What’s new in landscape and gardening?

Every year there are numerous reports on the latest trends in plants, hardscape, irrigation and even color. From technology to outdoor living. Designers, Landscape Architects and Green Industry pundits weigh in on what’s hot. 

There are several sources for this article. The people at Gardeners’ Guild have chimed in on the latest wrinkle. I’ve combed through Garden Design Magazine, NALP (National Association for Landscape Professionals), ASLA (American Society of Landscape Architects) and irrigation experts. 

According to some experts, Millennials are driving some of these trends.  See below.

More Local Sourcing

Using native plants is a trend that has been building over the years. Some landscape designers see the market’s interest in natives morphing to endemic plants – those which are native to a particular ecosystem.

One example – is a project we completed for U.C. Berkeley in 2016.  It was the restoration of Strawberry Creek.  The specifications required locally sourced plants and mulch. They had to be native plants grown in the Strawberry Canyon area, the location of the project.

Note: I encourage you to visit Strawberry Canyon. It is a marvel – a quiet oasis of nature sandwiched between a highly caffeinated college campus.

More building materials are being sourced locally. A reason for the increased popularity of local sourcing can be traced to climate change. Its geographic impacts and the ensuing regulation on say, the use of chemicals, water and the like are, in part, driving the preference of locally sourcing.

The reasons are practical. Reduced use of fossil fuel to transport them.

Strawberry Creek, U.C. Berkeley

 

Natural Products – With One Exception

There is a gradual shift away from the use of concrete toward natural and materials. Wood, brick, slate, gravel, pea stone and natural stone are popular. Increasingly, green materials are being used for retaining walls, fencing, decking, walkways and outdoor kitchens.
ASLA says “Nature will continue to play an important role in landscape architecture and we as practitioners will continue to be inspired and create designs that emulate and mimic(bio-mimicry) nature. An increasing trend will be to use the messiness and ephemerality of nature in a structured manner to create beautiful landscapes.”

The exception – there is a trend toward the use of artificial turf. Technology continues to innovate a product that looks and feels more like grass. Could they also invent the smell of fresh mowed grass?

 

 
 

Urban Gardening

One type of urban gardening trend that Gardeners’ Guild has noticed is the increased support for urban projects that provide affordable housing, gardens providing food for local residents and restoration projects in low-income urban areas.

ASLA says (American Society of Landscape Architects) “As densities increase in cities we will see larger scale projects that will attempt to service the needs of increasing populations (housing, transport, social, green space, job creation) at a local level.”

San Francisco has a number of projects designed to improve public space. Among them is the Green Benefits District. A quote from their mission statement: “to clean, maintain, enhance, and expand open spaces, parks, plazas, parklets, gardens, sidewalk greening and the Public Realm in general in the Dogpatch and Northwest Potrero Hill neighborhoods”. There are a host of other projects aimed at revitalizing blighted areas such as the Tenderloin.  Gardeners’ Guild did some projects for the Green Benefits District.

Urban Tilth, Richmond is another example. It’s an ambitious non-profit dedicated to improving the health of its community. Their website says: “We farm, feed, forage, teach, train, build community, employ, and give back. We help our community grow our own food;” As part of 2015 Earth Day, GGI helped Urban Tilth plant a  vegetable garden at Verde Elementary School, Richmond.

Container gardening is exploding.  Urban dwellers with limited space see the low maintenance advantages of container plantings. A recent study by Harris Poll found that millennials are embracing edible gardening. Of the 6 million new people who took up gardening, 5 million of them were millennials. Their home gardening interests gravitate toward microgreens, medicinal herbs and herbs they can use in cooking.


 

Interior Plant Trends

Garden Design Magazine forecasts a renewed interest in interior plants for 2017. They say, “Just as bell bottoms are reappearing on runways, a 1970s-style fascination with houseplants is back. Millennials could have something to do with this.

Living walls for commercial buildings remains popular. They come in all sizes including a plethora modular units that can be installed like wall art. A heightened interest in plants for the office may have to do with the needs of younger workers for a healthier work environment. The extensive research about interior plants’ benefits such as air filtering as well as productivity enhancement is now widely available and posted. Plants both in the home and office is a trend that will continue to proliferate.

Irrigation

Brian O’Hara our Irrigation Manager, has noticed an uptick in the choices of add-on technology or upgrade kits that can convert a conventional controller into a “smart” controller*. This is a budget friendly option.

Smart controller technology continues to evolve. With more sophisticated cellular communication and the cloud all the onsite data can be shared with the operator. It has become a two-way wireless communications giving operators the ability to control an unlimited number of stations and flow sensors from a central remote location.

Moreover, they can be programmed and monitored by smart phone. Some include flow sensors that will text a contractor if they detect a leak in the system.

*About Smart controllers: They use weather and on-site local data sensing tools to optimize your water use.

