Amazing idea: paint your front gate turquoise

turquoise front gate

This was so beautiful it literally stopped me in my tracks. Everything was neutral and quiet from the hardscaping to the house color to the hardware. The part of the garden that I could see was all foliage. Then there was this gorgeous, inviting turquoise blue  gate right smack in the middle of it all. What a charming way to give the home privacy and more usable outdoor space.


Garden ideas: gates and passageways

stone gate

Gates, arches, hedges invite you in and at the same time create as sense of depth and mystery, partially obscuring what’s next and making you want to see more. They tell you what’s next is important. They’ll also make your garden seem larger by defining spaces and creating a sense of progression.tall hedges flanking stairs

The top photo is a cottage in Hobart, Tasmania and the bottom photo is at Larnach Castle gardens, Dunedin, New Zealand.

Garden ideas: how to use art and found objects in the garden

sculpture in the garden

A bull’s head sculpture adds interest to a lush border. Below, a bright orange chair punctuates the end of a fern garden path. Both of these photos are of the Larnach Castle gardens in Dunedin, New Zealand.

Fern path

A single, special object can have the biggest impact. Try a piece you love in the place of an accent or structure plant, or to fill a blank spot. Or paint an old chair, trellis, or gate in your favorite color or one of the colors in your garden scheme.

If you like a more-is-more approach: here’s an artist’s garden packed with art and found objects.

Edible garden ideas: a formal garden

Edible formal garden

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

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

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

Succulent Border

Succulent Border

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

An artist’s garden 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. bottle tree green bottle tree lush found objects

DSC00616 sculpture path bottle tree path garden cat