From our recent plant-scouting excursions

Photo from scouting out plants at Classic Nursery, in the San Fernando Valley
Photo from scouting out plants at Classic Nursery, in the San Fernando Valley

Snapped this photo when we were out scouting out plants for our lawn-to-garden project in Glendale, CA. One of the challenges of sourcing plants in Southern California is that by and large nothing is labeled, so a Cistus plant is just a Cistus, and a Phlomis is just a Phlomis, even though there are so many varieties of each. As such, it is hard to know what you are getting and what form the plant will ultimately take – not to mention how big it will get. In any case, we really enjoyed going to this Nursery, Classic Nursery, in the San Fernando Valley. Lots of healthy, happy drought-tolerant plants tended to by helpful people. And an amazing view to boot.

-John Kamp

Weekend viewing

Quick post today: watch and marvel at Babylonstoren. While portions of the video are a bit hokey, no big deal, as the history and scale and design and plants and animals of the place are something to behold. After watching, plan a visit your local botanical garden or arboretum. In any season, there is always something to see, discover, and learn. And getting outside never did anyone any harm.

John Kamp

Newer isn’t always better

Patio de los Naranjos, in Cordoba, Spain, with the citrus trees planted using the basin technique (photo courtesy of Cordoba A Pie)
Patio de los Naranjos, in Cordoba, Spain, with the citrus trees planted using the basin technique (photo courtesy of Cordoba A Pie)

Notice how the trees are planted in the 17th-century Patio de Los Naranjos in Cordoba, Spain – in basins and connected by way of channels. No overhead emitters; no automatic sprinkler system. Just plants planted slightly sunken so that water can percolate straight down to the roots of the trees, drawing the roots down with it.

Many a landscape professional has looked on in horror when we have proposed or used this technique in our landscapes; and yet, here it is, time-worn and tested, the trees clearly thriving and growing well.

We need to start rethinking our planting practices and the notion that a landscape must have an irrigation system of emitters and lines and tubing in order to survive. The Patio de los Naranjos is yet more evidence of why this just isn’t so.

John Kamp

First landscape of 2019

Photo of Prairieform's work on its first landscape of 2019, for a front yard in Glendale, CA
Working on our first landscape of 2019, for a front yard in Glendale, CA

We are excited to announce our first new landscape of 2019, in Glendale, CA. It will be a front-yard lawn-to-landscape conversion involving drought-tolerant deliciousness, eye candy in spades, and habitat for a whole host of fantastic winged and four-legged friends (and humans too). While the landscape will have an irrigation system, we will be reducing the amount of water used over time, so that ultimately much of the landscape can thrive on its own, whatever may come its way. Stay tuned for more updates.

John Kamp

Snow falling on sedums

Sedum spectabile "Autumn Joy" in winter
Sedum spectabile ‘Autumn Joy’ in winter

When it comes to plants in the landscape, there are tried but true and therefore played out and boring (and should be retired), and there are tried but true and thus indispensable. Sedum spectabile ‘Autumn Joy’ falls into the latter camp, an indispensable plant for landscapes in those four-season climates that include a good dose of winter. Emerging early in spring, it provides structure and color with zero supplemental water, and its fat leaves offer a foil to smaller-leaved plants, which, packed in too closely and in too great of numbers, will resort in a landscape that suffers from what we call “small-leaf syndrome.” Then, in late summer, its flower-heads start to emerge, slowly opening in early fall to attract pollinators of all varieties, feasting on its nectar during a time of year when nectar is starting to run scarce. Finally, in winter, it retains its structure and fades to a lovely rust color, its spent flower heads offering the perfect platform for snow to sit atop. Aside from the short period of time in spring when you must chop the plant down to the ground and thus don’t see it, this plant is the very definition of year-round appeal – both for you and for the lovely pollinators that will seek it out come fall blooms.

Go forth and plant with aplomb!

John Kamp