3 San Francisco Bay Area 2018 Landscape Trends

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Sifting through a long list of 2018 trends in landscaping and gardening, we extracted ones more closely pertaining to the San Francisco Bay Area.

These important trends reflect our changing climate and how/ what people are planting this year. 
Plus there’s a brief, but inspiring case study about an old-fashioned practice made new again.

Thank you to our sources:
Sunset
Garden Design Magazine
Gardenista
Turf Magazine
Houzz
Land8.com
San Jose Mercury News

Container Gardening
A growing population millennials and retirees are moving into multi-family and tiny housing.  They want to garden. The answer to their small space challenge is containers.
They provide color, texture and structure.
There are a myriad of choices you can find from classic to modern.  Rustic to formal. Balcony boxes.
See below.

Do’s and Don’t’s on Containers
Say no to dark colors or clay pots
Dark colors get too hot; clay dries out in summer.
Best is fiberglass, plastic or glazed pottery.
Make sure they have drainage holes.

Succulents in glazed pottery

Low Water Container Perennials
Succulents are great. Hardy. They usually need full sun.
California Poppies are native, hardy and cheerful.
Lavender – Depending on your space you might try dwarf varieties.  They need full sun.

Kale

Kale

Edible Container Plants
Among the easiest to grow are –
Lettuces, kale and herbs. Shallow-rooted, they need a container with a 9-12″ depth.
Tomato plants are larger and need a container with a 12-14″ depth.
Consider dwarf varieties as well.

What You Need
Good soil.
Know your plant sunlight and water needs. Most edibles will need four-five hours of sun.
Mulching will help your soil hold water.
Feed the soil with: compost; worm castings.
(Gardeners’ Guild has great success with worm castings.  It is odorless, natural and improves soil health). There are also natural products you can purchase at your local nursery.

Acclimating Landscapes to Climate Change
More people are taking action to prepare for the effects of extreme weather such as drought, wind, severe heat, cold and rain.  Adapting a landscape for a changing climate involves components such as design, plant types, maintenance that includes consistent and correct pruning. 
Water management is also critical in acclimating our landscapes.
Below are tips on how to prepare for these trends, what you can do and why.

High Wind Resistance
Plants, trees and retaining walls are used as wind blocks
In large areas – plants are installed in a series of staggered rows that re-direct wind around and above.
For small areas – a similar concept referred to as a wind screen.
Wind isn’t completely blocked but tempered somewhat.
Wind Resistant Plant Attributes
More flexible stems.  Examples: Escalonia, Ornamental grasses.

Fire wise plants left to right: Agave, African Iris, Beach Aster

Fire Resistant Landscapes
The Napa and Sonoma fires brought into granular focus three factors:
“Defensible space” – a high priority.  The recommended clearance from a structure is 100′.  (More details on this topic in coming months).
Planting firewise plants in the right place. (see examples above).
Gardeners’ Guild has maintained and planted many of these.

Heat Tolerant Plants
Our micro-climates are changing. Areas that used to stay cool have hot temperatures more frequently.  More people are choosing desert-like gardens.
See photos below for some plants that won’t wilt in the heat.

Heat tolerant plants, left to right: Poppies, Euphorbia and Salvia

Freeze Hardy Plants
This is a partial list of plants that can withstand freezing temperatures.
Correa ‘Ivory Bells’
Verbena Lilacina
Helleborous

Drought Tolerant Landscapes
The drought officially came and went, but it can and will re-occur.
Water bills are rising.
The state of California may reinstate water restrictions making them permanent.
Later this year we will be covering drought tolerant plants and rebates.  Stay tuned.

Multi-Family Housing and its Amenities
It has exploded in the San Francisco Bay Area’s urban areas.  In San Francisco proper, Mission Bay continues to fill in with housing and business.  A breathtaking number of luxury, state of the art buildings have been completed in the last few years.  We highlight trends that are important for Community Managers.

One trend was noted from a recent issue of Bisnow. 
An attractive landscape is a non-negotiable amenity. 
Moreover, it shouldn’t look sparse or overgrown. 
A Multi-Family executive magazine article says that a three-year plan for upgrades that include new fire pits. Or, budgeting for a top of the line grill every few years is a must.

Aside from landscaping, there is a new push for multi-family communities to offer so-called “soft amenities i.e. dog-walking, dry cleaning, packing and concierge services.

A Soil Restoration Brief

David Montgomery, a Geomorphologist and author of books about soil, wants to world to know that organic products’ ability to restore degraded soil has been proven – in his own garden!

Over the years Montgomery had become discouraged that modern agriculture is “stripping the Earth of high quality topsoil.” 

He contends that civilizations throughout history have collapsed due to the depletion of the top three inches of soil.  “The skin of the earth”, Montgomery calls it. While writing a book on the topic, Montgomery’s wife began a project to restore the soil in their backyard.

