BillyGoodnick

Billy Goodnick, Santa Barbara, CA, US
contributor


UPDATE: This Cool Green Gardens blog was awarded the 2012 Silver Trowel Award for electronic media by the Garden Writers Association.

Billy Goodnick does a lot of stuff and always has fun doing it. He’s also very serious about encouraging people to design, create and care for their landscapes sustainably.

Whether writing his Design Workshop articles for Fine Gardening and other magazines and websites, or teaching and lecturing throughout sunny southern California, the message is clear: Everyone can have a garden that is beautiful, functional and treads lightly on the planet. His new book, "Yards: Turn Any Outdoor Space Into the Garden of Your Dreams: debuts March 2013, filled with great design ideas, money saving tips, all presented in his upbeat, hilarious style.

Billy started life at a very early age, was abducted by circus clowns, escaped to become an in-demand studio drummer in LA, and then discovered the incredible art of bonsai. Turning on a dime, he dropped his drumsticks and started his foray into horticulture.

His career has included retail nursery sales as well as landscape maintenance and installation—dodging seagulls at the city dump was his specialty. Billy has been the Landscape Architect for the City of Santa Barbara since 1987.

Interesting work, but there’s room on the plate. He has been demystifying garden design for two decades using his light-hearted teaching style to show homeowners how to design like a pro.

He offers landscape design coaching and consulting for Santa Barbara area clients and has a whole bunch of awards to show for it. People like his work. His clients become his friends.

He co-hosts Garden Wise Guys, a comedic sustainable landscaping show in the Santa Barbara region, and freelance writes for magazines and on-line publications (Edhat.com).

Taking the sage advice of his youth—“Take the thing you love most in life and make it your hobby”—Billy drums for Santa Barbara-based retro-rock band King Bee, laying down his funky grooves.

Gender: Male

Birthday: 10/13/1951

Subscribe to my RSS Feed

Contributions

4 Hot Design Tips from Portland Yard, Garden & Patio Show, Pt. II

Eager to improve your design chops? There’s nothing better than taking in a local garden show. That’s where you’ll find talented designers and builders displaying a broad range of garden styles to inspire you.

4 Hot Design Tips from Portland Yard, Garden & Patio Show, Pt.I

Eager to improve your design chops? There’s nothing better than taking in a local garden show. That’s where you’ll find talented designers and builders displaying a broad range of garden styles to inspire you. Part I of II

Great Stocking Stuffer: "Foolproof Plants for Small Gardens" Meets Cyber Monday

You don't have to be a techie to put this power-packed plant-finding app to great use. "Foolproof Plants for Small Gardens" makes it easy.

Downton Abbey Meets Madmen in a Santa Barbara Garden, Pt. II

In part one of this article, I introduced you to a not uncommon situation I've encountered in my design work: the "Women Are From Venus and Men Are from Mars" dilemma. But if partners play nicely, they can have it all.

Downton Abbey Meets Madmen in a Santa Barbara Garden, Pt. I

Sometimes garden designers are confronted with a "Women are from Venus; men are from Mars" situation -- a couple with decidedly different visions for their garden. Sound like something you're dealing with? Not to worry. Read on, then watch for Part II.

When You Buy a House, You Buy A Garden, Part 1

Are you thinking about buying a new home? Whether you're upsizing, downsizing or relocating, here are some vital tips on what to look for before you make an offer.

When You Buy a House, You Buy A Garden, Part 2

It's open house day and you've been impressed by the curb appeal, considered how you'll live in your garden and how weather patterns affect your comfort and which plants you can grow. Now let's look at the practical side: infrastructure, safety and maintenance.

When You Buy a House, You Buy A Garden, Part 3

Let's finish up by looking at how surrounding properties can affect your garden, the pluses and minuses of mature trees and whether you'll be inheriting maintenance headaches.

Tips for Selling Your Garden (er, Home) Part 2

Once you've gotten your potential home buyer out of the car, it's time to make them feel like this is a place where they can fulfill their dreams and set down roots, figuratively and literally. Read on for tips about how to make them love your garden the way you have.

Tips for Selling Your Garden (er, Home) Part 1

With housing sales picking up, you might be considering putting your house on the market. The garden you've loved and labored over can help you sell or it might be a turn-off for your potential buyer.

Skip the Theme Parks -- Head for Orlando's Leu Gardens!

Sometimes getting lost leads to fantastic treasures, like stumbling upon the Harry P. Leu Gardens in Orlando, Florida

Garden Design Basics: A Battle Between Stuff and Space

Before getting carried away creating stunning foliage and floral compositions, it pays to figure out the "stuff-to-space" ratio.

Gardens Go Hollywood at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show

It didn’t take long to get into the Hollywood vibe at the kick-off of the 2013 Northwest Flower & Garden Show this week. From the moment they arrived, excited visitors were treated to a riotous display of color right off the Technicolor screen of the Wizard of Oz, The Hobbit, Roman Holiday and dozens of silver screen-themed exhibition gardens.

Hot Plant Introductions from the Cool Pacific Northwest: Terra Nova

Dan Heims, founder of Terra Nova Nursery in Portland, says his "rock star" idol is Luther Burbank. Well, Dan's another hybridizing hero, churning out great plants for gardeners across the country. Check out my picks for 2013...

No Nonsense Vegetable Gardening Winner!

Jeavonna Chapman received a great holiday gift. Her own free copy of No Nonsense Gardening. Though she killed her first plant at age 4, that didn't stop her.

Win a Copy of No Nonsense Vegetable Gardening!

Wanna know how to make your own soil? Got a few thousand years to wait? That's okay; with this book, you'll be a raging success anyway.

70 Hours to Dayton and Back

I sort of think I blew through Dayton in the 70s when I was drumming in a rock band. But I know I didn't stop to enjoy the gardens. All that changed last weekend when I visited two jewels in the MetroParks crown.

Garden Design Lessons from Japan

I can’t explain the sensation that washes over me when I’m in the presence of masterfully design Japanese gardens. Perhaps it’s my appreciation for how the human mind can look at an actual tree or natural landscape, find its essence and distill it into living art. Regardless of the style you aspire to, there are lessons to be learned.

Winner of Container Gardening for All Seasons by Barbara Wise

One hundred and twenty-one readers left comments in hopes of winner Container Gardening for All Seasons. Lucky number 43 is now thumbing through the pages, planning her own beautiful pots.

Design Like a Pro: Sure Tips for Great Plant Composition

You've researched every plant that grows in your zone and lusted over the ones that won't. Now what? Read my sure-fire tips for great plant composition.

Twitter Your Way to a Great Garden with #gardenchat

Brenda Haas didn’t set out to create a gardening information phenomenon. But in two years, she's created an on-line community of gardeners who share their knowledge and have a few laughs along the way.

Tipu Tree is a Brute, But the Flower are Beautiful

Caught this on my iPhone walking the neighborhood.

Book Giveaway: Container Gardening for All Seasons

Read a review of this book and post a comment by July 31 for a chance to win a copy.

Summer's Here - Colorado's Burning - Who's Next?

Do you live in an area vulnerable to fire? If you said, "That's not me; I don't live in the Wild West," think again. Last September, 100,000 acres of northern Minnesota raged, spreading choking blankets of smoke into Chicago.

David Fishman's Otherworldly Plant Portraits Will Amaze You

I was cerebrally unprepared to absorb his jawdroppingly rich and exotic images. Where do I begin?...

What Are You Doing on National Public Gardens Day, Friday, May 11?

National Public Gardens Day is a great excuse to take a walk in a park, arboretum, or public garden and stop and smell the ___ (fill in the blank).

Announcing the No-Mow Lawns Book Winners!

More than 300 readers were hoping they would win a copy of Beautiful No-Mow Lawns. Here are the lucky FIVE who did and a peek at some of their gardens.

Garden Design Lessons from Nature, In a Concrete Box

Imagine designing gardens that come to life almost overnight, then just as quickly disappear. Months of planning, locating beautiful plants and tons of soil and rock, followed by a mad dash to bring...

The New Sunset Western Garden Book - A Must for Western Gardeners

The newest Sunset Western Garden Book is an indispensable reference for every gardener from the Rockies to the Pacific and from San Diego to Alaska. The new edition has some sweet bonuses you can't be without.

The Bloedel Reserve Whispers Wow

The first "take my breath away" moment hit me at the Bird Marsh at the Bloedel Reserve. Nothing disturbed the mirrored surface and no bird songs interrupted the muffled drops of rain on the duff.

Book Give-Away: Beautiful No-Mow Yards, by Evelyn J. Hadden

It’s hard to read Beautiful No-Mow Yards and not want to run outside and Kevorkianize that patch of green that sucks the life out of precious weekends and strains checkbooks.

Shop 'Til You Sag at the NWFGS

My week at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show was wonderful, but some folks think there's something wrong with a guy who doesn't buy any plants or gizmos.

Winter Wealth: A Gold Standard for Gardens

Gold is a precious commodity in a winter garden, bringing visual warmth and cheer when skies are gray. It's just the effect I need in the new garden I'm designing.

