Edible garden ideas: espaliered fruit trees

espaliered fruit tree tended.wordpress.com

Espaliered fruit tree underplanted with herbs: a beautiful way to save space and make your fruit easy to reach. Note the dark green painted fence. Here are two very good how-to guides:

Homestead Revival: Espalier Fruit Trees for Potager

Vintage Garden Gal: The Art of Espalier Fruit Trees

A DIY edible garden

Front yard orchard tended.wordpress.com

This is the garden that sparked a million escape fantasies where I go live off the grid on a small farm. Another one from the Gamble Garden Tour, the garden is 100% DIY (one of the homeowners is an architect) and supplies the couple with all of their produce.


Front yard orchard:

  1. Growing: Pluots, cherries, apples, pears, plums, figs, and a grapevine grown along the fence
  2. Each “tree” was actually three semi-dwarf varieties planted in a triangle, not more than a couple of feet apart
  3. The trees are underplanted with daffodils
  4. A bougainvillea is planted along the house wall
  5. Mulch is alfalfa pellets and the neighbors’ leaf and grass clippings

Back yard garden:

  1. All of the trellises are bent rebar, custom made by the homeowners. Pipes were sunk into the ground, and the rebar was set into the pipes. The rebar was then wired and welded together.
  2. Vegetable beds have a north-south orientation so they get maximum sunlight and the plants don’t shade each other.
  3. Growing: asparagus, tomatoes, berries, beans, peas, lettuce, chard, radishes, eggplant, squash, garlic, leeks, cauliflower, herbs,
  4. Chickens clean up the garden and control insects, and their manure supplies all of the fertilizer
  5. Living fences are Camellia and Irish yew
  6. All of the vegetables are started from seed in the greenhouse
  7. A Zareba Red Snap’ R solar powered electric fence, motion-activated sprinklers, and netting keep out raccoons, squirrels, rats, skunks, deer…

DIY edible garden tended.wordpress.com

DIY edible garden tended.wordpress.com

DIY edible garden tomato supports tended.wordpress.com

Side view of the tomato trellis

DIY edible garden tomato supports tended.wordpress.com

DIY edible garden berry trellises tended.wordpress.com

The chicken coop

DIY edible garden chicken coop tended.wordpress.com

The side yard was crammed with abutilon – genius

DIY edible garden side yard tended.wordpress.com

Edible garden ideas: a formal garden

Edible formal garden tended.wordpress.com

How cool is this? An edible garden planted as a formal garden. That spectacular silver plant in the middle is an artichoke. You don’t have to grow artichokes as food, you can grow them as an ornamental plant in any garden because they look amazing. They are easy to grow, fairly drought tolerant, perennials. Put down ant baits or your chokes will be full of ants. If you don’t want to eat them, you can let them flower. The garden is edged with a boxwood hedge.

Ceanothus (or any shrub) as an ornamental tree

Ceanothus pruned as a standard tended.wordpress.com

Here is a Ceanothus trained as a small tree and used as a focal point. I mostly see Ceanothus grown as a shrub, but once in a while I see it as a tree like this and it’s just stunning. You want a large upright variety like ‘Ray Hartman’ or ‘El Dorado.’ Gorgeous, intense blue flowers, extremely low maintenance. Really the only drawback is that Ceanothus only lives for 10-15 years.

  1. Plant Ceanothus in the fall, that way it will get established during the winter rains (the only time of year it will tolerate being wet).
  2. Don’t amend your soil
  3. Don’t fertilize
  4. Don’t use drip irrigation
  5. Once Ceanothus is established, don’t water it more than every couple of weeks. Mine don’t get any direct water at all, just indirect water every other week.
  6. You can prune it a little after it flowers
  7. To prune Ceanothus as a tree, the following fall, remove the lower 1/3 branches then leave it alone to recover. Repeat the fall after that. Open up the branches a little so you have a tree, not a ball on a trunk. Here is a nice guide.


Succulent garden ideas: mixed succulent borders for a modern or traditional garden

Succulent Border tended.wordpress.com

Here is a succulent border that would look equally good in a modern or traditional setting. For comparison, here is a succulent border in a very modern garden.


  1. Use a wider variety of plants.
  2. Mix loose and compact forms.
  3. Arrange your big, high impact plants (see the half finished bed below in the last picture) and fill in with small, low growing plants.
  4. Plant slightly closer together for a lush effect.
  5. Allow plants to sprawl and spill over each other and the edges of the beds for an informal effect.
  6. Don’t worry about making a mistake. Succulents have very shallow root systems, so they are extremely easy to rearrange. (Except agaves. They don’t mind being moved at all, but they are big and heavy. And spiky!)