 

 

faucet

San Francisco Bay Area – The California Department of Water Resources reminds us that it’s time to turn off your irrigation!

The rains we have had and forecasts for more are sufficient in the short term. Remember that trees, shrubs and flowers use less water in the winter.  One inch of rain is enough moisture to eliminate the need for irrigation in your landscape for at least a few weeks.

On the other hand, we don’t know for sure what the weather gods have in store much beyond this week’s forecasted drenching. Keep an eye out for your plants and water if you notice them looking drought stressed.

Check out the Department of Water Resources for more information.

 

 

droughtmapkeyfinal

Gardeners’ Guild is obsessed with weather.  Well – we are a landscape contracting company and we must adapt on a moment’s notice to rain, high winds and unseasonable heat or frost.  We also stay on top of long term forecasting because our clients depend on us to help them manage their resources.

I personally am obsessed with it. One, I need to since our San Francisco Bay Area readers are.  And two, I find it fascinating. 

Our recent heavy rain seems to suggest a wet winter.  Yes! More is predicted this weekend.  Will our reservoirs be full by next spring?  An article in the San Jose Mercury News and the most recent post on weatherwest.com has some indications based on weather forecast modeling.

We are still officially in a drought, however.  If you look at the map above you can see why.

However, there are parts of the Bay Area that have been downgraded to just “abnormally dry”.  These counties are Sonoma, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Cruz, Western Napa and Western Santa Clara. Unfortunately, Santa Clara County, as well as Contra Costa, Alameda, Solano, San Benito and Monterey remain officially in a drought. 

Water experts say that it would take a “very wet winter – all across the state – or perhaps two wet years – to end the drought statewide.

Forecasting from weatherwest.com post on October 25th described conflicting information that obscures any long term rainy season forecast. In his article, Daniel Swain says that climate modeling suggests a few possibilities:

  • Another Pacific high pressure ridge again
  • A warm winter
  • A possibility that Northern California’s will enjoy more precipitation than Southern California

Swain, in his last post, suggested that a La Niña was less likely. But his October article says we are “edging back to a La Niña-like” event. His evidence is cool water in the eastern Pacific and a warming trend for the tropical West Pacific.  This, he says is linked to an unusually high pressure system.

I wish could pass on better news.  And, of course we don’t know for sure.  That’s kind of frustrating. So continue rain dances, visualizing and we will continue offering advice on water conservation and irrigation that saves water.

The California drought map shown above represents the state as of November 10th. (2016). 

Some additional facts about the rain in October:
The October drenching was the wettest since 1921
San Francisco ‘s rainfall was 209% of average
But, the soil was dry and therefore the rain did not increase water levels as much as you would think. 

Sources:
Weatherwest.com
San Jose Mercury News

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SFPUC

Local Regulations

  • 10% voluntary reduction in water use compared to 2013 – all SFPUC customers. 
  • 25% reduction of landscape watering lifted as of July 1, 2016
  • Revert wastewater flow factors back to their original adjustments, effective July 1, 2016.

Prohibited water activities (State Requirements)

  • Watering outdoor landscapes that causes runoff to sidewalks, streets, and hardscapes
  • Using a hose without a shut-off nozzle
  • No washing of driveways, sidewalks or hardscape; except as needed for health and safety or to meet City of San Francisco standards
  • Using drinking water for soil compaction, dust control, or other non-essential construction purposes if non-potable water is available.
  • Watering outdoor landscapes with potable water during and within forty-eight (48) hours after a rain event.
  • Watering with potable water of ornamental turf on public street medians; 
  • Inefficient irrigation of landscapes outside of new homes and buildings
  • Using drinking water in non-recirculating fountains or decorative water devices. 

SFPUC Watering Recommendations

For a typical San Francisco property, reducing watering to once or twice a week, and/or the amount time that watering occurs, will help ensure efficient water use while keeping plants alive.

For steeply sloped areas, watering should be done in multiple start times to avoid runoff. Watering for 5 minutes, turn off for an hour, and then water again for another 5 minutes results in better absorption than 10 minutes straight. Consider replacing grass or high water use plants with drought-tolerant species or converting to drip irrigation.

REBATE$

Residential turf replacement program

Residential Graywater systems

Large landscape improvement grants – this however, is for half acre minimum and has very specific guidelines (new) and applications are due October 22nd.*

*GGI note: this guidelines are lengthy and complex.  See SFPUC website for details.

The above was reprinted and summarized from SFPUC website.

MMWD

75% of their water supply comes from local reservoirs that, when full, provide only about two years of water.  They continue to ask customers to voluntarily conserve.

REBATE$

State of California Rebates

$2/square foot turf removal rebate for residential customers

They are continuing the following outdoor restrictions:

  • Using a garden hose without a shut-off nozzle
  • Landscape irrigation between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.
  • Irrigating any ornamental landscape or turf areas more than three days in any week.
  • Applying potable water to outdoor landscapes during and within 48 hours after measurable rainfall.