Boost Your Garden Design Skills and Save Money at a Flower and Garden Show

Attending a major flower and garden show can be a lot like grocery shopping while hungry. Here's how you can "purchase with purpose" while getting the most out of your visit.

America In Bloom: Rebuilding Communities a Shovelful at a Time

On its surface, America In Bloom's national competition appears to be simply a horticulture program aimed at beautifying towns and cities around the country. But the deeper benefits for those who embrace the challenge can lead to an economic boost and heightened community pride.

Groovy Zoo Gardens

I was always grateful my former neighbor Janie, the elephant tender at the Santa Barbara Zoo, didn't bring her work home with her. But visiting her at her job gave me some great landscaping ideas.

Gift Idea? Give the Hippest Garden Photos on the Planet

Nothing new about having a phone with your camera. But what if that camera was also a time machine that shot you back a few decades?

Christmas Trees Should Smell Good

The American Christmas Tree Association says PVC trees are perfectly safe. No mention of petrochemicals, carcinogens, or worker safety. Gimme something that smells like a walk in the woods.

South African Coral Tree is the Star of the Show

This magnificent Erythrina caffra was well established when I was asked to redesign this west facing garden off the master bedroom. It became the centerpiece for a composition using grasses, succulents and snow-in-summer ground cover.

Holey Crocs, Batman!

Regular size people recognize me by my hat. But really teeny tiny people know me for my distinctive, perforated footwear. I'm a Crocs kinda guy. But rather than throw out the old ones, I keep them in service as micro vertical gardens.

Plant Tags: So Much to Say, So Little Space

There's not a lot of room on a nursery tag, but sometimes it’s all the information we have when the “ME NEED PLANT” neurons commence to firing. So, what if you could fire up your smart phone, scan a QR code, and tap a deep mine of information?

Time Machine Tales Part II: Long Strange Trip To The Garden

I kick myself knowing that while I was living out my rock and roll fantasy, I'd come within flower plucking distance of places like Longwood Gardens, the JC Raulston Arboretum, the Memphis Botanical Garden, and scores of places I'd love to visit today. As George Bernard Shaw reminds us, "Youth is wasted on the young."

Surprise at the Indianapolis Museum of Art: A Paved Paradise

I visited the Indianapolis Museum of Art housing over 50,000 works representing a variety of cultures and 5000 years of art history. But I'll have to take their word for it, since I spent my time trying to make a dent in 152 acres of gardens, woodlands, wetlands, lake shore, meadows, and even their parking lot.

Taking On Lawn Alternatives With The Garden Designers Roundtable

Other than a place to teach your dog to play lacrosse, I don't see much use for conventional turf lawns. So I knew just what I'd write about when the Garden Designers Roundtable asked me to write an article about lawn alternatives. And the perfect topic for getting the discussion in gear is Reimagining the California Lawn, even if you garden 3000 miles away.

Chardonnay and Herbs Meet in Sonoma Wine County

Saxon Holt and Tammi Hartung's book about herbs is the perfect excuse to share my recent speaking trip to the Bay Area. And I got a whole day to just play.

Healthy Skepticism for a Healthy Garden - Win A Free Copy of The Informed Gardener!

Linda Chalker-Scott, didn't set out to be a matador, hell-bent on goring gardening's sacred cows. But somebody needed to bust the myths we carry into our gardens.

Working with a BIG focal point

When I designed this garden, I knew who the star of the show would be.

Time Machine Found in Old Box: Connecting the Dots

Last week I was rummaging through an old box and found a time machine. It looked like an old, primitively drawn landscape plan. But for me, it was like taking Mr. Peabody's Wayback Machine to 1975, when my love affair with gardens began.

Protect Your Pets from Poisonous Plants: Biff's Ordeal

We love our pets, but are we aware of all the common foods, products, and plants that put them in harm's way? I learned the hard way.

Cornerstone Sonoma: Where Art, Imagination, and Plants Come to Play

I had heard so many wondrous things about Cornerstone: Festival of Gardens. It was one of those breathlessly spoken, Oh, you have to go there, places my designer friends insisted I visit.

Airplanes In The Garden -- Kids, Butterflies, and Summer Fun

Summer's almost here, so what better way to get kids outside than growing your own butterfly garden? Joan Calder's book will entertain kids and guarantees some good, clean, dirty fun.

Another Definition of Vertical Gardening - Marcia Donahue

There's vertical and there's vertical. Artist Marcia Donahue's Berkeley, California, garden is a botanical and imaginative wonderland filled with humor, whimsy, and sensitivity to nature.

I'm Beating Up On Lawns, Again

It started when I read Susan Harris' rippingly reasoned blog post at Garden Rant. Dandelion was the key word. Next thing I know, here I am blowing off steam about my pet peeve -- useless lawns.

Before You Dig, Get "Fit To Garden"

Stacy Walters' website is filled with everything you need to garden strong, garden smart, and garden safely. There's no reason to stall the start of spring with a case of sore muscles.

Lessons From Legendary Flora Grubb Gardens

On my 2010 trip, a Bay Area friend and I hooked up at Flora's. The place just knocked me out. It's about time I paid homage to The Divine Ms. Grubb and her matchless approach to horticulture, gardens, and the educational value of inspiring displays.

I'm Branching Out Into Archaeology: Blame the Wisteria

I’ve yet to see a documentary on the ancient migratory trail of the Wisterians, who evidently passed through Santa Barbara, leaving barely a trace. Without a reliable body of research I can only conjecture that they appeared about 14,000 years ago.

Hot Tubbing with Jeffrey Gordon Smith?

Jeffrey Gordon Smith’s designs are not about what he calls “the flavor of the month,” like “Muscany” (Morocco meets Tuscany). “I don’t think garden designers should be pushing the past on gardens,” referring to the typical cookie-cutter gimmicks some designers reach for.

Foliage Foundations and Gnasty Gnomes (the Gs are silent)

What if the gnomes in your garden were practical jokers? You can outsmart them by planting a garden where form and foliage reign.

Book Giveaway Exclusively for California Gardeners

I'm sorry. I'm really late. I should have posted this blog before you sent your letter to Santa. But there's a book that needs to be in every California gardener's collection, right next to the big green one I'm not going to mention by name. (Hint: it rhymes with "Unset Cistern Pardon Crook").

Washing Machines and Art Collide in a Santa Barbara Garden

"Honey, I'm so proud of you taking a sculpture class. And I'm sure there's a perfect spot near the hose bibb." Unfortunately, that's how a lot of "art" winds up in the garden.

Your New Years Resolution - Get Thee To A Garden Show

At this very moment some of the most imaginative garden designers are hunkered down at their drawing boards putting the finishing touches on displays that'll knock your socks off.

Did Vertical Gardening Start During The Gold Rush?

The eastern face of Telegraph Hill looked wild and inaccessible, like El Capitan rising from the floor of Yosemite Valley. The rock face cascaded with ribbons of green, framed by the shimmering golden foliage of poplar trees. Fortunately, we weren't going to need a Sherpa or oxygen masks to mount our assault - we'd hoof it a couple of blocks to the Filbert Steps and take the more civilized route.

A Book That Fattens Your Wallet and Warms Your Home

If you're interested in reducing your energy bills and making your landscaping more beautiful, Sue Reed's book, Energy-Wise Landscape Design belongs on your holiday gift list.

Let Mr. Spock Choose Your Plants

What if a truck dumped 8,000 different plants in front of your house. Could you sort through them and create a garden that works for you, doesn't eat up all your time and money and makes your knees quiver?

Dumber Than A Potted Plant? Not So Fast

A drizzly day in San Diego, a camera, and mass confusion about what to write about. Then I noticed what brilliant structural engineers plants could be. It's all about resisting The Big G -- GRAVITY!

Rain Dance

I'm a slug, not a lizard. I'd rather be under a boulder than baking on top of it. My ideal weather is the cool temps of a SoCal winter; my favorite sound is rain softly thumping on fallen leaves...

Dallas in September: Sweatier Than A Bronco Rider's...

For all you folks who live where the summer norm is 90-plus temps and 2437.3% humidity, I am in awe of you. I've been back from the Garden Writers Association annual symposium in Dallas for a few weeks and I just don't know how y'all do it. My raging souvenir cold has run its course, induced, no doubt, by slogging from the uber air conditioned hotel, to vegetable-crisper busses, to jungle-steamy-hot gardens best described as "air you can wear."

Scotts Miracle-Gro Stole My Ammo

Since I also love taking pot shots at those who I perceive as bad guys, imagine my delight when I saw that the Scotts Miracle-Gro Company was sponsoring breakfast at the annual Garden Writers Association symposium in Dallas last week. "Great," I thought, anticipating fuel to top off my next Molotov cocktail rant.

Calling On The Capitol - DC Revisited

I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but something's up. Why would those tricky devils at the Garden Writers Association derive so much pleasure from watching me perspire? A little background: I...

