Label these “full sun.”

Sun maps are an excellent starting point when you’re working on garden design. These handy guides give you an idea of what to plant and where. It’s also important to understand what each of the three light levels means, and what should be planted there.

Full Sun

According to Better Homes and Gardens, full sun is considered to be an area that receives 6 or more hours of sunlight per day. In our climate, which is on the drier side, it’s great to choose plants that can handle the California heat and a little less water than usual.

A general rule to keep in mind is that plants adapted to grow out in open fields already like the sun. Grasses, trees, and tall flowers are great candidates. Avoid planting woodland plants in direct sun.

A few good examples of flowers that will thrive in full sun are cosmos, coneflowers, and verbena. Each of these flowering plants love to get plenty of sunshine and are rockstars even when they’re largely ignored. Flowering verbena is also a great choice if you need ground cover to fill up open spaces.

If you’re looking for something less flowery and greener, you can also find quite a few plants that give great foliage in full sun. Drought-tolerant grasses like fescue and wheatgrass are great options, and you can be sure they’ll handle just about any conditions the season might bring. Succulents are also great and low-maintenance options. These include much more than cacti and snake plants. Try mixing things up with an evergreen desert spoon, jade plants, monk’s hood, and bottle trees.

Partial Shade

If you guessed that partial shade indicates direct sunlight during part of the day, you guessed correct! According to The Spruce, partial shade is a measurement that refers to areas that get between 3 and 6 hours of light. These light hours usually fall in the cooler hours of the day, in the morning or in the evening.

Partial shade is like the Goldilocks zone of your landscape design. Many plants need a good balance of light and shade. Placing finnickier plants in partial shade is a good happy medium. It prevents scorching without denying plants light.

These areas are usually shadowed by trees, smaller structures, or are on the East/West sides of buildings where shadows move the most. Some plants, like hydrangeas, love the dappled sun underneath trees. Partial shade plants do well getting just a few hours of direct light.

Hostas and ajuga are both great for green foliage and ground cover. You may notice these plants close to buildings, and that’s because they love a bit of morning shade. Bushes and climbing vines are also ideal for partially shady areas. Look for hardy roses and clematis to best suit the local climate.

Full Shade

Shade is considered a part of the landscape that gets 3 hours or less of direct sun. Parts of your landscape that sit under any type of canopy, whether manmade or the natural canopy of trees, is shady. In these areas, it is important to avoid planting anything that needs lots of sunlight. If you place a sun-loving plant in the shade, the results will disappoint you.

Luckily, there are plenty of plants that love to hide away in the shade. As a good rule of thumb, you can look for plants that tend to grow in forests. Because they’re adapted to grow under the tree canopy, they’re used to softer light. Lungwort, bleeding hearts, and some lilies pack a punch of color.

Ground cover for shaded areas is also available, even in our hot temperatures. Varieties like St. Andrew’s Cross, brass buttons, and Golden Creeper will thrive, particularly in well-drained soil. Try options like dianthus and Asian jasmine for pretty blossoms.

Getting to Know Your Space

Once you have a good idea of how much sun each area gets per day, you can really start cracking on your own landscape design. It’s a great idea to make new sun maps of your property in the later months when the sunlight and shadows are different. Making new maps once every few years is also important. Over time, your property or light may change due to new buildings or trees nearby. Updating maps helps you keep the right plants in your gardens. It’s also an awesome way to come up with new landscape design ideas and stay excited about the beauty of your property.




Summer Landscaping Tips

Our lawns and gardens are extensions of our homes. They are often the first thing visitors notice. Beautiful landscaping sends a warm, welcoming message. If your lawn and garden are looking less than desirable this summer, follow these landscaping tips to create a thriving, serene outdoor retreat.

Landscaping Maintenance

The fastest way to make your landscaping look its best is by practicing regular maintenance. Overgrown plants and trees are more than just unattractive. They can become hazards if they are growing near power lines or blocking sidewalks. Remove overgrown twigs, branches, and debris to give your landscaping an instant makeover and tidier appearance.

