My favorites from Dwell on Design 2015

It was another great Dwell on Design this year.  Our APLD booth was very popular – we filled every available slot with homeowner consults.  A Big Shoutout of Gratitude for all the APLD designers who volunteered their time.

I have to say that my favorite take away from this year’s Dwell was David Bromstad’s ‘glamping’ exhibit.  It was right next door to our booth and it made us easy to find because we just kept telling people to look for the double teepees.

IMG_3346Here is the inside of one of the teepees.  I believe all these fun pillows can be purchased on

IMG_3434I found a faucet I want for my kitchen and one for when we redo the guest bathroom.  Here’s the one for the guest bath (Brizo)…

IMG_3461There were some other really cool faucets…

IMG_3437IMG_3439Loved this Kitchen hood…

hoodAnd how about this for a carport?  It has solar panels and charges your car.

IMG_3424And then my favorite plants of the show – tough choice since Mountain States brought in 4 semis full of plants…the Pedilanthus bracteatus and Penstemon superbus .

pedilanthus bracteatusIMG_3426





Capturing Rain Water


This week I attended a meeting put on by the DWP to outline to the community their plans for the new Stormwater Capture Master Plan.  My impression was that they have come a long way in recognizing the importance of capturing storm water and not just letting it all run out into the ocean.  But they still have a long way to go in order for southern California to be more self-sufficient and less dependent on imported water .

As designers and homeowners, however,  we can certainly do our part.  As homeowners, we can look at our own property and try to capture as much of the water that falls on our little slice of heaven as possible.

As designers, we should be looking at every landscape and implementing rain water capture in our designs.  APLD will be holding a series of programs this year, “The Sustainability Series”,  to learn more about irrigation, grey water and rain water capture.  There is always something new to learn…exciting, isn’t it???

The New Normal


Everyone knows that here in California we are in a drought.   It has been difficult convincing people of that over the past several years, but nobody denies it any longer. One thing that I keep hearing, though, is that these things are cyclical, the drought will be over at some point and then we can go back to normal.

There is no “going back to normal”. This is now the New Normal.

Have you driven along the Ventura Freeway and seen the new reservoir being built by Forest Lawn? It looks like they are building a Costco, but it will be two fully enclosed side by side holding tanks. As a recent appointee to RWAG – the Recycled Water Advisory Group – I was given a private tour of that Headworks Reservoir.

This new reservoir will be replacing the Silver Lake and Ivanhoe Reservoirs, both of which will go off line when the new one is completed. The Headworks will hold 110 million gallons of water. Sounds like a lot of water. It is, in fact, about one seventh of the capacity of the two reservoirs it is replacing. The question was posed “How will the DWP make up the difference and be able to deliver the same amount of water to its clients?” The answer is that they will not. All the water saving measures that we are implementing now will set a standard for the reduced amount of water that we will be using into the future.

There is no “going back to normal”. This is now the New Normal.

The New Normal means using climate appropriate plants, permeable surfaces and efficient irrigation in our landscapes. We all can do our part in keeping as much water as possible on our properties and not send it out into the street. This will help replenish the aquifers and keep our river and ocean cleaner.

The New Normal also includes other means of building our potable water supply, one of which is Recycling Water.

Isn’t all water recycled and hasn’t it been so for billions of years? Already a portion of the potable water we use has been recycled upstream from us.  More on recycled water in the future after I get to see the Edward C. Little Recycling Facility.

California Native Garden Coming to Life

It always brings me such Joy and Satisfaction to see a New Garden coming to life.  I visited a garden today that was created in the fall.  Before we added any plants, the only thing growing in the entire back yard was weeds and one monster Wisteria that the homeowner’s grandfather had planted years ago.  That poor thing needed to get cut way back in order to build a new pergola to support it but it is growing back with enthusiasm.



We planted mostly California native plants, succulents, and eight trees, including two citrus.  Rainwater is captured from the house and the garage into two dry creek beds.


A recirculating fountain has attracted birds from the first day it was hooked up.

bird on fountain


Butterflies are everywhere!!!

monarch burbank

Nassella tenuissima: Tenacity in Motion

There is no arguing that Nassella tenuissima, otherwise known as Mexican Feather Grass, is a very pretty grass.  It was recently featured in Sunset Magazine and the Los Angeles Times.  Unfortunately, they were featured in a positive light and have sparked a lot of conversation among my fellow designers and horticulturists.

The problem is that this Nassella is very invasive and will soon follow the path of the Pampas Grass that is overtaking our protected areas.  I have been following the progress of one particular planting in the neighborhood where I regularly walk.


Here are some pictures that show how the grass seeds itself, runs up the street … IMG_2500

IMG_2502 IMG_2504




…and plants itself literally feet away from the border of protected parkland under the auspices of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.  Ok, maybe it has taken a few years to make its way up the street.  But it has surely done so.   How much longer do we have to wait before this plant starts taking over all of the protected park land?


There are so many grasses on the market.  So many wonderful alternatives to this Nassella.  There are even native California Nassellas.  I would urge anyone considering this plant, whether you be designer or homeowner, to please consider the consequences…and then consider using instead any of the many alternatives.

