Low Water

The end of summer is here and with it some of the hottest days of the year are coming. As we have seen historically, the hot weather and rain free days may last well into December. This past winter, however, we were blessed with rain which brought so many beautiful wildflowers. The conservancies both here on the Palos Verdes Peninsula and on Catalina Island each noted how many special specimens of wildflowers were in bloom this year that had lain dormant for many years before.

While water filled the Catalina Island reservoirs and our local supply this past year, it is certain the California water shortage regulations are here to stay. So, let’s go ahead and embrace all the Mediterranean climate has to offer and plant what grows best with minimum water.

Mediterranean planting does not mean Desert Cactus and gravel. It can include stunning species such as grand Stone Pines, Bay Laurels, Olive Trees and Lavender. It also includes an array of natives with gorgeous blooms such as ceanothus and salvia and these natives are happiest when only watered in their winter growing season. There are so many plants to choose from the palette can be endless. Not all low water plantings have to be cactus!!

So many natives have been bred with new cultivars that have larger longer blooms. There are beautiful salvias such as the native “clevlandii” and peppermint geraniums which make great ground covers. Ribes varieties make lovely dark green shrubs, native grasses have really taken off with many varieties and functions to choose from.  Of course, they require judicious placement because they can really take off. Lavender is not native but works wonderfully for blending, as they have beautiful grey color and offer added elegance of texture.

It is a great time to try something new – avoid artificial turf – there are so many other beautiful low water options. If you try something different and it does not thrive in that spot, just take it out and try again! There are so many varieties to choose from. Talk to your neighbors and local contractors and see what has been tried and thrived in your micro-climate. Plants are particular and need specific soil properties, drainage and light. They also need A LITTLE water.

They also need A LITTLE water. This is another great misunderstanding for many homeowners. The reality is that many plants get TOO MUCH water. We all water too much and the plants and turf simply don’t need it. Some of them even suffer because of it. Especially during the upcoming winter months, many homeowners don’t adjust the water to account for shorter days and cooler temperatures. The plants simply don’t need as much water as the long hot days in July. Try cutting back slowly in the fall starting in September and October.  By December, January and February 1-2 days of water may be just right at ½ the time of the water applied in the heat of summer. If we have a hot spell, you can add another day of water, but cut back on the minutes per day.

Finally, one of the biggest issues with watering effectively is soil compaction. Much of the soil around has been compacted by overuse, construction, and traffic. Compacted soils don’t allow water to penetrate down to the plant roots. Constant raking of the leaf debris and clearing away plant litter causes additional compaction, hardens the top layer of the soil and deprives the land of some of the best available natural nutrients. Consider leaving some of that natural debris to break down creating new soil. Additionally, break up hardened soil with a hand trowel, the old-fashioned way, and add compost. This will really make a difference with water filtration of the soil resulting in healthier soil, happier plants, and water savings which means dollar savings. Saving water is an easy thing to do and everyone benefits, so have fun and get planting!


South Coast Botanic Gardens Rose Garden in Bloom

South Coast Botanical Gardens New Rose Garden Designed by Landscape Architect Deborah Richie-Bray

South Coast Botanical Gardens New Rose Garden Designed by Landscape Architect Deborah Richie-Bray

The South Coast Botanic Rose Garden, newly designed by Landscape Architect Deborah Richie-Bray, is in full bloom!

With all of these record rains, the roses are especially spectacular, so right now is a wonderful time to head over there to enjoy the many hand curated varieties of roses. While there are over 300 species and thousands of cultivars of roses out there to choose from, Deborah had the opportunity to specifically choose the exceptional variety of roses presented within the multi-roomed garden. Each rose variety she chose had to be successful here in the area and also easy to obtain locally. Additionally, almost every rose chosen is fragrant. While it was hard at times to narrow the selection down, Deborah is very pleased with the final variety of specimens that made the cut to be featured in the SCBRG.

Original Concept Design Phase Sketch of the South Coast Botanical Rose Garden

Original Concept Design Phase Sketch of the South Coast Botanical Rose Garden

The Design

 Deborah’s concept when designing the garden began with the story of the rose. Beginning in the center of the garden, the formal use of roses are highlighted with the trained climbing roses and formal garden areas. Here the roses located around the ceremonial trellises all pay tribute to the traditional rose symbolism of celebration, ceremony and love. Some of the varieties that can be found here include ‘flower girl’ ‘celebration’ and ‘passionate kisses.’

Moving into the left side of the garden, the design becomes more informal, inspired by the English Garden. Here the roses are more naturalized. You will find David Austin varieties, shrub roses, and rambling roses.

As you continue through the garden into the right side, you will enter into the Modern Garden where roses can be enjoyed as wall art. In this area the design highlights how despite these water stressed times, roses can still be used and enjoyed in a more modern, low water usage, environment. This brings us to the Native Garden where the rose varieties and companion plants are all either native or low water species.

Concept sketch of the entrance to the SCBG Rose Garden

Concept sketch of the entrance to the SCBG Rose Garden

In addition to designing this beautiful public retreat, Deborah often works with residential clients who are often trying to decide which roses are best for them and their individual landscapes. With that in mind, we thought we would highlight a few rose varieties that can be enjoyed at the SCBRG and here around the Peninsula.

