Archive for the ‘landscape’ Category


Thursday, April 21st, 2011

The house is mostly a blank slate when it comes to fixing up the landscaping, well, except for the spring time weed “lawn” that shall be pulverized. Though the plan is to do everything in stages as budget and weather and will power permit, I have to admit to being a bit overwhelmed by the scale of the project. This will be a massive undertaking requiring oodles of hardcore filthy labor and serious cash. My brain refuses to acknowledge how long this project will drag out (years, likely) or how many new skills are needing learning or that the future holds face to face dealings with nests of earwigs, feral cat crap and other horrifying surprises lurking in the dirt.

Thankfully, I’ve been working with the talented and soothing (and award winning) Ryan Prange of Falling Waters Landscape fame to help quell my anxiety and give the low down on drought tolerant low maintenance landscaping. We’ve whittled out my landscape needs (cheap, low maintenance, desert modern, neighborhood appropriate, water friendly) and he’s been pulling together some design recommendations for plantings.

In response to the layouts and ideas Ryan’s been sending over, I’ve been screwing around with SketchUp to flesh out the landscape.

Admittedly, the free version of SketchUp’s plant selection sucks. The program also goes wacky with the 2-D face me plants which wander out of place as the viewing angle shifts – not just a little out of place, but jumping 10 plus feet out of their plant “zone”.

These renderings are supposed to include a bunch more feather grass or rush or grassy bush type things to help fill out the blanker areas. Putting the right amount of plants in the model causes it to start resembling very sloppy and confusing photoshopping. The pared down renderings do illustrate basic layout of the major plantings and hardscape elements which are still getting fiddled around with and finalized.

In terms of making this stuff physically happen (without hiring contractors and workers) I need to learn some new skills like pouring and finishing concrete. Initially, concrete seems messy and hard and fits neatly in my frustrating projects that I suck at category. I also want to figure out how to install drip irrigation and exterior lighting. Sexy and thrilling projects like those will need some in-depth research, which is is fantastic, since there is nothing more exhilarating than researching piping or timers or whatever.

The neglected side yard needs some attention and extreme weed annihilation. The more obvious question though – who the hell installs a spigot like that? Extend that sucker over one foot to the right and out one foot please. Perfect. Logical. Extra functional.

We picked up the ridiculous blue spa cover at the local thrift store for a couple of dollars.  The cover is a few feet wider than required, so it’s rocking a stylish droop and devil may care attitude whilst keeping leaves out of the empty tank. Trust that I know it’s looking kind of ghetto.

Still working out the plan of attack in the side yard, but the idea is to keep it simple and add an eating area. We need to rip out the brick planter and install hot rolled steel edging, pour some concrete pavers, plumb the pool, build a deck, stain the fence, grade the yard, throw decomposed granite everywhere, plant many plants, build a table, install lighting and then done? Maybe? This is going to take years.

Above are a few of the design options Ryan has been sending my way. I’ve been picking and choosing ideas and incorporating a little of each into the finalized plan, which shocker, might ultimately change as we dive into the nitty gritty of finances and skill levels and what stuff actually looks in real life.

Landscaping. You soul crushing monster.

The big sale will hopefully raise funds to help get us going on some projects. I can’t wait for the exterior to shape up a bit and be usable.

Also, if you have a landscaping project in need of some help, design, project management or otherwise, give Ryan & Falling Waters Landscape a shout. He’s good people, with a great eye and super easy to work with personality. I might know, because admittedly, I’m a demanding she-beast with a highly specific design sensibility who worries that it’s not as easy to switch out trees as it is sofas. Then again, I don’t have to sit on trees and constantly look at and criticize them.

Should be fine, right? Right?! RIGHT. We are nowhere near ready to plant trees.


Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

A few years back we installed almost 4,000 sqft gravel driveway with our bare hands. It was misery. Back breaking misery.

Part of the driveway installation entailed that we lay down rolls and rolls of landscaping fabric to help control the inevitable weed problem. Well, no one quite explained that weeds wouldn’t grow through the fabric, but they would totally grow on top of it. Dirt settles between the rocks and then the weeds are like, “hey guys its awesome over here – lets move in.”

Since installing the driveway, which feels like forever ago, we’ve been battling the shameful ghetto weeds about this time of year. Somehow through a mixture of the super moon, super rain storms and supernatural mystical forces bent on driving me nuts, the weeds have been particularly hardy and spiteful.

We hand pulled the bigger ones, which in some twisted irony are way easier to remove than the baby weeds. So, we tend to let these bad boys get big and then yank them. Usually the summer heat kills everything outright and we wait for the scheduled die off, but it’s been so lovely and wet out that the weeds found purchase and made themselves a little too comfortable too early in the season.

