Jul 31, 2005

Ready for My Close-Up

I haven't been posting much because I've been designing a project for HGTV's "Landscape Smart" show. It will be built this coming Thursday and Friday -- yep, two days to renovate an 1800 sq. ft. back yard. With just a week of planning. And a nation of die-hard landscaping buffs watching.

But no pressure or anything.

Jul 28, 2005

Dare to Eat a Peach...

[Eating Well, July/August 1998]


8 large ripe peaches
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Blackberry Sauce (recipe follows)

Prepare a grill [I find medium heat is best –JB]. Lightly oil grill rack.

Peel, halve and pit peaches. Place in a large bowl and toss with lemon juice. (The peaches will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 1 hour.)

Place peaches cut-side down on the rack and grill until bottom are golden, 4 to 6 minutes. Turn and cook until peaches are heated through, 3 to 5 minutes more. Serve immediately, with Blackberry Sauce.

Makes 8 servings.

2 1/2 cups blackberries
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup water

In a medium saucepan, combine all ingredients. Bring to a boil over high heat, mashing berries with a wooden spoon. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring often, until berries are tender, about 5 minutes more.

Press berry mixture through a five sieve (or food mill fitted with a fine grate) into a bowl, scraping the bottom of the sieve or mill often. Discard seeds.

Return sauce to pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until thickened, 3 to 4 minutes. Let cool slightly. (The sauce will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.) Serve warm.

Makes about 1 cup.

Jul 22, 2005

Power Gardening!

This evening being very pleasant (and me utterly ashamed that my roses haven't been deadheaded in so long), I grabbed the pruning shears and went at the roses.

While I'm at it, thinks I, I'll take out the neighboring Dierama flower stalks that — while quite interesting in a Piet Oudolf kind of way — are actually getting quite annoying.

Well, the Dierama was getting tangled up with the Gaura, which has been reseeding itself all over the place (thanks a lot, Piet), so that should get cut back too.

Oh, and while I'm over there, the 'Apple Blossom' penstemon — not to mention the 'Midnight' — is looking pretty ratty, so let's shear those down. Out come the hedge shears.

This will be my undoing. Because now that I've got the shears out, I know that the 9 lavender plants must be cut back. They've been done blooming for a week, the bees have abandoned them, Toiya is complaining about them.

By the way, it's now 8:20 pm, and the light is fading.

One hour later, I finish sweeping up the carnage from my exploits. The compost bin (the big one) is now full, and I have been attacked by roses, mosquitoes and ants. It is dark, save for a few path lights. I am sweaty and sticky and hungry. And yet, I feel victorious, like a bull rider or an alligator wrestler or something.

This is the time of year when lots of Mediterranean and California native plants really could use a nice hard shearing back: lavender, rosemary, my old nemesis the Erigeron, even those ubiquitous California poppies benefit from some deadheading. So if you've got a spare hour, grab your shears, and join me in some power gardening.

(If you dare.)

Jul 14, 2005

The Design-Build Dilemma, Part 1

Last week a client suggested that Verdance should also build our own designs, rather than entrusting them to contractors who may or may not share our vision.

It's a good thought. This particular client, unfortunately, isn't having the best time during the installation process: the contractor has cut a few corners, and even though I'm confident the finished landscape will look great, anyone who knows me knows that if I were managing the implementation I would be handling it quite differently.

But designing and building are two very different disciplines. (And frankly, it's more my speed to manage a few design associates from the comfort of my drawing board than to manage a construction crew out in the field.) This is why I'm not a huge fan of design-build firms: it's difficult to do both jobs well, unless a firm is big enough to have two separately managed divisions -- in which case they're probably too expensive for most homeowners.

The fact is, there's a lot more money in the "build" than in the "design." And since every construction job begins with a design of some sort, just about any construction firm can also profess to offer "design" services. In a word (OK, two), caveat emptor.

In an upcoming post, I'll offer some criteria against which you can evaluate designers (including design-build firms), to make sure you're truly getting the expertise you deserve.

Jul 7, 2005

There's hope for those unplanted seeds.

Is there a packet of seeds gathering dust on your potting-shed shelf? Never mind the expiration date — plant a few and see what happens!