Drought conditions in California are forcing property owners to come up with solutions for landscaping that are not only drought-tolerant but also attractive. Designing a balanced garden requires a combination of softscapes and hardscapes. The term softscape refers to living vegetation, and the term hardscape refers to the non-living elements, like pathways and patios.
There are many low-water plants, trees and ground covers that can be used for softscape areas. These should be chosen for the climate. Combining softscapes with hardscape elements like pathways, ponds, patios and areas of functional space can make your garden an extension of your living space. Using softscape in combination with useful hardscape elements is a creative solution that can produce a beautiful and interesting garden and also save valuable water and money.
There are many choices of drought tolerant plants for softscaping that can thrive in Southern California. Mediterranean varieties as well as native plants are among the best suited for our climate. Lavender, thyme and oregano are plants that add beauty and fragrance to a garden and require very little water. Yarrow and California poppy are native plants that also have lower water requirements. Bougainvillea can provide a lovely infusion of color and height on a trellis. Milkweed is a wonderful native plant that helps Monarch butterflies.
There are many ornamental grasses like sheep fescue and deergrass, that provide texture and color and can be a great substitute for lawns. Some examples of perennials that have lower water requirements are: mallow, lamb’s ears, catmint, coyote mint, California fuschia and penstemons, to name just a few. Succulents are another good choice for Southern California!
While softscape plants should be chosen to fit the California climate, hardscaping ideas are practically limitless. Rock walls, patios, paths, and boulders are some design elements that can be used. Paths that wander through your garden are inviting and a wonderful way to create depth perception.
Pathways can be made of flagstone, concrete, pea gravel, brick, bark, or cobblestone to name a few. Raised planters and divisions can add interest and bring beauty to your design. Adding a water feature with a recirculating pump, like a pond or a birdbath, attracts wildlife and brings tranquility. A garden bench, swing, and patio furniture invites you to relax in your garden. In addition, decks and gazebos are wonderful design elements that can extend your living space into your landscape.
Our professional team at Pacific Vista Landscape Services are experts creating softscape and hardscape combinations. We can help design, build, and plant your perfect waterwise garden oasis!
Updated: Feb 10
Some of these landscaping terms are used daily and others might sound unfamiliar. Take a look through these and increase your vegetation vernacular!
Accent: The use of a plant or object to draw attention to a space. Acidic soil: Soil with a pH value of less than 7.0. Aeration: A method of increasing water and oxygen into compact soil by turning and loosening the soil to allow penetration. Alkaline soil: Soil with a pH value of more than 7.0. Annual: A plant that completes its life cycle in one year or season. Apex: The tip of a stem. Arbor: A shady garden shelter or bower, often made of rustic wood or latticework on which vines, roses, etc. are grown.
Arboretum: A landscaped space where trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants are cultivated for scientific study, educational purposes, and to foster appreciation of plants.
Axil: The area between a leaf and the stem from which the leaf arises.
Bacillus Thuringiensis(BT): Biological Control
Beneficial Biological Controls: Insects and organic chemicals
Biennial: A plant that typically takes two years to complete a life cycle.
Budding: A form of asexual reproduction in which a new organism develops from an outgrowth or bud on another one. Bulb: An underground plant structure that contains nutrients, energy and seed to produce a plant. Cambium Layer: The thin layer of growing cells between the xylem and phloem.
Chlorosis: Iron deficiency
Clay: A soil particle which is plate-like, extremely small and may retain nutrients well.
Clod: A lump of clay which is difficult to break apart. Cold Hardy: Capable of withstanding cold weather conditions. Compost: A soil product created from decomposed garden material, used in flower beds to add nutrients and encourage good growth. Cultivar: A cultivated variety of a plant selected for some feature that distinguishes it from the species from which it was selected.
Cultivation: Turning the soil to provide better air circulation or to control weeds.
Dead Heading: Removing dead flowers before they set seed.
Deciduous: Having leaves that fall off or are shed seasonally to avoid adverse weather conditions such as cold or drought.
Defoliation: The process when a plant looses all its leaves.
Dethatching: Removing thatches in grass; removal of the dead grass.
Die Back: Tips of branches decline due to lack of moisture or disease.
Dormancy: When a plant reaches a dormant period, usually in winter.
Drainage: The downward movement of water passing through soil.
Drip Line: Outermost branch tips where the water would land to feed the tree.