San Francisco Road Trip Part I - UC Berkeley Botanical Garden

Cool as it's been in my hometown of Santa Barbara, Lin and I decided to get out of town for a few days and subject ourselves to the San Francisco fog monster. Saturday was the big deal, horticulturally speaking. I've heard for years about the legendary 10,000-plus species collection ensconced at the 34-acre University of California Botanical Garden on the Berkeley campus. I headed into the wilds of the Garden with trusty camera...

Five Step Program for SMS - Help Is On The Way

Do you find yourself stumbling around your yard, arms extended zombie-like, a plant in each hand, mumbling "Where can I put these?"

The American Meadow Garden : Win A Free Copy of John Greenlee's Book!

I couldn't wait to get my hot little hands on The American Meadow Garden: Creating a Natural Alternative to the Traditional Lawn, (Timber Press) written by grass and meadow madman John Greenlee, and seductively photographed by Saxon Holt. The book promised tools for my landscape architect's bag of tricks-philosophical reassurance, design inspiration, a new palette of plants, how-to details.

Garden Design - A Dog's Eye View

When I start a new design, I picture the plants the same way Biff probably sees them. I imagine they will never bloom—that I'll have to rely on something other than floral color for interest. I select and combine plants using all their other visual qualities—the silhouette of the plant, its foliage shape, leaf size, density and surface texture, for example. The flowers ice the cake.

And The Winner of the "Succulent Container Gardens" Book Is....

It's not easy growing succulents in the Pacific Northwest, or other cold, wet climates. Here's some advice from the best source around...

Growing A Greener World is Must See TV

Joe Lamp'l’s newest, greenest, most ambitious TV adventure is Growing A Greener World, now showing on multiple public television stations around the country. This impeccably produced, lusciously filmed HD video, 30-minute weekly show is a top-notch visual treat, but it’s the content that has me so excited.

Pasadena Open Days Tour Part II - Urbanite!

My last blog post offered a few design lessons from my recent Open Days Tour in Pasadena, CA. The gardens were beautiful, but what really caught my eye was a simple, free, plentiful, sustainable construction material you can find just about everywhere.

My Very First Garden Conservancy Open Days Tour!

It was all Lin’s idea. After reading an eye-catching article in the Los Angeles Times, my spousal support unit suggested we spend the a next Sunday in Pasadena, strolling other people’s gardens (without fear of getting arrested for trespassing). No way I could turn down an offer like that.

Book Review and Giveaway: Succulent Container Gardens

Read the review, log in, and post a comment. One lucky person will win a copy of Succulent Container Gardens by Debra Lee Baldwin.

In A Dinosaur's Garden

On my second day in the cavernous halls of the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show, I discovered Sproutopia in a generous side room. The folks at the show thoughtfully created a space where the...

Come See The San Francisco Flower and Garden Show

Wow! What a week I'm having in San Francisco! Garden tours, garden toys, garden people, and gardens. There's a theme in there somewhere.

I Discovered A New Plant!

I'm not exactly Mr. Botany, but the excitement of discovering a new species of plant was almost more than I could stand. At first, the magnitude of my discovery didn’t compute. I at a client’s property dragging a measuring tape with my right hand, scribbling numbers with my left, and video-recording with the other.

Grocery Gardening - A New Look At Growing Your Own

This new book on growing your own food gets my Cool Green Gardens seal of approval. It not only provides rock-solid information about the science and art of growing your own, but explains how to get their in sustainable style.

Looking At Green Through Rose Colored Glasses

I don’t know about you, but I’m still trying to get my brain around the word green. Who’s to say if a product or service is “eco-friendly” or not? This is part two of my time at the LA Go Green Expo, where I keep my BS-detector on standby.

Cool Green Expo: Tripping Around LA with Shirley Bovshow

If you're working your way to a more sustainable lifestyle, the Go Green Expo is the place to be. And what better way to spend a Saturday than hanging with Garden World Report's Shirley Bovshow?

Join Me At The SF Flower & Garden Show This Spring

It's not every day you get to drool over fabulous gardens, meet famous authors, learn from experts and enjoy the camaraderie of like minded gardeners. And all this for $16? You've gotta be kidding.

When the Fig Leaf Falls, Sensuous Forms Appears

As I scrambled to capture this public display on my camera, images of tattered, torrid romance novels cartwheeled past my mind’s eye. You know, like the paperbacks with the square jawed hero, blond hair blowing Favio-like, poofy pirate shirt ripped to the navel. And always the ravaged, redhead damsel nearly collapsed in his sinewy, suntanned arms.

When Bad Taste Meets Power Tools

We love to pore over garden articles with luscious pictures of beautiful landscapes. Me, I get a kick out of finding the worst of the worst and holding them up for ridicule. My intention is to provide positive lessons using bad examples – the stuff that either makes you laugh out loud or contemplate gouging your own eyes out. There are so many out there to choose from.

Don't Turn Up The Thermostat--Look At These Pictures

It's nearly winter in Santa Barbara too, but you wouldn't know it from all of the hot stuff in bloom right now. Our landscapes are bursting with vibrant colors while poinsettias add their scorching red heat to the mix.

Announcing Book Giveaway Winners! Calhoun Congrats

Meet the three lucky winners of the Designer Plant Combinations book give-away.

Easy Garden Simulations - Win A Free Design Book!

What if you could simulate the garden of your dreams using software you already have on your computer? Imagine experimenting with flower and foliage combinations without spending a dime on a single plant or digging a hole? Grab a hot cuppa cocoa and read on...

Wrapping Up Raleigh - Really!

My September trip to Raleigh NC was a fading memory until I ran across these fab photos of the plants and people who made the visit so special.

Planting Design Lessons from Raleigh NC

Blessing or curse, I find it difficult to look at a garden without awakening the design teacher in my brain. A voice in my head instantly starts deciphering the visual principles in place as if I were explaining the tableau to my students. I imagine it’s no different for a film critic enduring their brother-in-law’s home videos. Join me as I cruise this lovely garden and share a few design ideas you can use in your own garden.

Win a copy of Designer Plant Combinations!

This book resonates with me on many levels - visually elegant, clearly and buoyantly written and chock full of down-to-earth plant information. You can win your own copy just by leaving a comment about your own garden combos.

Could YOU Keep A Straight Face? Coyote Pee Interview

Welcome to another fun article and interview from my recent visit to the Garden Writers Association trade exhibit in Raleigh, NC. With my nose for news, I sniffed out this promising product, a predator-pee infused pellet that triggers the natural fears of many garden pests, including deer, woodchucks and mice.

Bovine Biscuits Get a New Lease on Life

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” That is the essence of one of the exhibitors that Kate Frank and I visited in Raleigh last week. Darn! Now I have to delicately bridge the thought of lemonade and cow manure.

Rethinking the Suburban Lawn: National Coalition Launches New Website

In Star Wars, Darth Vader sensed “a shift in The Force” when Luke Skywalker tapped his Jedi powers. I felt another shift today. A big piece of the sustainable landscaping puzzle fell into place. It takes the form of a new website I’m thrilled to be a part of. After two months of long-distance scheming, the Lawn Reform Coalition (LRC), a new campaign to change the American Lawn, launched today.

Why Are You Working So Hard? Blow Up Your Rototiller

Skip the soil amendment, toss the slow-release fertilizer, make your rototiller into a sculpture. Sustainable landscaping means responding to what nature gives you. Let's start using plants that are adapted to the soil and climate of your yard.

Computer-controlled Cauliflower? When Software Meets Spinach

Wouldn't it be totally cool to be a professional futurist? You'd get a paycheck for predicting what the world will look like in a hundred years, then wait for everyone to die before they can tell...

Snakes In Your Garden

You’ve probably heard people singing the praises of drip irrigation, which was developed in the early 60s in Israel. I thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread when it arrived on...

Gone With The Wind

Yes, I'm still going on about water conservation. Well, why not? We're in the dog days of summer and I'm here to help you save a few gallons and a few bucks. Besides, if water is running off your...

Irrigation Gizmos & Gadgets -- Part II

The Brainiacs of Irrigation Timers How close are we to living in a Jetson's futureworld? When it comes to irrigation technology, pretty darn close. "Smart controllers" represent the next wave of...

Irrigation Gizmos and Gadgets - Part I

Have you ever looked at the surface of your soil and thought, “Man, that looks dry; I’d better break out the hose”? If so, I envy your moisture-sensing x-ray vision! How else would you explain your super hero ability to know the amount of moisture below the soil just by observing the top 1/16” of crust?

Part II -- It's Like Road Rage, Only Wetter

Road rage: A motorist's uncontrolled anger usually provoked by the behavior of another driver. The affliction is officially recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. "Water rage," however, is not yet listed. But if it were, I'd probably be the poster child.

Part I -- When The Well Runs Dry

Perhaps it’s just a passing cycle, just a blip. Maybe next year the skies will open up and we’ll all be fine. I’m usually a cockeyed optimist, but not anymore—not when it comes to the big unknowns of climate change.

