Posts Tagged Garden

Lawn Alternative: Naturescaping

This year California may be facing a severe drought. Our heavy rain season starts around autumn and continues through spring. I can say this year’s rainy season was not so good. I think we had some cloudy winters, but not much rain. Mostly fog in parts of northern California.

nscapeConcerned homeowners and avid gardeners may want to look into finding ways to conserve water. But I have mostly desert plants that are in pots, so it won’t be much of a problem for me. My mom said she may cut down on what she will be planting this year too. The latest idea suggest replacing the common lawn and yards with native plants. This idea is termed “naturescaping”. These two front yards are good examples of naturescaping. Photos were taken by City Steward of Portland, Oregon.

There are many benefits for naturescaping and to growing native plants. A great landscape design practice also located in Portland, Oregon named Plant Native gave us 6 good reasons. They are listed below:

1. Low Maintenance – Native plants evolved to grow in local conditions and to predictable sizes. They do not require watering (except during establishment), chemical pesticides and fertilizers, or frequent cutting.

2. Public Health (lowers cancer rates) – Traditional landscaping uses large amounts of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, some of which are suspected carcinogens. During rains, these chemicals often run off into public water supplies. Traditional landscaping also contributes to air and noise pollution.

3. Saves you Money – The cost of maintaining a naturescape is dramatically less than that of a traditional landscape because a naturescape essentially takes care of itself. Naturescapes also save you time – and how valuable is your time?

4. Water – In the West, 60% of consumed water goes to lawns; in the East, 30%. This water diversion harms the environment, kills fish, and returns polluted water to our streams and rivers. It also costs you – on irrigation system installation and maintenance, and on your water bill.
5. Song Birds – Our song bird populations having dropped steadily – 5-10%, per year!, depending on the species – for the last several decades, and there is no end in sight. The loss is primarily due to habitat loss. Adopting naturescaping is critical if song birds are to remain.
6. Enhances Livability – An ecologically functional landscape offers so much more than a sterile, static landscape. It offers imagination to our children, and color, sound and wonder to all of us. It is cleaner, quieter and healthier, and may increase property values.

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Rooftop Gardens & Urban Farmers

A great way to bring a bit of nature into city living is having a rooftop garden. People usually think of rooftop city gardens as only being in New York City. Usually places used to hold cocktail parties. But rooftop gardening is nothing new, it has been seen in the Hanging Garden of Babylon to the Kensington Roof Garden in London , England.

The popularity of roof gardens have grown in many other cities in the United States as well. Even people in Vancouver, B.C. are joining in on rooftop gardening too. From hotels, restaurants to local organizations. I think that is a great use of extra space and a way to add a bit of green space. It may even help clean the air too.

englandrtgarden2Photo credit: Risc’s Rooftop Garden.

Another successful rooftop garden comes from England. The one pictured here is of Risc’s edible roof garden. The garden is complete with over 120 species of edible and medicinal trees, shrubs, vines and plants from around the globe. You can read more about the place here.

Rooftop gardens are usually seen as ornamental gardens, but the idea of growing your own food is gaining popularity. A great organization based out of Vancouver, B.C. by the name of City Farmer’s has a collection of stories about their work in Vancouver, Canada, and about urban farmers from around the world.

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Euphorbia Milii (Crown of Thorns)

Euphorbia milii also known as Crown of Thorns has become widely popular these days. They originated in Madagascar. I remember about 10 years ago it would have been difficult to locate one. But now they are even sold at Home Depot. The variety found at the plant nursery have larger blooms and smaller clusters of leaves.

Crown of Thorns are very popular in many Thai and Lao households (or gardeners). They believe the plant brings them fortune and luck. As the Lucky bamboo is for the Chinese. But for the plant to be truly a symbol of good fortune, the flowers must form in brackets of 8. The bright red flowers are tiny, but the contrast it gives with the big emerald leaves are beautiful. I think many people might be turn off by the amount of thorns it has, but I think it makes the plant very unique looking.


My mother grows two varieties in her garden. The small variety has very small leaves and tiny red flowers. The one I have a pictured here (up close) was originally from southern California. It is about 10 years old. The original plant was probably older, maybe 30 years old. They usually bloom in spring and summer. But this year, we found her plant to be blooming more then usual.

These plants are very easy to grow. Like many succulents, it requires just a nice cutting and good clean soil. They don’t prefer too much water, so they do well in dry climates. During the winter (California) we usually protect them from frost. A couple of years ago, it almost got wiped out.

Ron Smith, Horticulturist, NDSU Extension Service has lots of good questions and answers on here. Some examples include: Question: I have owned a crown of thorns plant for about four years. It seems to be doing very well. However, it is very tall and I wonder if I should be cutting it back? Read the rest of this entry »

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