Succulent Border tended.wordpress.com

Succulent Border tended.wordpress.com

Succulent Border tended.wordpress.com

photos taken at the Elizabeth Gamble Garden in Palo Alto, CA

The 10 best hand creams for gardeners

gardeners therapyburts beesloccitane

palmershemp-hand-protector_l gb_blackwells_hand_cream_500

I have a fair amount of spiky things: agaves, aloes, roses; and I’m not great about wearing gloves so I get pretty scratched up. I have to have something that heals the cracks and scratches, doesn’t irritate my super sensitive skin, and hydrates for a full day. Here are the ten best hand creams for gardeners I’ve tried (so far).

  1. Aquaphor Use this every day on your hands (and feet) right when you get out of the shower and it fixes everything. I find it too messy and sticky to use it any other way.
  2. Crabtree & Evelyn Gardeners Therapy My mom is a lifelong, hardcore gardener. You should see her garden, it’s unbelievable. She swears by this stuff.
  3. L’Occitane Shea Butter Hand Cream This stuff is so rich, sinks right in, smells lovely, and the tube is pretty enough to leave out.
  4. Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Hand Cream This sinks in and smoothes any cracks and leaves a bit of a protective barrier, and there’s no scent.
  5. Wild Ferns Manuka Honey Body Butter I picked up some at the airport in New Zealand as a souvenir, but it’s amazing stuff and you can get it on Amazon.
  6. Palmer’s Cocoa Butter (in the jar) Old school. I also used this on my stomach during both of my pregnancies a million years ago and got zero stretch marks.
  7. Body Shop Hemp Hand Protector Works extremely well, and even better over time, if you like the smell.
  8. Great Barrier Island Bee Co. Les Blackwell’s Gardeners Hand Cream Another made in New Zealand. I picked this up in a very adorable garden shop. Beautiful container, and does the job.
  9. Burt’s Bees Farmer’s Friend Hand Salve Great herbal smell, you know that smell when you go to a spa and the essential oils are just hanging in the air. A little greasy when you first put it on.
  10. Burt’s Bees Almond Milk Beeswax Hand Creme I’m a sucker for anything with almonds. It’s very thick. You almost need to let it melt on your skin a little before you rub it in.

A tiny garden done right

Small garden in black and green

I’m really liking all of this black and green I’ve been seeing lately. This is the side and back yard of a tiny garden that felt quite usable and spacious. Black painted fences added depth and set off the greenery. A limited variety of very neatly clipped evergreen shrubs were used, not a variegated or spiky leaf in sight. Materials were limited to brick pavers, and planters and a fountain in creamy stone. Very few flowering plants were used, and only in white.

small side yard

The garden, by designers Lisa Brown and Dorrit Kingsbury, was part of the Gamble Garden Tour.

An artist’s garden

tended.wordpress.com artist garden

I came upon this garden in Palo Alto. In a neighborhood full of flawless, designed gardens this one was a jolt to the senses. The gardener told me this garden came together over the past ten years. Crowded, exuberant plantings full of found objects and sculptures from galleries long gone. Southern inspiration came in the form of several large bottle trees, and lots of “bottle shrubs.” The detail of both the plantings and the objects was staggering: tiny plants are tucked into every possible space between larger ones and epiphytes into the tree branches. A winding pathway around the large scale tropicals anchoring the beds give the structure.

tended.wordpress.com bottle tree

tended.wordpress.com green bottle tree

tended.wordpress.com lush

tended.wordpress.com found objects


tended.wordpress.com sculpture path

tended.wordpress.com bottle tree path

tended.wordpress.com garden cat

Garden ideas: how to combine ornamental grasses

Blue Oat Grass (Helictotrichon sempervirens) and Black Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’

Blue Oat Grass and Bronze Carex (Carex testacea)


Blue Oat Grass, Bronze Carex, and Blue Moor Grass (Sesleria caerulea). I photographed this front  yard garden from the side to show how the grasses  are planted in undulating drifts. The two sides are actually separated by a front walkway.


Why grow grasses? They give you a casual, modern beauty. They are hardy, easy to care for, and there are tons of varieties that all look great together and mix easily with other plants.  They rustle and sway in the wind. Many (like Stipa gigantea) give you dramatic seed heads that arch high above the clumps.

Choose two or three ornamental grass varieties  that offer some contrast  between size, color, and texture. Plant them in drifts, instead of mixing or alternating them. The grasses used in this garden are evergreen and don’t need to be cut back. Just clean them up once in a while and replace them when they  every few years. Black wood mulch was used throughout the entire garden to unify things and to make the plantings really pop. (‘Modern Inspiration’ garden from the Gamble Garden Tour)

See-through plants

See-through plants tended.wordpress.com

see-through plants tended.wordpress.com

See-through plants add movement and depth. Put these in the front or the middle of your bed or border. You want to keep this look simple so that it’s naturalistic, not cluttered, so stick to one type of plant. These look better in groups, or drifts (if you really have some space) rather than dotted around. Here are a few suggestions:

Gaura lindheimeri
Japanese anemone
Kangaroo Paw (Anigozanthus)
Red hot poker (Kniphofia uvaria)
Scabious (Knautia macedonica)
Stipa gigantea
Verbena bonariensis