Also found some lovely artifacts hiding in the weeds caught from the wind blowing into our wide open backyard – empty cigarette boxes, trash bags, some cans, chip bags, some stuff that looked like blood – you know all the glittering detritus that Hemet bestows on us.

Weeds? I made you my bitch.

To conquer the little baby and broken weeds left over from the great weed massacre (and to deter any other punks that wanna mess with me) I gave the driveway a nice bath of salt and vinegar. Still tastes terrible though.

50 pounds of salt ($8) and a few gallons of vinegar ($3) from the local Smart & Final are my DIY and more “green” solution than grabbing some chemical weed killer from the local hardware store. Who am I kidding – have you seen the prices on that weed killer stuff? It’s OUTRAGEOUS. We need tons to cover this giant driveway, so my broke ass is going to try this salt & vinegar solution and see how it works.

BTW, after a couple days the left over weeds are looking pretty shriveled and brown; take that you bastards! Let’s see how it works out long term – I’m totally salting the earth out of vengeance, but from what I read the next few rainfalls will probably dilute it all within the next few months. Whatever, salt is cheap and weed killer is not.

Spring Home & Garden Show

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

I headed out to San Diego to check out Ryan’s entry in the Garden Masters Exposition at the San Diego Spring Home & Garden Show.


I got all my fancy camera equipment together to take some killer photos and then…forgot my battery. Because I am dumb. And a loser. And a terrible blogger. Please please please excuse the crappy iPhone pictures. I was in a bit of a pickle and it was the only camera I had that actually worked.

Ryan’s entry was super modern but still very lush. I dug the plant selection and easy breezy walk through set up. I wish I had somewhere to put these gravel and wood steps…so simple!

The lighting throughout the event was very “theatrical”. It was like a garden bordello in there.

Gotta love a hard troweled stucco wall that looks like concrete, though. I would also like to find a place for one of those babies somewhere. Maybe a ten foot tall one to block out the crazy cat guys house…

Look who won all the fanciest ribbons! Ryan really took home more prizes than anyone else…and you will see why in just a moment…

We showed up at the very end of the event and they finally turned off the bordello lights and turned on some basic overheads. Thank you regular lights, now I can see the plants.

Ryan loved handling these big bushy balls. Just saying.

Overall, I thought he did a great job. It was a good mixture of organic and geometric planting with an interesting water feature and great little fire pit area. Totally that comfy SoCal modern backyard deal that is so nice to hang out in and totally water friendly. Definately my fav design of the show.


Now folks, onto the other entries that caught my eye (if by caught I mean made them bleed).

This pissed me off. Little stupid flowers (only two kinds total) and Tommy Bahama folding chairs? It was like a big F.U. to viewers and the other designers. Totally ridiculous.

Let me count the ugly.

  • Neon green random panels? Check.
  • Mosaic surfboard shower? Check.
  • Creepy voyeur wicker chair? Check.
  • Random empty planters? Check.
  • Random eastern statues? Check.
  • DRY RIVERBED? Check.

(Dry riverbeds may be one of my bigger pet peeves.)

I liked this bench thing and the galvanized tank fountain, but overall it was a little random and strange with the plantings and layout and totally all green all the time.

AstroTurf. ‘Nuff said.

Baby sneakers with plants in them walking through the landscape? GAG. GAG. GAG.

Oh yeah, this was a horror show. Curly white wrought iron with a wedding themed “bush” (check out the “whimsical” bride and groom on top) and a poofy flower bench. Please gouge out my eyes.

When in doubt, put a bird on it. Or a spitting frog fountain. For fucks sake.

Also, how many people want to sit on a pillow in a bunch of pea gravel? All I can think of is gravel in my pants.

This was almost OK until you saw the wave mosaic masonry work and the creepy balls of glass fire pit.

Ah, sharp and horrible slicing cheese grater squares to step on to get to the most depressing sitting area ever. The fence looked like it was smeared with poo.

Oh awesome, another huge dry riverbed. The most pointless thing in all of landscaping.

Check out that cool fire pit! Too bad there is a total disconnect with that fanciful wrought iron gate. What happened? Design seizure?

Oh perfect. Plastic fucking turtles on a dry riverbed.


Ok, now I may be a little grumpy (or a lot grumpy) but I drove an hour and a half to check this show out and my camera had no battery and it started raining and I’ve been really sick – so I’m grumpy. Shut up. It happens.

I appreciate all the hard work that goes into an event like this, but honestly, it seemed like a lot of folks were just completely phoning it in. Seeing as these landscapes were intended to be professional examples created in the hopes that they will win awards and entice new clients, some of the choices were just weird. I’m pretty sure someones dream landscape wouldn’t consist of folding Tommy Bahama chairs, or maybe people really do love plastic turtles and wave mosaics. Who knows. I’m being a grumpy snob.