Monday, February 1, 2016


As a professional landscape designer I always urge my clients to hire a licensed contractor for 3 main reasons.  The first being that a licensed contractor is legally allowed to perform construction work of any size (assuming he/she has the man power).  Secondly the contractor is bonded, insured and has workmens compensation.  This means that if anythings happens to the contractors crew you are not liable.

This third reason is that each contractor itemizes his/her bid.  Breaking things down from the demolition and killing of the grass, to the installation of planting (materials + labor) plus all the other aspects, this bid is thorough and gives you a detailed estimate of all the costs involved.  There is also some legal mambo jumbo that protects both you and the contractor from getting screwed.

The picture shows a sample bid (you will have to click to enlarge image).  This is actually a bid that a contractor prepared for one of my clients in the city of Orange (for privacy reasons the contractors and clients names have been blacked out).  In this case the grass had already been killed/removed and most of the existing hardscape had also been removed.  As you will notice there is a line item for each aspect of the project.  This client knows exactly what she is getting and there is no beating around the bush.  No hidden fees or funny business.

I am curious have you had some experiences getting bids?  If so then I would love to hear about them.  Do share!

Monday, January 4, 2016


I thought about doing a blog post about my favorite native plants.  I had a whole list in mind until I realized that it would be much more fun and somewhat challenging to just narrow that list to 3. These are 3 California native plants that I have designed with, had luck with and would totally have in my own garden (when I move to my new home and have room to garden).

The first is Dudleya.  A succulent that has many different species.  What I love most about this plant is that it will grow in tight spaces.  It requires little water and till take sun or shade.  I had a bunch of these growing in woolly pockets attached to a railing in my old house and they grew just fine.  I have also heard that some varieties of this plant are edible but I have not tried.

The second is Cleveland Sage (Salvia clevelandii).  This plant gets 5' tall as wide and is a great plant to have as a medium sized screen with purple flowers.  It is also very (in a great way) fragrant.  You can also cook with this plant or use it as an air freshener.  There are also other varieties of this plant that are shorter but I prefer the standard variety.  This is also a great plant for attracting beneficial wildlife into your garden.

The third is Yerba Buena (Satureja douglasii).  This plant gets no more than a foot tall and about 3 feet wide with white flowers.  You can eat the leaves straight up or use the leaves however you would traditionally use mint leaves. Unlike traditional mint this plant is not invasive.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015


Clearly it is obvious that I love killing lawns.  I don't mind designing with them as long they are actively going to get used but even then there are far more sustainable options than traditional grass. So in this project the homeowners no longer needed the grass and were tired of having a high water bill.  They also had stairs leading to their front door that was cracked concrete with a brick banding.

The homeowners wanted three main things in their front yard.  A better functional walkway that in part is also permeable, a California native plant palette and an eye catching design that would set then apart from everyone else.  We decided to use flagstone in a neutral color that also coordinates with the existing ledger stone that they had thus allowing for the plants to add the pops of color.

In their back yard they wanted (for budget reasons) to keep the existing concrete pad but somehow expand the entertaining area.  They also wanted a California native palette with minimal maintenance.  I say minimal because there is no such thing as no maintenance.  Regardless of the materials you use you will always have some maintenance.  Even if that may be a few times per year.  The only thing left to do is go shopping for pottery and a few accessories.