California Gardener's March Checklist

March will not be the same around my backyard this season. After somewhere between 10 and 20 decades, our Ceanothus ‘Ray Hartman’ went out in blaze of glory that was blue. Every spring you could count on a few weeks of a bulk of the smartest, deepest blue, as big as two or even three SUVs. Native bees and birds came out of nowhere to feast on it. Ceanothus grow fast and don’t live long — mine was a centenarian in ceanothus years. I think of it as one of these gardening trade-offs: rapid and beautiful versus steady and slow.

March is a superb time to plant and admire ceanothus or other California natives — or just about anything else, for that matter. Cool spring weather receives off plants to a gentle beginning. With warm weather not far off, you can start planting for summer — even adding tomatoes in climates that heat up early. After a recent visit to Hawaii, I am currently dreaming of summer and thinking about island inspirations to make a vibrant, relaxing outdoor space, as you’ll see below.

A native flower factory. I am expecting big things from my replacement Ceanothus ‘Ray Hartman’. Of the numerous California native species and cultivated varieties of ceanothus (commonly called California lilac), ‘Ray Hartman’ is one of the fastest to reach decent size — a shrub more than 10 ft tall or perhaps trained into a small tree. Flowers, as blue as could be, pay the plant each spring. Use ‘Ray Hartman’ in a dry section of your backyard, as an imposing tall shrub, or make a compact privacy screen with several of them (spaced 6 to 8 ft apart).

Botanical name: Ceanothus ‘Ray Hartman’
USDA zones: 9 to 11
Water requirement: Lighting; no more irrigation necessary for older plants
Light requirement: Total sun
Mature size: 10 to 20 feet tall and 15 to 20 feet wide
Growing tips: Make sure the soil is well drained. Water new plants regularly for the first growing season, then taper off; older plants usally require no additional irrigation. Train it to a little tree by pruning the lower branches off the main trunk — beginning with a youthful nursery plant. Do not expect a very long life.

Everything looks better. Ahead of the world-class hotels and golf classes, much of the west coast of the Big Island of Hawaii consisted of moonscape lava areas and no surface water you think that your backyard has bad land! Imported topsoil, an abundant underground water supply and tropical plants from all over the globe have generated lush tropical gardens and amazing displays of flowers and foliage — all the more dramatic when put off by the black and dark brown backdrop of the remaining lava fields and the stonework used in the landscaping.

Lots of the same crops are easy to grow in California, though they always appear to seem more vibrant about the islands. These include such basic crops as oleander, plumbago and bird-of-paradise. Plumeria, the favorite lei flower revealed here, could be grown in the mainland — in case you’re an experimentally minded, painstaking gardener (not me).

Bougainvillea and hibiscus, revealed farther below, are best bets for this Hawaii atmosphere on your summer months. Remember as you choose pots, walls and backgrounds for them how great they look with shameful.

A deck with a view. You don’t require a see-all-the-way-to-Japan vista to get an opinion deck to generate sense on your backyard. This remarkably simple deck, with room for a few chairs and a little dining table, is about a beach in Hawaii, but it would work nearly anywhere like a retreat or getaway in a backyard corner with or without a view. It’s just a square, two-level platform built of 2-by-6s and 2-by-8s.

Secret Gardens

Hawaii in a pot. About the Big Island, you see bougainvillea, orginally from South America, everywhere — climbing by trees, like a hedge or ground cover, as a scraggly survivor fluttering purple flashes in a lava field. In California bougainvillea is easy to grow, generally as a vine, but it is sensitive to hard frosts. A great spot is in a container, where you can provide lots of sun and winter refuge (under an eave might be enough).

Plant bougainvillea in a kettle at the moment and you may have a gaudy display by midsummer. It’s ideal to select one of the compact kinds for example, as ‘Singapore Pink’, ‘Temple Fire’ or ‘Purple Queen’. When planting, take special care to not split the root ball crops are sensitive about it.

Botanical name: Bougainvillea, many varieties
USDA zones: 9 to 11
Water requirement: Moderate
Light requirement: Total sun
Mature dimensions: Vining kinds can reach 30 feet; streamlined kinds, 2 to 6 ft tall
Growing tips: Vines need help to climb; tie branches to a trellis or wall. Prune in spring after the frost. Keep plants peeled by cutting back stringy stems during growing season. For best bloom, keep container soil on the other side.

Another Hawaiian icon in a pot. Originally from tropical Asia, hibiscus is irresistible in Hawaii. In California’s milder climates, it makes a fine medium-size evergreen shrub. It’s also a perfect summer container plant. Start today with nursery plants in marijuana or already flowering and you should have blooms from spring through autumn.
Botanical name: Hibiscus rosa-sinensis
USDA zones: 10 to 11
Water requirement: Moderate or more; don’t let the soil dry out
Light condition: Total sun
Mature size: 8 to 15 feet tall and 6 to 8 ft wide in California gardens
Growing tips: Good options for baskets include ‘Erin Rachel’ along with members of this Breeze series or Luau series, generally reaching 2-3 feet.