Too Bad My Dog's Color Blind - Sizzling Hot Colors of Summer

I was walking my dog the other afternoon and as is frequently the case, I had my trusty camera with me. Biff the Wonder Spaniel is a patient soul, waiting as I compose my shots. We were just taking a short neighborhood walk as the sun was shooing away the last of the gloom when I noticed that we were surrounded by all the hot colors of summer.

Flowers From A Bad Sci-Fi Flick

Every once in a while I run across a plant I just can't figure out how to use. The other-worldly flower of Puya alpestris dazzled and confounded me once again.

You Love To Garden--Are You Ready To Turn Pro?

The big news from my San Diego visit was that this professional economist, wife and mother had just enrolled in the horticulture program at Cuyamaca Community College, majoring in landscape design! There’s an enthusiastic “I can DO this” demeanor that pours from Roberta Correia and convinces me that she will soon be a force to be reckoned with.

Why Not Replace Your Plants With Styrofoam?

Maybe I’m missing something and you can straighten me out. I’ve been under the impression that people put plants in their yards because they want to bring a little bit of nature into their lives.

Do You Suffer from One-of-Each-itis?

For gardeners, impulse shopping is hard to avoid when everything at the nursery is calling to you. Don't distress. There's a cure for what ails you and it doesn't require the use of pharmaceuticals.

Santa Barbara Burning

As I swept, a wet bandanna over my smudged face, this occurred to me: The white flakes I was cursing were the remains of not only the tough chaparral that was fueling the blaze, but probably the walls, furniture, and possessions of families whose homes were now smoldering memories.

Firewise Landscaping: How Safe Is Your Home?

Perhaps you are thinking, "Wildfires only happen out west." The last time I checked, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, was on the Atlantic coast. The fire that broke out there on April 24, 2009 burned 19,600 acres and consumed 80 homes.

You Want To Paint My What?

I'm ready to pick my first fight. A guy in Perris California is being paid to paint the lawns of repo homes green. Why do they have front lawns when the kids are hardwired to their X-boxes? Here are a few alternatives.

Welcome to Cool Green Gardens - A view from the Left Coast

Please allow me to introduce myself. Billy Goodnick here. I'm a landscape architect, educator and writer living in Santa Barbara, California. I'm about one hundred miles north of L.A., right on the...

Killer Combos Rock the Garden

As a designer, I'm attracted to bold combinations of plants...these do the trick.

Coastal Garden in Beautiful Montecito CA

This garden sits just a few yards from the beach in Montecito, California. The nearby deck provides views of the beach and Pacific, but puts the occupants "on stage" to all beachgoers. This new Coastal Room is...

Design Wins Best Sustainable Landscape Award

After attending a semester of my adult education classes, the owners asked me to remake their front yard. An old lawn and junipers were removed, a new guest walkway constructed and a vegetable garden...

Southern California Spring

Santa Barbara is the best of all climates: We grow subtropical gems and can still create a bit of temperate climate drama.



Recent comments


Re: Garden Design Basics: A Battle Between Stuff and Space

Sillhouine: Sorry it's taken me so long to get back here. Busy boy. I wish I had some colleagues in the Ogden area, but that's a part of the country I haven't spent any time or made connections. Have you tried a visit to Houzz.com? They have portfolios for all types of design professionals and contractors, so you might get lucky.

Also, not to take advantage of my position here, but my new book "Yards" Turn Any Outdoor Space Into the Garden of Your Dreams" is full of useful ideas and takes you through the thought process a professional designer uses. Might be helpful. I hope this little bit of info puts you on the right track. And thanks for the "I admire what you do." I love doing it.

Re: Garden Design Basics: A Battle Between Stuff and Space

tntreeman: Thanks for leaving a comment. I used to spend a lot of mental energy and had to dip into my forensic debating skills to find ways to help clients see the error of their ways. But for the past decade, I've taken the attitude that my job is a service provider who's there to help them accomplish something they feel they're not capable of doing on their own.

So I do what I call "Mirandizing" -- informing them of their "rights" to do things I don't necessarily agree with. If it's just about an aesthetic disagreement, I just tell them how I see it, but if they're not swayed, I assume the role of helping them achieve they're vision. It's easy, actually: they're the ones who live there, not me. The worst case scenario is that I might not want to photograph it for my portfolio.

In other cases, like when they want the finished garden to look "complete" the day it's installed (I call that HGTV Designer Challenge syndrome, which just caters to people's need for instant gratification), I explain the impacts, tell them that their garden will likely need a tremendous amount of maintenance, and will most likely look like an unhealthy jumble in very little time. As long as I feel I've cleared my conscience, I'm usually happy to, as you say, "move forward and deposit their checks."

That said, I have politely turned down clients whose vision and approach to their garden strongly disagreed from mine. Some lines can't be crossed, ethically speaking. I hope this helps. Thanks for reading and writing.

Re: Hot Plant Introductions from the Cool Pacific Northwest: Terra Nova

Goodsie: I wish I had a useful answer for you, but your question exceeds my knowledge. I believe that someone at Terra Nova could probably give you a good answer. They can be contacted via their web site at this web URL:

http://www.terranovanurseries.com/gardeners/contact_us.php

Re: Garden Design Lessons from Japan

user-639365 (I bet you have to spell your name out for people): Great that you're interested in replacing your lawn. If you missed my blog post about Evelyn Hadden's book earlier this year, here's a link to my book review. Beautiful No-Mow Yards should be just the inspiration you're seeking. I hope it helps... Here's the link, or look for it in my February 27, 2012 post.

http://www.finegardening.com/item/22223/book-give-away-beautiful-no-mow-yards-by-evelyn-j-hadden

Re: Garden Design Lessons from Japan

user-639365 (I bet you have to spell your name out for people): Great that you're interested in replacing your lawn. If you missed my blog post about Evelyn Hadden's book earlier this year, here's a link to my book review. Beautiful No-Mow Yards should be just the inspiration you're seeking. I hope it helps... Here's the link, or look for it in my February 27, 2012 post.

http://www.finegardening.com/item/22223/book-give-away-beautiful-no-mow-yards-by-evelyn-j-hadden

Re: Design Like a Pro: Sure Tips for Great Plant Composition

SweetHrt1: Your first step is to research trees that have well-behaved roots to start out. If there are parkways (aka 'hellstrips') on your area, check which trees seem the best behaved and don't disrupt paving. You can also install either a root barrier box, or panels along the side of the house to deflect the roots to a greater depth.

Your watering practices can have a big effect on root damage, as well. Most trees prefer infrequent, deep watering after the first few years, which tend to encourage the roots to go deep, instead of staying on the surface. Trees planted in irrigated lawns are the most likely to stay on the surface and reek havoc on your foundation.

My best advice is to schedule a quick visit from a certified arborist in your area. Ask about which species are the best behaved and for any other local information that would allow you to have the benefits of a beautiful, shade-giving tree without regretting it years from now.

One more caution: if you're in a high-fire area, check with your fire department for additional guidelines to keep your home safe and defensible.

I don't have an encyclopedic knowledge of all the great articles at Fine Gardening's website, but there might be more on this topic if you poke around a wee bit. I hope this helps.

Re: Design Like a Pro: Sure Tips for Great Plant Composition

Westerner: I see the house and the garden as one big design opportunity. In a recent article in the magazine, I showed how to expand a grid off the house and into the garden to create a cohesive composition. The same idea can be applied by paying attention to plant placement. Thanks for leaving a comment and starting the dialog.

bg

Re: Book Giveaway: Container Gardening for All Seasons

Nice to see so much enthusiasm for Barbara Wise's book.
SandraNC: Music to my ears. Nice to know that what interests me resonates with others.

Re: Episode 8: Natural History

Andrew: Thanks for having me on your podcast. That was fun. First time I had to read aloud something I'd written -- I have a much greater appreciation for folks like David Sedaris now. Now I understand why people tell me I have a great face for podcasting.

Let's do in again sometime, like when my book comes out in March. 'K?

Re: Boost Your Garden Design Skills and Save Money at a Flower and Garden Show

Sheila: I hoard all the "crazy" for myself, so I promise not to give anyone at the show a reason not to throw out the red carpet for 2013.

The "Tour the Floor" idea came about by accident last year when I had to change to Plan B for my second seminar. After a major technical and planning error at my second talk, I just told everyone to follow me into the exhibit hall and I "improvved" an hour of design theory. Went over so well I pitched it again for this year. Hope you can join us!

Re: Designer Gave Up on Me

I agree that there's not enough space in the planter to do the house justice. Have you considered removing some of the lawn near the house? That's a lot of house and needs more planting mass to balance it.

If you can create a bed with more space from front to back, you can have a lot more fun and drama by layering taller plants behind smaller ones. Just don't over do it -- space the plants based on their mature width, so they can relax and keep their natural form.

As for which plants to use, this Zone 10, Mediterranean climate designer hasn't a clue.