Don’t Let Pests be Pests

Insects and animals can have a detrimental effect on your landscape. Be proactive to prevent them from damaging your plant life. Choose a safe, organic pesticide or practice proactive garden design to keep them out. For example, plant petunias in a sunny spot to repel beetles, aphids and squash bugs. If mosquitos are driving you mad, plant basil near gathering areas to ward them off. If aphids are a problem, try planting marigolds to keep them out of your yard. To guard against worms, flies, and slugs, consider planting alliums.

The same proactive garden design ideas can be used to keep deer at bay. To stop them from feasting in your yard, add fuzzy or hairy plants to your landscape. Good options include Siberian bugloss, yarrow, and ageratum. The deer are repelled by the soft bristly hairs on these plants.

Deer and other mammals also tend to stay away from plants with fibrous, leathery or thick foliage. Plant peonies, pachysandra, and irises to create a beautiful landscape that won’t tempt your neighborhood’s wildlife.

Mow Regularly

The most important tool you have for keeping your landscape looking great is your lawnmower. Depending on the growth rate of your lawn and your preferred height, you should mow the grass at least once a week. If your grass is already high, cut it on your mower’s highest setting then reduce it as the season progresses. Avoid the temptation to cut your grass too short in an effort to mow less. Grass must be a certain height to fight off lawn hazards, and cutting it too short will prevent it from thriving.

Reduce Water Usage

Most lists of landscaping tips include advice on hydrating your lawn and garden often, but the lower precipitation in our area in recent years reminds us that our supply of fresh water is limited. That doesn’t mean your outdoor space has to go brown! There are several ways to keep your space green without regular watering. One of the best ways is to replace your grass with plants that require less water, including:

  • Blue grama, a perennial native grass that is drought-tolerant and grows well in full sun
  • Slender sedge, a perfect lawn substitute for light shade
  • Pacific dune sage, which may be used as either a substitute for your lawn or left to grow as an unmowed meadow
  • UV Verde buffalo grass, which was developed as drought- and heat-tolerant grass by the University of California

Use Mulch to Save Time and Promote Plant Health

Thoughtful landscaping tips are about more than just creating attractive outdoor spaces. Garden design is also about promoting a healthy landscape that reduces labor, controls weeds and conserves water. Using mulch is one of the best ways to achieve these goals. When you use plant trimmings as mulch, you can save time and money by significantly reducing weeds that need to be pulled or treated with expensive herbicides.

Mulch also promotes plant health by reducing competition from weeds and feeding beneficial soil organisms. By keeping the soil moist, mulch reduces the need for extra watering, and it improves soil structure by preventing soil compaction.

Before you mulch, pull weeds and water your soil. If you have grass around trees, remove it before mulching to mimic the way trees naturally grow. Keep mulch about 6 to 12 inches from tree trunks and the bases of shrubs and apply a layer of about two to four inches.

Use Color Theory for an Attractive Garden Design

Garden design encompasses many different principles, including texture, scale, form, and color. Understanding color theory is one of the best landscaping tips that will help you create a summer landscape that is pleasing to the eye.

If you’re intimidated by combining colors, choose one color you love as the basis for a monochromatic garden. Sunny yellow, pretty pink and eye-catching purple are good options because there are a variety of flowering species available in each color. To prevent your garden design from becoming boring, look for plants in different shades of your chosen color to create variety.

Use the color wheel for inspiration when combining colors. The color wheel makes it easy to understand the relationships between colors. Colors that blend well together are analogous and next to each other on the wheel. This means that planting red, orange and yellow flowers, for example, will create a pleasing look.

For a stronger contrast, plant flowers in complementary colors. These colors appear opposite from one another on the color wheel. You may plant red roses among a bed of green foliage, or yellow daisies next to purple irises.

Paying attention to color shades can also transform your garden. Dark colors can create a serene, calming atmosphere and may make your garden look larger. If you are planting in a small space, use dark shades to make the most of it.

Brighter colors draw more attention, create a festive atmosphere and may make your space look smaller. If your garden is large, you may use them to border smaller areas for gathering and entertaining.



How to Make Your Landscape Drought Tolerant

Do you envision having a beautiful lawn all year round but feel challenged due to periods of drought? Well, there is hope! With careful planning, there are a variety of choices that would make anyone think you are a landscaping genius. This may be easier on your pocket than you think.