Quick privacy screen? Back in California my daughter-in-law asked me to get ideas to get a fast privacy screen for her front yard and answered her own question. She enjoys redwoods. Yes, they are fast, easy to develop, evocative (they smell like the forest) and story making (tell children that redwoods are the world’s tallest trees).

She said, “We don’t plan to reside here long. What happens when the trees get full size?” That is really a matter for The Ethicist in the New York Times Sunday magazine. But I say, proceed with redwoods if suited for your region. For a screen, plant the trees 8 feet apart. Make certain they will not impinge on the neighbors’ perspectives, steal moisture from their lawns or interfere with their landscapes.

You’ll need an irrigation system to keep the soil moist year-round. Expect 3 to 5 feet of growth each year in the beginning, then a slower rate. The trees displayed here, approximately 15 years old, are approximately 35 feet tall. Underneath them a row of English laurel provides additional screening.

Botanical name: Sequoia sempervirens
USDA zones: 8 to 9
Water requirement: Moderate or more
Light requirement: Full sun (light shade is OK)
Mature size: 70 feet tall or more and up to 30 feet wide
Growing tips: Start with 15-gallon or bigger nursery plants if you’re in a huge hurry. Dig a massive planting hole, at least 6 inches wider and deeper than the root ball, and include lots of soil amendments.

Missouri Botanical Garden

If you’re able to grow just 1 herb. Common blossom, also called garden sage, is easy to grow, continues for several years and can supply you with the new leaves you’ll need for chicken, poultry, veal and pasta dishes. Squeeze a blossom plant to a flower border or a vegetable garden, or try one or two little plants in a pot. It’s possible to grow it as an annual, like basil, or allow it to continue through winter for several decades. Cutting new leaves as necessary is the best approach to keep the plant bushy and compact.

Botanical name: Salvia officinalis
USDA zones: 5 to 8
Water requirement: Light
Light condition: Total sun, or partial shade in warm climates
Mature size: 1 foot to 3 feet tall and 12 to 18 inches wide
Growing tips: Control dimensions and enourage bushiness with regular pinching back of hints during the growing season. Do not try to cut the plant back to the ground; it might not return.

Created for California. Today you can choose from countless sage relatives, including heaps of native Salvias and plenty of fresh varieties, annuals and perennials, in yellow, white, red, deepest blue and purple. My favorite, Mexican bush sage, was around a very long time — you see it frequently in California mission gardens. It’s easy to grow, needs little water or care, and seems to bloom every day of the year (really, more like from Presidents Day to Thanksgiving).Grow Mexican blossom to get a blast of purple in boundaries, in a row as a loose type of low hedge, within an herb garden, at the edge of a vegetable garden or even in additional casual, dryish places. It’s kind of sprawly rather than a plant for proper situations.

Botanical name: Salvia leucantha
USDA zones: 7 to 9
Water requirement: Lighting
Light requirement: Full sun
Mature size: 3 to 4 feet tall and 3 to 6 ft wide
Growing tips: To control dimensions and shape, cut back stalks nearly to the ground in spring.

What Else to Do in March on Your California Garden

This is a Excellent time to get out in the backyard. There is much to plant — from a grand finale of cool-season blossoms and vegetables (such as escarole, revealed) to an early show from summertime heat lovers.

Prepare to plant. Prepare flower and vegetable beds by incorporating at least 2 or 3 inches of organic matter, together with a complete fertilizer, and dig all of it into a thickness of 10 inches or so. For big shrubs and trees, take the time to dig out a substantial planting hole — at least several inches wider and thicker than the plant’s root ball. Do advance work to make sure that the soil is moist enough. For hard, dryish soil that is tough to work, start by digging as deep as you can and fill the hole with water, let it soak in and then refill it repeat this over a few days till you can push your spade to the desired thickness.

Last chance for cool-season performers. In cooler coastal climates, there’s still time to place in winter-spring performers: annual flowers such as pansies, Iceland poppies, stock and violas; and vegetables such as lettuce (quick-maturing varieties), spinach and other cool-season crops.

End bare-root planting. Early in the month, you can still plant bare-root roses, fruit trees, berries and such.

Start planting warm-weather flowers as well as veggies. In inland climates where the weather warms up early, particularly in Southern California, plant marigolds, petunias, lobelia and other warm-weather annuals. Additionally place out or sow seeds of beans, squash and other summer crops; you can plant tomatoes in the event the danger of frost has passed. Closer to the shore or the San Francisco Bay, wait till warmer weather in April for most heat lovers.

Start drought-resistant perennials. While the weather remains relatively cool, it is a good time to place out penstemon, artemisia, catmint (nepeta), sage, coreopsis and other perennials that require little water; they could set themselves before warm weather.

Feeding time. Scatter, sprinkle or spray on all-purpose food for shrubs, trees and ground covers — ideally before the major surge of spring growth. Feed roses following pruning. Feed camellias after bloom.

Watch for insects. Aphids are fond of succulent new growth. Start with methods such as washing them off with a blast of water from the hose. As a next step, proceed on to organically sprays.