Re: Plant Tags: So Much to Say, So Little Space

Mike: Thanks for bringing this extra info to everyone's attention. Sometimes it's hard to know which new technologies will become "sticky" and work themselves into the way we work and play every day. I'll pop in and have a look at the websites as soon as I'm done celebrating my birthday weekend!

Your pal in the far north (50 miles away) - bg

Re: Slideshow: Personal Touches Make All the Difference

I've had the privilege of visiting Rebecca's garden for a few social events, and it's truly a magical place. Rebecca's gift is the ability to create usable spaces that lend themselves to casual entertaining, while putting a personal, whimsical touch on every square inch, either with killer combos of color, or picking just the right garden ornament to make even tiny corners sparkle.

(And now that she doesn't have her silly little chickens running around, it's safe to walk on the bricks without fear of slipping!)

Re: Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto

Did anyone ever tell you you're a very silly lady? Delightful little post. BTW: They make these things called irrigation controllers; sort of like robots, but without all the cool buzzing and binging noises.

Re: Another Definition of Vertical Gardening - Marcia Donahue

For all who've left comments so far: I'm thrilled that you're all enjoying this post and finding it inspirational. I had about 80 photos, but there's only so much I can handle in a blog without overloading my brain and everyone's attention span. I've got another art-related post in the works, also from the same day during my March trip to the Bay Area -- Cornerstone Sonoma is guaranteed to knock your socks off. Stay tuned.

And I sure hope some of you will make it to one (or both -- I'm greedy) of my talks in SF this summer. They'll be fun and educational (my stealth teaching method).

Re: I'm Beating Up On Lawns, Again

JWLW: Dandelions would indeed be a mixed blessing in flower and shrub beds, but the good news is that knocking off the heads before the seeds take flight easily keeps them in check; owner's choice.

RainforestGardeners: Steve - The invasiveness of Liriope is regional, depending on soil moisture and other factors. Here in Santa Barbara, it's fairly well behaved as long at the beds aren't overwatered. If it's "officially" declared invasive (escaping into wildlands and causing problems), it's best to play on the safe side. Check the LawnReform.org site for possible leads on good substitutes.

LakeGardener: I'm happy to be affiliated with LRC, a great group of knowledgeable, dedicated folks. Sounds like you're doing your part, and hopefully, others are following your example.

Re: Rethinking the Suburban Lawn: National Coalition Launches New Website

Beth: Me and my functional plant palette are at a 3000 mile disadvantage from here on the left coast. What I suggest is to start by looking at similar situation in your area and seeing what's successful for others. A 75' elevation drop over how much horizontal distance? Assuming it's pretty steep, it seems like a less-than-perfect place for a manicured lawn, anyway. You'd need Sherpas and a base camp to get the lawn mowed.

There are a few excellent botanical gardens and arboreta in your area with excellent resources for home gardeners -- I visited the J.C. Raulston Arboretum a few years ago and was impressed by all the information they have for gardeners. Also, my friend and very knowledgeable garden blogger, Helen Yoest writes her Garden With Confidence blog from Raleigh, NC, and might have some advice that can assist you. Here's her blog link: http://gardeningwithconfidence.com/.

Sorry I can't offer direct advice, but this might get you started. Thanks for reading my stuff.

Re: Before You Dig, Get "Fit To Garden"

Steph: You've asked a question that can't be answered. If gardening season doesn't start or stop, it's kinda hard to "begin" getting ready? I guess you'd call it Mobius strip gardening. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Möbius_strip)

Re: I'm Branching Out Into Archaeology: Blame the Wisteria

Pegasaurus (great handle, by the way): Unfortunately, all that Pennisetum has escaped from gardens around town. It's vile stuff and never should have made it into the nursery trade -- spreads way too easily and outcompetes some of the natives. It's almost as insidious as pampas grass is along the coast up toward Big Sur. I think the genie is out of the bottle on this one.

Re: I'm Branching Out Into Archaeology: Blame the Wisteria

77355: (Is that your married name or maiden name?) That's what I'm aiming for. Sometimes, it's even informative. Are you catching my column in the magazine now? First one debuted in the current issue. Stay tuned.

Billy G

Re: Another sweeping statement

I like when gardeners "commit" and go bold in a border. This is a fine example of using a strong contrast to make a big statement. Great foliage study.

Re: Hot Tubbing with Jeffrey Gordon Smith?

Bracey: So THAT'S how you spell "Yaochee, Momma"! Did you learn that from Hooked on Phonics? Love it. And yes, Thursday should be a great day at the Show (as well as all the others). Friday, I'll be taking a side-trip to Crossroads Sonoma to see the reality behind the legend.

Re: Foliage Foundations and Gnasty Gnomes (the Gs are silent)

Sheila: Did you REALLY juxtapose a sentence containing "this has to be short" with another sentence about gnomes? Don't you know they're very sensitive about being "vertically challenged"? Regardless, I love the idea of a gnome voyeur website! Really, can you imagine a fixed camera pointing day and night at a garden ornament? Even better -- the gnome has 19 children!

Catherine - happy to have tickled your funny bone and for your appreciation of the simple aesthetic joys that give this landscape architect a thrill.

Re: Foliage Foundations and Gnasty Gnomes (the Gs are silent)

Jovifriend: It's amazing how many people overlook that fact that every plant has its own genetic destiny -- they're pre-programmed to grow to a certain size. Ignore that important fact and a garden becomes a battle-ground. Extra work and ugly plants are the result of putting the wrong plant in the wrong place.

Thanks for popping in.

BTW: I'm not saying ALL gnomes have a problem with the sauce. Don't want to hear from People For The Ethical Treatment of Gnomes.

Re: Washing Machines and Art Collide in a Santa Barbara Garden

Elnell: Just to clarify - my column won't be exclusively about garden art. Design Workshop will cover the whole spectrum of design ideas and techniques that will help readers remake or fine tune their own yards - how to develop a strong concept before designing, ways to make the most of your front yard, mini-lessons about color theory. I hope you tune in. I'm sure there'll be times when I get to write about art as well.

While I've got you here, I'm always on the lookout for new story ideas for this blog, so keep 'em comin'.

Re: Washing Machines and Art Collide in a Santa Barbara Garden

Sheila: I'll check with my wife, but if she puts me up for adoption, I'll call you first. Thanks for putting a smile on MY face. You've got a few years of past posts to catch up on. Also, look for my debut column in Fine Gardening Magazine's March/April issue. It's called Design Workshop. My aim is to entertain and educate.

Later, skater.

Re: Let Mr. Spock Choose Your Plants

Your humble author here: Thanks for all the feedback.
Cristina: The steps I outlined for winnowing down a massive list of plant choices is offered as an antidote to the classic "OMG! I have to take this home" process, which is generally followed by the "where the hell am I gonna put this?" methodology. The order of the steps can be interchanged, but I've found this order to work best if the design is starting with a blank slate. Too many folks overlook the "form follows function" adage and miss out on the double bonus of plants actually doing something besides looking lovely.
Michelle: I guess it's possible to enjoy Star Trek and not be the T-word. Didn't mean to imply
Potagerlady: If I can't make it a fun read, I move to another subject. Gotta put a smile on readers' faces AND offer a few tools for the toolbelt.
DebraLee: Always a pleasure to see feedback from a garden world super-star (and dear friend and mentor). Personally, I think I'd be fine with coral pink and hot red - kind of a border-town mash-up appropriate for southern SoCal. Send me a pic.
Jeovanna: You might have to annex your neighbor's yard or build a garden loft.
Arlena: always happy to see you here. Thanks for popping in.
Liz77: You're correct - there's more to it than I can squeeze into a blog post and my 3 decades of design give me a leg up. But that's when artful plagiarizing come in. Also, if you do 70% of the heavy lifting and get the initial sorting done, consider hiring a pro designer to help get you to the finish line. Might not be more than a few hours of paid time to get the results you want. I love those kinds of jobs and it really helps the recipient.
GardenPaddler: Thanks for the popsicle reference. Even better in hot summer gardens.

Re: Meet Fine Gardening's New Contributing Editors

Steve: Thanks for bringing me in from the blog (not that I'm disappearing from there - I'll be a double-edged blade). Looks like you've been doing some major retooling. Happy to see my name amongst such a stellar line up. Gotta get back to work now, Monday deadline for my article and you know how those folks at Fine Gardening can be.

Re: Scotts Miracle-Gro Stole My Ammo

Michelle: It's reasonable to take the stance you've described, but I don't think any business the size of Scotts can turn on a dime, abandon the products that keep them solvent and start over. That's why I'm encouraging people to use the power of their purchases to make products like Total Kill a thing of the past. Whether consumers buy from Scotts or someone else, it's the bottom line that changes corporate thinking.

Amy: I agree with you. But I don't have a marketing or psychology background and can't provide a good explanation. Again, they've invested decades making consumers believe that the best way to garden is with a zero-tolerance, heavy handed product line. It will take some time to get people to give up change their thinking and come over from the dark side. I wish you had been at GWA. I spend a good amount of time face to face with the Scotts staff and my BS detector was not triggered. I know they're moving in a better direction, but I can't wait for the day when all the crap they still peddle is a thing of the past.

