How to Hire a Tree Expert

At the start of every landscape design project there are usually a few existing trees in dire need of some TLC (or removal).  Homeowners appreciate getting guidance in finding a tree expert who can determine the health of the trees and how best to prune them before garden installation begins.

Anne Fenkner, an arborist, master gardener and project developer for a division of the Davey Tree Expert Company has compiled a thorough document outlining the many considerations behind selecting the best tree expert for your job. She shared it at a recent class held by ReScape California:

How to Hire a Tree Expert

Frangula californica
California coffeeberry

by hope nelson
APLd sacramento DISTRICT

Frangula californica, commonly known as California coffeeberry, is a real show stopper with its glossy evergreen foliage and colorful berries in the fall and winter. Formerly named Rhamnus californica, this California native in the rhamnaceae, or buckthorn, family is a shrub growing anywhere from 3 to 15 feet tall in a mounding, rounded form.

In spring and summer, coffeeberry’s small inflorescences provide abundant nectar for birds and butterflies. When the berries ripen, numerous bird species hone in on the sweet, juicy ½” berries (called drupes), which contain two seeds that resemble a coffee bean. The berries change colors from early to late season, from gold to red to purple and finally black. Historically, they served as a staple food for West Coast Indian tribes as well as for game and livestock.

Coffeeberry grows in a wide range of habitats, so it combines easily with a variety of trees and shrubs in the garden. It tolerates many soil types, takes full sun to part shade, has low water requirements, takes well to pruning and is mostly deer resistant, as well as being useful for bank stabilization and natural hedges. There are numerous subspecies and varieties of Frangula California, so check to see which best fits your region of California. It’s guaranteed to bring color and wildlife to the winter garden.



A New Garden Ethic 
by Benjamin Vogt


Jackie Surber headshot.2.jpg

By Jacky Surber
APLD Greater
Los Angeles District

Book Review book cover.jpg

“The greatest injustice of our time may be the eradication of native ecosystems, the erasure of entire life forms, and the capacity of one species to ignore those injustices.” — Benjamin Vogt

Benjamin Vogt’s new book, A New Garden Ethic, wakes us from the complacency we have been in, whether we are conscious of it or not: we have been asleep at the gardening wheel. Vogt’s message convinces us to make the change to a purely native palette by digging into the psychology, sociology and theology behind our reasoning for the plants we choose, or don’t choose. This book questions the root reasons of why we garden and who we do it for.

Vogt says it has been so difficult for us to make positive changes and adopt this new garden ethic because we are all living a deep grief. The mental suffering we are experiencing in this age we live in, the Anthropocene, is defined by the irreversible loss of pristine ecosystems, the death and mass extinction of unique creatures, and along with that a burning out of our once intimate relationship with nature. He goes on to describe the stages of grief, and how those stages are reflected in the rationale that we give when defending our choices to plant nonnative species.

Vogt contests the standard excuses that we give to dignify the nonnative gardens we have created as doing good. He skillfully formulates a thesis that speciesism is the underlying problem with the current garden ethic. “We are colonizers who replace the culture of the oppressed with the culture of the oppressor, whether that’s through our plant choices or in how we arrange those plants.”

This book is universal in its message. The concept that there is a greater purpose in designing gardens and landscapes, beyond the whims and desires of our clients or even our own “artistic” vision, applies to all regions. Vogt is ardent in his belief that gardens are not Art. They are a place for us to defy the environmental destruction all around us, challenge the social norms in landscaping and create a place for people to deeply reconnect to nature. The planet needs us to act. We need us to act. Time is up now.

“If you believe in climate change, if you believe in extinction, if you believe we have a direct and powerful hand in eroding life, you know you must speak up too—-as you know your action must follow that powerful voice.”

On April 7, Vogt will speak as part of the APLD SoCal regional event at Descanso Gardens. In anticipation of his visit, A New Garden Ethic is a must read.

The Watershed Approach . . .
The Video and the White Paper

What is the Watershed Approach to Landscapes? This two-minute video demonstrates what APLD members have to say about landscape design with the watershed in mind. Thank you to the APLD Greater Los Angeles District and their clients for opening their gardens and voices to share the simple and beneficial beauty of the new California landscape. Be sure to share the video with your clients!

Watershed Approach Video

APLD Gold Sponsor G3 (Green Gardens Group) is at the forefront of promoting the watershed approach across all ornamental urban landscapes. As part of their ongoing effort to spread the word about designing landscapes to function as multi-benefit environmental solutions, G3 has created a document that pulls together the science behind landscapes as a climate change solution using four concepts:

1) Watershed approach to landscaping and the soil sponge:
2) “Green Water” zone
3) Precipitation and green water
4) Metrics for evaluating landscaping projects

To read this fascinating exploration of the optimal relationship between water, soil and plants, click here.

And for an overview of the watershed approach with great graphics, click here.

Succulents as Firebreak—a Personal Story

By Debra Lee Baldwin

Can a landscape protect a home from wildfire? Camille Newton, M.D., of Bonsall, California, says yes. Newton started her six-year-old succulent garden mostly from cuttings. “It’s my go-to place after work,” she says, noting that gardening is her stress-reliever. The land's nutrient-poor, decomposed-granite soil serves as a coarse, fast-draining substrate that she top-dresses with composted horse manure. (Harvested from another hobby: breeding Andalusians.) Irrigation is by overhead sprinklers. The land slopes, and densely planted succulents also provide erosion control. On Newton's frost-free, west-facing hillside grow swaths of jade (Crassula ovata), aloes, agaves, aeoniums and brilliant orange, ironically named Euphorbia tirucalli ‘Sticks on Fire.’

Newton, whose garden is in my book, Designing with Succulents (2nd ed.), was initially surprised that her garden "stopped the fire in its tracks,” she says, adding that houses next door and across the street burned to the ground. “You’d think succulents would burn, but they don’t." Wildfire, which travels at around 15 mph, doesn’t linger long enough to combust moisture-filled plants. Those with thin leaves catch fire immediately and are carried aloft by strong winds, helping to spread the blaze, but succulents simply cook and collapse. They sizzle and char, but they don’t transmit flames. 

In December 2017, soon after the Lilac Fire destroyed eight homes on her street, Newton and I were interviewed on local TV news for a segment titled “Saved by Succulents.” (View it on my YouTube channel along with two other videos about succulents as firewise plants, including a post-fire tour of Newton’s garden.) Because succulents also are colorful, waterwise and low-maintenance, it behooves landscape professionals in mild-climate, wildfire-prone regions to offer firebreak design and installation. Granted, it takes a lot of succulents to surround a house, but here’s good news: It’s possible to do so without buying plants. Numerous Southern California succulent gardens are becoming well established, and several times a year owners have truckloads of trimmings that they hate to throw away. “I’ll give cuttings to anyone who asks,” Newton says, adding with a laugh, “Hopefully they’ll take some manure, too.” 

Pictured are the author's go-to firewise succulents:  Opuntia ,  Aeonium arboreum ,  Crassula arborescens ,  Aeonium  'Zwartkop,'  Aloe arborescens

Pictured are the author's go-to firewise succulents: Opuntia, Aeonium arboreum, Crassula arborescens, Aeonium 'Zwartkop,' Aloe arborescens