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4010 Mt Diablo Blvd.
Lafayette, CA, 94549

Life is Beautiful Blog

Watering 101

Blaire Benson

With the official start of summer just around the corner, here is a quick review of our watering, soil prep and planting basics from our Watering 101 care sheet.

Watering to Establish

The goal of good watering (deeply and infrequently) is to encourage roots to grow deeper and access a larger, more stable volume of water which isn’t subject to the drying effects found at the surface. Deep soaking puts water down where you want the roots to grow and infrequent watering forces them to go searching. Only new plantings and plants in pots are okay with daily water when needed.

How to Water

How you apply water has a lot to do with where it ends up. Very few soils around here can absorb an hour's worth of water applied all at once; you may have to apply it more slowly or in smaller doses. So how do you deep water?

  • When watering by hand: for smaller plants, it’s best to build a basin which extends just beyond the drip line and fill it two or three times. For larger plants, apply a slow trickle of water for 20 to 30 minutes at several spots around the drip line of the plant.
  • When watering by sprinkler (in ground or manual): run your sprinkler to the point of run-off; turn off and allow the water to penetrate, repeat once or twice. Most sprinkler systems can and should be programmed to cycle through stations repeatedly. It’s always best to water in the morning so your plants are dry before nightfall when wet foliage will encourage a number of diseases.
  • When watering by drip system: run system long enough (usually an hour or two) to apply adequate water; most emit a gallon or two per hour. Water moves down and out through the soil, wetting a cone of soil, so initially, emitters should be placed on top of the root ball a few inches out to the side so the water will miss the roots. Check emitters regularly, as they clog easily.

How Often to Water

Determine watering frequency by periodically measuring how long it takes for a plant to start wilting after it has been watered thoroughly. This gives you the maximum time between waterings under those weather conditions.

“Needs regular watering is different for every plant, but usually means that plant will never be entirely self-sufficient.

Factors to Consider

  • Plant type: Trees root more deeply than shrubs or perennials; leaves that are smaller, more gray, or needle-like are all adapted to require less water. Natives may need water for the first month or two, but then want nothing beyond what mother nature gives them.
  • Establishment time: Assuming good watering practices, the longer a plant is in the ground the more established and less frequently it will need supplemental watering. New plantings, on the other hand, can require water more than once a day—check on them frequently.
  • Soil conditions: The fine particles of our clay soils accept water more slowly and hold onto it more tightly than sandy or loamy soils which drain more quickly.
  • Exposure: The amount of sun and when it’s received affects how quickly a plant will dry, as will reflected heat from walls and wind.
  • Weather: Cool and humid weather minimize water usage while warm, dry and windy weather are water demanding. Spring and summer also signal higher water use because plants are actively growing and conditions are more extreme.

Like a parent, take extra care in the beginning to nurture your plants. Meet their needs (without spoiling them) and help establish them so they become as self-sufficient as possible. Whether you have questions on existing plants in your garden or need advice on selecting new ones, we are always here to help! 

Herbs You Can Grow In Your Kitchen

Blaire Benson

Pictured: English Thyme, "Large Leaf" Italian Basil (just restocked) and Plain Italian Parsley.

Pictured: English Thyme, "Large Leaf" Italian Basil (just restocked) and Plain Italian Parsley.

Using herbs and spices while you cook creates exciting flavors and opportunities for experimenting. Growing fresh herbs in your kitchen is not only more fun, it makes them convenient to use and adds beauty to your home to boot! So, gather some clay pots and create space on a north or west-facing windowsill (for indirect light) or get creative and DIY using one of these fun ideas from Brit + Co. However you arrange the herbs, check out our favorites below and some simple tips for growing them indoors!

Oregano

Oregano is often used in Italian, Greek and Spanish cooking. It needs excellent drainage and six to eight hours of bright, indirect light. Allow oregano to dry out between waterings and fertilize every two weeks.

Basil

Basil has an impressive list of nutrients in it and is used for a summer favorite: pesto! Use smaller basil varieties indoors, as the larger ones will quickly outgrow small spaces. Basil needs at least six hours of indirect light and damp, well-drained soil.

Mint

Mint is an excellent palate cleanser and promotes digestion. We love to use it in tea or a summer cocktail. All varieties of mint can grow inside. Keep moist and mist between waterings. Place in an area with bright, indirect sunlight.