Re: San Francisco Road Trip Part I - UC Berkeley Botanical Garden

Treewriter: I kick myself for not having visited when I lived relatively nearby in SF. But I did have the Strybing (now the SF Botanical Garden) at my back door when I lived a few blocks away in the City. Thanks for popping in. It was getting lonely here at the comment section.

Re: Five Step Program for SMS - Help Is On The Way

Janit: I might have misnamed the Miscanthus. There's a chance it's M. 'Cabaret'. I'll have to check the width of the leaves again. Sorry for the confyoosals.

Re: The American Meadow Garden : Win A Free Copy of John Greenlee's Book!

Billy G here, with an answer for Matadoredeplants: I find sheet mulching to be very effective. There's a lot of information on the web, but I quickly Googled the term and came up with a few informative videos.

Try this big, honkin' link: http://www.google.com/search?q=sheet+mulching&hl=en&client=firefox&hs=BaI&rls=com.yahoo:en-US:official&prmd=v&source=univ&tbs=vid:1&tbo=u&ei=7BZBTJTcEIOB8gaj17zrDw&sa=X&oi=video_result_group&ct=title&resnum=4&ved=0CDQQqwQwAw

Re: The latest on the invasive issue

Steve: Thanks for sharing this great clip. It's great to see that people in a "serious" field like the Utah Extension have some room for fun. Great piece. Gotta run and share it.

Re: Pasadena Open Days Tour Part II - Urbanite!

Michelle: Can't beat free raw materials, especially when it's so durable and fits so many uses. Glad this got found "real excitement" but maybe you could take in an action flick every once in a while.

Jeannie: Urbanite gets quite a good response from contractors out here where I am. The only tough part is finding a source when you need it. The best thing is to have an "in" with a few demolition contractors. You might also want to read Sustainable Landscaping For Dummies for a big picture approach to sustainable design and maintenance.

Re: Tall, dark, and handsome

Contrary to arboretum, I like the almost monoculture of this composition. There are subtle "conversations" going on between the foliage textures, especially the larger leaves at the top. There's a time for splash and dash, but at close range, I like to soft-pedal (or is that petal?) the intensity. Thanks for posting.

Re: So far, so good

Steve: I've figured out a way to avoid making mistakes in the garden - I don't have a garden. Well, actually, having designed them for other people for a few decades, I like to say that I'm the father of many gardens--they just live somewhere else and I get visitation rights.

While I've got you here: Make another diagram before it is too late.

Re: Why Are You Working So Hard? Blow Up Your Rototiller

Garden Paddler: Big thumbs up for your effort! Good to see you taking your garden toward a more naturalistic system.

As for sheet mulching, it should eventually do the job to break the cycle of weeds you currently battle. But when the battle's done and all the corpses of your fallen enemies are vanquished, you're probably correct about getting seeds started, due to all the "fluff" and cardboard remnants left at the surface from the mulch. You might have to actually do a little tilling (doesn't have to be an indiscriminate gas-powered tiller if the area is manageable by hand) to get enough organic, mineral soil back to the surface. Just don't go overboard. If you start smelling magma, shift to low gear.

Hope this helps. Also, check out John Greenlee's American Meadow Garden book for ideas on getting a full-fledged, diverse meadow started. I'll be doing a review of his book in the coming weeks. Look for it at Timber Press.

Re: #ff = Follow Friday on Twitter!

Hey girl: Twitter is where we had our first contact, and a great link it was. Now I'm at Fine Gardening writing for youz guyz! I've now had the delightful opportunity to meet dozens of the folks I first encountered at Twitter and every single one is a great person and has something to share.

Folks out there: If you haven't put your toe in the Twitter pond you owe it to yourself to give it a try.

Billy G (Cool Green Gardens, @gardenwiseguy)

Re: Grocery Gardening - A New Look At Growing Your Own

Thanks to all the blog readers who showed up and left comments. It's gratifying to find a book that so well satisfies an audience, and Jean Ann, et al have done quite a job getting the word out. More reviews to some in the next month or so - Debra Lee Baldwin's Succulent Container Gardening and John Greenlee's The American Meadow Garden coming right up!

Billy G

Re: I Discovered A New Plant!

Janit: They are so cute when they first hatch out, stumbling along trying to get their sea legs. I'm still hoping to see what it looks like in flower - most likely an iridescent yellow-green.

Rebecca: Shecky is seeking help. It's a double-edged sword I'm familiar with: fun to be around sometimes, but lack of self-control in grown-up situations. I just hope he doesn't start wearing red Crocs and a stingy brim hat or my gig will come to an abrupt halt.

Re: Grocery Gardening - A New Look At Growing Your Own

Dinzie: many of my clients are adding food-growing to their landscapes. When I need to, I integrate appropriate plants within ornamental beds, but if they're interested in raised beds I develop an aesthetically acceptable integration into the design, but leave the selection of crops to them.

Re: Grocery Gardening - A New Look At Growing Your Own

Somethin' fer nuthin'? You bet your bippy, buster! Want to win an eCopy of Growing Food? Jean Ann Van Krevelen and I are having a giveaway! Check out her blog for all the yummy details. http://bit.ly/a64Nlm 

Re: Use paint to make a splash

Michelle: lovely idea that adds a nice burst of color to the garden. Adding that one to my idea file.

Re: Don't Turn Up The Thermostat--Look At These Pictures

BirdyGirl: Here you are again. Love to see those comments here. Kniphofia is always a beautiful addition to most gardens, if you have a place for warm colors. I like to team it with deep burgundy foliage nearby.

Re: When Bad Taste Meets Power Tools

Billy G here - your Cool Green Garden guy...
Frranross: Smiles are good. That's my main goal. Glad it worked!
Puerco: You can't see it in this photo, but the ficus has caused huge uplifting of the sidewalk behind it. Hope there's no sewer line within 100 yards.
Bloomin: thanks for the link! Great article. Keep em coming.
BirdyGirl: I'm having the time of my life getting to impose my snarky writing on all my readers. Happy to keep it coming. Will you be in line to buy my book? Just started - I'll keep you posted.
Martha: Dead plants aren't funny, but undead zombie plants can really liven up a party.
Garius: thanks for the spell check and for keeping me humble. I should have hired Sarah Palin's ghost writer to do my proof reading.

Re: November Inspiration: The Fifth Season

Helen: Always a pleasure to read your words and find inspiration. Enjoy the seasonal surprises and keep up the enchanting posts. BTW: You looked fetching in the GWA stingy brim....bg

Re: Planting Design Lessons from Raleigh NC

Mainegardener: I've been using the idea of variegated and light colored foliage in shady beds for a long time. It's unfortunate that so many people end up massing dark green foliage in already dim light. It just makes sense to create a foundation of brightness before adding color, since flowers tend to be so ephemeral. Glad you liked the vid. More on the way.

Re: Win a copy of Designer Plant Combinations!

Hey boys and girls! Billy here. I need to express how much I've enjoyed all your comments and insights. I learn from all of you just as some of you are picking up pointers from me. That's what this zany, madcap internet thang is all about.

I especially enjoyed Westerner's borrowed idea of "thriller, filler and spiller" from an older Fine Gardening article. So I went to the nursery the other day with that in mind and picked out plants from my two big front porch pots. I video taped my plant hunt and hope to post a video on my expedition in the near future.

Keep those comments coming, but please heed the yellow sidebar: you need to update your avatar to be in the running.

Billy Geeeeee!!!!!!!

Re: The grass I don't have to mow!

Reggie: It's great to see a gardener who know how to commit to an idea and plant with a bold hand! Love the backlighting.

Your blogging buddy...

Billy Goodnick, aka Cool Green Gardens blog

Re: We're on Twitter!

Michelle: my twitter name isn't plural - just @coolgreengarden. Thanks

Re: October Inspiration: Fall for Fragrance

Helen: Thanks for the fragrant tour. Lovely to hear your words on these "pages." Hoping to read more again soon. [Bump!]

Re: What plant(s) did you kill this year?

I know, my interview skills need a bit of sharpening, but nobody asked ME what I planted or killed. Ya wanna know? Really? You're not just saying that to make me feel good, are you?

I planted two big containers flanking my front door. One has silver-leafed plectranthus (Plectranthus argentatus) flanked by a Carex glauca and a chartreuse-leaf Ipomea (stunning, simply STUNNING!). In the other pot is Miscanthus 'Morning Light' (only my totally fave ornamental grass) and a flowing cascade of silver dichondra (Dichondra argentea) that spills from the rim. Actually, two spillers--the other one is blue bacopa (Sutera cordata).

Dead stuff: sadly, it's a Leptospermum scoparium 'Apple Blossom' (Australian tea bush) that I intended to train into my first bonsai in 25 years. Alas, missed a critical watering before I got a chance to start torturing it.

