Golden Woods
29252 Lawrence Welk Lane Escondido
17 Oct 2016

Landscaping: The Perfect Balance between Softscape and Hardscape

Does hiring a landscaper or even consulting with a landscaper make a difference in someone’s yard? The answer is a huge yes! Most people who choose to remodel their yard themselves find their ending result unbalanced and not giving the wow they had been hoping for. You have to take a lot of factors into consideration when it comes to creating the perfect landscape for your home. The key to a successful yard is the balance between soft and hardscape and it will vary for each home.

What is Softscape?

Softscape are the elements outside the house that are fluid and changing as they mature. It can include, flowers, plants, shrubs, trees and flower beds. The purpose of softscape is to lend character to the landscaping, create an aura, ambience, and reflect the sensibilities of the inhabitants. Softscape requires maintenance to keep it looking presentable and alive. Watering, pruning, mowing and planting are just a few tasks involved in the upkeep of the softscape portion of a yard. A natural pond, even if it has been dug out and created by man, can be considered softscape as it will have changing plant and animal life.


What is Hardscape?

Hardscape refers to the solid, hard elements in landscape design that stay the same for years. It is the nonliving or man-made fixtures of a planned outdoor area. This can include paved areas, driveways, retaining walls, sleeper walls, stairs and walkways any other landscaping made up of hard wearing materials such as wood, stone, concrete etc. From an urban planning perspective, hardscapes can include very large features, such as paved roads, porches, fountains and even small pools. Most water features are hardscapes because they require a barrier to retain the water, instead of letting it drain into the surrounding soil.


An Unbalanced View

When there is too much softscape or hardscape it can be slightly off putting to look at. For some it is too much hardscaping. Large patios and terraces paved with interlocking pavers and seat-walls around them in either stone or concrete block; sweeping staircases, luxurious zero-edge pools, and massive built-in outdoor kitchens with the latest in outdoor cooking technology. These features while seemingly fabulous tend to strike an uninviting feeling. The hardscape seems to overwhelm the warmth of nature, which has been defeated.

For others it is overwhelmingly all softscape and while the idea of having a huge green yard may sound inviting it is the exact opposite, it consumes. People tend to feel there is no true layout and nothing to cohesively pull the yard together. It takes a lot of resources, time and maintenance to keep the yard in mint condition which people will quickly be deterred from. The yard can quickly become unruly and chaotic, neighbors will notice and become very annoyed with the over grown, under watered, plants and shrubs that have not been tended to.

Balancing the Two

So how do landscapers avoid these dilemma? Simple, they break a yard down into rooms like a house and create a cohesive flow from one side to the other. Because each yard is different in size, structure and sunshine the landscaper has to take into account all parts to produce a final product rather than looking at a segment.

Balance is one of the key design principles in landscape architecture, and without it, design lacks a primary component. A strong sense of balance between hardscape and plant life can truly bring a design together and transform a formerly plain and uninteresting landscape into a beautiful oasis. Designing with vegetation is always a primary focus, but they manipulate the hardscape to provide some structure to the organic flow of vegetated spaces.

landscaping balanced-landscape

29 Aug 2016

Creating a Natural Feeling Landscape Design

Two principles of landscaping to live by when aiming for a natural feeling property are (1) to look from inside the house out and landscape according to the view and (2) to utilize different plants for variety because in nature nothing grows the same.


So you are thinking about redoing your yard –whether it is your front, side, back, or entire yard- you want to start inside your home. Each window gives a different view of the yard and will be how you most commonly view your new landscape, so plan accordingly.

inside out

Notice that the bench becomes the immediate focus point from this view, off to the left to let your eyes cascade down the stone framing and falling onto the fountain on the right. The greenery gives the stone a bright contrast to capture the gaze of any admiring friend.

What you don’t want is for your landscaping creativity to obstruct any view from the house. Instead you want focal points and accents to draw your sight through the scenery.

Placing trees, shrubs and bushes should be done strategically rather than just placed for shading or color purpose. When planted too close to the house they can quickly block your view of the outside world and the hard work you put into the remainder of the yard.

before and after

Look at how open and pleasant the view became after removing the overgrown hedges and planting shrubs that give the window room to breathe. Yes they may act as a barrier between you and your neighbors or people passing by, but that is what curtains and blinds are for when you want privacy. You want to be able to enjoy the outside of your house from the inside, especially on terrible weather days.