Here is one of my favorite alternatives…  just for starters…Bouteloua gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition’IMG_1701


My favorites from Dwell on Design

My time at Dwell on Design last weekend was crazy busy but I did steal steal away from the APLD booth a few times to wander the floor.  Here are some of my favorite attractions from the show: The first thing I liked right off the bat was the staircase leading to the convention hall.  This was plastic, but I can imagine copying any picture or photo onto metal, slicing it up and attaching to the risers of a staircase, be it indoors or outside.  IMG_2216 An outdoor shower, especially when you have kids (or husbands) and a pool (or not), is such a great and affordable idea.  Here is a ready made one from Fermob.


How about this mini camper for travel or the backyard? IMG_2306                   These bicycles were sturdy-looking and colorful, but what I like best of all is the basket integrated into the handlebars and body. IMG_2238 How about this for color?  Sue Fisher King makes custom french enameled lava stone tables and countertops in a huge assortment of colors. IMG_2243 Look closely at the curves in the wood from old oak barrels IMG_2303   And speaking of wine….what do you do with the four bottles of wine that you opened last night and were not able to polish off by yourself? IMG_2284

Gabion walls – when do you take the rocks out?


Seriously, that is the most frequently asked question.  My answer is that the rocks are wild and can not be released from their cages.

I recently hosted one of my favorite projects, Oakdell Sanctuary, on the Theodore Payne Foundation Native Plant Garden tour.  Many people were fascinated by the gabion wall that I had designed.  Unfortunately there are the vocal few that don’t get it and flat out don’t like it.  There are some that have changed their minds once they see the plants grow in and soften the effect of the wall.   Still others clearly understand when they get out of their cars and stand on the inside of the wall.

I always wanted to do a gabion somewhere and this location presented the perfect opportunity.  The project is on a curve on a main street that is heavily trafficked.  The wall will protect anyone walking on the path from any stray cars.  No car will go through that wall.  The wall needs zero maintenance and it is not coming down in an earthquake.

For those and any others that are fascinated by the wall, I thought I would share some of the construction process.  A shout out to Andreas Hessing of Scrub Jay Studios for his generosity in sharing advice and tips.


The cages were delivered flat, much the same as a moving box you would purchase and then have to assemble.  There are various methods used in lacing the boxes together, but ours came with lengths of wire in an Archimedes coil.  This was very cool because if you got the sides lined up correctly and just started inserting the coil, it would then take off and run itself down and sew a perfect seam.

The boxes needed to be filled and reinforced one foot at a time.  It is a bit tricky at the end to make sure you fill the box completely but not too much that it bulges, so you can get it laced up nice and tidy.



The plantings add the finishing touch.  In this case, I chose plants that are suited for bird habitat, creating a mini bird sanctuary.  “Are you getting a lot of birds?” they ask.  If you build it, they will come.

For those who are still confused, the rocks stay in the cages.



iris in sunlight

It was more than a garden party, it was a gathering of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers.  A little bit daunting was the thought of professional designers descending upon my little garden.  How silly of me to even have had the slightest trepidation.  Because the designers are the ones that roam around observing the slightest little details, commenting, touching, smelling, exclaiming, questioning.  After everyone left, I had a greater appreciation for my own garden and took the opportunity to stroll around and look at it from a different pair of eyes.  It is glorious spring and so much is happening in one little space.

DSC_0201 goldfinches DSC_0196

landscapers who lunch


Who would think that in the fall and winter you could make such beautiful arrangements straight from the garden?  One of my native gardens has so much going on right now, that I could be cutting for days and you wouldn’t know it. All of these arrangements came from that one garden.  I have been having such fun with it that I would like to share some of my creations.  Since they all have mostly the same flowers, I will save the plant list until the end.

The first one I made for a client.  They have a brand newly planted garden, so I thought I would give them some instant color on their patio.  The mix of blue, gold and red berries make for a dramatic splash of color.  The only non-native in there is the Phormium ‘Maori Queen’ , which I added from their garden.

Since I became jealous of my clients arrangement, I decided to make one for myself.  So this one went out on my patio.

Well, then I needed one for inside the house…and I will tell you now what this is because you are probably going to be as instantly in love with it as I was.  It is Eriogonum Giganteum, or Saint Catherine’s Lace, and this one inflorescence measures about 18” in diameter.  Add the Leymus and the whole thing is about 3’ wide.

Finally, my holiday swag.  So simple, it took me longer to tie the bow than to bunch the greens.

Plants used are Leymus condensatus ‘Canyon Prince’, Sambucus mexicana, Heteromeles arbutifolia species and ‘Davis Gold”, Artemisia tridentata, Arctostaphylos ‘Pacific Mist’, Eriogonum grande var. rubescens, Eriogonum Saint Catherine’s Lace, Eriogonum fasciculatum


I can’t tell you how many times I have gone to someone’s house and they have these ugly green extensions running from their downspouts.  Or else the downspouts empty out right at the base of the foundation.  And, of course, the old standby of sending the rain water into the street.  None of these is a good situation.

Oftentimes the fix is so simple and so much more attractive.  In this garden, we created a small creek bed, digging down around 18” and filling in with rocks that the owners already had on the property.  It was a handy use for the rocks and now the water is directed away from the house in a more attractive way and will head out towards the Meyer Lemon tree and other plants that will appreciate the extra water when the rains come.