Tropical Style

Great Design Plant: Blue Oat Grass

While vibrant spring and summer colours lighten landscapes, and fiery autumn color is a seasonal scene, occasionally you just have to cool down. Let’s cool down with blue — blue oat grass, a must-know low-maintenance pick for calming shade yearlong.

San Marcos Growers

Botanical name: Helictotrichon sempervirens
Common title: Blue oat grass
USDA zones:4 to 2 ; hardy to less than 0 degrees Fahrenheit (find your zone)
Water requirement: Occasional; drought tolerant
moderate requirement: Full sun to light shade
Mature size: 2 feet tall and broad
Benefits and tolerances: Drought tolerant; deer resistant; can manage air pollution
Seasonal attention: Evergreen in temperate climates; flowers in summer
When to plant: Plant or split in early spring

Missouri Botanical Garden

Distinguishing traits. Blue oat grass is spiky, spunky and blue — characteristics that invite comparisons to blue fescue.

From afar, its large clumps and projected flowers are controlling and regal, but up close they bend and sway in a gentle manner, with extended blue-gray blades radiating from the center.

A cool-season bud, blue oat grass flourishes in temperatures that are mild but produces its strongest color in full sun. A towering crown of bluish-brown flowers projects about a foot above the foliage in summer, aging to a gold oat color in autumn. And while the flowers create a spectacular show in summer, the pretty foliage is welcome at the garden all year.

Lankford Associates Landscape Architects

The best way to utilize it. This particular bud is a joy when massed, utilized at a container or utilized as an accent plant. The soft, fine evergreen foliage also makes a soft and soothing base for companion flowers.

Missouri Botanical Garden

Planting notes. With a little maintenance, well-draining dirt and heavy, infrequent waterings, you need to be able to grow blue oat grass easily. It produces its color when it’s planted in full sun. In colour, the grass clump may flop over.

Blue oat grass is considered evergreen, but in more extreme climates it might be considered semievergreen.

Each spring and autumn, pull out dead growth together with your palms or comb it out using a metal rake. In harsher climates a late-winter or spring trim can help to keep your blue oat grass looking its best.

Do you utilize blue oat grass on your landscape? We would love to see your photo in the Remarks below.

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Tropical Style

Bring to the Birds: Natural Habitat Suggestions for Gardens of All Sizes

I recently traveled to Costa Rica, and that I was immediately struck by the amount of birds fluttering around in the treetops from dawn until dusk. We took several jungle hikes and appreciated private gardens, all of which provided different habitats for the birds. I had been struck by the natural look of these habitats as opposed to an overly formal and contrived setup. The focus was really on and for its birds, and design and function met in an ideal dance.

When developing a natural habitat, Costa Ricans concentrate on four specific requirements; nesting, water, perches and florals. Food, in the kind of fresh fruit, is plentiful from the jungle yearlong, thus there’s not plenty of bird feeders. Rather, attempts are made to offer secure spaces where birds may nest, perch and wash. Additionally, I ran into plenty of rescue bird surgeries and found them fascinating and magic. Listed below are a few tips I learned from observing the gardens of the jungle as well as the birds that live there.

Amy Renea

Provide Homes for Mama and Baby Birds

When raising their young, many birds are mutually protective. This small one flew directly to the house one day and we released it to its mama, who had been crying for it directly outside.

Many local businesses in Costa Rica rescue birds from the wild and cage them for protection. The ecorestaurant on Lake Arenal as well as Toad Hall nearby both had saved toucans and parrots. In case you decide to permanently rescue a wounded bird, then be aware you have to register it and the ideal place for these birds is that the wild if they can remain there.

Urban Hedgerow

Providing nesting materials will guarantee new small ones born in your garden each year. Try out a cool setup similar to this or throw the hair from the hairbrush and small pieces of moss and hay out from the garden. The birds will locate them.

See how to create bird and bug habitats at the city

Amy Renea

While trekking in the jungles, we found a lot of giant holes like these on straight-cut subway walls. For a very long time, we were scared to death of these, imagining giant snakes appearing. We learned that a large quantity of these holes are actually nesting holes for birds. Can you provide this kind of mud-wall environment in your garden? You might be amazed by the variety of birds that appear.


