Tag Archives: annie’s annuals

The Ravine’s Edge (in progress)


IMG_3495 My client purchased the empty lot adjacent to their home several years ago and put up the bamboo fencing around the perimeter. More recently, they added the French doors visible on the side of their house, in anticipation of the new garden. The lot was originally overgrown with Echium, Eucalyptus saplings, Blackberry vines, Poison Oak, various grasses and other invasive weeds. The first 35″ of the 50″x 100″ lot was level, the rest inclining steeply into a deep, Eucalyptus-filled ravine, leading to the decision to only landscape the level portion.




IMG_3516 The crew mostly hand cleared the lot, though used a bobcat to pull out the eucalyptus stumps and to do some slight grading. Slightly visible in this image, at the back of the lot, is the beginning of the gopher wire installation. (& to the left, off the French doors, the start of construction for the landing and steps) Once the lot was cleared, the large slabs of “moss back” rock were brought in and placed at the edge of the ravine, to delineate the human-tamed landscape from the wilds of the ravine. Under and between the rocks is the only area of the new garden that doesn’t have gopher wire and sheet mulch because the slabs were so heavy that as we positioned them, they tore up anything in their way…



Several years ago, the slope leading into the ravine had been cleared of a mature Eucalyptus grove to give a fire break to all the homes that backed onto it. Once they were gone, the native plants very quickly grew back- primarily Rhamnus californicus (Coffeeberry) with Poison Oak and Coyote Bush interspersed. In the above picture, these lovely natives are visible, along with a couple stubborn Eucalyptus saplings that are, and will continue to be, a maintenance issue. I also decided to leave a few Echium, as long as they were low enough to not block the view. Visible on the slope up the other side of the ravine is the complete coverage of Eucalyptus trees that had come up to the back of these lots and houses before the fire break clearing.



The path is layers of drain rock, gold fines and multi-colored pea gravel- all compacted really well over a lining of gopher wire. In fact, 95% of the project area is underlayed with high-grade gopher wire and then a double layer of corrugated cardboard sheet mulch. Using sheet mulch is a great way to be able to landscape over a weed-filled lot or a existing, healthy lawn, without having to dig them up. This potentially saves labor and landfill space, and also the decomposing plant material helps improve the soil. (at the bottom of this image, a bit of the cardboard is visible) The native soil on this site was almost solid decomposed granite(low organic matter, good drainage), so I brought in richer soil and built it up over the wire and cardboard, planting primarily smaller plants so we didn’t have to cut through anything. The plant palette will be mostly natives and adapted plants, with a small percentage of ornamental (“fluffy”) plants closer to the house. Within a year, after having received a good start with the richer soil, the cardboard will be decomposed, the roots will grow through the wire and they’ll do fine in the native soil, as most are native or low water use plants.


IMG_3528 IMG_3519

Next post will be after planting. Stay tuned!

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Evolution of a Gardener

When my interest in gardening and garden design began, I was drawn to very bright colors. (I also disliked foliage variegation and Hated succulents!) This attraction lasted, believe it or not, for about 10 years. Cut to 1995: I had just started my business and was doing mostly flower garden maintenance. A little planting and design, but not much. I would also occasionally help out Sue Fitzsimmons, garden designer extraordinaire (and the reason I do what I do). What I noticed about the plants she chose was that there were a lot of pale, pastel, muted colors. In other words, the gardens were Cool. Sophisticated. Relaxing. Calming. Ahhhhh. Ok! I thought, these are the kinds of garden that Real designers create. And it wasn’t just Sue. Everywhere I looked- design magazines, plant catalogues, garden tours, etc. there were muted shades of greens, grays, blues, pinks, creams and whites. It felt really good to me and my preferences started to change. I eventually got to the point where I said that I disliked most reds, yellows and oranges in the garden. I considered these colors to be garish, harsh and aggressive. Now granted, I live on the Coast and we have lots of overcast or foggy days and cool colors in the garden do complement these gray skies, but NO hot colors at all?? Pretty closed minded, right? Here’s some pictures of my garden that were taken 2 & 3 years ago:

See a theme?? Very Coooool….. For the record. I love these images and I love these colors, but recently I’ve been ITCHING for something more. COLOR. Bright, vibrant, warm color. Tangerine, raspberry, lime, and purple.

I saw this image from Annie’s Annuals recently (see a couple posts ago!) and can’t get it out of my head. It has inspired me to go for it in my garden this year:

Vibrant Colors- from Annie's Annuals catalogue

Aren’t these colors just luscious?  (broken record?) I’ve just now completed stage one in my color renovation. I’ve planted about 30 new perennials & annuals in the ground. The reason I had the room to add these plants is because this winter the gophers ATE about 40 Bearded Iris (bastards!!), 4 Nepeta ‘Six-hills Giant’ (which take up lots of room…) and also a few of my large English Lavenders decided to give up the ghost on their own. All this space is now filled with soon-to-be-brightly-colored plants with nice, snug gopher baskets around their roots. There’s nothing I can do about all my softly-shaded roses at this point, so it should be interesting to see how all this comes together!

The next stage is POTS. LOTS of color-poppin’, gotta-dance pots.

I’ll keep you posted!

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Very Yellow Daffodils!

These are on my kitchen table right now and I have to say that they’re SO yellow that they almost hurt my eyes! But still, there they are and they’re actually inspiring me to plant brighter colors in my garden this year. I’ve always been a big fan of soft colors in the garden- like cream, peach, pink, lavender, pale yellow, etc., but these and this lastest pic from Annie’s Annuals have me raring to go bright!

Isn’t this the yummiest combination of colors and flowers you’ve seen in a while??I just want to eat them ALL up!


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