More regional backyard guides

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Great Design Plant: Saucer Magnolia

A specimen tree that’s distinctive and appealing, and provides yearlong interest, makes sense in a garden; it’s helpful, hardworking and will perform year after season. Saucer magnolia (Magnolia x soulangeana) performs especially in one season — perhaps even in only one month — than during the remainder of the calendar year, by far. But quantify most trees’ yearlong display against saucer magnolia’s short-lived early spring spectacle, and I would say this one, famously created by agronomist Étienne Soulange-Bodin, wins over a year of reliable foliage.

While its simplistic and delicate appearance may imply a finicky and high-maintenance mood, many find these trees to be surprisingly unfussy and simple to develop with proper attention and care.

The New York Botanical Garden

Botanical name: Magnolia x soulangeana
Common names: Saucer magnolia, Japanese magnolia, tulip magnolia
USDA zones: 4 to 9 (find your zone)
Water requirement: Moderate (keep the soil evenly moist)
Light requirement: Full sun to partial shade (prefers morning sun)
Mature size: 25 to 30 feet tall; similar spread
Benefits and tolerances: Blooms attract bees, birds and butterflies; simple magnolia to grow; tolerates clay soil
Seasonal attention: Historical, prolific blossoms on branches
When to plant: Plant it in spring during active growth. (It may also be planted in autumn before the frost.)

Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC

The New York Botanical Garden

Distinguishing attributes. Saucer magnolia heralds the spring among the year’s earliest bloomers. Flowers appear earlier in warmer climates, and later where winter persists. Five to 10-inch waxy blossoms blur bare branches before the tree leafs out, highlighting its dispersing, architectural form — one of the tree’s most elegant qualities.

Search for fuzzy 1-inch buds as signs of flowers to come. White, fragrant blossoms blush pink and purple as they emerge and open for their namesake saucer shape. Most cultivars have been developed in a vast variety of colours and sizes. When the blossoms fall, waxy petals temporarily transform the floor into a soft pink blanket.

The tree leafs out after blooming, making glossy, bright 4- to 6-inch ovate leaves. By late spring the spectacle of saucer magnolia has passed, but it doesn’t imply its worth is lost. Foliage persists nicely through summer, turning yellow and brown in fall before dropping.

While we’re all wild about its flowers, the form of saucer magnolia itself creates a gorgeous garden focal point. Appreciate its dispersing, low branching structure and smooth gray bark till its flowers return.

Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC

The best way to utilize it. Saucer magnolia is your ultimate early-spring accent tree, but remember it’s a yearlong garden feature. Plant it in a secure area where you are able to enjoy its blossoms in foliage, spring through summer and architectural branching structure.

Cluster numerous trees, but don’t forget the most size of this tree and its origins, and consider its mature size when you are planting it. Saucer magnolia reaches towering heights for a patio tree but can also be low branching.

Here, mature magnolias lineup Commonwealth Avenue in Boston.

PLATEMARK DESIGN

Bring a few flowering magnolia branchlets inside.

Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC

Planting notes. There’s a motive saucer magnolia can be used so broadly — it’s one of the most tolerant and easy-to-grow magnolias. But that in no way means it’s a low-maintenance or no-maintenance tree. Magnolia trees are investments, of both time and money.

Saucer magnolias are not tough to develop, but they require the time to establish. Be sure to take extra care and listen to small details when they’re young.

Plant in spring once the tree is actively growing. Fall will also do the job, but plant four to six weeks until the ground freezes. Select a site which will protect the tree from harsh winter winds or heat that might cause it to bloom too early in spring. Also be sure it has enough space to grow (look out and upward). Magnolias don’t like to be transplanted, which means you want to acquire the spot right the first time. Dig a hole twice the diameter of the root ball, but do not dig deeper than the root ball. Magnolias have fleshy surface origins, so you don’t wish to pay those overly much.Be sure the root ball is well watered to earn root damage less probable. (The roots will soon be supple and less brittle.) Split the surrounding soil so that it doesn’t serve as an origin barrier.Place the main ball in the floor, maintaing an even space round it.Backfill with rich, organic material; water in dirt and well. Maintain moist soil. Mulch around to protect the soil from frost.Saucer magnolia grows moderately to slowly, so don’t expect to see flowers the first year. Be patient and nurturing. In midsummer, after it finishes flowering, gently clear out broken and crossing branches. There aren’t any significant pests associated with this particular tree.

More: How to Help Your Trees Weather a Storm

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Permit Spontaneity Loose for Abundance in the Landscape

In gardens that are abundant, as in most plants, gardens, ornamentation and architecture are used as private expressions of someone’s design philosophy. To make the sense of spontaneity, your gestures are often as easy as putting a ceramic pot among a color garden’s lender of ferns or even including a very small figure perched on a mossy stump. Or perhaps spontaneity might come from the intentional bend at a pathway so you can not see where it contributes to.

Spontaneity in the backyard is accomplished when the unseen suddenly becomes visible, when finding the inconsistent brings delight to the viewer. A light hand tends plantings in accord with the idea. Eschewing the artificial, the keeper of the garden encourages plants to follow their normal habits. Vines cover inanimate structures; camaraderie flourishes between branches which weave together, their stems mingling. As a result, there’s an overall sense that character has expressed its beauty and artistry — together with exuberance.