Parsley

Parsley is an excellent source of vitamin K and C and is often used in salads, soups and sauces. It grows best with six to eight hours of bright, indirect sun daily. Keep the soil slightly moist and fertilize every two weeks.

Thyme

Thyme is often used in Italian recipes and is also a primary herb in stews and soups. It needs about six hours of daily indirect sun. It benefits from drying out between waterings and fertilizing every two weeks.

Protecting Your Garden From Gophers

Blaire Benson

Noticing someone digging up your garden? Spending their days creating tunnels called “gopher towns,” gophers are active day and night, destroying landscapes and lawns in their path. They are especially attracted to moist, light soil with edible vegetation, meaning our lush gardens! Here are a few of our recommended products to keep these pesky critters out of your garden.

Before you start planting, pick up a few Digger’s Root Guard Heavy Duty Baskets. Available in one, three, five and 15-gallon sizes, the wire baskets are galvanized for increased durability and corrosion resistance. Allowing generous room for root growth and up-sizing, we love how easy these baskets are to plant in.

The one-gallon sizes are made for perennials, berries and vegetables. Use the three-gallon basket for group plantings of annuals, perennials and bulbs; this size is also perfect for your tomatoes, salvias, squash and peppers! Keep your roses, bougainvillea, wisteria and dahlias protected in the five-gallon basket. Providing six to 10 years of protection, the baskets can be removed end of season for reuse next year.

The new roots of a young fruit tree are a gopher’s favorite treat. Digger’s 15-gallon tree basket is created from the same material as their other baskets, but galvanized before weaving, thus allowing the basket to break down in three to five years - just in time for the tree to become established and resistant to gophers. (Most fruit trees are resistant after their third year.)

For plants already in the ground, we recommend Bonide’s MoleMax Granules. Repelling moles, voles, gophers, rabbits and skunks, it’s easy to use and safe around children and pets. Apply directly from the bag; broadcast or use a drop spreader in both live areas and territory that has yet to be invaded. Penetrating deep into the soil, one pound of the clean, dustless and biodegradable granules treats 500 square feet and lasts up to three months. It’s best to start on one side of the yard and work your way over, making it easy to know what parts of your garden still need to be treated.

Questions? We’re here to help. Stop in and let us lend a hand in protecting your garden from gophers' gnawing today!

A recipe for grilling season: Chimichurri

Blaire Benson

chimichurri recipe.jpg

As grilling season approaches, we love this chimichurri sauce as a marinade on the BBQ. Made with fresh parsley and oregano, this easy recipe is a perfect addition to your next cookout!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup firmly packed fresh flat leaf parsley, trimmed of thick stems
  • 3 - 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 Tbsps fresh oregano leaves (or substitute with 2 teaspoons dried oregano)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbsps red or white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Directions:

  1. Finely chop the parsley, fresh oregano and garlic (or pulse in a food processor several times) and place in a small bowl.
  2. Stir in olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Adjust seasoning. Serve immediately or refrigerate.
  3. If chilled, return to room temperature before serving. It can be kept for up to two days.

Serves 4

Employee Spotlight: Shawna Anderson

Blaire Benson

Hi! My name is Shawna Anderson and I am the head of Orchard Nursery & Florist’s Custom Container Department. 

How long have you been working at Orchard Nursery & Florist?

Since July of 2004.

What is your favorite part about working here?

There are many reasons why I love working here, but if I have to pick just one, it's the plants. Every season there's something in bloom and being the flower "floozy" that I am, I just love them and want them all!

What's new in the Custom Container Department?

There are some really cool wavy containers we just got in lime green, white and orange that are perfect for succulents.

What are some of your favorite plants to work with and why?

My favorite "fillers" for sun will always be Nemesia; they come in a wide range of colors and bloom for a long period (with deadheading of course)! My absolute favorite "spiller" is Calibrachoa aka Million Bells; I love their prolific long-lasting blooms and they don't need deadheading!

What are some upcoming projects you are excited about?

Planting up herb baskets and boxes for summer parties!

What is your favorite season and why?

Spring. Song of Solomon said it best, "For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land."

What is your favorite vegetable to grow and cook with and why?