‘Double Delight’ Hybrid Tea Rose

This variety of rose is exceptional. Notable for its intoxicating fragrance and eye catching bi-color blooms, this rose is sure to stand out in your garden. It is also wonderful for its disease resistance and vigorous growth habit, making it another variety we highly recommend for landscape installations throughout the Palos Verdes area. It is a great size to use in multiple capacities, from alone in a container to a glossy fragrant hedge, or it is striking enough to be enjoyed as a focal accent plant. No matter the application, this special rose variety does not disappoint and will bring much joy to you and your neighbors for years to come!

‘Tournament of Roses’ Grandiflora Rose

This is a great cut flower variety of elegant pink that produces prolifically during much of the year.  This specimen offers more roses at a single time while maintaining the same petal count giving you a bounty of blooms that can be enjoyed as a container specimen or planted directly into the ground. While it isn’t very fragrant, it is also disease resistance and relatively low maintenance.  This rose brings an added level of elegance and grace to the landscape and as a cut flower into your home.  

Iceberg Rose, Climber and Shrub Variety

This is a popular landscaping rose due to its classic style and versatility. Beautiful on their own or in mass plantings, Iceberg Roses can be found in both shrub and climbing form and can be used in traditional designs and beyond. They are wonderful for their prolific blooms from Spring all the way through fall and can be seen throughout the Peninsula in both residential and commercial plantings. This rose is a great option for anyone who loves the look of roses, but doesn’t want to deal with too much maintenance. While these roses will still require regular watering and pruning, these roses are much less trouble than many other varieties as they are notably extremely disease resistant

Throughout time, roses have been treasured worldwide for their beauty and intoxicating fragrance.    We are so proud to have been awarded the honor of designing the new South Coast Botanical Rose Garden and hope that you are able to take some time this spring to head over there and see the magnificent blooms in person while they are at their peak!  For more information regarding the South Coast Botanical Garden, you can follow the link:


And as always, if you are interested in creating your own private rose garden or outdoor retreat, please contact our office at 310-377-5868 or email rbadmin@richie-bray.com to schedule a design consultation with our Landscape Architect, Deborah Richie-Bray.

Firescape February

With all of the rain we have been experiencing in Southern California, it can be easy to forget that wild fire dangers are real and they are often even greater in years of wet weather. Does your home have a fire safe landscape design?

Here are a few things to consider when evaluating how fire safe your existing landscape is:

  1. Choose fire resistant plants and landscape materials - succulents, some native plants are some good examples. You can also usually find an exhaustive list of which plants are approved by your local fire department with an internet search.

  2. Make sure all plants are getting enough water - dead plants create fuel for fires, so irrigation is key!!!

  3. Use appropriate mulch - larger bark and stronger materials such as pebbles, are best in the 30’ zone closest to structures, shredded mulches should be avoided within this zone

  4. Use Non-Combustible materials to create barriers between different landscape spaces and structures. Stone paths, dry creek beds, and retaining walls are all examples of this.

  5. Consider plant placement - avoid planting trees and shrubs adjacent to the siding, under vents or eaves and avoid having tree limbs or shrubs grow over the roof and under or near any decks, trellises, pergolas or other wooden structures.

Richie-Bray, Landscape Architecture specializes in assisting home owners with creating beautiful (and fire safe) landscape designs. We have a great deal of experiencing working with the Los Angeles Fuel Modification Department to help homeowners get approval to build the home of their dreams.

For more information on our services, please connect with our design team at 310-377-5868.

Meanwhile, enjoy all of the wildflowers this rain will bring!

January in the Garden- Time to Prune Eucalyptus and Pine Trees

A healthy, properly selected tree is a great investment that will add value to your property and offer many opportunities for enjoyment. This investment when nurtured properly will also benefit generations to come!

Trees, like people, need the basics to stay healthy and happy in their environment. They need food, adequate water, and basic hygiene in order to grow and thrive. By ‘hygiene’ I’m mostly referring to pruning. Pruning eucalyptus and pine trees in the winter can be very beneficial to the health and wellness of trees adding to the beauty and structure of your landscape throughout the year.

Pruning can include trimming by cutting away dead or overgrown branches or stems and completely removing any unwanted or unnecessary parts of the tree. Doing this during the winter while eucalyptus and pine trees are in their dormant state provides several benefits, although it is also a good idea to do ongoing maintenance and gentle pruning throughout the year.  The benefits of pruning during mid-winter to very early spring include a lower likelihood of spreading disease, causes less stress for trees offering them ample time to heal wounds before warm weather brings pathogens and insects, will result in new growth generation.

When pruning, it is a good practice to remove dead or damaged branches or stems, as these can invite disease and lead to much greater problems if left neglected. Additionally, remove crossing branches, water spouts and suckers in order to maximize tree health and flush growth. 

With the New Year upon us, why not add to your resolutions nurturing the environment that will no doubt be nurturing you throughout this year. 

Richie-Bray specializes in creating dream outdoor environments and can help you choose the correct tree for your landscape! We also work with many qualified contractors that would be happy to take a look at your existing trees and help you with the pruning process. Please reach out to our design team if you have a project you would like to accomplish in this New Year.

Happy New Year