Stout Design-Build

Designing for spontaneity is like a careful person’s trying to “lighten up.” It can not be forced, but it can be accomplished, little by little. This lush walkway has a perfect balance between the practical(the generously sized stepping stone make it easy to traverse this walkway) and the beautiful(the ground covers elevate the path to a beautiful experience) — and the two elements are essential to its achievement.

When plants are slightly askew, not rigidly manicured, their informality is attractive, as is the situation, using soft clumps of lamb’s ears forming the bounds of their trail. Tiny ground covers occupy the crevices and cracks and knit together the surfaces with striking results.

Gardens by Gabriel, Inc..

A joyous celebration of plants — using their unique traits, forms, customs and blooms — adds up to a backyard using a charismatic and engaging attitude. Colors can battle for astonishingly successful pairings, like pink and orange or gold and purple. This backyard challenges conventions. It’s a single composition created by the pairing of native and exotic plants.

Carex, Stipa and Pennisetum — carefree ornamental grasses — intermingle with Gaura and kangaroo paw in what some may call “controlled chaos.” I call it irresistible.

Elemental Design Group

Deliberate design elements combine happily with accidental ones at a spontaneous backyard. The backyard owner gives equal standing to both the ordinary and the infrequent: edibles, for example, are tucked among precious ornamentals; glistening finishes appear in contrast to rustic substances; lavish plantings occupy humble boats.

A spontanteous backyard gives the impression its owners jumped away from chores or tasks for an impromptu picnic midway through.

That I love this garden for some of these characteristics. Low-maintenance gravel has numerous pluses, including the fact that annuals and perennials are invited to self-sow in it. The billowy plantings here are companionable using the bungalow’s natural shingle exterior. The look is uncontrived and simple. This is a spot that you want to see (and maybe move into).

SchappacherWhite Architecture D.P.C.

A spontaneous backyard is not always weathered or casual in style. The modern architecture revealed here, with clean lines and an unembellished white facade, receives a jolt of spontaneity in the lush border growing in front of the windows. Two plants — a black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia sp) and an ornamental fountain grass — are massed together to make a dreamy, textured tapestry.

When we return to spontaneity in our gardens, we start to see with new eyes and listen to other sensory cues which resonate with our spirits. The act of gardening and the pursuit of beauty are interdependent. After the garden is seasoned with a dash of spontaneity and playfulness, the outcome is an unforgettable destination like this one.

Michael Lee Architects

When plants appear in surprising places, you have achieved the idea of spontaneity. Lifeless areas in and around our homes cry out for lush touches. To some, it may be incongruous to line an interior hallway with a boundary of Sansevieria plants, but these graphic plants from the tropics go a long way to heat the stark architecture using a playful wink. If you do not have a backyard outside, make one indoors.

Donna Lynn – Landscape Designer

Infuse your backyard using a lively, free-spirited attitude. I love this “doorway” that connects a garden to its adjoining orchard. Visitors are enticed by the idea of exploration — to discover what is hidden just beyond this periwinkle-blue backyard door. The journey promises a touch of intrigue, a memorable experience from beginning to end. Use imagination to change the predictable to the poetic. When a backyard displays a spontaneous disposition, whether intentionally or by happenstance, when artistic liberty is encouraged and design principles are broken, we’re drawn to the attractive results.

Gardener’s Supply Company

Everlasting Alliums – $36.95

When design elements coexist with upbeat plantings or riotous blooms, their effect is indelible. Frivolous accents in the backyard are sure to induce the viewer to stop and notice their existence. An unconventional placement of found objects never fails to surprise, especially if it reflects the designer’s personal collections and interests (or favorite colour palette).

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti

The desire to discover the concealed secret or the unexpected treasure is really the allure for most garden lovers. Here, tucked beneath a prolific bougainvillea, a mosaic-framed mirror is tilted against the dark fence. It functions both as living art, representing the greenery elsewhere in the backyard, and as a faux window to the outside dining room. The intrigue makes this endearing space even more spontaneously beautiful.

Previous: 10 Elements of an Abundant Garden
Next: Views and Vistas add Abundance to the Landscape

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Great Design Plant: Cushion Bush

Greens and blues create a relaxing backyard palette, but they want a small light to wake them up — especially if daylight is waning and an increasing number of time outside is spent between sunset and sunrise. If you’re looking for low maintenance, high-impact white color and textural contrast, take a look at cushion Length. It looks like an extraterrestrial, adding unique beauty — and comedy — into the temperate garden year-round.

Far Out Flora

Botanical name: Calocephalus brownii (syn. Leucophyta brownii)
Common title: Cushion bush
USDA zones: 9 to 10 (find your zone)
Water requirement: Medium; don’t overwater
Sun requirement: Total sun
Mature size: 3 ft tall and wide
Advantages and tolerances: Drought tolerant; flourishes in coastal states
Seasonal interest: Distinct evegreen foliage; flowers in summertime
When to plant: Spring to summer

Distinguishing traits. Native to the coastal cliffs of Australia, this white mounding shrub is grown because of its unique, eye-catching foliage. It somewhat resembles submerged coral or possibly a leafless weed.