Oh, it just so hard to pick one favorite! It's got to be Romanesco Cauliflower; it's a cross between broccoli and cauliflower. I usually sauté it in olive oil, a few pepper flakes and a pinch of sea salt, but last winter I sliced it thin and roasted it and used it as a pizza topping--amazing! I also learned from a customer a few years ago that the leaves are just as good (they have a nutty flavor), and I've been sautéing them the same way ever since. Delicious!

What do you do in your spare time - any hobbies?

Spare time? Haha! When I'm not here or at a client's home for a Thrillers, Fillers and Spillers consultation, I'm in my garden or watching the Warriors. They've been my team since I was 8 years old and I've watched them lose a lot of games over the years, so these past few years have been exciting and awesome to watch!

What is something that people might not know about you?

I became a semi-professional billiards player in 2000. Don't bet against me on the pool table :)

Our Favorite Spring Perennials For Bouquets

Blaire Benson

'Pow Wow Wild Berry' Coneflower

'Pow Wow Wild Berry' Coneflower

Bring the beauty of your garden indoors by creating bouquets from plants you’ve grown yourself. We love growing a variety of flowers for cutting in the garden; there’s nothing like having an abundance of blooms to enjoy outside, in bouquets and even to share with friends! Here are a few of our favorite spring perennials that are perfect for bouquets and arrangements year after year! 

Plant Heuchera for a delicate and whimsical addition to an arrangement. With extremely long-lasting foliage, add the long stemmed white, pink and red flowers to a bouquet for a variation in height. Thriving best as a border or in a container, grow these low-maintenance and deer-resistant plants in part shade and enjoy the hummingbirds they attract! 

Did you catch our ‘Spider’ Pincushion in bloom last week? If not, check it out on our Facebook here. The uniqueness of the Protea is the perfect focal point for an arrangement. With a sturdy stem and long-lasting bloom, we can’t get enough of its intricacies. Plant in full sun and enjoy as the blooms unfold!

Alstroemeria, known as Lily of the Incas, makes a great cut flower, lasting up to three weeks in a bouquet! Plant Peruvian Lilies in full sun; these hardy, low-maintenance bloomers will add a variety of color to your garden and arrangements through summer!

Blooming from spring until the first frost, we love Echinaceas for the months of brilliant cut flowers they provide! Coneflower’s long-lasting blooms set on straight stems are the perfect addition to a bouquet. Once past their prime, use their bright orange centers à la Billy Balls and refresh the arrangement! Plant this floriferous and deer-resistant perennial in sun and water moderately.

Don’t be fooled by the delicacy of Columbine; these long-lasting bloomers can give your arrangement color for up to two weeks! Another hummingbird attractant, plant in partial shade and enjoy their variety of color and unique bloom.

We can’t forget the classic cut flower: roses! Our front driveway is in bloom with our abundant varieties. You’re bound to find a rose you’ll love. A vase of these fragrant beauties adds elegance to any room in the house!

'Jump for Joy' Rose

'Jump for Joy' Rose

Tomatoes For Every Palate

Blaire Benson

Looking for the right tomato for your backyard BBQ or Caprese salad? Today, we discuss the best tomato varieties for summer cooking depending on the meal. If you haven’t stopped by and shopped our veggies, now is the time! It isn’t too late to plant summer vegetables.

Caprese Salad:

There’s no right tomato for Caprese salad; depending on the color tomato you choose, pair with  cheese accordingly. The lighter the color, the sweeter the tomato. We love pairing mozzarella with a sweet mater. For a stronger flavored tomato, try a sharp cheese. Be sure to try the Costoluto Genovese for a meaty, rich and full-flavored pack, whether enjoying fresh or cooked into a sauce. 

Burgers:

When grilling up burgers, stick with the heavyweights. Brandywine is a pinkish-red heirloom variety with gourmet-quality flavor, weighing 12-24 ounces. Fill up your plate with the 1.5 pound golden orange Hawaiian Pineapple! Rich with flavor and sweetness, try this beefsteak at your summer BBQ. A Russian heirloom and a smaller fruit at six ounces, try Paul Robeson’s dusky red fruit for excellent flavor and tender skin. 

Green Salad:

We recommend the Carmello or Green Zebra for your refreshing green salad. Carmello is a French hybrid, popular in European markets for growing large, juicy red fruit mid-season. The Green Zebra, made famous by Chez Panisse’s Alice Waters, can’t be missed with its characteristic dark green and yellow striped fruit and slightly tart flavor. 