Drought Tolerant: The ability of a plant to thrive without much water. Epiphyte: A plant that lives on a host plant but draws nutrients from the air.
Espalier: A flat or fan like like trellis.
Established Plant: When the plant is fully rooted.
Evergreen: A plant whose leaves or needles are green year-round.
Fertilizer: A material added to feed plants rich in nutrients, usually nitrogen (often lost with frequent mowing), phosphates and potash.
Fescue: Soft compact fine-leaved grasses.
Flower Form: Structure of a flower, i.e. single, semi, double.
Foundation Plant: A plant that is used to frame around a house or structure and connect it to the rest of the landscape.
Frond: A large leaf with multiple divisions.
Fungicide: The chemical used to control a fungus-related disease.
Germination: The sprouting of a seed, spore or pollen grain.
Genus: A subdivision of a family or subfamily in the classification of organisms.
Girdling: Also called ring-barking, is the removal of bark around the circumference of the tree in a ring. The result is a slow death to the part of the tree or woody plant above the damage.
Grading: The process of changing the slope level of an area of soil.
Grafting: Combining the vascular tissues of two plants to form a hybrid by placing a portion of one plant (called a bud or scion) into or on a stem, root, or branch of another (called the stock) in such a way that a union forms and the partners continue to grow.
Ground Cover: Plants which are low-growing and create a blanket appearance over an area.
Growing Season: The period each year when the plant grows.
Hardscape: Walkways, planters, and areas made of hard material like concrete or rocks that is incorporated into the landscape and balances with the 'softscape'.
Hardy: Plants that can survive difficult conditions like frost and severe cold.
Hedge: A variety of shrubs that when planted close together will give a wall-like appearance; often used to separate areas.
Herbaceous: Having little or no woody tissue. Most plants grown as perennials or annuals are herbaceous. Herbicide: A chemical used to control weeds.
Horticulture: The science of growing plants, flowers, trees, shrubs, fruit, & grasses. Hybrid: A plant or group of plants that results from the interbreeding of two distinct cultivars, varieties, species, or genera.
Indigenous: Occurring naturally in a particular place. Native. Iron: A mineral used in keeping grass green.
Irrigation: Applying water to vegetation and landscape to help it thrive.
Leader: The primary shoot of a plant.
Leaf Burn: A plant disease that causes a burnt appearance.
Leaf Mold: A fungal disease of plants in which mold develops on the leaves.
Lime: Calcium material used to raise the pH in soil.
Macronutrients: Essential elements needed in large amounts for healthy plant growth: nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, and sulfur.
Micro Climate: The climate of a small area that is different than the climate of the surrounding area.
Micronutrients: Essential elements needed in very small amounts for healthy plant growth: iron, copper, zinc, boron, molybdenum, chlorine, and cobalt.
Mulch: A material used to cover soil for moisture conservation and weed suppression. Native Plant: A plant that lives or grows naturally in a particular region without direct or indirect human intervention. Indigenous.
Node: The part of a plant stem from which one or more leaves emerge.
Organic Fertilizer: Compounds derived from decomposition of plant and animal products and include blood meal, bone meal, manure, and sewage sludge.
Organic Matter: Biological material in the process of decaying or decomposing.
Osmosis: When water travels across a membrane.
Peat Moss: A bog like moss processed to be used in potting soils and helps assimilate nutrients for the plant. Perennial: Persisting for several years, usually dying back to a perennial crown during the winter and initiating new growth each spring. Pesticide: A chemical used to control an organism.
pH: The acidity and alkalinity of soil.
Phloem: One of the two types of transport tissue in vascular plants, xylem is the other.
Photosynthesis: The process in which plants convert sunlight energy into chemical energy that can be used as fuel to aid in plant development.
Planter: The defined area, commonly raised and composed of wood or concrete, used to grow plants.
Plant Family: A plant that belongs to a family that shares the same broad characteristics.
Polladring: A pruning method in which a tree's top branches are cut back to the trunk so that it may produce a dense growth of new shoots.
Pollen: A fine powdery substance consisting of microscopic grains discharged from the male part of a flower or from a male cone.
Pollenation: The process in which pollen is transferred.
Pollinator Bees: Bees that transfer pollen.
Pollenizer: A plant that supplies pollen.
Pruning: A method of cutting parts of a plant off to control size, health and appearance.