She massaged in wood chips, fallen leaves, coffee grounds. Also mulch, compost, and a soil inoculant from worm castings. A miraculous transformation took place.  It took several years – but the soil came back.

It’s now flourishing with healthy edibles.  And, Montgomery’s story has become more optimistic.

Story courtesy of Sunset Magazine.

 

 

 

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How to know for sure if your plants need water this winter

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They probably will need water.

We tell you what to look for – and how – so you know for sure if your plants need water.

A Typical Winter

Irrigation is normally turned off in the winter.
Why?
Plants need less water during that time.
The soil is cool and moisture evaporates more slowly

Moreover, an average rainy season is sufficient for plant needs for moisture

This Warm, Dry Winter Requires a Different Plan

A tenacious high pressure ridge is firmly in place, pushing rain further and further north.
With no probability of wet stuff in the near future, follow the advice below.
It will help you know for sure, which plants will need water.

These Plants Will Need Water First

Young Plants
Their water needs are higher than mature plants. 

Container Plants
Moisture evaporates more quickly when plants are in containers

But don’t guess. Know for sure.

1. Purchase a soil probe

Where to buy one?
Online or at your neighborhood garden center.

Get one with a footstep it will be easier on your body. (see photo below)
How you will know for sure if your plant needs water.
Push the probe from 4-10″ deep into the soil.
Make sure the probe goes all the way down to the plant root.
Otherwise you won’t know for sure
Pull the probe out.
Look at the tip for evidence of moisture.
The moisture or lack of it will tell you if the plant needs water. 

2. Visual Observation

Notice if your plants are drooping. 
This can be misleading because plants that are drooping could also have a different problem. You could have a drainage problem.
That is why a soil probe is important.

That’s it!

 

 

A New Seawall and Landscape Transform Waldo Point Harbor

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Perennial planting on newly paved path

The new landscape – plantings along a newly paved path

A Rebirth for Waldo Point’s Houseboat Community

Still standing after over one hundred years, Sausalito’s Waldo Point Harbor sits proudly on the San Francisco Bay.  It is located off Bridgeway at the north end of Sausalito.

Yesterday’s exposed electrical wires and other safety hazards is being replaced with beauty and order.  Waldo Point’s Houseboat Community now boasts a new sea wall. The land was raised upwards of 4 feet! 

There is fresh new paving. Brand new landscaping with grass, well-mulched planter beds and robust perennials. 

Gardeners’ Guild has been involved in the landscape installation portion of the project over the last few years.  Being a part of Waldo Point’s transformation has been immensely gratifying for us. Because of its historic significance we wanted to pass along the story of Waldo Point.  Its colorful history and the events leading to its renewal.

As of the posting of this blog, the project is in its final phase of completion. The photos below show it in progress. Future updates will include final photos.

Key Project Players

Dan Hughes, DVC Group
Civil Engineer, project management
Betsy Clark, Landscape Architect
Designed landscape
Cats 4 U
Site construction work
Gardeners’ Guild Installed landscape

A Storied Past
The houseboat community’s history has been well chronicled Look Magazine, Smithsonian, The New York Times and San Francisco’s local media.

Known as a haven for artists and bohemians, Waldo Point’s popularity surged after the WWII and peaked in the 60’s. It was colorful if chaotic.  Homes constructed from abandoned boats and shared electricity offered hippie squatters a place to indulge in creative self expression without the constraints of societal norms. 
Parties were notoriously loud, and the drugs psychedelic.

Example of shared and dangerous electrical wiring

Shared electrical wires

The 1970’s –  A Turning Point
Reality in the form of City Hall – came knocking.
Building code violations, sewage, shared electrical wires and other safety hazards signaled a turning point in the community’s fortunes.

City officials ordered the community to invest in repairs.  Indignant, the residents were defiant.  Bitter clashes ensued.  Two long decades would pass before urgently needed remedial work would be approved. 

And, as time passed Waldo Point’s demographics were quietly changing.
By the year 2000, it was a different community that soberly acknowledged their dangerous infrastructure and took action.

Flooded Parking Lot

Before Photo – A flooded parking lot

The Floating Home Association is Born
The newly formed resident’s organization began meeting with local officials and professionals to plan for badly needed improvements.
At this point their project was guided by stringent requirements laid out by the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC).

Rising Sea Level and Sinking Land
Flooded parking lot at least once a year.  See photo above.
At times flooding could sometimes flow toward Bridgeway, a main Sausalito artery.
Drainage problems resulted from salt water leakage into storm drains, corroding underground utility lines
Causing unsanitary conditions

Dangerous Infrastructure
Many houseboats were not up to code
Numerous safety hazards
Exposed electrical wires along the decks made walking hazardous
Ramshackle docks were in danger of falling

No Landscaping
The residents wanted trees, plants and grass to soften the look of asphalt.
An attractive landscape would provide needed visual interest for both residents and visitors. 