Neapolitan Pizza:

Did you know it's against the law to dub a pizza "Neapolitan pizza” unless it’s made with San Marzano tomatoes? Worldwide, the San Marzano is the most desired tomato paste and with good reason - their sweet flavor and low acidity can’t be beat! Want to learn more about the tradition and law surrounding labeling the San Marzano? Check out the New York Time’s interactive The Mystery of San Marzano!

Tomato Paste:

 As the name implies, the heirloom Amish Paste is a perfect choice for a paste with its sweet, mild and slightly tart flavor. Although you can’t go wrong with San Marzanos or Romas either! Check out Serious Eat’s How to Make the Best Tomato Sauce From Fresh Tomatoes and read up on the flavor differences between the Amish Paste, San Marzano, Roma and beefsteaks.

Blooms for Every Room

Blaire Benson

If you haven’t seen this month’s Gentry HOME Magazine, get your hands on a copy now because we are thrilled to be featured in a three-page article called ‘A Bloom for Every Room.’ Check it out here (on pages 46, 48 and 50) or keep reading to find out what arrangements to feature in each room of your home this spring!

Dining Room

Utilizing containers from the home is an easy way to create a no-fuss landscape arrangement for your dining table that is sure to mesmerize dinner guests. Short enough to have a conversation over, our 3-in-1 container arrangement won’t take away from the cuisine or company. Pantone’s color of the year, greenery, keeps this piece on-trend. Add white daisies to this sleek and modern design for a touch of whimsy. Incorporate trending poppy and lotus pods with common succulents to refine and frame the piece.

All photo credits: Cari Courtright Photography.

All photo credits: Cari Courtright Photography.

Bedroom

A compact arrangement is versatile and appealing to the eye at any angle. Romantic cream roses and blues provide a calming palate for a bedside table. Pair with in-style blue and white pottery for a more classic look. Flowers with symmetrical sizing work better in this arrangement, as they blend together in a floral mass. Small pops of orange add a bright and playful aesthetic to the arrangement. Drape amaranth for a whimsical and visually dynamic piece.

Living Area

As there’s no wrong way in art, the same is true for arranging a contemporary Flemish. Incorporating an heirloom urn or container adds a personal touch, and a variety of flowers and textures create a stunning focal point for an entryway or mantle piece. Use two-tone flowers to draw the eye in, a pop of forsythia for dramatic branching and curly willow when outwardly draping. Historically, these pieces emphasize rich hues and natural accessories, reflecting complimentary art in the home.

Kitchen

Adding clusters of blooms and foliage to an arrangement is popular this spring and provides a perfect accent for your kitchen, often the gathering room of a home. Balance colors across the arrangement with varying textures in odd numbers to keeping it unique and compelling. Think outside the box when adding edibles and keep in mind seasonality. Beets, figs and artichokes bring a fun and unexpected element to the arrangement, yet make perfect sense in a kitchen bouquet.

CariCourtrightPhotography_kitchenarrangement.jpg

Bathroom

Use humidity-lover, tillandsia, for a foolproof bathroom arrangement. Clean and modern meets nature with tall glass vases customized with rocks or moss balls. Varying length and texture of the tillandsia foliage adds sequencing height. Long-lasting and low-maintenance, greenery never goes out of style.

If you have questions about other floral or greenery ideas for your home, don’t hesitate to come see us or give us a call!

How to Help Your Houseplants Thrive

Blaire Benson

Houseplants can help add fresh decor to any room in the house, but in order for your plant to thrive, you need to choose the right space. Once settled, the plant will bless your room with lush growth and beautiful foliage. Here are a few of our favorite houseplants and quick tips on what they need. 

Although the Zamioculcas Zamiifolia plant, also known as 'ZZ,' does best in bright to moderate lighting, it can withstand small amounts of light, even from a fluorescent-lit office. ZZ plants do best when left alone, surviving even months without water, but we don’t recommend going that long! A slow to moderate grower, its feathered foliage will grow up to two feet. Fitting for a contemporary decor, its graceful, waxy oval-shaped leaves are versatile for any space.