While the plant itself appears pleasant and defensive, pillow bush is actually pretty fuzzy to the touch — the consequence of small, narrow leaves compacted tightly against its architectural, branching stems.

Photograph byMelburnian

Kaveh Maguire

It’s an evegreen tree which grows 1 to 3 feet tall and wide. It flowers in late summer or spring, making small, button-shaped clusters of green flowers. In the winter the white coloring of the foliage becomes even more conspicuous, transforming into an almost green-white.

The best way to use it. While white in the garden is a joy any time of year, it is especially true when the days are shortening and time in the backyard is more likely to be spent in the dark. Cushion bush’s fluorescent coloring is especially helpful on a course’s edge — it will reflect light and light your way.

Its purpose for salt makes it a fantastic pick for saltwater pools or aquatic banks. It looks amazing in coastal gardens, in planters and alongside succulents.

Photograph courtesy of Chris.urs-o

Planting notes. Cushion bush thrives in beachfront conditions, and growth improves in direct, salty wind. It is, however, sensitive to humidity and irregular temperature swings.

Plant it in direct sunlight in sandy, quick-draining land. It’s very drought tolerant and prefers not to be overwatered; keep a look out for fungus.

Cushion bush is hardy to 20 degrees Fahrenheit but is slightly frost tolerant. By mulching its origins over the 6, it will be given a better prospect of surviving.

As the tree matures, make sure you cut out the deceased and woodier parts and trim spent flowers. It won’t react well to hard pruning, but you are able to pinch young stems to promote fuller growth.

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The way to Tell the Black Gum Tree & Live Oak Tree Besides

Once you understand how and where to look, distinguishing a black gum tree (Nyssa sylvatica) from a live oak (Quercus spp.) Becomes simple. Form, foliage, flowers and vegetables all highlight the gaps between these trees. Black gum simplifies the task once it drops its leaves for winter. A live oak — as its name implies — remains evergreen. Southern live oak (Quercus virginiana) illustrates that the qualities that separate various types of live oaks from a dark gum tree.

Silhouette and Size

Black gum’s characteristic pyramidal shape remains intact during its existence. Narrow but conical when young, the tree gradually widens as it ages. In Mediterranean-climate landscapes, black gum generally grows 30 to 50 feet tall and 20 to 30 feet broad. It grows much larger in its native eastern U.S. habitat however still includes a pyramidal type. Southern live oak grows 50 feet tall in Mediterranean climates and taller in its native southern U.S. kingdom; its rounded, umbrellalike canopy spreads twice as broad as the tree grows tall. A broad southern live oak on the horizon won’t be mistaken for a black gum tree.

Leaf Characteristics

Following a winter spent with bare branches, black gum creates shiny, green foliage in spring. Each widely oval leaf widens at the center prior to its smooth margins form a stage. Even in mild climates, black gum treats onlookers to a fiery show of orange, red, purple and gold foliage before fall takes its leaves. The southern live oak holds its leaves year-round in all but the coldest regions of its growing range, and also it falls only a portion of its leaves. The narrow, oval, smooth-edged leaves have softly rounded tips and are shiny and dark green on top and white beneath.

Preferred Conditions

Black gum and southern live oak develop best in full-sun and partially shady websites, and both bear highly acidic to highly alkaline soil pH. Hardy at U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 9, dark gum withstands wide-ranging dirt and soil conditions. Compacted, drought-stricken, urban plots and excessively moist, poorly drained sites evenly match the versatile black gum. The tree has moderate salinity tolerance at a coastal site. Hardy in USDA zones 7 through 10, southern live oak adapts to a range of conditions, but its optimal growth requires always moist to wet soil. Even so, southern live oak excels in warm, inland climates and low-desert gardens that provide sufficient moisture. Its salinity tolerance is great to medium on a shore and great at an inland site.

Flowers and Fruits

Some tree flowers have male and female parts within the exact same blossom, but dark gum flowers are either male or female. With occasional exceptions, the male and female flowers occur on separate trees. Following a male black gum tree flowers pollinate a feminine black gum tree inconspicuous spring blooms, the feminine tree bears fruits, that appear in clusters and are dark or blue-black, 1/2- to 1 1/2-inch, olivelike drupes in autumn and winter. Southern live oak also has separate male and female blooms, but they appear on the exact same tree. Those blooms are trivial and appear in spring; they give 1/2- to 1 1/2-inch vegetables — brown acorns with spiny tips.

Additional Live Oaks

While dark gum blazes with fall color and berrylike fruits, live oak species native to Mediterranean, coastal climates stick with acorns and spiny, evergreen leaves. The coast live oak (Quercus agrifolia) is among these species, and canyon live oak (Quercus chrysolepis) is just another one. Hardy in USDA zones 9 through 10, the coast live oak grows up to 70 feet tall, has a canopy spread wider and creates acorns quantifying 1 1/2 to 3 inches. Every spring, it deals leathery old leaves for shiny new ones — all with sharp, spiny borders. The canyon live oak is hardy in USDA zones 8 through 10, grows 65 feet tall and broad, and has sharp-tipped, 1/2- to 1 1/2-inch acorns. Its leaves may have sharp spines or be smooth; one tree may have both spiny leaves and smooth leaves. Each leaf is gray-green on the planet and pale-blue on its bottom.