Planting larger items further from the house gives optimum view from the window. Keep plants short under window sills and plant hedges near fences that you want to be kept unseen. Plant trees so that they stem from either the right or the left of the window frame to give the view a beautiful off set.



It is easy to make mistakes landscaping, especially if it is your first time. Common mistakes include not considering your architectural style, not planning for the landscape year-round, not coordinating a harmonious color scheme and not compensating for plant growth over time. However, many would argue the biggest mistake in landscaping is having no variety. Find out how you can avoid these errors before you commit to a new yard.

Size determines everything when it comes to landscaping. When you are getting started look closely at your home. Selecting plants that match or compliment the architecture of your home with the theme of your garden, if applicable. A cottage-style garden is a great compliment to a white picket fence. Besides the plants in your garden, you need to think about your hardscape. If you are putting in a deck, for example, you need to make sure those elements of your landscape also reflect positively upon your house.

lavender bushes

Notice the variation of size as the plants alternate between shrub, flowers and bushes. The repetition of the stairs brings pleasant feelings and is visually stimulating.

Forgetting that, as the seasons change so do plants, is something that can easily be avoided. When homeowners go to a nursery or plant yard, it is common to just buy what’s in season at the time. Remember, various flowers bloom at certain times of the year. If you’ve got a lot of plants that are blooming in the spring, take note that in the fall you’re going to need some other plants, if you want foliage. It is best to select plants that look good in the winter and in the spring, if possible.

Seasonal trees

Before making a trip to the nursery, you need to know what palette you’d like as well as which colors work well together. Look at the color of your house and then choose one color that really frames it. Try to stay semi-monochromatic for the most part because if there is too much color or it’s too strong, it can become a distraction. Repetition and some harmony in landscaping goes a long way.

Being shortsighted is a common problem because many people don’t know what the eventual growth of their plants will be. You need to find out how they spread, how they reproduce and what type of maintenance they require. Talk to your local nursery for more information of the growth of your plants prior to planting them so you can allot for the space necessary.  With all plants varying in size, you want to be careful not to cover plants that stay closer to the ground with bushes that tend to flower outward.

Natural Landscape

Intermingle various shapes and sizes of plants to create visual interest and bring in the right kind of insects. Certain plants need certain nutrients. If you plant just one type of plant, not only could they suck all of those nutrients out of the soil, they dull the visual senses. Variety increases the longevity of nutrients and excites our brain to look for more differences.

So whether it is your first or hundredth time landscaping your home, focus on what your view will look like from indoors and the variety you want all year long. Don’t be too quick to decide, take the plant home and lay it out and spend time looking at it and getting it just right!

29 Aug 2016

Add to Your Home with Landscaping

Landscaping is not just your lawn, trees and flowers. It is your walkways, arbors, lighting, patios, decks and more. Landscaping turns a house into a home, it raises the value of the property and gives any neighborhood a touch of beautification that it once was lacking. Take the plunge and see what you could benefit from with simply redoing your property.


Walkways and Stepping Stones: Put in paths. It can be as simple as stepping stones or more elaborate hardscape, but give yourself a way to get around the garden to see your plants. A curved or winding path adds more visual interest, reduces areas that need to be watered and gives a sense of park like serenity.

Planter Boxes: Gardening in containers is a convenient way to add splashes of color and natural beauty to your environment. Container gardening has given a new meaning to the entire concept of gardening. It’s the perfect solution to manage your landscaping needs. Garden pots and planters offer an enormous amount of visual interest in both residential and business spaces. Landscape design ideas endless when you work with planter boxes.


Lighting: When properly deployed, your lights can do wonders for the atmosphere in your yard: highlighting key spots or providing an overall sense of warmth and wonder. It makes your yard more inviting, facilitating get-togethers or quieter evenings at home with your family. All of that comes along in addition to the most basic function of lighting: allowing you to find your way in the dark. An adequate lighting service can provide that basic function, but a good one – working in conjunction with your landscaping service and with a clear sense of what you want to achieve with the yard – can help make it so much more.

