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November 28, 2005

Japanese Maples- Great Fall Color

Of all the plants we use in our landscapes, Japanese Maples (Acer japonica) are one of the most recognized and loved by our clients. From avid gardeners, to those with no horticultural bent, Japanese Maples are typically one of the first requested plantings when drawing up the planting design. The beautiful fall foliage is one of their main attractions. In addition they feature beautiful bark, foliage and branch form. Also, because of such a great number of cultivars, Japanese Maples come in a great variety of shapes, sizes and colors. Sunset has a great overview in this months issue of some of the best cultivars available.

One thing to keep in mind, Japanese Maples are specialty plants which command a specialty price, especially for hard to find varieties. We typically use them as accent pieces in gardens to offset other plantings. They can be used in Asian themed gardens (as found in traditional Japanese Gardens), but they also integrate well with almost any garden style.

Suppliers mentioned in the Sunset Article:

Mendocino Maples
Mountain Maples
Whitney Gardens
Wildwood Farm

Posted by Michael O'Connell at 04:20 PM | Comments (0)

November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving II

I am up in Northern California for this Thanksgiving. Reading the San Francisco Chronicle this morning on my BlackBerry, which is what I am posting from, I noticed another article about Wild Turkeys, which now number over 250,000 in the state.

Posted by Michael O'Connell at 09:22 AM | Comments (0)

November 23, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving

Turkeys, Thanksgiving's most recognizable symbol, can be seen frequently in the open space and neighborhoods of Marin. These wild turkeys were introduced in waves beginning in the late 1800's for hunting. The wild birds are actually natives of Texas, and it seems lately they can been seen throughout the county. According to an article last year in the SF Chronicle the turkey population is on the rise, especially in the North Bay.

This means in addition to a turkey on your table there may be one in the back yard and on your car out front (male turkeys especially like their reflections)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted by Michael O'Connell at 06:53 AM | Comments (0)

November 22, 2005

2006 Gardens of Europe Calendar

We are getting ready to mail out our 2006 Gardens of Europe Calendar. The Calendar features my photographs from my travels in Europe in 2003, many of which can be seen in our Great Gardens and Parks Portfolios. If you would like a free copy of the calendar please send us an email with your name and address.

Have a great Thanksgiving!

The Cover
Some of the Monthly Images


Posted by Michael O'Connell at 07:58 AM | Comments (1)

November 21, 2005

Native Plants on the Pacific Slopes of Mt. Tam

With its extensive open space Marin is a great place to view native plants. On a hike this weekend on the pacific facing slopes of Mt. Tam, which fall down to the pacific and Stinson Beach, I had a chance to see striking examples of native vegetation. Fir, Madrone, Bay, and Live Oak trees cover the slopes, in sections creating dense woods. Driving at sunset back through the reservoirs of the Marin Municipal Water District (MMWD), dense stands of Redwoods, with an occasional turning Big Leaf Maple, cast a deep shade. In sections along the roadway and trails, the thin inflorescence of native grass can be seen. Seeps and shady grottoes provide refuge for Juncus reeds and ferns. What makes it all more remarkable is to look to the south and see the densely packed buildings of San Francisco, and realize the great accomplishment of preservation Mt. Tamalpais State park and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area represent.

For More:
Mt. Tamalpais State Park
Golden Gate National Recreation Area
Stinson Hike from Bay Area Hiker
Marin Trails
Marin County Open Space District
MMWD Recreation Areas
Article on Mt. Tam Grasslands

Under the Oaks

Madrone Bark



Posted by Michael O'Connell at 06:36 AM | Comments (0)

November 18, 2005

Clients in All Shapes and Sizes

One of the enjoyable things about designing and building gardens for customers is getting to work with all sorts of interesting clients. From lawyers and venture capitalists to school teachers and airline pilots, the personal interaction with our clients is one of the great aspects of this work. We get to meet all sorts of interesting people from any number of professions while working throughout beautiful Marin and Sonoma counties. Often people are making substantial investments in their properties, creating living areas, gardens, reclaiming space or doing a major remodeling job. But the refreshing thing about it is taking the existing property and transforming it to meet a mutual vision. It is something that clients can get excited about, and it makes the process fun.

Posted by Michael O'Connell at 11:55 AM | Comments (0)

November 10, 2005

Oil + Wax- Art League of Northern California Exhibition

I attended the opening night of Oil + Wax this weekend, an encaustic art exhibition put on by the Art League of Northern California. For those unfamiliar with encaustic, it is an ancient technique whereby the artist applies layers of wax and pigments to create a composition. The work may look like a traditional oil painting (at least to my untrained eye), or can be applied to three dimensional objects. This national exhibit with contributions of local artists is excellent. It is located at the League's building in Hamilton in Novato, now thru November 30th.(check their website for directions).