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Make Your Own Wildflower Nursery

My backyard just turned 6 years of age. For years, I kept buying new crops to fill in the gaps — even after I’d no openings left. It got to the point where if I had been near a nursery when running errands, I would poke my head and nab a few things — especially during late summer and throughout the fall sale season. When I got home, I would slip my purchases into the backyard, nestle them among adult plants and hope that my wife never noticed. In fact, I knew she would not care, but maybe deep down I cared. My addiction was costing me money, but it did not have to.

Benjamin Vogt / Monarch Gardens

Fall is my favourite season — crisp mornings and evenings, hot afternoons, bright blue skies, stunning sunsets and a backyard with a rainbow of fall blooms and foliage colors. When the leaves begin to drop, it is a lot easier to tell where any plant openings are and to plan what could yet proceed in.

Fall is perhaps the best time for gardening — the cooler temps make things easier on you and the plants, and the warm soil enables roots to get established and plan to remove even sooner next spring. But why buy plants when you can easily harvest and cultivate your own?

Benjamin Vogt / Monarch Gardens

Just look at this bounty. Fall not only shows the structural bones of your backyard, but seed heads add another level of attention. These seed heads mean hundreds of free crops for you, aside from the fact that they are feeding birds and other creatures. But when can you gather the seeds?

Benjamin Vogt / Monarch Gardens

Gather Seeds When They Are Ready

My guideline for seed collecting over the course of late summer into fall is rather laissez-faire: When the seeds begin falling off or blowing away, they are prepared. (Then you really have to be on the ball, especially if it gets windy.) Here, old Liatris blooms are all puffed up, prepared for the seeds to be collected.

I walk around the backyard a few times every week using any temporary container that I will find, from glass to plastic to paper bags. The wider the container mouth, the greater for seeds which take easily to the wind — you want to grab as many as you can once you start choosing.

Benjamin Vogt / Monarch Gardens

Sometimes it’s a lot easier to cut off the tops of crops, like this ironweed, and drop the entire mess into a bag. The seed heads are so small, you’d be out there indefinitely otherwise. Why not save picking the seeds out for a chilly winter day in front of a fireplace? You can even turn it into a date with your spouse or some kind of amorous game. Hey, you have to spice up seed pruning.

Benjamin Vogt / Monarch Gardens

Grass seeds are frequently very easy to collect. Just run your hand up the stem, from bottom to top, cupping and collecting seeds as you go.

One major benefit of collecting wildflower seeds grown in your backyard is that you may trust them — if you do not use pesticides or chemicals, you know the seeds are organic.

In addition you know the mother plant — where it grew, what it enjoys, the very fact it thrives in your soil. Using locally sourced seeds is all roughly as ecologically friendly as any act you can perform in the backyard, and you can’t get more locally sourced than outside the back door.

Benjamin Vogt / Monarch Gardens

Coneflower seeds are not these spiky pointy things. Rather, the seed is deep down in there, little rectangular tan bits half the size (or less) of your pinky’s fingernail. To get at them, I have discovered that sacrificing my thumb is greatest — I push it across the flower head, getting poked and jabbed, causing the spikes to pop off and allowing the seeds slip out.

Benjamin Vogt / Monarch Gardens

Mountain mint and monarda seed heads make your hands smell great, but the seeds are very small and loose within the faded tubular blooms. I snip off entire clumps of seed heads and, while holding them within a container, crush them with my fingers or hands. This easily releases the very small seeds.

Benjamin Vogt / Monarch Gardens

Plant Before Winter

OK, so now you’ve got these seeds. Some have fallen onto the backyard bed and will resow, and you’ll be able to move them in spring or let them have free will and choose their own places.

Or you can winter sow. Many seeds need chilly or wet stratification — which can be a period of several weeks or months of freezing, moist conditions. Here from the U.S. Central Plains we call this period winter.

I hope you kept your old nursery pots or got some from a neighbor who had been throwing them away. Fill them around halfway with potting soil or perhaps just your normal garden soil (clay, sand, whatever), and broadcast the seeds evenly across the surface. Let winter snow bury the seeds to you.

Come spring you’ll have dozens of seedlings in each container, ready to pot up or put in the backyard once they have rooted better within a couple weeks. Congratulations! You’ve become your own wildflower nursery.