Plants, Trees and Shrubs: You can add color, shape and variety to your landscape by installing shrub designs underneath the shade of an existing tree. A three flowering shrub design will add multiple colors to your yard year after year and will flourish underneath the canopy of maples, oaks, or other shade trees.  You can create focal points to your yard by simply planting a shrub or flower between two trees. This is a great landscaping centerpiece that adds color to your landscape all year long. Utilizing different combinations of plants and trees offers a seasonal interest.

Fencing and Borders: Your landscaping can go from bland to bam with a simple edging. Providing borders and fencing not only creates a tidy look for the yard it can be used to reshape your property. Fencing design is as much about location and configuration as it is height and detailing. Due to the flexibility of fencing, it can take on virtually any alignment from long sweeping curves to small box like enclosures. Fencing can be a strong design element or it can be made to disappear into the background of the landscape. All these decisions are made by your landscape designer in the process of creating an overall site plan that is both attractive and functional.


Patios, Arbors and Decks: When it comes to landscaping the patios and balconies emphasize those views. Arbors typically mark an entrance or transition to a space; they can also direct visitors to a focal point and a fork in a path. An arbor becomes a backdrop for a bounty of blooms. A deep arbor offers enough room to shelter a small table and chairs. With plenty of screened space from above, pavers define a section underneath the structure. Romance comes courtesy of elegant accents, including this delicate, detailed candlelit fixture. There are varieties of decks that you can build on to your home, with our favorite being the bump-out deck. Instead of sticking with a basic square or rectangular deck, try bumping it out on one side. A bump-out can help a deck “settle” into the landscape and increase views.

Fire Pits and Barbeques: Fire pits are a great addition to landscaping because they can be manipulated to fit your aesthetics. They can be anything from stone to brick, from circular to square, from a pit to a fireplace. They are great for gathering around, having parties, telling ghost stories, or even roasting marshmallows. Barbeques have a similar feel as that of fire pits but are found to be a more daytime activity. Their designs open up your landscaping into home design as many create bars and tables off of their barbeques.


Pools, Ponds, Bird Baths and Waterfalls: When it comes to landscaping the overall idea is serenity and peace within nature. Most designers find that having a water source, no matter how big or small, brings delight to homeowners and a sense of calming. These can be simplistic bird baths made of stone or concrete design that can easily be in the center of a lawn or on the patio in the shade. Waterfalls have become a popular addition with their portability and there babbling brook like sounds that bring nature to you. Ponds have been known to be more eco-friendly as their provide life for different plant and animal species in comparison to a pool that give us supreme pleasure in the heat of summer. Both ponds and pools can be shaped to preference making them ideal for designers to edit with the clients taste.

So the next time you look out your window and don’t like what you see, think about landscaping a design you will love and you will be surprised to see how much time you spend outside enjoying it!

29 Aug 2016

Reduce Your Water

Last year’s drought has pushed through to this year and expected to continue on to next year. Living in Southern California we are working hard to do our part to reduce our water usage, to conserve our water. Did you know that you can landscape your yards to be drought resistant? Even small steps can make a difference, so when planting this spring and summer, consider using native species already adapted to the environment you live in.

What plants use the most water in a yard?

You typically want to avoid planting species that require constant hydration such as plants that are natural to a rainforest where humidity is never a problem. However it is not just the tropical plants that require extra attention. The following plants are known for needing more water than others.

San diego landscape design

Tropical and exotic plants: Species such as hibiscus and banana, commonly used in landscaping, come from tropical regions that get a lot of rain. These plants tend to have fairly high water requirements.

You can assess a plants water needs by simply observing its foliage. Plants with large glossy dark leaves tend to absorb more heat and require a lot of water. A larger leaf surface area means greater water loss. If hydrating is a concern, stick with hairy, smaller, and lighter-colored or silvery leaves that retain water and diffuse light, such as lambs ear, rosemary, or lavender, Ellis advises.

Annuals: Generally sighted all around town during summer, short-lived annual plants, such as impatiens, often need a lot of water. Many annuals have a shorter growing season with intense blooms, and a corresponding shallow root system. Plants that have time to grow extensive and deep roots will be able to tap water deep within the soil and live longer in drought-prone regions.

It may seem counterintuitive, says Ellis, since large plants take more water to establish, but once they have found their footing, these hardy species don’t require as much watering, and can provide shade–and relief from the heat–for much of your garden.

