29 Nov

Ariocarpus – The Living Rocks in my Garden

Though I am not a fan of grafted plants but I could not resist to the beauty of these grafted specimens of Ariocarpus. I have purchased and added three new Ariocarpus plants (also known as Living Rocks) to my collection:

Ariocarpus fissuratus

Ariocarpus fissuratus (Buy seeds online) is one of my favorites of all species of Ariocarpus. This grafted plant has succulent green leaves with multiple heads and is ready to flower. Usually, it would take at least a decade to mature and produce flowers. The fissures on leaves make this plant stand out from rest of the plants in its family.

ariocarpus fissuratus

Ariocarpus fissuratus

Ariocarpus retusus

Ariocarpus retusus (Buy seeds online) is the most popular species of Ariocarpus. Perhaps, it is also the most grafted and commercially grown species. It produces abundant woolly hair and flowers.

grafted plant of ariocarpus retusus

Ariocarpus retusus

Ariocarpus Trigonus

Ariocarpus Trigonus is perhaps the most common species of Ariocarpus. It germinates easily from seeds and grows well when grafted on a healthy stock.

grafting of ariocarpus trigonus plant

Ariocarpus trigonus

26 Nov

3D Modeling Tool for Landscape Designers

Today, I came across Google SketchUp, a free 3D modeling tool for architects, landscape designers and gardeners. Google SketchUp is quite simple to use and does not require specialized training as you need for major CAD based 3D modeling software. SketchUp is a handy tool for converting your creative ideas into virtual reality. It allows you to design interesting landscapes in a 3D environment quickly and intuitively – thus you can create, revise, improve and experiment with landscape designs in a paperless environment. That means, you save a lot of time, effort and of course, paper that comes from tress.

With Google SketchUp, you can also ‘preview’ your landscape design and imagine how it would actually look before making actual changes to your landscape or purchasing plants for your landscape garden.

The basic version of Google SketchUp is free and provides a reasonable set of functionalities. You can also purchased Google SketchUp Pro for advance options. For details, see http://sketchup.google.com.

Here are a few examples of landscape designs made using Google SketchUp.

home landscape design

By Susan Schlenger - landscape-design-advice.com

house landscape trees

By Stuart Mayhew - www.landesign.com.au

ideas for landscape design

By Stuart Mayhew - www.landesign.com.au

landscape design example

By Trent Biltoft - www.pentastudio-ny.com

landscape design example

By Trent Biltoft - www.pentastudio-ny.com

landscape idea

By Stuart Mayhew - www.landesign.com.au

residential landscapes

By Stuart Mayhew - www.landesign.com.au

See more examples in Google SketchUp Gallery.

15 Nov

Delicate, Awesome Frangipani

Frangipani (Buy plants online) is one of the most exotic and widely grown flowering trees. Its sweet scented flowers, rich colorful blossoms and lush green leaves make it a center of attraction in any garden landscape. Originally belonging to Mexico, Jamaica and Ecuador, Frangipani can be seen is almost all tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world.

white frangipani flowers

Photo © papaija2008

Botanical name of Frangipani is Plumeria which is associated with a 17th century French botanist Charles Plumier. Other names are Jasmine Tree, Life Tree, Pagoda Tree, Crimson Temple Tree and Gulcheen.

How to Grow Frangiani

Almost all varieties of Frangipani (Buy plants online) are easy to grow and bloom. All they require is a warm and bright spot in a rich soil. It grows well when watered moderately and fertilized generously. It is an ideal plant for container gardening as well as low maintenance garden landscape. It rarely grows taller than 6 meters and blooms most time of the year. The tree sheds its leaves in winter to reveal its fat limbs. Therefore, landscape experts use companion plants with Frangipani to conceal its pale, ugly limbs during the winter. Smart gardeners provide it with the background of bright and showy walls to display its leafless structure as interesting sculpted form.

Because of its extra ordinary ability to produce leaves and flowers after it has been lifted from the soil, Frangipani is usually related to immortality. For this reason, it can be commonly seen growing in graveyards and temples in India and Pakistan. Its flowers are also used during worship at temples in Sri Lanka and India.

Leaves and Flowers

Frangipani produces large green leaves (up to 30 cm in length). The leaves usually grow at the ends of branches. They are smooth and narrow with distinct parallel veins running from the mid-rib towards edges of the leaves.

Frangiani flowers are usually white with a deep yellow throat and tinge of pink on outer edges. Hybrid varieties produce flowers in many different shades of crimson, pink, yellow and white. Each flower has five waxy petals.

plumeria leaves

Photo © J.M. Grag

Medicinal Use

Frangipani has many medicinal benefits. The milky sap from its trunk is used in the treatment of rheumatism. When used with sandalwood oil and camphor, the milky sap relives itching. The bark is used in relieving fever, healing sores and reducing tumors. However, self medication and diagnoses should always be avoided.

Propagation

Frangipani cuttings up to 60 cm are the best and easiest way to propagate Frangipani. Cuttings should be allowed to wilt and dry out for a few days before planting.

