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Dwarf Conifers for All-Season Beauty

A dwarf white spruce shows off its winter cones.
Dwarf conifers are often overlooked as both landscape or container plants.  In recent years there have been many new cultivars of dwarf conifers that have been developed to be super compact and slow growing. These make superb garden specimens that will shine all year long, especially in the winter months.
Dwarf Conifers Defined
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A Wind Garden in Mendocino

Over time, evergreen shrubs provide enough protection to add perennials to spaces around the heathers.
The Pacific Coast becomes a cold, damp and windy world, sandwiched between Pacific Palisades and redwood forested hills along Highway 1 in Mendocino, California.  The windswept tableland is brutal for most plants but grasses. Native Monterrey cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa) trees are capable of standing up to the wind, too.  Many century-old cypress […]

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Beautyberry for Bountiful Fall Color


Branches laden with bright purple berry clusters can be a very pleasant surprise to those unaware of the virtues of beautyberry (Callicarpa spp.).  These berries  provide a bright spot of color, especially in the autumn garden when the color performance of many shrubs is over.
Beautyberry Origins
There are more than a dozen species of Callicarpa, however only a few are readily available to at plant nurseries.  […]

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Gravelscape and Green your Front Yard

Gravel can make architectural plants stand out like sculpture. (Image by Maureen Gilmer)
Nowhere are water-needy lawns disappearing as fast as in arid southern California and the American Southwest. This is the proving ground for a lot of alternatives to traditional turfgrass. A big problem is always the front yard, where your property value is rooted in curb appeal. What you do there will have a […]

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Flowering Trees with Edible Fruit

Edible crabapples have pretty spring flowers and edible fruit.
Sometimes in our home yards and gardens, we plant primarily for ornamental purposes, but perhaps we overlook the fact that attractive plants can also provide food. The following flowering trees have both attributes. All are easily grown in western Oregon and Washington and garden-worthy, even without their food value.
Serviceberry
Western serviceberry has delicious summer berries.
Amelanchier alnifolia is not exactly […]

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Fight Fires with Garden Flowers

This garden features the best drought-resistant, low-fuel-volume flowers for firescapes. (Maureen Gilmer)
You can fight fires with flowers. When landscaping around high-fire-hazard homes, the key is to think about minimizing fire fuel volume, or the amount of burnable material plants provide to oncoming fire. For example, a pine tree has a huge fuel mass, but a sage plant, with it’s lovely lavender-blue flowers, has negligible fuel mass.
To […]

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Healing the Land after Fire: Post-Fire Planting

Wildfire is ubiquitous in the west but has spread to new areas due to lack of forest thinning.
Wildfire is an equal opportunity killer.  This year it took out multimillion-dollar vineyards in Napa County, CA just as ferociously as it destroyed lot and block subdivisions in Santa Rosa, CA, neither considered high fire hazard locations (click here for the California Fire Hazard Severity Zone map).  For all […]

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Fire up the Landscape with Red Twig Dogwood

The bloodtwig dogwood ‘Midwinter Fire’ has some of the most brilliant branches for winter.
Fiery branches of gold, orange, and red rise from the winter garden, bringing color to the bleakest landscapes. There’s no better complement to evergreen and berried landscape shrubs than brilliant red twig dogwoods (Cornus sericea) and blood twig dogwoods (Cornus sanguinea). Their branches also look attractive in seasonal arrangements.
About Redosier Dogwoods
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Tough Garden Yuccas      

Adam’s needle (Yucca filamentosa) is an adaptable, bold landscape plant!
“This flower was made for the moon, as the Heliotrope is for the sun…and refuses to display her beauty in any other light.”  This lovely Victorian quote, taken from the 1878 edition of Vicks Monthly Magazine, set off a fad for yucca plants.  Though they flower in the sun, their blossoms become fragrant at dusk, […]

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4-Layer Easy Rock Garden Design

Created on a slight incline, this beautiful western rock garden featuring aloes, cacti, and local stones and cobble.
Alpine succulents from the Atlas Mountains flooded into 17th-century England where the climate and soils were totally unsuitable for growing them.  This created a learning curve for English gardeners. Daily summer rains and great soil explains why their gardens are so fabulous, but succulents need high sun, fast draining […]

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