18 May

Ornamental Grass for Containers: Phalaris arundinacea ‘Picta’

Ornamental grass for containers

Phalaris arundinace ‘Picta’ / Image by F. D. Richards

Phalaris arundinacea ‘Picta’ is a popular ornamental grass for growing in containers as well as in garden landscapes. This lovely grass is commonly known as Ribbon Grass because its green leaves and beautifully stripped in contrasting white or cream.

Phalaris arundinacea ‘Picta’ makes a nice choice when you want to cover slopes or empty spaces in your garden landscape. It spreads quick and easily when grown in a sunny spot and provided with moist soil. Therefore it makes a nice ornamental grass when grown around ponds or under shady trees (it grows slowly under shade).

Like most ornamental grasses, Phalaris arundinacea ‘Picta’ can be easily divided from rhizomes. The best time of the year for planting ribbon grass is spring or fall when you can take out healthy rhizomes from the root zone and plant them in to the ground or containers. If you do not have plenty of space to accommodate this spreading grass, grow it in containers as evergreen ornamental plant. Otherwise invasive, ribbon grass is easy to maintain and control in containers. Usually a 5 gallon container is a good size. When allowed to grow freely in the ground, Phalaris arundinacea ‘Picta’ can grow up to 3 feet in height and spread from 3 to 4 feet across. Be careful when you are planting ribbon grass with other plants because of its rapid spreading and sometimes invasive root system.

Phalaris arundinacea ‘Picta’ is a low-maintenance grass. It is generally a pest-free grass that requires regular watering and light pruning in midsummer to encourage fresh growth.

03 May

Gardening by the Poolside – Practical Tips

Gardening by the side of an outdoor pool not only adds life and serenity to the environment but also gives you many option to introduce privacy, shade, and seasonal interest to the landscape. Today’s posts gives some handy tips on gardening by the poolside.

  1. Select low-maintenance, evergreen plants. They do not shed a lot of leaves. Deciduous plants shed a lot of leaves that clog filters.
  2. When space is not an issue, grow plants at least 4 to 5 feet from the pool to keep debris and soil from contaminating the pool.
  3. Pools create a micro environment – moist and humid. Carefully consider plants that can easily adjust to this type of climate.
  4. Mix and match small trees, shrubs, ground covers, and seasonal bloomers to design a balanced landscape by the poolside.
  5. Small trees are best for creating some shady spots where as shrubs and bushes can be planted for introducing interesting foliage and texture.
  6. Use bushes or small trees to create privacy screens.
  7. Creepers and ground covers are helpful in filling empty spaces and keeping debris and soil from washing away with rainwater.
  8. Some succulents make nice accent plants and can be easily incorporated in your landscape design. Most of them are low on maintenance and last long.
  9. Use ornamental grasses. There are many ornamental grasses that can grow to short and medium height and add delicate, feathery texture to the landscape. See examples of landscaping with ornamental grasses.
  10. Use pergolas, and trellises, oversized planters to introduce artistic element and structural depth to the environment. See examples of modern trellis designs.

Besides a long list of plants to grow by the poolside, here is a list of some unusual and interesting plants that you should consider:

Shrubs & Bushes to grow along the poolside

  • Kalanchoe beharensis – hardy and evergreen bush known for its distinct looks and unusual foliage
  • Loropetalum chinense – evergreen shrub with fringe-like flowers that appear in spring and summer.
  • Pelargonium trifidum – low-growing shrub with sprawling branches and brittle stems. The leaves are succulent and aromatic. When provided with proper support of a tree or fence, the plant can grow up to 1 meter.
  • Alluaudia procera – a really striking succulent shrub grown for its ornamental value.
  • Breynia disticha – makes an excellent plant for borders where it grows as a small shrub (up to 4 feet) and produces beautiful foliage of green, white and pink colors.

Small trees to grow by the poolside

  • Schotia brachypetala – low-maintenance small tree with attractive evergreen foliage and large clusters of spring flowers.
  • Amherstia nobilis – though hard to find, this low-maintenance tree produces very attractive and unusual flowers.
  • Brownea coccinea – evergreen plant that grows into a small spreading tree and produces nice foliage and flowers.
  • Nymania capensis – Evergreen shrubby tree known for its beautiful, rose-pink and papery seed pods that look like Chinese paper lantern.