A traditional lawn: Most grass and turf species are on the list of thirsty plants to avoid. If you are still attached to the American dream, and are facing water shortages, consider drought-tolerant varieties such as buffalograss, or consider replacing at least some of your lawn with a garden of native species that attract wildlife and pollinators.

What plants use the least water?

Every plant needs water. But drought-resistant varieties need only dainty sips once they’re established, making them perfect for low-rainfall areas and low-energy gardeners. Native plants have the best chance of surviving dry summers or whatever nature throws at them. Include these five stunners in your landscaping and retire your watering can.

Drought friendly plants

  1. California lilac (Ceanothus):This beautiful shrub flowers in late winter/early spring, emits a lovely fragrance, and shows flowers that run from white to purple. The “Concha” variety is prized for its deep blue blossoms. California lilacs grow best on dry, sloping land or in front of any structure that protects them from wind. They also prefer well-drained soil, therefore they don’t do well in clay.

    2. Deer grass (Muhlenbergia rigens): Found in many desert gardens, deer grass is a spiky and dependable ornamental. While it lives for full sun, it also will grow in a little shade. Water every three days until established. After the first year, it only needs to be watered once every three weeks, that is a mere 17 times a year.

  2. Salvia, heatwave series:These dependable perennials were developed in Australia to withstand extreme weather. As a bonus, they bloom spring through fall, to the delight of hummingbirds and butterflies. Colors include white, pink, and salmon.

    4. Dusty miller (Senecio cineraria):
    This low-growing perennial is known for its silver-gray foliage, looks good as a ground cover, and thrives in containers stuffed with annuals. It hates standing around with wet roots, so over watering is the only thing you have to worry about.

    5. Tickweed (Coreopsis):These yellow perennials add a burst of sunshine to any garden or border. More than 100 species are long-blooming and low-maintenance. Also, they are easy to divide, creating many more plants season after season.


How to save/utilize water for your yard?

Now that you have the yard you want, or plan on doing small refurbishment keep these tips in mind to help you keep your water usage down to help with the states drought crisis.


Waterless Plants: If you are planting a new lawn, or over seeding an existing lawn, use drought-resistant grasses such as the new “Eco-Lawn”. Many beautiful shrubs and plants thrive with far less watering than other species. Replace herbaceous perennial borders with native plants because the native plants will use less water and be more resistant to local plant diseases. Consider applying the principles of xeriscape for a low-maintenance, drought resistant yard. When planting on a slope use plants that will retain water and help reduce runoff. It also helps if you group plants according to their watering needs.

Better Than Soil: Mulch will slow evaporation of moisture while discouraging weed growth. Adding 2 – 4 inches of organic material such as compost or bark mulch will increase the ability of the soil to retain moisture. Press the mulch down around the dripline of each plant to form a slight depression which will prevent or minimize water runoff.
Watering The Lawn: A good way to see if your lawn needs watering is to step on the grass. If it springs back up when you move, it doesn’t need water. If it stays flat, the lawn is ready for watering. Letting the grass grow to 3″ will also promote water retention in the soil. Most lawns only need about 1″ of water each week. During dry spells, you can stop watering altogether and the lawn will go brown and dormant. Once cooler weather arrives, the morning dew and rainfall will bring the lawn back to its usual vigor. This may result in a brown summer lawn, but it saves a lot of water.

Soak The Lawn: When watering the lawn, do it long enough for the moisture to soak down to the roots where it will do the most good. A light sprinkling can evaporate quickly and tends to encourage shallow root systems. Put an empty tuna can on your lawn – when it’s full, you’ve watered about the right amount. Early morning is generally better than dusk since it helps prevent the growth of fungus. Early watering, and late watering, also reduce water loss to evaporation. Watering early in the day is also the best defense against slugs and other garden pests. Try not to water when it’s windy – wind can blow sprinklers off target and speed evaporation.

Going Organic: Adding organic material to your soil will help increase its absorption and water retention. Areas which are already planted can be ‘top dressed’ with compost or organic matter.

Style of Watering: You can greatly reduce the amount of water used for shrubs, beds and lawns by installing a drip system. Avoid over-watering plants and shrubs, as this can actually diminish plant health and cause yellowing of the leaves. When hand watering, use a variable spray nozzle for targeted watering.