Benjamin Vogt / Monarch Gardens

Or Shop Seeds for Later

If you don’t use all your seeds, you can certainly save them. Some may not be viable next year, but many will — if you store them properly. Here’s the way:
Strip each seed from the chaff, which is frequently the feathery or crunchy piece connected to the seed. Let the seeds dry out, in the few days to a week. If you select seeds when they’re falling off the plant, then they ought to be pretty dry. But if you pick them following rain or other wet weather, they will need several weeks or days to wash out inside — dispersing them on a table or pan helps accelerate the drying. Shop in a paper bag, which provides good air flow (glass and plastic will encourage mould growth). I have discovered that college lunch totes, folded over two and stapled, function good. I label them with all the plant and year accumulated. Store the bags in a cool, dark, dry place. That may be in a dry garage, an outbuilding, a storage seat out or in a cellar. The benefit of storing them out is that you’ll be cold-stratifying the seeds — some may also require moisture, but people that just need it chilly will be prepared to sow again come spring or summer.

Benjamin Vogt / Monarch Gardens

The first year I winter-sowed seeds in 24 containers. Let me tell you I was as giddy as a kid in a candy store the subsequent spring. I had sufficient plants to strike some problem areas in my beds, with plenty left over to gift or even sell.

Now I have discovered I have a new addiction — amassing plastic pots and cluttering up my backyard every October and November. However, no need to hide this addiction, since the crops are liberated, and that I know for certain they will thrive in my backyard.

More: 3 Ways Native Plants Make Gardening So Much Better

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Create Your Own Shangri-la With Bird of Paradise Plants

If you’re looking for a great houseplant to give your decor a tropical flair, then Strelitzia,commonly known as bird of heaven,won’t disappoint. While it’s often wrongly known as a banana plant (it is a toast), you won’t find any bananas growing, however if you’re lucky (or rather, if a plant is truly joyful) following three to five years then you might just discover some gorgeous blooms.

The two most common species at the Strelitzia household, each of which may be purchased as a houseplant, seem very similar, and it is a good idea to know which kind you’re purchasing, as the end result will not be exactly the same. Strelitzia reginae grows to a maximum height of 5 to 6 feet and blooms with the traditional orange bird of paradise flowers; it also has a dwarf version, where the leaves are quite small comparatively. Strelizia nicolai can grow to be a giant shrub and blooms with dramatic cream and black bird of paradise flowers; it is not as likely to be sold as a houseplant, although surely some confusion is always a chance. Choose wisely. It’s always a good idea to become an educated houseplant purchaser, especially when it comes to investing in something that you hope to enjoy for years to come.

Below you’ll find examples in which bird of heaven was utilized in an assortment of configurations, and I have added some hints that I hope will be helpful as you navigate the path into using houseplants to enhance your property.

Melissa Lenox Design

The large green bird of heaven leaves are a great complement to the peacock blue partitions within this eclectic San Francisco living room. I want to find some more green plants to balance the ocean of intense shade, especially behind the lotion seat in the foreground, however this is a superb start.

Bosworth Hoedemaker

The plant is a fabulous addition to this neutral Seattle living room. Its tropical flavor is an ideal match for its bamboo dividers, sisal area rug and neutral beachy decor, which adheres to the sea view beyond. 1 plant looks great, though a second one on the right side of this window will perfectly frame the opinion and really bring the outdoors in.

This complete bird of paradise plant well balances the blooming orchid on the coffee table in this Portland, Oregon, home and functions to cancel the formal decoration that could on occasion make a room look more like a hotel lobby than a house.

Plants are a great way to add life to a distance, since not only are they alive and breathing, but they are also not ideal! Just a little imperfection in the shape of a plant that has its own mind may be a great way to make a home feel comfortable and resided in, especially if you’d rather not have a cluttered appearance. On the flip side, a cluttered plant accounts a modest family-made mess also.

Grossman Photography

Bird of heaven is a superb selection with this contemporary high-rise living area in Miami, since it connects the residents to the tropical surroundings far beneath and detracts from the sterility of the cityscape. The pair of plants provides grounding symmetry within this open area, as well as adds perpendicular interest, which is always a significant element in any room.

Moment design + productions, llc

In this Manhattan pied-à-terre, bird of heaven does a great job of providing a human touch to the intriguing though impartial cityscape view. Some true green is a welcome touch of colour in a sea of black upholstery, and in fact, I would really like to see much more green in that way corner by way of a chunkier bud and two birds of heaven planted together — there is quite a bit of blank wall area that could benefit from a large tropical leaves.

A Interior View Interior Design Studio

Following is a perfect example of an area that will profit greatly from a Strelitzia nicolai, as the ceiling height in this Seattle house warrants an extremely tall plant. The plant used is well positioned, however, functioning as a visual anchoring point at the conclusion of the curved couch, and also our eye has a moment of relaxation before taking in the huge ocean perspective beyond.

Lasley Brahaney Architecture + Construction

Bird of paradise works well within this modern Philidelphia house and matches this corner well, bringing the outdoors in. In this scenario, however, the plant really could be taller to fill the vertical space and also to bring up the eye rather than down. Here I find myself looking at the bottoms of the seat rather than at the garden beyond, and wondering whether the ceiling is really low or whether it only seems like that. Is not it fascinating how one thing whose proportions aren’t quite right can change everything?

To not worry; there are a few ways to solve the issue of a plant that is lacking height while you’re hoping and waiting for it to grow: a plant stand, a tiny low table, a stool of some type or maybe even a couple of cinder blocks if your decoration (and your partner?) Can handle them. Just do not forget to fertilize so you can send these cinder blocks on their way earlier rather than later.