4 Foot Seawall was Constructed
Elevated the parking lot mitigating the threat of flooding

Raised the Grade Level of the Land
Requiring an enormous quantity of soil. And, a special blend of soil. There were weight restrictions so that soil wouldn’t become dislodged from bay mud underneath
Bottom layer – crushed lava rock over bay mud
Second layer – custom blended lightweight soil that had to be trucked in
Decomposed granite for pathways

Landscape Installation Included
Soil amending
Perennials
Trees and shrubs
Irrigation
Lawn that was a special blend of native grasses
Site furnishings
Trellises and fencing
Mulch

Birds-eye view of the Waldo project in progress
Crushed lava rock - bottom layer above bay mud

Shows crushed lava rock trucked in as first layer

 

No flooding after a recent King tide 
Much happy feedback from residents who enjoy the new landscaping
One quote from houseboat owner: “I can’t believe we have this beautiful garden!”
Brand new paved parking lot which easily accommodates residents
Photo below illustrates new lawn installation in Waldo Point Park

New turgrass installed in the Waldo Point Park

Waldo Point Park New Turfgrass

Solutions to 4 Landscape Drainage Problems

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landscape drain

I’ve updated our post about drainage from March of this year.
We talk again about solutions to landscape drainage problems.
There is additional detail added including graphics that describe the drainage problems and solutions.
One of the solutions described below is a dry creek bed. It was a project of Gardeners’ Guild at Spring Lake Village.

1. Hardscape with Standing Water

Example of drain pipe clogged with tree roots

Includes patios, pavers, driveways, parking lots and steps.
If these areas have had standing water for some time it could be due to these issues listed below

Improper grading
Your hardscape may not have the proper slope and is directing water toward the building foundation. 

Blocked drains
Tree roots, leaves, mulch and other debris can blow into the drain from winds and rain

Corroded pipes
Over time, your drainage pipes deteriorate and will eventually collapse.

The Risks
Water can put your structure’s foundation at risk.
Storm water carries with it chemicals, debris, dirt, pesticides and other toxins.


Solutions for Standing Water 
Regrading.  Over time a property will settle.
Clear out drain grates and pipes (make a plan for their regular future maintenance)
Arrange gravel around the perimeter of drain grate to deter debris from blowing in.
On larger hardscaped commercial property areas more drains may be required.

2. Flooded Turf

Aeration process illustration

Above illustrates what aeration does

The culprit can be grading but a more likely offender is compacted soil.
Summer drought conditions and degraded soil will shrink pore space that normally accepts water and nutrients.
High foot traffic will also contribute to soil compaction. You can identify it by its hard surface.

Soil texture needs to be loose enough to allow water to pass through. Clay soil, common in the San Francisco Bay Area is the opposite!

The Risks
When water pools on top for a prolonged period, turfgrass will decline and rot.
You can observe it by smell – foul odor. 
You will also notice grey, red or orange spots and insects.

Solutions for Flooded Turf
Re-grading
Aeration. The soil is perforated which opens up its pores to allow nutrients and moisture. (See graphic above)
Build a dry creek bed.  It is a gully or a trench usually lined with stones and edged with plants to mimic the look of a stream.  They are beautiful and will help with drainage. See example below.

GGI dry creek bed project at Spring Lake Village, Santa Rosa

Dry creek bed under construction at Spring Lake Village Santa Rosa

3. Flooded Planter bed and other planted areas

 Example of flooded planter bed

A planted area or bed should be designed to allow the water to flow out and be distributed to other areas.  A proper slope needs to be calculated with a site level during the design process.

The Risk

Plant root damage will occur if soil is saturated for a prolonged period. When soil’s abililty to absorb water is tapped out it is considered saturated.

Solutions for Flooded Planter Beds

Re-grading will help with slope problem. Correcting this involves directing surface water to the lowest spot on the property which will empty into a drainage ditch, catch basin or well.
Good options include:
Creed beds (illustration above)
French drains
Bioswales. Increasingly popular and effective.  They are constructed to slow, collect infiltrate and filter stormwater.  They include a permeable storm bed. (See graphic below)

Bioswale illustration

4. Flooding Around Down Spouts

Solution to flooding around down spout

Example of re-directing down spout and into creek bed

This is a common problem.  In heavy rain down spouts can empty rainwater into the landscape.

The Risk

Your building’s foundation
Plant root damage, erosion and hardscape deterioration.

The Solution

A professional can re-direct the downspout.  A dry creek bed is an additional step to drive moisture away from your building.