Before And After: A Renter's Garden & Tips On Creating One

Almost every time I drop by to see my mother-in-law, Natalia,  I feel drawn into her garden.  It's full of personality just like the rest of her home.   Granted,  she rents, but that doesn't stop her from transforming the small outdoor space into her own private haven.  Since she has been a passionate gardener for most of her life, finding a rental with an outdoor area was of the utmost importance.  When she first moved into the cottage (almost 2 years ago), its small yard was lifeless, barren and depressing.   Now it's slowly becoming verdant (drought permitting) and alive.  Utilizing lots of ceramic pots, a wide array of plants and a few interesting accents she has managed to extend the indoors out.  I asked Natalia to give us a few pointers on creating an inviting outdoor space as a renter.  She shares them below.

1.   Use pots to display the more interesting, pricier plants.  If or when you decided to move, you can take them with you wherever life takes you.

2.   Mix plant materials that are compatible with each other visually and physiologically, i.e. requiring the same amount of shade or sunlight and degrees of humidity or dryness.

3.   Whenever possible use plants indigenous to your geographical zone for ecological reasons or exotic plants that would thrive in your climate.

4.   Don't be afraid to use flea market finds such as mirrors or chandeliers to add whimsy and character to your outdoor space.

5.   Repurpose accessories from previous homes.  The guardian angel plaque has accompanied me through my last 5 moves[!!]

6.   Do plant things in the ground, especially if they will enhance the appearance of your rental.  I am in love with the Pampas grass I planted in the front of the cottage.  It wasn't expensive and it added movement and softness to the rigidity of the containers around it.

7.   Create seating or lounging areas that will encourage you to spend time outdoors, whether it's reading, meditating or just sipping good wine.

8.   Attract bees, hummingbirds and butterflies to your little corner of the world by choosing flowers and shrubs that welcome life and color to it.

9.   If your outdoor space is limited, utilize walls and fences as backdrops for vertical gardens.  Dramatic and showy, they provide great focal points.

10.  Be patient (mind you, not MY best quality).  The drought, or the floods, or the bug infestations will pass, and your garden, albeit rented, will eventually live up to your initial visions for it.

Botanical Inspiration: The Flora Around Us

Whether it's embodied in dangerous spikes, brilliant colors, smooth surfaces or delicate petals, the flora around us never ceases to inspire me.  Here are a few favorite specimens, as of late.   Some I shot at a wholesale nursery, others while hiking, one in our very own yard and a few in a friend's wild and crazy garden.  Enjoy their beauty.

To see more botanical inspirations on a [somewhat] daily basis follow me on Instagram.

Images are:  Barrel Cactus, PincushionProtea, a feral cactus, New Zealand Flax, Echium, and Garden Rose.

Botanical Inspiration: The Planted Garden In Bloom

It's been a little over year since our move to California and for the first time we're enjoying our past season's gardening efforts.  Succulents and bromeliads planted months ago have matured and blossomed into an array of very interesting, delicate looking blooms.  Even our vertical garden is displaying itsy-bitsy blossom wonders.  Take a look:

Botanical Inspiration: A Maine Garden

Today's botanical inspiration comes from a dear friend's garden in Maine.  Nestled on the coast and engulfed in salty ocean air the garden is overflowing with lavender, spirea and various foliage plants and shrubs.  Before leaving I couldn't resist creating an arrangement for our hosts.  Take a look:

Thank you EVB and DVB for sharing your beautiful summer home and garden with us.

Out And About: The Ruth Bancroft Garden

Last Saturday I visited the The Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek for the first time (definitely not the last).  The garden is a spectacular extravaganza of succulents in different sizes, shapes, colors and textures. It was originally planted in 1972 by Mrs. Bancroft who became interested in water conserving plants after moving to the dryer climate of Walnut Creek from Berkeley.  Her passion for drought tolerant gardening matured into a dramatic botanical display that both inspires and educates its visitors.  My visit (not so happenstance) coincided with one of the garden's quarterly plant sales.  Following my neighbor's advice the two of us arrived at the garden well before the sale began to ensure first picks.  We shopped till we dropped.  Take a look at few of my favorite images from that day.

Many, many thanks to AM, my neighbor, friend and fellow plant enthusiast for introducing me to the Ruth Bancroft Garden.