You might also think of designing a spacious, protected space when constructing your new house. Birds and other creatures love the peace and protection of this distance under a porch, and you would have a constant show of wildlife with a setup like this.

Greener Living Solutions

Produce Watering Holes

Natural cavities and drops in rocks are often located at the jungle. They gather rainwater, making the perfect bathing hole for the birds.

Look at developing a similar cavity in cement for your garden. The birds are sure to gather at a watering hole like this.


Some birds like to property in the middle of a wide-open distance to avoid predators hiding in the brush, while some others like a small cover to avoid predators at the atmosphere. Think about a low planting round a natural-looking watering spot for the latter. My chickens would adore a space in this way.

Garden Design, Inc..

Offer Sweet Perches

To repel critters that need ample area, consider a artistic arrangement of rocks where they can perch.

Amy Renea

Costa Rican architects are masterful at supplying alluring perches for birds. Safe yet spacious railings and roofing trusses abundant from the indoor-outdoor living spaces are perfect for the birds.

Fenton Roberts Garden Design

Similarly, it is possible to offer this kind of environment in your garden on a smaller scale. Weaving plants amid perching spots will ensure that lots of birds come to play.

Le jardinet

From the jungle, greenery is plentiful and nearly overwhelming at times. It is loved by the birds. Just a tiny moss creeping on your birdbath is beautiful and inviting to birds looking for a soft place where they can wet their feet and their beaks.

Amy Renea

Provide a Rainbow of Blooms

Colour matters. Hummingbirds are drawn to red, and also a mass planting of red flowers will pop out from a blanket of green.

Amy Renea

Shape matters. Those hummingbirds like tall, spiky plants, like salvia, as well as plants with long, tubed stamens and pistils. Hibiscus (shown here from the wild) is a favorite.

See more plants and flowers hummingbirds love

Amy Renea

So if you plant a few new tropical plants this summer, include a perch or two or just add a sunken rock for a few natural water collection. The birds will thank you.

Shown: Costa Rican ducks

See more about gardening and landscaping with wildlife in mind

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Tropical Style

California Gardener: Things To Do in July

Things are heating up During Southern California as June Gloom wanes in the coastal areas. Together with the hotter, longer days of summer here, we are entering summit fruit and veggie period. Active increase in the backyard means a lot of deadheading, fertilizing, mulching and watering.

As July stretches into August and outside, you will most likely create one of two attitudes:
You greet the summer months with enthusiasm — getting your hands dirty deadheading, mulching, watering, weeding, staking, suggestion pinching and picking out the bounty. You’re sick and tired of all the energy, water and time it takes to maintain those flower pots appearing amazing, your veggie garden generating along with your decorative plants in bounds. If only those hedges would trim themselves and these veggies and fruits would appear beautifully exhibited in a suitably rustic basket on the kitchen counter tops. . .It is time to specify which type of gardener you are and make a garden that works for you. The aim, particularly in Southern California, is to create your backyard as low upkeep and “unthirsty” as possible — together with plans like installing an efficient watering system, using heavy mulching and using a top dressing of compost which delivers nourishment consistently.

Alternatively, you could skip the standard garden crops completely and have this be the month you tear out high-maintenance, heavy-drinking plants and replace them with succulents, grasses, ornamentals, drought-tolerant natives and food-producing plants.

It doesn’t matter which group you end up in or if you are still on the fence — NOW is the time to rate your relationship with your backyard and produce a landscape which will thrive and look great with the total amount of resources and time you want to dedicate to it.

Margie Grace – Grace Design Associates

Water, water, water. Feed, feed, feed … The mantra for the summer months is “feed and water.” Tomatoes, bell peppers, eggplants, etc. require a great deal of nutrients and water as they pump out bunch after bunch of delectable taste — much more so if you’re growing in containers.

Nutrients often leach out after a few months, which makes it important to feed, feed, feed. We are talking about monthly applications of general purpose organic fertilizers, compost tea or your favourite pick-me-ups, such as bone meal and kelp. Or just top-dress your beds this month with approximately an inch of compost to supply a steady supply of plant nutrients — and support a healthy suite of soil microbes.

Margie Grace – Grace Design Associates

Keep herbs generating by removing blossoms: Pinch off blossoms on herbs to stimulate bushier and more streamlined growth as well as higher foliage return for cooking. The more you prune early, the bigger and bushier your herb crops will end up.