For more:
Fayum Mummy Portraits- An Example of Ancient Encaustic Art from Wikipedia

Example of Fayum Mummy Portraits (Portrait of a young woman, A.D. 110–20 Encaustic on wood; 43.7 x 34 cm (17 1/4 x 13 in.)Royal Museum of Scotland, National Museums of Scotland, Edinburgh)-Source Wikipedia

Posted by Michael O'Connell at 02:41 PM | Comments (0)

November 09, 2005

Marin County Garden & Landscape Events

Jane Berger, from Garden Design Online, a very informative blog from the East Coast, has outlined some very interesting events all over the country- check out her post

Closer to Home: Around the Bay Area check out these websites for some interesting garden (and other) related events.

Strybing Arboretum Events
SF Sierra Club Events
California Native Plant Society Events
Marin County Visitor's Events
Pacific Horticulture Events
Marin ReLeaf Events
Marin Rose Society Events
Marin Photography Club
Marin County UC Extension Master Gardener- Community Service Events
Meditteranean Garden Society Events
Marin Society of Artists Events

See Trees like this one at Marin ReLeaf's fall color tour- This Saturday November 15th in Downtown San Rafael

Posted by Michael O'Connell at 01:42 PM | Comments (0)

November 08, 2005

Hills and Views

One of the given aspects about working in Marin and Sonoma counties is it seems that no property (save a scarce few) are on flat ground. Hillsides of all sorts present access and equipment challenges and can make large scale design elements difficult. Fairfax, Mill Valley, Tiburon and other southern Marin communities tend to be the worst offenders. But the tradeoff is some stunning views of those very hills that can make our work so challenging and interesting.

Mt. Tam Viewed from the North

The Wooded Ross Valley

The Sonoma Valley

Posted by Michael O'Connell at 12:53 PM | Comments (0)

November 07, 2005

Find Ideas for your Landscape at the Local Winery

After spending part of this weekend visiting friends in the Healdsburg area and visiting various wineries for the Russian River Wine Road Food and Wine Festival, I was struck by what a good resource wineries are for landscape inspiration. Where else could you find estate sized gardens, well articulated, with typically free admission and free wine to boot? Now obviously for readers outside of a wine region this may be less of a possibility. Luckily for Bay Area residents we live on the doorstep of the great wine regions of Sonoma County.

Winery gardens vary in their scope and style, but many tend to be of Mediterranean/Italianate villa inspiration and incorporate fountains, outdoor dining areas, and a wide variety of plants and materials. For smaller residences the budget may not be the same as a large winery, but cues for stylistic elements abound.

For more:
Healdsburg Area Wineries
Sonoma County Wineries Assocation

Posted by Michael O'Connell at 08:46 PM | Comments (0)

November 04, 2005

Spam + Blog = Splog?

It looks like my problem, mentioned earlier this week is not unique. There is an article in today's Washington Post about the rising trend of spamming of blogs. Just another result of the wild west feel of the internet.

On the Good Side of the Internet
As may be evident from reading my posts, I am a huge fan of the online free encyclopedia, Wikipedia. For those people who are unfamiliar with the site, Wikipedia is an online collaborative project where people post encyclopedia articles in a huge information sharing project. I am consistently amazed on the quality and authoritativeness of the information. Here is the power of the technology of the internet, to contrast with the spamming problem mentioned above. It seems like I find new sections of the site everyday, and it can be great for finding information on plants or other garden related information (see for example the term Espalier)

Posted by Michael O'Connell at 04:53 AM | Comments (0)

November 03, 2005

Efflorescence in Stone and Masonry

A problem that occurs from time to time with masonry (stonework, brick, manufactured stone veneers) is a white powder or crystal that leaches from the material. This is a result of efflorescene, a natural reaction of minerals in the masonry material that when they come in contact with water result in streaking or leaching marks on the masonry surface. Fortunately, there are products available to treat the problem. Often this leaching is something that will happen initially and then subside overtime. Another precaution that can be taken is to seal the surface with a masonry sealer.

For More:
Aldon Chemical Company Efflorescence treatment & Addtional Info
Google Search

Posted by Michael O'Connell at 04:09 PM | Comments (0)

November 02, 2005

Lighting Barbeque Islands

We are currently working on a barbeque island for a project and in the course of looking for solutions for lighting I found an interesting product from Vista Professional Lighting. This low voltage light is functional for lighting outdoor areas for activities like cooking.

Image Source: Copyright Vista Professional Lighting

-See the catalogue page for more options

Posted by Michael O'Connell at 12:42 PM | Comments (0)

November 01, 2005

This is the Internet After All

Checking the Blog this morning there were a series of Trackback pings (for those unfamiliar with Trackbacks, a link from another blog or website posted by someone that is in reference or interest to a post). Funny I thought, haven't received anything like this before. Upon further examination the trackbacks were, let's just say, not for wholesome family entertainment. Spam isn't limited to just email.

Posted by Michael O'Connell at 06:20 AM | Comments (0)