Ornamental grasses to grow by the poolside

Accent plants to grow by the poolside:

Examples of Gardening by the Poolside

01 May

Lovely Accent Tree for Cold Climates: Larix decidua ‘Pendula’

Larix decidua 'Pendula'

Larix decidua ‘Pendula’/ Image by Kurt Andreas

The tree featured today is Larix decidua ‘Pendula’ – an excellent accent tree to grow in for year round interest. Larix decidua ‘Pendula’ or Weeping European larch, as is known commonly, offers many interesting features: soft, fresh green, needle like foliage that turns into golden yellow in autumn, interesting sculptural branch structure in winter when it sheds its foliage, and attractive, exfoliating, and nicely textured bark on the trunk.

Spring is the best time of the year to appreciate the beauty of this lovely tree. It is the time when nice green foliage covers pendulous branches of the tree. The pendulous branches of Larix decidua ‘Pendula’ form a nice mound of foliage in cascading fashion. Autumn changes the color of delicate foliage from green to golden yellow making the tree stand out from its neighbors.

Larix decidua ‘Pendula’ grows slowly but eventually makes a nice accent tree. The best time to plant it is spring or fall. Young plants can be started in containers but they would eventually need to be transferred into the ground. The best place to plant Larix decidua ‘Pendula’ in a garden is a sunny spot in a well-drained soil. The tree does not require frequent watering and should be irrigated only when the soil has dried completely. A mature tree of Larix decidua ‘Pendula’ can grow up to 12 feet in height.

If you like Larix decidua ‘Pendula’, you should also consider Taxodium distichum ‘Cascade Falls’.

28 Apr

The Ultimate Guide to Designing Beautiful Xeriscapes

Though the word sounds complicated, Xeriscaping is a simple and practical technique of designing water-efficient landscapes. Xeriscaping involves preparation of soil, selection of plants and design of landscape layout to minimize the use of water.

In a nutshell, an efficient xeriscape is a low-maintenance, high impact and water-wise landscape.

Useful Tips for Designing Efficient Xeriscapes

Following are some basic pointers to designing an effective xeriscape:

Improve Soil

Soil is the first thing you should analyze when planning a xeriscape. Make sure that the soil is able to retain moisture by adding organic matter to the soil. See: Tips to improve sandy soil organically

Select the right plants

Select native plants; they are low on maintenance and do not usually need frequent watering. There is a wide variety of drought-tolerant plants that can be used in xeriscapes. See: 100+ xeriscape plants.

Design effective layouts

Design your xeriscape layout to ensure minimum waste of water. You can use terraced layout, pathways, and slopes to ensure that water can easily flow through your garden and irrigate most parts of the xeriscape.

Use planting techniques

Be creative when planting. Plants with similar requirements can be grouped together to ensure efficient use of water. Plant xerophytes on slopes.

Irrigate efficiently

Irrigate in evening or early morning to reduce evaporation. Contain rainwater for irrigating your xeriscape. Replace sprinkler system with drip irrigation system.

Mulch the bare soil

Use a lot of mulch. Topping up the bare soil with two to four inches of mulch prevents water evaporation, maintains an even, cool soil temperature and prevents the germination of weed seeds. The best time to apply mulch is in late spring after the soil has warmed, but before summer’s heat begins. A late autumn mulching helps avoid the alternate freezing and thawing of soil.

Suitable Plants for Xeriscapes

Selection of plants greatly depends on your climate. I have listed about 100 drought-tolerant plants along with their culture, growth requirements and USD zones here. You can also browse the following list of popular plants that can be used in most xeriscapes.

Perennials

  • Artemisias
  • Asters
  • Columbine
  • Coreopsis
  • Delphinium
  • Echinacea
  • Gaillardia
  • Iris
  • Lavender
  • Pansy
  • Sages
  • Sedums
  • Tulips and crocuses
  • Yucca

Annuals

  • Cosmos
  • Ganzania
  • Marigold
  • Mexican Sunflower
  • Phlox
  • Portulaca
  • Vinca
  • Zinnias

Succulents 

  • Cotyledon
  • Crassula
  • Dudleya
  • Kalanchoe
  • Sedum
  • Aloe
  • Agave
  • Bulbine

Ornamental Grasses

Useful Xeriscape Resources

xeriscape

How to determine cost of your xeriscape project

Do’s and Don’ts of Xeriscaping

[Pocket Guide] Xeriscaping at Home

[Book] Creating the Prairie Xeriscape by Sara Williams

Step-by-Step Guide to Practical Xeriscaping

[Photos] 15 examples of xeriscaping with succulents

[Photos] 9 examples of xeriscaping with cacti

[Free PDF Guide] Basics of Xeriscaping

Examples of Beautiful Xeriscape Design