Margie Grace – Grace Design Associates

Jam with buddies: Together with summertime fruits coming on hot and heavy this season, jamming season has officially arrived. It is apricot jam for me. My single backyard apricot tree typically yields 60 to 80 pints of jam each June. Look at rounding up your posse and pressing them into labour. You are going to get through the work more quickly and have more fun in the process. Most folks are happy to pitch in with jamming in market for a couple jars of “product.”

Check out more about maintaining fresh produce

Big Girls Small Kitchen

Share the bounty: I send out apricot jam to buddies early in the season and enjoy abundant produce throughout the summer in return. Canned pears and peaches; plum, tomato and strawberry jams; honey; dried fruit; bouquets; and bushels of fresh fare are only a couple of the backyard treats that come my way out of folks who’ve enjoyed the bounty in my backyard.

Margie Grace – Grace Design Associates

Off with their heads! Following June’s burst of color in the backyard, deadheading will promote continued flowering. Fertilizing goes together with deadheading. Long days and warm soil permit plants to take up nutrients rapidly. They will use those nourishment to add foliage, build a healthy root system and produce blooms throughout the summer if you remove spent flowers regularly.

Tip pinching types that tend to be leggy encourages fuller, bushier growth — easy to achieve precisely the identical time you are cruising the beds deadheading.

Margie Grace – Grace Design Associates

Water and feed a few more: At July’s heat, it’s important to give roses along with other heavy summer bloomers two to three deep soaks each week, depending upon weather.

Mulching these antiques with a layer of well-composted organic substance will keep roots cool as well as maintain moisture. (make sure you keep mulch away in the crown of the plant to prevent conditions that encourage disease.)

Use a strong spray of water in the early mornings to wash leaves and control sucking insects. Feed regularly with compost tea or organic fertilizer.

Rob Kyne

Water: Timing is all about. Cooler temperatures create early mornings and late afternoons that the ideal times to operate in the backyard in July. Water plants early in the day when evaporation rates are reduced nevertheless there is plenty of time for leaves and mulch to dry out, reducing fungal-growth ailments.

Land Design, Inc..

Water: Efficiency equals money in your pocket. Soaker hoses and drip irrigation are ideal. The slow rate and direct-to-soil program translates into decreased evaporation, overspray and runoff, which, in turn, translate into decreased water usage and weed development.

If you’ve already got an irrigation system, now is a fantastic time to give it a tuneup. Station by station, turn on the water and watch what is happening. Fix, repair and replace components as necessary to be sure that you’re getting the most out of your system. Why not switch to a wise irrigation timer now? You are going to receive plenty of savings at this summit water-use period of the year — and perhaps a rebate from the regional water provider.

Nicolock Paving Stones and Retaining Walls

Stake and train: July brings fast increase in the veggie garden. Stake plants regularly to maximize the plant’s vulnerability to sunlight, improve air circulation, keep fruits and vegetables out of the soil (where insects and plagues are lying in wait), also to make harvesting easier.

Jeffrey Gordon Smith Landscape Architecture

Plant colorful, drought-tolerant plants: If you are sick of large summer water bills, making the switch to drought-tolerant plantings is the way to go. Fear not — drought tolerant doesn’t mean you have to lose color in the scene.

Margie Grace – Grace Design Associates

Succulents: attractiveness without anxiety. Succulent containers can be a stunning and water-wise replacement for all those perennial and yearly containers that require a good deal of upkeep.

Read on growing succulents

Sandy Koepke

Want summers off in the backyard? Go xeric. Unlike large maintenance and higher water usage gardens, July at a xeric (low-water) landscape is mellow — with little to no work or water needed. Stone, topography and thoroughly architectural succulents in a assortment of forms, textures and foliage color make for a wealthy, drought-tolerant composition, reducing garden responsibilities this month to finding a shady spot to hang the hammock.

Suggestions for Your California backyard
Navigate flowers, plants and garden layouts

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Tropical Style

Garden Tour: Colorful, Serene Woodland Close Boston

Six years back this backyard in Massachusetts was a failed landscape overrun with invasives like poison ivy, bittersweet and euonymus. But a few having a 2-year-old kid and a dog saw beyond the tangled lawn, attracted to the property’s woodland setting in addition to the city of Belmont Hill’s proximity to Boston.

