Saturday, January 2, 2021

Winter Planting


We've been focused on the landscape plantings to capitalize on the cooler temperatures and what little rain we've been receiving this winter.  Having grown up in the midwest, I'm still adjusting to the climate in southern California and the idea that some plants grow all year long.

We visited the Theodore Payne Center just north of Burbank today.  Much of the gardens are closed, but the plant nursery is open.  Today we found the following plants on our list:

  • Juncus Patens, both Elk Blue and Occidental Blue
  • Bouteloua Graciis
  • Heuchera 'Opal'
  • Gambelia Speciosa, Firecracker
  • Ceanothus Joyce Coulter
Our experience at Theodore Payne was good.  You can find their inventory online which is updated regularly.  This was extremely helpful and allowed us to plan our visit based on what was available.  Once at the nursery we found the signage and layout to be very good.  We were able to identify everything on our list in around 20 minutes.  Each pot is labelled, and therefore it made it much easier for us.  We will definitely continue to use them as a resource as we build out our native plant landscape.  We found that there were plants and Theodore Payne not at Tree of Life and vise versa.  Definitely check out both as you build out your native landscape plan.

We are down to two plants left on our list that we have yet to find.  We're hoping we'll luck out later in the spring as the nurseries begin putting out new inventory.  We're excited to see everything start to root-in and grow during the winter and spring months.

A pretty good start to 2021.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

The 2020 Miracle!

I have long wanted a more powerful and larger range.  However, it is hard to justify installing one when you've just moved into a new home and there are so many other things that need to be done.  It is especially difficult to justify when you have a working stove and oven that gets the job done.

Well, then a miracle occurred.  Our oven stopped working this year and it wasn't reasonable to repair.  Therefore, it was essential that we buy a new stove :)

In comes the dream range, followed by the installation of a vent hood and backsplash!  We went with the dual fuel Kucht range, NXR hood and NXR full stainless chimney cover.  The backsplash was custom fabricated by Commerce Metals.

This project tested our skill level.  Retrofitting the house for the hood took much more work than we originally anticipated.  We watched countless videos before making a hole through the lath and plaster ceiling to ensure that we did not damage the surrounding plaster.  We designed custom brackets for the back of the hood to allow it to be secured to the existing wall studs.

I have thoroughly enjoyed cooking on it, and appreciate having the high power burners for searing and for high heat cooking applications.  We also installed the shelving to the left which puts pots and pans, essential kitchen utensils and oils and spices near the stove.  We are extremely pleased with the outcome.

There is much work to be done in the kitchen, but after living with it for a year we plan to keep the exact same layout.  It is a great cooking triangle and has proven to be an efficient space to cook in.  We will be refacing cabinetry by building custom shaker doors, replacing counters and installing new floors.  Much of this work will be DIY in the months ahead.

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Water Water Everywhere

 Water water everywhere!  That is if you took the time to plan it.

Southern California presents some interesting irrigation challenges.  Water does not naturally fall out of the sky most of the year, and therefore you pretty much have to irrigate.  A large portion of the decision to go native was to conserve water.  Therefore, does it make sense to plumb water water everywhere?

I went back and forth in my mind on whether to cover this topic on the blog.  I am not an expert and the more I read about the water requirements for natives, the less I understand.  Everyone has an opinion on this topic and yet no one has actual information you can easily use.  

Like I did in the Pacific Northwest, I am installing a system of drip irrigation, as well as mini spot sprinklers.  I have added a number of new functions, such as shrubblers and plant pot sprayers.  In a good year we are out of town frequently, and I prefer that the landscape be self maintaining.  Just last year we lost most of our potted plants after we were out of town for one week in the height of summer.

I am not going to give a comprehensive overview of the installation of our irrigation system in this article.  Instead, I am going to mention some of the products we used, and then I am going to offer to post updates about the irrigation methods after we've used them for 6 months, 12 months and so on.

Almost all of our irrigation products are from  They are an Oregon based company, and I absolutely love them.  Get the catalog and study it.  Order a kit to start, and that will inform the parts and part numbers you need to expand it further.  Here are some of the products that make up the basis of our system so far:

Shrubbler on 5" Stake 360°


Micro-Jet 90°, 180°, 360°

MAJ90 MAJ180 MAJ360

1/4" Soaker Dripline 12" Spaced




There are dozens of other product numbers for EasyLoc connectors, tubing, etc, but again I'm just covering a few of the products I use in the system overall.  I'm happy to answer questions in the comments section about other products/parts in use.

I ended up using hose end timers, and have purchased a number of the wi-fi connected b-hyve Orbit faucet timers.  Again, might not be the easiest solution long-term, but so far they are serving my needs well.  Irrigation companies are not geared for low-water native landscapes and my biggest question was whether I could set it for interval watering with values greater than 7 days.  Good news -- the answer is yes with the b-hyve faucet timer.  I was able to set it for 15+ days between watering cycles.  This will allow me to decrease the watering intervals as the plants mature and their water requirements reduce over time.  Goal is to only have to water most natives once every 30 days.

My advice is to start out with a plan.  Understand the watering requirements of the different planting zones in your landscape.  We have a kitchen garden, the native landscape beds, potted plants and a drought tolerant grassy front yard.  Each of these areas has specific watering needs that differ from one another.  You will have to take this into consideration as you design your system.  A healthy dose of planning will ensure less frustration and failure during and after implementation.