Pseudo Bulb: A storage organ derived from the part of a stem between two leaf nodes.
Re-foliate: Term used for when a plant grows new leaves after a leafless period, usually in the spring.
Rhizome: A horizontal, usually underground stem that often sends out roots and shoots from its nodes.
Root Bound: A plant that has grown too large for its container resulting in matting or tangling of the roots. Rootstock: The part of a budded or grafted plant that furnishes the root system. Also called 'understock'. Rosette: A circular arrangement of leaves or petals.
Scion: A detached shoot or twig used in grafting. Shrub: A low-growing woody plant, usually under 15 feet that often has multiple stems. Shock: A term used to describe a plant that has been impacted by change, i.e. transplanting, weather, too much or too little water, frost, etc.
Sod: Small areas of turf ready for transplant to new locations. Often used to start a new lawn.
Softscape: Vegetation used in landscaping which balances with 'hardscape'. Includes trees, flowers, grasses, shrubs.
Species: Plant organisms with similar traits capable of offspring.
Specimen: An individual plant used to represent a class or genus or plants. Sphagnum: A genus of 120 species of mosses, commonly called peat moss, that survives well in wet, acidic soil. Spore: Typically a one-celled, reproductive unit capable of giving rise to a new individual plant. Spur: A projecting root or branch. Standard: A tree or shrub that grows to full height. Stolon: A stem, at or just below the surface of the ground, that produces new plants from buds at it's tips or nodes. Stress: The negative impact of non-living forces on a plant. Sucker: A secondary shoot produced from the base or roots of a woody plant that gives rise to a new plant. Tap Root: An enlarged root, that grows downward and forms a center which other roots sprout laterally. Tender: A delicate plant that is usually sensitive to frost or severe cold. Temperature Tolerance: Cold or heat, the degree at which a plant can handle temperatures and survive.
Thatch: The live or dead layer of roots and stems between the turf of a lawn and the soil.
Thinning: Pruning or removing some branches in a uniform way throughout a tree or shrub.
Topiary: A decorative style of plant growth controlled by shaping with pruning or shearing. Transplant: Moving a plant from one location to another. Tree: A woody perennial plant having a single, usually elongated main stem or trunk with few or no branches on its lower part.
Tuber: A thickened, underground stem or rhizome which stores nutrients.
Turf: A ground cover of grass.
Variegation: A pattern of leaves that contains either white or yellow markings. Variety: A sub-species of plant.
Vegetation: A general term for all plant life.
Water Sprout: A nonflowering shoot arising from a branch or axil of a tree or shrub. Wildflower: A herbaceous plant that is native to a given area and is representative of unselected forms of its species. Woody Plant: A plant with persistent woody parts that do not die back in adverse conditions. Most woody plants are trees or shrubs.
Xylem: One of the two types of transport tissue in vascular plants, phloem is the other.
Happy Planting! Contact us for all your landscaping needs!
The higher rainfall this winter has many drought-weary Californians breathing a sigh of relief. The precipitation is truly welcome across California in hopes it will help our drought conditions. According to weather.com, there is more rain coming this winter and being prepared can make all the difference.
With a pattern of consecutive dry seasons, many trees, including drought-sensitive as well as species that are normally considered drought-tolerant, can exhibit symptoms of drought stress.
Roots can be damaged, especially the feeder roots and root hairs, which are in the top 12 inches of the soil and are responsible for uptake of water and nutrients. These are the first portion of the root system to be affected by drought since they are very sensitive to drying.
Damage to the root system can also trigger metabolic changes which can affect growth. In addition, drought stressed trees are predisposed to secondary invaders and opportunistic pests. All of this weakens the tree, from the roots to its branches. Have your trees checked by a professional for drought stress. Trimming trees before heavy rain could prevent random breakage and help the tree avoid secondary problems.
The following are some measures for homeowners to keep their property ready for winter weather:
Have your trees checked and trimmed, beginning of winter is ideal
Clean gutters, downspouts, and drains
Invest in a generator in case of power outages
Turn off your automatic watering system unless it's a Smart Meter
Add mulch to your plant beds to increase the absorption of water
Taking these steps ahead of time is a good idea. In addition to preparing your property, remember to put together emergency supply kits for your home and car. Enjoy the rain! Our experts at Pacific Vista Landscape Services are here for all your landscaping needs!