Choosing the right plant for your house isn’t always so simple, as there are lots of options, and one must always consider the requirements of this plant first. Add Strelitzia to a list of possibilities, and even if it not blossoms indoors, you’ll still appreciate its exquisite green leaves and the touch of heaven it brings into your house.

How to care for bird of heaven:
Light: Bright light with some gentle indirect sun; too much sun can burn the leaves of plants that are designated houseplants. Temperature: Bird of heaven is generally not a cold-tolerant plant, and above 60 degrees Fahrenheit is preferable in sunlight. Water: Maintain the soil always moist year around, though bird of heaven is also known to be drought resistant, so don’t worry too much when the soil gets dry between waterings; just do not overdo it. In case your house temperatures drop in sunlight, water less frequently. Soil: Plant in rich, well-drained potting mix, at a broad, as opposed to deep, bud — bird of heaven has a shallow root system and likes to disperse. Feeding: Fertilize every 2 weeks in summer and spring with a balanced fertilizer to promote blooms. General care: Dust the leaves often. High humidity is preferred, although not compulsory. Mist the plant or put it on a bed of rocks sitting in water. The water in the tray will vanish, providing humidity for the plant. Furthermore, bird of heaven enjoys to become pot bound; it will blossom better this way. Therefore, if you divide the plant or move it into a bigger pot, it might take a few more years to blossom. Air purification: While it isn’t known as a superhero in reducing airborne toxins, all broad-leaved plants are effective in improving indoor air quality. Poison indicator: even though it is not considered poisonous, toxins are found in both the leaves and seeds that could adversly affect humans, cats, dogs and dogs if consumed. Children and tiny animals are at higher risk, and foliage intake is more worrisome than seed ingestion. Native habitat: South Africa

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Fantastic Design Plant: Joe Pye Weed

Sometimes we dismiss a great design plant because we’re more used to watching it over the street than at a manicured backyard, or because it has the word”marijuana” in its ordinary name. Joe Pye weed is one such plant. This indigenous, frequently overlooked beauty grows up to 7 feet tall, adds showy purplish blossoms in late summer to early fall and can be quite simple to grow straight out of seeds.

Its colours and textures produce dramatic clusters and draw butterflies to the garden, and Joe Pye weed thrives in those tricky areas where water stands after a storm. Get to know Joe and decide if you’d like him to come over and hang out in your lawn.

Botanical name: Eutrochium purpureum (previously Eupatorium purpureum)

Common title: Joe Pye weed (other, more common, common names include Queen of the Meadow and Snakeroot)

USDA zones: 5-10

Water necessity: Moist. Grows nicely along ponds, wetlands and streams. Soil should be damp.

Light requirement: Full sun to light shade

Mature size: The conventional native plant can grow up to 7 feet tall and 4 ft wide, but you can find dwarf varieties available that grow to about 4 ft high, such as E. purpureum’Little Joe.’

Tolerances: Requires damp soil; can withstand hot full sun

Seasonal attention: This native plant is a late bloomer, with large, showy purple-mauve-ish blossoms. Its blossoms will continue into early fall.

Best time to plant: Fall. Joe Pye weed can be grown quite easily from seed, or even out of container crops, which are easily available in nurseries.

Interesting fact: Joe Pye weed is an herb that was mainly used medicinally for many years; some believed it inoculated individuals against poisons. One legend has it that the plant is named after a Native American called Joe Pye, who used it to heal typhus.

Barbara Pintozzi

Distinguishing attributes: Joe Pye weed (seen here amid purple coneflower) includes a wonderful all-natural appearance; it’s a native plant we frequently see in the end of wetlands or drainage ditches on the side of the street. The flowers form large clusters that have a general domed shape.

Joe Pye weed attracts hummingbirds, bees and butterflies, which will add much more life and color to your backyard.

Milieu Design

The best way to use itChoreographing fall bloomers can be complicated. But when you plant clusters of Joe Pye weed from the perennial mix, in border gardens and along wet locations, you will make certain to receive a burst of purple in late summer or early fall.

The plant’s soft colours coordinate with a wide array of foliage and blossoms, whether it be the yellows of Black-eyed Susans or goldenrod, additional colors of purple from fall-blooming asters and mums, or even a gray-green background of blue spruce. You might also want to use it with other butterfly-attracting plants like butterfly bush, coneflower or lantana.

Liquidscapes

Planting notes: There are several simple methods to plant Joe Pye weed.
Start seeds indoors in late spring and then transplant them outside in the late summer or early fall. Directly plant seeds into the soil in the fall. Purchase container plants in the nursery and plant them at the fall.If you plant out of containers, make sure that the soil never dries out for more than a day or two. Since each plant can get very large, look at the seed package or plant label to determine how much space to leave between crops.

Keep the soil damp, especially for the month following planting. You may split Joe Pye weed every couple of years. Cut the plants back to about 6 inches from the spring. To create your crops shorter and fuller, pinch them back into the early summer.

Watch more guides to good design plants

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