As I learn more from our experience with this system and getting the native plants established, I will be sure to revisit this subject in future posts.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

New Plant Babies

 Few things excite me more than new plants.  Just finished a trip to Tree of Life nursery and brought back the next batch of native plants to round out our landscape plan. Today's finds were:

  • Juncus Patens
  • Satureja douglasii
  • Dudleya Brittonii
  • Dudleya Hassei
  • Ceanothus Julia Phelps
  • Archillea Millefolium
  • Festuca Idahoensis
  • Baccharis Emoryi

We had a good lesson in patience and thinking out of the box today.  Many of our native wish list plants were not available.  Sometimes the nursery has propagation failures or the plants are not rooted well enough to put out into the nursery for sale.  This was the case for many of the plants on the list.  That's okay, as we plan to do this project in layers and who doesn't like repeat trips to get more plants.

Also, we discovered that there are many different Ceanothus varieties.  We were ultimately looking for a Joyce Coulter which is lower growing with a greater spread.  We decided to try a Julia Phelps which is a bit more upright.  Our plan is to train this plant into a larger spread with careful staking and weighting of the branches.  

All of this is a reminder to remain flexible, do plenty of research and be open to alternatives and other ideas.  The world of natives can be a tricky when it comes to sourcing.  There are far fewer nursery's specializing in these plants and therefore they can be more challenging to obtain.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

2020 Retrospective


Well, if you look hard enough you can find beauty in this year.  This was our first full year in our 1914 craftsman bungalow.  Our first two months were spent creating plans for the property and our improvement wish list.  Little did we know that we'd make so much progress towards that list in 2020.  Amazing how much more time a person has at home during a pandemic!

Starting off the list was our studio makeover.  The property contained a building that's 12'x32' and a complete mess.  Originally it was a carriage house, but it had gone through a number of conversions through the years that left it in pretty bad shape.  We carved the building into two sections - a studio and a workshop.  We stripped the building down to the studs and began remaking it into something usable.  In March of 2020, we finished the studio.  The studio serves as a workout space and a home office.  Little did we know that we'd get so much use out of it in 2020!  We have planned the back workshop portion and expect to start work on that project in the coming weeks.  Stay tuned for further updates on that.

In parallel to completing the studio, we started planning out the landscape makeover.  We had a particularly rainy spring in 2020 and experienced some localized flooding.  From that we learned the drainage around our 1914 home was terrible.  Water is the enemy of an old house, so we began the effort of laying over 100 feet of drainage pipe.  Come May 2020, we had gutters installed on all three buildings and tied it into our new drainage system.  It wasn't a romantic project, but will help prevent damage to the old foundation.  It took months to complete, but had to be finished before breaking ground on the landscape hardscaping.

From there, we decided to remove 400+ feet of concrete from the property.  From past experience, we knew this was something we wanted to hire out.  Sure glad we made that decision.  The crew was here for a week removing concrete, and making a long cut down the remaining concrete driveway to install drains.  2020 was the year of drainage.  Glad that portion is over!

Once the concrete was removed, we had a blank slate and could finally start laying in the hardscaping.  We built a paver patio made from recycled rubber tiles, and a concrete paver patio area and pergola.  For this project, we moved approximately 9 tons of gravel and sand using an old dilapidated wheel barrow.  This is one of those projects you reflect back on and swear you'd never do by hand again.  Whew, we are very glad that this project is done and we reap the benefits of our labor on a regular basis.

We are finally at the stage of planting and layering in the softscaping.  We have started this effort and hope to finish it up before the end of the winter.  In the meantime, we've moved our efforts inside and have started stripping the painted woodwork in our living and dining rooms.  

This was a very big year for us.  It was a difficult year, but I can't imagine how we would've gotten through it without all the projects we accomplished.  When I reflect back on 2020 in the future, I will remember it as the year of the pandemic and the year we got so much done at our new house.  Hopefully I'll be doing that reflection while sitting in our beautiful landscape enjoying wine :)

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Potager Nook

Sometimes procrastination leads to the best decisions.  We'd been trying to figure out since this spring what to do with the northeast corner of our house.  This area is part of our kitchen potager garden, and is the utility corner for cable, telephone and electricity.  We tried planting this area with veg, but nothing grew well in the mostly shady area.  It gets flooded with morning sun, and then remains shaded most of the day.


This weekend we built a small brick S curve patio with recycled bricks we had laying around.  Instantly, the area was transformed and now has a purpose.  We tested the nook today with our morning coffee and we love the area!  It is a great spot to enjoy morning coffee and to admire the garden.  Finally, a solution for an otherwise dead and difficult spot.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Potted Plants for Interest


We have a decent amount of concrete hardscape up the South side of the house that we decided to keep for our patio area.  However, we knew we needed to soften this with plants and with the help of Tree of Life nursery, we identified a number of natives that would be good candidates.

Today we got this Burroughsia Fastigiata planted and absolutely love the outcome.  The pot matches the scale, and we are very pleased with the free flow feel and growth pattern of this bush.  It is amazing how a plant in the right spot can change everything.  This pot is along the approach of the back yard landscape, and is serving as great visual interest.