Contact MMWD office with any questions (415) 945-1520.

EBMUD

Continuing Restrictions

The following outdoor watering restrictions are in effect.

  • Repair leaks 
  • Landscape watering that runs off on sidewalks, streets and hardscapes.
  • No washing of driveways and sidewalks; except as needed for health and safety.
  • Only hoses with shutoff nozzles are allowed.
  • Fountains or decorative water features must use recirculated water.
  • No irrigating ornamental turf on public street medians.
  • No watering of outdoor landscapes within 48 hours of rainfall.

For more information

REBATE$

Residential

Lawn Conversion & Irrigation Upgrade Rebates

Get up to $2,500 for converting lawns and upgrading irrigation equipment at single-family homes and multi-family residences of 4 units of less.

The Magic of Mulch 

Save water, beautify your garden, and enhance soil health with mulch.

Graywater Rebate

Get a rebate of up to $50 for purchase of a graywater system 3-way diverter valve.

HOAs

Lawn Conversion and Irrigation Upgrades

Multi-family properties: up to $20,000 for 5 units or more; up to $2,500 for 4 units or less (includes drip irrigation, high-efficiency nozzles, pressure regulators, submeters and lawn conversion.)

Commercial Properties

Up to $2,500 (single-family and multi-family residences of 4 units or less)
Up to $20,000 (commercial sites and multi-family residences of 5 or more units)

SANTA ROSA WATER AGENCY

June 14th voted to lift mandatory water restrictions

REBATE$

For turf conversion and/or improving the efficiency of your irrigation system
Graywater rebate program
Rainwater harvesting

For more information

SOLANO COUNTY WATER AGENCY

REBATE$
Smart Irrigation Controller Rebates
Install a qualifying smart controller to irrigate your existing landscape and you could receive up to $300, $700, or $1000 depending on the number of stations.

Go to: www.waterprograms.com/solano or call 855.512.1221 

Water-Efficient Landscaping Rebates
Replace your lawn with water-efficient landscaping and receive $1.00/square foot, up to $1000 maximum; see Turf Replacement Rebate Program and check out FAQs about the Landscape Rebate Program. Please read the terms and conditions before you remove your lawn. Contact 707.455.1113 or solanocash4grass@scwa2.com for details. 

Gardeners’ Guild works in the above areas including Napa, Sonoma County, Marin, San Francisco, East Bay and Solano County.

We have a dedicated irrigation division and can diagnose, repair, design an irrigation system. Our awards since the mid 1980’s demonstrate we’ve been ahead of the pack in our long term planning that water management would be one of the most important issues of our time.

Call us at 510-439-3700 or 415-457-0400

 

 

 

 

 

 

budgetart

If you are a Property Manager, you are likely knee-deep in budget season

Remember that landscaping can increase the value of a house from 5% to 12.7%.  On a $400,000 home 5.5% is $22,000; 12.7% adds $50,800.*  Conversely, a degraded or disorganized collection of plants detracts from a home or commercial building’s value.  Bob Vila says that the biggest mistake homeowners make is a lack of a coherent plan. Similar for commercial properties and residential communities.

With the long term in mind, make sure you have these 4 categories covered in your landscape budget for 2017.

Landscape management:

  • Allow for materials cost increases for items such plants, including annual color; mulch.
  • Mulch replenishment is important. It has a neat appearance and helps soil hold water.
  • Annual color replacement
  • Allowance for IPM (Integrated Pest Management) treatments
10784water_splash

Irrigation upgrades and repairs**

  • An irrigation system installed more than ten years ago may be wasting water and costing you money. Ensuring efficiency may mean replacing and repairing.
  • Smart (or weather based) irrigation controllers can also save up to 30% off your water bill.
  • Converting from spray to drip is something to consider for your budget.
  • State of the art precision spray nozzles can improve spray irrigation efficiency and save water too.

Large Tree Care

  • Routine pruning and fertilization are important for the health of your trees – an important part of your asset. Older trees may need more maintenance.  With proper care your trees will last many years.
  • A tree care plan will alleviate the stress of emergency tree work needs.

Landscape Improvements**

  • Turf care includes aeration and soil building or possibly overseeding.
  • Because of California’s ongoing drought and San Francisco Bay Area restrictions, you may consider converting turf to drought tolerant plants.
  • Consider converting annual color to more permanent perennial plant material.
  • The useful lifespan for large shrubs or small trees is approximately 7 to 10 years. When plants are past their useful lifespan they should be replaced with new plant material.

* Source: Hortculturalist Alex Niemiera of Virginia Tech researched the impact of landscaping on the value of a home. 

**Note: Depending on your location there could still be rebates available from your water district.