Add a bit of tropical color to your space with a low-maintenance Bromeliad, prized for its thick foliage and rosette shape. We have a variety of colors available in the florist. Choose a spot with bright to moderate indirect light. They grow best in a shallow pot; water moderately by filling the cup at the base of the plant and provide humidity when possible. 

The delicate sophistication of an orchid should not be overlooked. Available in a wide array of shapes and colors, there’s sure to be an orchid that catches your eye. As humidity-lovers, find a spot for them that gets bright, indirect light, fitting for a bit of greenery and elegance. Although requiring frequent moisture and well-drained soil, they should dry out between waterings. New orchids have just arrived in the florist; be sure to stop in and admire their beauty!

You’re sure to have seen the Fiddle Leaf Fig featured on your favorite interior design blog and with reason! Their stunning large green foliage and tall, sculptural shape is a perfect addition to a room. A hearty and adaptable tree growing six feet or taller, keep in bright, indirect light. Water only when soil is dry to the touch. Due to their large surface, be sure to keep leaves clean by wiping them with a soft cloth.

Looking for more low-maintenance plants? Check out our Hard-To-Kill Indoor Plants blog post here!

Ground covers galore!

Blaire Benson

'Daybreak Bronze' Gazania.

'Daybreak Bronze' Gazania.

Offering versatility and beauty, ground covers will go where no plant will. Growing lush between plants, stepping stones and walks, they create carpets of low-maintenance greenery. Best of all, they come in a large variety of texture, color and sun tolerance, making it easy to find the ideal ground cover for your garden. 

Searching for a little color? Look no further than ‘Daybreak Bronze’ Gazania. A sun-lover and drought-tolerant once established, this evergreen perennial forms foliage mounds up to 8 inches tall. Gazania will bloom all summer long and is great to fill in space when looking for a little height. 

From left to right, Golden Lemon Thyme, 'Platt's Black' Brass Buttons and Baby's Tears.

From left to right, Golden Lemon Thyme, 'Platt's Black' Brass Buttons and Baby's Tears.

We love the duality of Golden Lemon Thyme; gold dappled foliage is great for edging and the lemon candy-like fragrance adds zest to salads, poultry and fish. Forming a mounding mat 6 to 12 inches high, plant in sun or light shade with well-draining soil. Small, pale purple blossoms decorate the herb spring through summer. Thyme responds well to clipping, so freely enjoy its zest and prolific growth! 

‘Platt’s Black’ Brass Buttons is ideal for small-area ground cover, filling the space with a feathery mat of foliage. Growing one to two inches high and 12 inches wide, plant this evergreen perennial in sun or light shade and keep soil moist. Studded with tiny white daisies in winter among the almost purple-black fern-like leaves, this ground cover fills in quickly, keeping weeds out. 

A classic ground cover, Baby’s Tears’ emerald-green leaves create a dense undulating carpet that looks both cool and soft. Plant as a bulb cover, in a terrarium or in fairy garden for its whimsical appeal. Spreading quickly and growing up to four to five inches high, plant in morning sun with part shade and in moisture-rich soil.

From left to right: ‘Pink Pewter’ Creeping Lamium, Mondo Grass and Veronica repens ‘Creeping Speedwell.’

From left to right: ‘Pink Pewter’ Creeping Lamium, Mondo Grass and Veronica repens ‘Creeping Speedwell.’

Planting in a shady spot? The silvery variegated ‘Pink Pewter’ Creeping Lamium is one of the best choices for a tough, yet showy ground cover. Small clusters of soft salmon-pink flowers bloom spring through fall. It is fairly drought-tolerant once established and deer-resistant. 

Traditionally planted in Japanese gardens at the base of pagoda lights and stone basins, Mondo Grass' stemless dark green leaves add elegance to a low border. Grass-like foliage grows 12 to 15 inches tall, adding texture and boasting tiny spikes of lilac flowers in summer. Plant in partial to full sun and keep soil moist.

Looking for a lawn substitute or just a lush green carpet? ‘Creeping Speedwell’ Veronica repens will do the job and can take the traffic! A hardy perennial growing two to six inches high and spreading, it’s best in front of a border or rock garden. Adorned with tiny lavender to white flowers in spring and early summer, plant in sun or light shade, keeping soil moist for best growth. 

With so many choices, you can’t go wrong with a lush ground cover that will keep the weeds at bay and offer additional foliage texture and color to your garden!