Varieties of Frangipani

Plumeria rubra ‘Rubra’ is a smaller species with leaves not longer than 22.5 cm. Flowers are scarlet red and emit intoxicating perfume.

Plumeria rubra ‘Acutifolia’ bears white flowers with deep yellow throat. The leaves of this species are long and smooth.

Plumeria alba produces white flowers and bears long leaves which do not have the typical marginal vein. Stems and buds are greenish white.

Plumeria obtusa is an evergreen species with large, dark leaves. The pure white flowers are much larger than any of the other species.

12 Nov

25 Examples of Amazing Topiary Art

Topiary is the art of clipping and pruning twigs and foliage and craft different shapes such as geometrical shapes, fanciful hedges and corporate logos. Topiary has been in practice since the days of the Romans who introduced well crafted design elements in their gardens. Topiary is still popular around the world and there are a number of famous gardens dedicated to the art of topiary. Topiaries can also be used in small lawn to create interesting hedges, dividers or shapes.

Plants  used for designing topiary are usually evergreen and woody shrubs or small trees that produce dense foliage. Some of the suitable plants for topiary include: English Ivy, Ficus Pumila, Rosemary, Thyme, Boxwood, Cypress, and almost all yews and hollies.

Examples of Topiary Art

The following is a collection of some amazing topiary art produced around the world. All images are subject to copyrights of their respective owners.

animals topiary

Elephant Family Topiary

topiary towers

Towers

topiary wall

Topiary Wall

Topiary F1 Racer

Formula 1 Racer

animal topiary

The Peacock

topiary ivy heart

Topiary Heart

topiary sculpture

Topiary Sculpture

topiary gardener

The Gardener

topiary logo

YES Logo

topiary lion

Topiary Lion

topiary happy man

Happy Man

topiary hand

Topiary Hand

topiary balls

Balls

topiary palace

The Palace

topiary gardener

The Gardener

topiary garden

Topiary Garden

topiary disney

Disney World

topiary character

The Face

topiary car

Lee Car

topiary bus

Flowers on Wheels

topiary bull

The Bull

topiary places

Maize

topiary animal

Elephant Family Topiary

topiary clouds

Clouds

topiary hedge

Hedge

09 Nov

5 Unusual Plants for Garden Landscape

In my previous post, I shared useful tips for designing a low maintenance garden landscape. Today, I am introducing some unusual plants for garden landscapes. These plants are unusual because of their extra-ordinary shape and formation. Almost all of these unusual plants are hardy, evergreen and require less maintenance. Before I introduce these plants, the question is why select unusual plants when you have a huge variety of plants for your garden landscape? The answer is simple. Unusual plants are for unusual people – enthusiasts and experimental gardeners.

There are a number of unusual and stunning plants in the universe but I would limit to just five of them. The plants in this list are easy to grow and can be used as nice companion plants in your garden landscape.

Ponytail Palm

Beaucarnea recurvata or Ponytail Palm is an unusual plant because of its unusual and very noticeable caudex which is used to store water and food. Typically Beaucarnea develops a tuft of long and strappy leaves that emerge from a bulbous stem. Because of its palm-like leaves and swollen stem, it is also called ponytail palm and sometimes Elephant Foot Tree. Beaucarnea is considered one of the easiest houseplants to grow. It can be grown in garden containers as well as in landscape. The plant requires bright sunlight and preferably direct sunlight for some part of the day. Since it is native to the deserts of Mexico, Beaucarnea does not require much water. Water only when the soil is dry; excessive watering would damage the plant Fertilize Beaucarnea plants regularly during spring and summer. Beaucarnea loves well drained soil and warm climate; protect it from extremely cold weather and frost.

Beaucarnea is unusually slow plant. Though it eventually gains a height of more than 15 feet but it takes more than 10 years.

ponytail palm

Photo © www.pythonjungle.com

Golden Barrel

Echinocactus grusonii or Golden Barrel is one of the most widely grown commercial species of cactus. It is an easy to grow plant and can be used as companion plant in many types of garden landscapes. It remains solitary and assumes the shape of a big, fat ball until it mature; at maturity it tends to form a cylindrical shape. Echinocactus grusonii is unusual because of its striking shape, spines, crown, flowers, and ability to survive long droughts. Golden Barrel requires bright sunlight and warm, humid climate. However, it can withstand cold weather and small spans of freeze. Like Beaucarnea, Echinocactus grusonii is a hungry plant and requires regular fertilization.

golden barrel cactus unusual plant

Photo © Pamla J. Eisenberg

Madagascar Palm

Pachypodium lamerei or Madagascar Palm (it is not a palm) is a tree-like succulent plant with a thick, grey stem that is completely covered with spines and topped with palm-like leaves. The unusual formation of Pachypodium makes it a perfect choice for rocky or experimental landscapes. It can gain a height of more than 15 feet in tropical climates. Pachypodium belongs to Southern Madagascar. It loves well-drained but somewhat rich soil. The plant sheds its leaves during winter; during this phase it does not require much water. This weird looking plant produces delicate white and yellow flowers at maturity. Pachypodium does not like spells of frost and cold weather.