Let’s Start

Think of your yard as a blank canvas, noting where it is sunny, shady, and all areas of partial shade. Focus on the different seasonal climate, including times of rain or drought. Drainage should be considered in wet times and moisture in dry periods.

Soil condition is another consideration. Different plants like different types of soil, so identify your kind of soil and the pH level. Also, know your planting zone when choosing your plants to ensure they will be happy and thrive.

Graph out your bedding areas. Having shade beds as well as sunny ones will give variety to your landscape.

Don’t forget the lawn. There are many types of grass available, so give this some thought and consideration. Good lawn questions are:

  1. What kind of grass looks attractive in all seasons?
  2. Will it survive dry periods without heavy watering?
  3. Will the lawn need to be reseeded often?
  4. Does the grass choice compliment my garden format?

Recommendations For Drought Tolerant Grass

Once again, making an all-season approach to this decision is important.

Tall Fescue, Sheep Fescue, Buffalo Grass, and Wheat Grass do well in cooler seasons while Bermuda Grass, St. Augustine Grass, Zoysia Grass, Centipede Grass, and Bahia Grass do better in warmer climates. You may want to check with a local landscaping company to know which kind of grass meets your criteria.

Decorative Mulching

Really, is there such a thing?

Think of the mulch as the skirt of your plant with the plant being the body. It does have a visual impact on your garden and it will help you conserve moisture. The things to consider when choosing your mulch are:

  • Will it cut down on weeding?
  • Will it hold moisture?
  • Is the pH compatible?
  • and does it enhance the visual appeal of my plants?

Drought Friendly Plants

The plants are the show-stoppers of your garden and they also add value to your home with good garden maintenance.

The market provides a great selection of full sun, partial sun, and shade plants that tolerate dry conditions. Reference your landscaping company to determine what types of plants will thrive in which garden area of your yard.

Color does not have to be sacrificed. You can have a vibrant wildflower garden or a flowering cactus rock bed. Spikey-leaf succulents add drama and taller grasses bring fluidity in the wind. Many of the flowers attract pollinators such as butterflies and hummingbirds. In fact, the butterfly and hummingbird bushes are among the plants that are listed for drier conditions.

Many of the plants are perennial. Check to see when each plant flowers to create stunning visual effects.

Another suggestion is to create a tiered bed using a fence as a backdrop and planting lower growing plants in the front and graduating the height. A mix of annual and perennial plants can be fun but remember to plant the annuals with easy access for cutting.

Garden Maintenance

Make it easy on yourself by considering maintenance in the planning stages. Mulching helps to keep down the job of weeding. Buried soaker hoses tend to cut down on moisture loss especially if timed to water in the early morning. Sprinkles for the lawn should also be timed for early morning or late at night, giving the water time to wet the soil before evaporation.

When mowing, use a higher setting for your blade. This will also help conserve moisture. Most grasses will have a slow growth rate in environments of high heat or dry periods so leaving the blades longer does not necessarily mean more mowing. During the dry season, try to keep foot traffic to a minimum to reduce damage to the grass.


Planting to Attract Birds and Butterflies to Your Home in Santa Cruz

If you’re planning to beautify your outdoor space, then you have the opportunity to help local birds and butterflies as well! By planting beneficial shrubs and flowers in your landscape, you can provide a sanctuary for important pollinators in your area. Doing so will make your home lively and help improve your local environment as well.

If you’re interested in a bird and butterfly friendly landscape design, then check out these landscape design ideas for attracting birds and butterflies to your home in Santa Cruz.

Focus on planting what birds and butterflies want to eat.

In order to attract butterflies and birds to your yard, you’ll need to provide them with the foods they like. Nectar, berries, seeds, and edible insects are all on the menu for many species of birds, so look for plants that will provide them.

Pollinator plants are a must-have for your garden since many of them appeal to butterflies and hummingbirds alike. To attract hummingbirds, in particular, plant native flowers that are red, since they’re more visible. You’ll want to group plants together in large patches of color when possible to make them easier to spot from above.

Additionally, make sure you keep some older natural features, such as tree stumps or logs, while you’re planting new things. These provide a breeding ground for grubs and insects that many birds find appetizing.

Plant for all life cycles and seasons.