Soon after purchasing the house, they called upon landscape architect Matthew Cunningham, who had a vision of a principal entry route through a colorful front lawn perennial garden and a calm backyard woodland garden. “My clients desired a rural feel with modern elements that could contrast with the simple and tasteful traditional lines of the house,” says Cunningham. They also desired for low-maintenance, drought-tolerant, critter-resistant and colorful plants at front.

Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC

Sneak peek! Salvia, miscanthus and peonies combine cool and warm colors.

Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC

“As soon as I saw the house, I had a vision of a perennial garden with a walkway route cutting it through,” says Cunningham. The front lawn enjoys full sun for the majority of the day, which produces a perfect microclimate for all these plants.

Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC

At the end of the entry route, a breezeway connects the main house into the garage and functions as the most important threshold to the house. The back side of the breezeway is all glass and enjoys views of the garden.

Two big pots of miscanthus flank the front door. “We play with all the plants in those containers seasonally … we have also used big boxwoods and fuchsia to add color, texture and elevation next to the doorway,” says Cunningham. “The backyard is constantly evolving.”

Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC

The mounded forms and spires of the perennials, ornamental grasses and inkberry comparison with all the boxy shape of the house.

“The plantings are seasonal,” explains Cunningham. Waves of color from various plants bloom during the season, whereas glistening and silvery leaves provide comparison for the majority of the year. The plant selection includes Russian sage, giant alliums, salvia and white peonies.

Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC

Catmint and geranium rozanne add ever-blooming shade down the front street throughout the summer.

The walkway and the driveway are made from Chip and Seal, which comes with an asphalt base, then a layer of liquified tar topped with a layer of embedded crushed pea stones. This gives the look of stones without the scatter brought on by shoveling and plowing in winter.

Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC

Purple coneflowers, Russian sage and ornamental grasses bloom through July and August.

Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC

Astilbes, geraniums and caramel coral bells show the vast array of color and texture in the blossoms and their own leaves.

Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC

“The recognized canopy at the backyard means that it enjoys dappled color all day long,” says Cunningham. Compared to this explosion of color out front, the garden takes its cues from its tranquil woodland setting. Plants like mountain laurel and ferns increase the softness and lush green surroundings.

Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC

Large elements of the yard’s new layout include this dining patio and a yard patio, created by dry laid stone retaining walls.

“From the garden, we utilized the brick to make texture and patterns that were not too loud,” says Cunningham. While the house has a running bond-brick pattern, the bricks at the garden were turned on edge to make contrast and tone down the busyness of their routines.

Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC

“I utilized manganese iron place brick to the backyard. I adore these particular bricks since they take on various colors,” Cunningham says. “In the morning, they have a rich mahogany color, while in the day they provide off iridescent purplish blue hues.”

Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC

Beneath the dining patio is a yard patio that overlooks the surrounding woodland. No mortar was used in building these walls, and Cunningham raves about the landscape building company that finished the renovation, Gardenform.

Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC

A hand-picked rock stairway connects either of the terraces into the remainder of the lawn. “The clients really wanted to use a local stone,” says Cunningham. Thus, he discovered this Goshen stone, a granite in a nearby quarry.

Pops of purple from catmint and allium tie the back garden to front.

Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC

The terracing and use of stone walls provides crisp changes in quality.

Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC

“The garden’s geometry pulls in the house and channels views to particular plants and areas on the property,” explains Cunningham.These horizontal bands of brick slit through an herb garden. “The voids between the bricks comprise creeping thyme, culinary thyme, rosemary and chives … the kind of plants that are aromatic underfoot,” says Cunningham.

Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC

A narrow gravel walkway through the herb garden channels the opinion to a grove of existing paper birch trees. “All these beautiful trees function as living sculptures,” notes Cunningham.

Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC

Carefully placed punches of color in the foreground have a dark cricketing background provided by conservation woodlands.

Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC

Sedona, main critter of this garden, loves to hang out in this beautiful landscape, and seemingly likes to fit his Pucci-esque accessories into the perennials.

Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC

This house’s landscape continues to evolve, and Cunningham is currently trying to establish bud on the boccie court. Following is a glimpse at the plan to help you put each the photos into their higher context.

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