Kate: It was a blast getting to work on this. More video to come, I know.

Re: Why Are You Working So Hard? Blow Up Your Rototiller

NancyDB: Hey, thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. I can only give you generalized info for two reasons: I'm not familiar enough with your area (actually, not AT ALL familiar) and, I don't know a lot about vegetable gardening. As a "full disclosure" read my first ever column here at Fine Gardening. It'll show you that The Emperor in only partially clothed. I'm a landscape architect who's career has focused primarily on design and teaching and I actually don't spend a lot of time digging in the dirt.

That said, the best, though gradual, method of improving any soil is the gradual addition of organic matter (not by rototilling). But breaking up, ripping or turning over the soil (more like plowing than CuisineArt) will help to incorporate the material a bit faster.

You might also start with some raised beds, as that gives you virtually complete control of the rooting medium, though at a bit more expense.

Your best bet is to fine a local garden coach (search for Garden Coach Directory - they have a listing by states) or check with a master gardener or possibly a University extension program.

Hope this gets you started. Y'all come back (I'm originally from the suthin' part of East Flatbush, Brooklyn, hence my accent =0)

Re: Getting to know the garden at my new house

As an aside for other readers, many areas have garden coaches who can help you figure out what's what in your garden, especially new owners. There's a great listing by geographic area at the Garden Coaches Directory on line. A quick google search should help you find the site.

Re: Mysterious yellow-blooming plant--verified: Cassia marilandica

Without knowing your climate, it's hard to tell, but my first guess is a form of Cassia (also known by the genus Senna). They reseed here in Santa Barbara in our mild Mediterranean, but are generally permanent shrubs and trees. Hope this helps. Hard to tell without a more clear close-up.

Re: September Inspiration

Helen: thanks for the mental tour of the garden. I enjoy your words and you make a good case for living in the moment. I certainly hope the fall weather prevails when we all descend upon Raleigh for the Garden Writers Association symposium at the end of September. I'm holding you personally responsible for delightful weather.

See ya then.

Re: Why Are You Working So Hard? Blow Up Your Rototiller

LpAngelRob: Mincing, dicing and tilling the grass will only spread rhizomes and seed, making next spring a nightmare. My suggestion is sheet mulching. There's a lot of info on the web if you do a quick search. It alleviates the need for sprays, increases the health of the soil and is a great way to kill off most grasses. You might also want to pick up a copy of Sustainable Landscaping for Dummies, but Owen Dell. Great info on the topic.

Good luck!

Re: Sci-fi Inspiration. Eeewe!

Kinda reminds me of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers". Makes you wonder what kind of alien life form is going to burst forth from the cocoons. Thanks for the images. It'll probably take a stiff slug of Irish whiskey to help get me to sleep. Send your cell number in case that doesn't work - at least I'll have someone to talk to. (LOL)

Re: Bold and delicate

Roberta: I love the simplicity of the forms and how distinct each component is. They play nicely together, and the airiness allows room for everything to breath. Thanks for sharing it and have fun in your new schooling adventures.

Re: Snakes In Your Garden

Jacky: you caught me. I'm ignorant of Olla irrigation. Now I've got some research to do. Any resources you can send my way would be great. You have my direct e-mail from our permaculture class. BTW: thanks for tracking me down and staying in touch. Mucho appreciation.

Re: Snakes In Your Garden

Plantanista, PomonaB and Mike: Thanks for the ringing endorsement of Techline and the in-line approach to drip tubing. It's always nice to have this kind of tech information validated from folks working right on the front line.

Re: Flowers From A Bad Sci-Fi Flick

Aloeman: I'm sure there was a lot of debate and hand-wringing, but I'm still not thrilled with giving artificial turf any support. There are many elegant and rich hardscape solutions that would still make for a lovely wedding venue. We can agree to disagree.

Re: The Hard Truths of Gardening

Steve: fun post. Love the idea of hard, eternal truths; especially the one about having kids help with the weeding. Yet we still return to our gardens to fight the good fight.

Gotta spam this one out! Twitter and Facebook need your wisdom.

Re: Gone With The Wind

John: You're correct that sometimes the fix is more complex than just a pressure regulator, but the constraints of this forum don't really lend themselves to the complexities of irrigation design 101 (even if I were qualified to teach it, which, admittedly, I am not).

My hope is that raising awareness for the average reader will lead them to take some kind of action. I've mentioned in this series the great water auditing service provided by most water purveyors. That's always the best starting point.

Thanks for keeping my pencil point sharpened and sharing my alarm at seeing all the wasted water that's gone with the wind.

Re: Part II -- It's Like Road Rage, Only Wetter

Kathy: One of my next posts will be about "smart controllers" that reset themselves based on real-time weather information. Eventually, that's what everyone will have. It just makes sense. thanks for your thoughts...Billy G

Re: Part II -- It's Like Road Rage, Only Wetter

Shirley: The work you've been doing to gather first hand info about Buffalo grass will be a great benefit to all us Left Coast landscape folk. I applaud you for getting your hands into it. When you get some good data, let me know and I'll let all these fine folk at Fine Gardening in on the news.

Thanks for your comments and the great work you're doing on line and on TV. MWAH!

Re: You Love To Garden--Are You Ready To Turn Pro?

W9 Rose: In response to "Are You Ready to Turn Pro?"

Thanks for your optimistic comment about making lemon chiffon pie when life hands you just plain lemons. I'm in the same boat, being laid off from a 22 year career as landscape architect for Santa Barbara, then within days, having door after door open for me. One of the doors was this wonderful opportunity writing for Fine Gardening.

I try to embrace the philosophy that in life, "pain is inevitable but suffering is optional." It's all a matter of perspective.

I'd love to hear more as you progress in your horticultural education and see where you land. Stay in touch. Who knows, you might be my next superstar profile!

Re: end of the road

I know the word "whimsical" is a bit overused when describing gardens, but this one fits perfectly. What fun. Thanks for sharing it.

Re: Part II -- It's Like Road Rage, Only Wetter

ValleyGardener: My heart goes out to you and your nutsedge problem. It's a demonic, invasive, tenacious garden pest. When I worked for the Santa Barbara Parks and Recreation Department it was the bane of our existence and frequently threw in the towel, gave up on ornamental beds, called them "lawns" and started mowing.

I checked with my good buddy, Owen Dell, author of Sustainable Landscaping for Dummies and cohost with me on Garden Wise Guys, a regional TV show we write and perform. Here's Owen's solution. Seems viable but not without compromises and costs.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
From Owen:
OK, the magic bullet is Tyvar 3631 6 oz./sq. yd. Spunbond Geotextile. We purchased it in 2003 from Reed & Graham Geosynthetics, 408 947-4290. It cost $575.00 per 4,500 sq. ft. roll including freight. It has no UV protection, so it needs to be covered with mulch. It lasts about 5 years, after which time the nutsedge should be history.

We also relied on information found at http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7432.html, which goes into all the control methods and lists two other Typar fabrics. (I know, I know. Typar is made from cr*p and manufactured by a really sucky corporation and we are getting into bed with evil here, but hey, the only other alternatives are wicked chemicals (not very effective), a good real estate agent and a move to Milwaukee, or suicide. You get to choose. And although I haven't tried sheet mulching for nutsedge, I doubt it would be effective against this most aggressive of plants.

One other thing. We found that it was important to keep the nutsedge from coming up at the base of the plants, where the stems penetrated the fabric. To achieve that, we placed a Typar shield around all plants. [Note: Owen offered to print out the drawing of how to make the shield, but I let him off the hook - CGG]

Bottom line? It worked. The client was very good about pulling nutsedge whenever it showed up at the base of the plants (the shields helped but of course there was still a gap there and it was inevitable that some nutsedge would find its way through). Otherwise there was no growth of nutsedge through the fabric and it eventually died. Keep in mind that this was a frighteningly vigorous stand of nutsedge in Carpinteria where everything grows twice as big and twice as fast as it does here in SB.

Is this organic? Not if you're opposed to using a geotextile. But I don't have any better ideas, and at least it doesn't rely on herbicides.

Re: Part I -- When The Well Runs Dry

I continue to be delighted and amazed at how much I continue to learn from all of your comments. Slowly but surely, people will learn that we need to work with what nature gives us, leave a light footprint on the planet and be resourceful. Thank you all for your thoughtful postings. More to come at this blog regarding our water use.

Re: Part I -- When The Well Runs Dry

Kate: I'm pretty sure I did. Wanna generate some traffic at this blog? I bit of jr. high eloquence is always a sure bet.

Re: Too Bad My Dog's Color Blind - Sizzling Hot Colors of Summer

Kells - thanks for the comment - those Delphiniums are real show stoppers! I wish we could grow them as successfully in Santa Barbara - they work here, but not as robustly.

The other man's grass, delphiniums etc. are always greener (or bluer, as the case may be). Keep in touch.

Re: A few of my favorites...