The more variety you can include in your garden, the more birds and butterflies you’ll attract! A good place to start is to include both annual and perennial plants around your home so that you’ll see changes throughout the year. This will ensure that wildlife will have something beneficial all year-round.

Another important thing to consider is the butterfly’s life cycle. Alongside the flowering plants that attract adult butterflies, include plants that provide food for caterpillars as well. Grouping plants together by type will also make it easier for caterpillars and butterflies to thrive in your garden.

Plan your irrigation system carefully.

Flowers and nectar are key when it comes to attracting birds and butterflies to your home, and plants require plenty of water in order to bloom. When dry weather strikes, plants are less likely to bloom since they’re busy conserving water in their stems and leaves instead.

Opting for a drip irrigation system is a great move, as is covering that irrigation system with a good mulch that will slow the evaporation rate. This will ensure that your plants absorb as much of the water as possible, rather than losing it to the dry air. Just take care to leave other areas of soil around your home exposed, so that native insects can complete their full life cycles.

Shop locally for your bird and butterfly garden.

If you aren’t sure which plants will do best in the Santa Cruz area, you might want to consult with local environmental groups or plant nurseries. They’ll be able to suggest which plants to arrange adjacent to one another based on soil, water, and light requirements–and they’ll probably be able to give you tips on which plants to choose if you want something easy.

To get you started, here are some commonly planted species that thrive locally and attract birds and butterflies:

  • Milkweed varieties
  • Low Blue Blossom
  • Hummingbird Sage
  • Dogwood
  • Black-eyed Susans
  • Wild Bergamot
  • Mexican Elderberry
  • Hollyleaf Cherry

Include water features and natural debris to attract more.

Alongside a wide variety of plants that provide both food and shelter for local birds and butterflies, you’ll want to include other attractive features as well. One of the best things you can add to your garden is a water feature, especially a fountain that makes an audible splash.

You might also want to consider letting a moderate amount of natural plant debris such as twigs and leaves accumulate. It might sound odd but consider making fallen tree branches or piles of twigs a part of your landscape design! Instead of raking them away, leave them in convenient places so that birds can use them for nesting materials.

It’s also a great idea to decorate around your water feature or garden pathway with pebbles and rocks for butterflies to sun themselves on. Creating a couple of pebble-lined depressions in the soil for shallow puddles to accumulate will allow butterflies to drink easily, too.

Include some pre-made shelter in your landscape design.

While loose debris is certainly handy for harboring insects and providing birds with nesting materials, you might want to go a step further. By putting up some bird boxes, you’ll increase the likelihood of local birds feeling secure and comfortable enough to stay.

To make it even more appealing for birds to set up shop around your home, hang up some bird feeders nearby as well. You can attract a wider variety of birds by installing several feeders with different types of bird feed around your garden.

Avoid pesticides whenever possible.

While many people shudder to think of pests devastating their garden, pesticides should be used with extreme caution (if at all). You don’t want unnecessary or incorrectly applied pesticides to harm the very pollinators you’ve worked so hard to attract!

If you need to use pesticides to protect your garden, then seek out pesticides that precisely target the pests at hand. Pay close attention to the instructions and apply as carefully as possible to avoid collateral damage.

Keep pest control in mind from the very beginning, and avoid buying plants grown with neonicotinoids. These pesticides make their way into the plant itself while it grows, poisoning insects indiscriminately. Unfortunately, that means that beneficial insects will also be harmed if they come into contact with neonicotinoid-laced plants.

To Recap:

When planting around your home to attract birds and butterflies, keep their ideal diets and other needs in mind. Make sure you include a good variety of flowers, fruit shrubs, and insect habitats in your butterfly and bird sanctuary.

Aim to plant primarily native species in your garden and take some advice from local environmental groups and plant nurseries regarding how to arrange them. You’ll be able to keep the wildlife coming year-round with a nice intermingling of annual and perennial plants in your landscape.

To top everything off, add a nice, trickling water feature to let birds know that you’ve provided them with an oasis. Make sure you’re irrigating efficiently and using pesticides as sparingly and cautiously as possible. Mulch around your soaker hoses to prevent unwanted evaporation but be sure to leave some bare patches of soil so that insects can thrive!