unusual plant pachypodium lamerei

Photo © AxelStraub

Agave Americana var. Medio Picta, ‘Alba’

One of my prime choices for landscape gardens, Agave americana var. Medio Picta can dramatically change and enhance the overall effect of your landscape garden. It is a rugged plant but adds unusual colors and shapes to your garden landscape as a companion plant. It produces a nice rosette of fleshy leaves with teethed edges and stripes of green and creamy white color. Agave Americana var. Medio Picta prefers bright sunlight and moderate watering. The plant can live up to 35 years and gains 90-120 cm in height.

agave americana medio picta alba

Photo © Tom Spencer

Zamia Furfuracea

Zamia Furfuracea is a slow growing plant and makes unusual foliage of thick and hard texture, that is why, it is also called Cardboard palm. Zamia likes bright sunlight, moderate watering, and some fertilizer in spring. The color of leaves ranges from olive green to dark green. A mature plant can grow as large as 3-4′ in height and 6′ in diameter with a heavy trunk that acts as water reservoir during drought. It is quite a hardy plant and makes a good choice for landscapes because of its hardy and drought-tolerant nature.

zamia furfuracea

Photo © Mike Gray

If you would like to add more entries to this list of unusual plants, do share your comments. I will review and feature those unusual plants on this website.

08 Nov

How to design a low maintenance garden landscape

Designing a garden landscape is an art; and it is not hard to master it. You do not have to have a big lawn, skills of a master gardener, expensive tools or abundance of plants. You just have to select the right type of plants for the right location and climate. Selecting the right plants for your garden landscape is somehow tricky. You cannot just mix and match your favourite plants and put them together in your lawn or garden. You have to pick and choose plants that complement one another and mix up well to make a uniform and a low maintenance garden landscape.

In this post, I would list a couple of general rules that novice gardeners can use to design a low maintenance garden landscape. The primary principle of landscape design is to do your homework before paving the ground for a garden landscape.

Purpose of Garden Landscape

Decide the purpose of your landscape. Landscapes are design for special purposes. You may want to design a garden landscape for shade, as visual divider, for noise control, or for sheer ornamental purposes.

Understand Climatic Conditions

Once you have decided the purpose of landscaping, do some research to understand the (year round) climate of your garden, lighting conditions, type of soil, and availability of land and water.

Decide the Type of Landscape

When you understand all of these vital factors, decide what type of landscape you want to design: rock garden landscape, xeriscape, miniature landscape, native garden landscape, evergreen, tropical garden landscape etc. Every landscape type has unique requirements and features. For a low maintenance garden landscape, go for native garden landscape. You will still have a long list of plants to select from.

Also see:

Select the Right Plants for Your Garden Landscape

At this stage, you should have clear idea of type of plants that you are going to use in your landscape. The toughest part starts now; selection of plants. Do not select plants just because you like them. Select plants that can grow well in climatic conditions (light, temperature, soil etc.) of your garden. Make a combination of plants of different types – shrubs, flowering bushes, small trees etc.

Visualize Your Landscape Design

Once you have a list of plants; try to visualize how your garden landscape would look like when these plants grow old. Plants that are smaller today might turn into big trees spreading their roots and branches all over the garden. Similarly, shrubs might need regular pruning. Some plant might be hungrier than their companions. Some of them might remain solitary or too small to make survive under large specimen. Now start eliminating all plants that might grow larger than your landscape.

Select Colors and Textures

At this point, you still have a large number of varieties that you can use in your landscape garden. Now think about aesthetics and dimensions. Think about color, texture, and shape of shortlisted plants. Shades of same hues complement each other and give a uniform look-and-feel. Colors with greater contrast make showy and vibrant environment. Grey, black and white and neutral colors that can be used in background to neutralize and break distracting color schemes. Texture is another important factor. Some plants, for example ferns, are delicate. Some are rough or rugged (for example Pachypodium) and some (like Beaucarnea) have both characteristics. Make a combination of these plants. Combination of plants eliminates a number of problems like insects, temperature and soil control because some plants repel insects, some attract pollinating bugs, some provide shade for plants that do not like direct light, and some make vigorous roots to keep the soil intact.

Purchase Plants for Your Garden Landscape

Obtain plants. Go to your local nurseries and purchase plants. Do not go for larger specimen; purchase small plants – it is fun watching them grow into large plants. Always purchase plants that are healthy and acclimatized.

Go Digging!

The fun part starts now. Time to flex your muscles and dig the ground. You know rest of the stuff. Go digging and share your experiences. If you have designed a garden landscape, come across a nice design or have some cool design ideas, do share. I will feature your landscape design on this website.

Recommended Book:

Add Some Pond Plants

If you already have a fish pond in your garden you might even want to improve its aesthetics by adding some pond plants which will attract natural wildlife. If you are considering building one, its maintenance can get much easier with equipment from specialists like www.allpondsolutions.co.uk.

Here are a couple of inspiring landscape designs that I have come across recently.