Love this plant! I think it'll work fine for me in Santa Barbara, CA. I'll have to seek it out and find Novalis. Thanks for the tip. I'm a sucker for spiky plants and blue-gray foliage. Thanks

Re: Finally! A plethora of attractive rain barrels

Michelle - very useful post. Wouldn't it be great if some really talented product designers could collaborate with the really smart engineering types and solve all the problems.

Re: Don't Judge Me (Or My Plant Picks)!

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder (of course, so is ugly). But in this case, I love the combo of Pelargonium and sweet potato. I think that committing to something bold and emphasizing the dark coloration is wonderful.

Stick to your guns.

Re: A kick butt photo

Great shot, especially the ghostly presence of the little spider. Looks like you've got a great wealth of horticultural background. Plants/gardens/landscapes allow for so many diverse interests.

Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment at my CoolGreenGardens blog.

bg

Re: Maybe lawns aren't bad for the environment

Steve: I whole-heartedly agree that blades of grass (or alternatives like sedge) aren't directly to blame. In terms of sustainable lawn care, if the plant can survive with minimal input of resources (water, fertilizer, fossil fuels) and doesn't produce harmful by-products like air pollution, toxic run-off or pesticide drift, have at it.

However, most people and lawn care services are not able to pull this off. And a lot of people won't accept anything other than a lawn that looks like the picture on a bag of Scott's products.

If a lawn provides an actual functional space for recreation (like your case), then people should certainly have lawns. But they also need to assess whether that lawn (or any other garden feature) is having a negative impact.

There's no such thing as a zero impact garden unless we just walk away and let Darwin have his way. Most people wouldn't do that. My hope is that people at least become aware of the effect of their actions and consciously assess the trade-offs.

Thanks for starting the conversation.

Your fellow blogger (here at Cool Green Gardens): Billy Goodnick

Re: Do You Suffer from One-of-Each-itis?

Billy Goodnick here: Looks like a whole bunch of you suffer from this dread condition. I don't want to steal Jerry Lewis' thunder, but perhaps a telethon is in order? I'm sure we can raise a few mil to develop a cure.

Re: Getting into trouble with Amy Stewart

Danielle: Time at a dinner table with Amy is indeed a marvelous experience. She's a wickedly wonderful wit and a great boon to the garden communicators world. Glad you got some face time.

Re: A British perspective on American gardens

Ryan: welcome to Fine Gardening. What a pleasure to read more than 140 characters from you! For you others reading this, Ryan and I have been connecting at Twitter for a while. When his head hits the pillow in Wales, I take over; when I'm down for the count, Ryan rules the world!!! Mwah, ha ha!

But seriously (LOL) I very much enjoyed this post and getting a feel for how gardens vary so much, yet fundamentally fill the same need in so many people. You're fortunate to have that Gulf Stream influence. Same as southern Ireland? I was there on my honeymoon and expect to find a very foreign landscape, but found many of the plants that I know from southern California, of all places. Cordyline growing on the grounds of ancient stone abbeys!

Great job! See you soon. BTW: Don't get too good at this or I'm out of a gig just as I'm getting started with Cool Green Gardens here at FG.

Re: Things I love in theory

Well of course you're having trouble warming to worms. You haven't gone to the trouble of getting to know them. And you can't really know them until you name them. I suggest you make little "dog tags" for each one, put them around their necks (that's the hard part, since sometimes it's hard to know if you're looking at the "inbound" end or the "outbound" end) and have a little one on one time with each of the little dickens.

In my bin, they all come to the side of the box when I opening it up, wag their little tails and I greet them each by name: Hi Doc, yo yo Dopey, lovely day Sneezy, gee your hair smells terrific Moe, wazzup Larry, mah man Curly, S'happnin; Bambi, glorious day to you Thumper, eh Dubbya, grrrr Cheney, top of the mornin' Ebert, how DEE Siskel, you da man Hannibal...you get the idea.

Re: WHat Plant is this?

I'm betting my first FG paycheck it's Kalanchoe blossfeldiana...Did you get to see it with blooms open?

Link: http://media-2.web.britannica.com/eb-media/69/1869-004-F96CEE3C.jpg

Waddaythink?

Re: Succulent-type daisy

Actually, it's not in the daisy family (Compositae) but is a form of ice plant called Lampranthus, probably L. spectabilis from South Africa (Aizoaceae family). They can grow right on the beach, take salt spray and are amazingly drought tolerant. Colors tend to be a bit gaudy, so wear your cool Louis Vuitton shades.

Better stop - spell check is going coo coo.

Re: Landscaping / Hardscaping

The area has a very nice ambiance and seems like a great place to spend a summer day. Where is it located? Looks like a palm tree in the corner, so I'm guessing it's not upstate New York!

Re: Welcome to Cool Green Gardens - A view from the Left Coast

Billy Goodnick here (aka Garden Wise Guy): Thanks to all you great folks who have commented. I think I'm having a Sally Fields moment: "You like me, you really like me!" There's plenty more where this came from and I'm already thinking about the next post. If there are issues or topics you want me to expound on, come back and leave me a note. I'll see what I can do.

Liz: What zone are you gardening in? I can tell you that the Purple Robe is even frost tender here in our coastal Mediterranean climate, so unless you're in a very protected area, it's a long shot. That doesn't mean you can't create a similar effect with another purple-leaf ground cover and light colored spiky plant that are adapted to your climate.

Bees & Chicks: Thanks for the deleted expletive. Shows great maturity and control.

Kate: I don't think this combo will work up there in Saskatchewan (OMG - Google has a lot of spellings for your fair province. Notice I didn't say "state")

Arcadia/Kate: We'll start the anti-lawnist revolution. You're in charge of finding a red beret that will fit my oversized head.

JeanAnn: Punk rock wig! That's a great image. Maybe my next design will go with a Mohawk effect - rows of Chondropetalum tectorum with all the side growth trimmed away. Gotta try that.

MaineGardener: "Rapacious woodchucks" To coin a phrase from my idol, Dave Barry, "Great name for a band."

RedBloom: Over 50 and you get it...watch out handing me those softball straight lines. I'll hit em out of the ballpark. Good to have you here. Y'all come back, now.

Shirley: So good to see you here; I wallow in your praises. Can I come visit your gardens and write about you. Don't know if I can take an L.A. summer, so we'll wait for fall.

Jayme: we'll see if FG has a tolerance for my Motion Sickness Productions video blogs. Perhaps FG can get Dramamine to sponsor my blog?

DoubleD: it's nice to stretch beyond the 140 Twitter limit. Now I can use multisyllabic words (words like "multisyllabic).

Roberta: I snapped my fingers - you can stop quacking now.

Bookish: you left out the part where I rub my hands together in a sinister manner while uttering "MWAH HA HA"

Mike: "Wealth and fame"? Did you find the password for my off-shore account in the Grand Caymans or do you have my winning numbers for the lottery? I thought I was just "comfortably well off."

Later, skaters...gotta bang on my drum all day.

Re: WHat Plant is this?

Can you post a pic zoomed out a little. Seeing the leaves helps a lot.

Re: Hosta

I so envy those who can grow Hostas. They have no place in southern California. The other horticulturist's hosta is always greener. Great photography.

Re: Rose garden

I especially like the harmony of the gray wood arbor, weathered sculpture and foliage around it. Gray, pink and white - infallible.

Re: In my back yard

I like your bold hand with the daylilies. The left side has enough going on that the strong contrast of Hemerocallis anchors the whole design. One suggestion - a stronger focal point at the fence on the other side of the lawn. Maybe a Japanese maple or Magnolia soulangeana? Just the nosy designer/teacher in me rearing it's head.

Re: Podophyllum in Spring

I'll have to wear my waterproof pants, but it looks like a great place to sit after the hailing stops and I take my hardhat off. Enjoy it this spring and summer.

Re: Our Garden Gate

I love gates (or any architectural boundary)in a garden. It adds some allure and your hubby did a very skilled job. Kudos!

Re: A hungry Spring visitor

Ah, what I wouldn't give for a good macro lens. Very nice opportunity snatched from nature. Love the red and yellow combo. Hot, hot, hot!

Re: From Hummingbirds to Hummingbugs

What a stunningly beautiful shot of the little hummer. And your floral design eye is great. Just makes me want to sit and sip. But I gotta get back to wicked work.

Re: Beautiful Wisteria

What an amazing flower! Is it a particular cultivar? I haven't seen such dark blue.

Re: Old skylight becomes a water feature

Sweet concept, beautifully executed. You and your spousal support unit have a great handle on garden design. Show us more!

Re: A few of my favorites...

I just love this killer combo! Cinnamon with lime-green has such great contrast and impact. I use it at a large scale in some of my designs for clients. Purple/burgundy foliage against light green or bright variegation always draws the eye.

Got more?

Re: April Photo Challenge: New Garden Bed - Part 1

I love that you're using sheet mulching techniques to eliminate weeds without introducing toxic sprays. The cardboard decomposes eventually and the bed is left weed free. Good for you! The key is to cover it with at least 4-5 inches of greenwaste and let it cook for a little while.