Tom Karwin, on gardening | Landscaping – Santa Cruz Sentinel



Take care of your garden

Gardeners now have less than three weeks before the start of the fall season, marking the perfect time to install new plants in the garden. You can add plants now but decide to pamper them until the seasonal rains start, which we hope will start around mid-October.

Now is the time to prepare for the planting season. The preparations involve taking a close look at your garden, first to appreciate what is working well, and then to address areas that could be improved by subtracting, dividing, multiplying, or adding.

We could explore each of these functions, but instead take a longer view of your landscape design.

There are countless garden design concepts related to styles, themes, terrain, exposure, personal preferences, and more.

To narrow down the scope of this exercise, we’ll look at a short list of design ideas included in a recent issue of Garden Design, a magazine I have long enjoyed and which has become a virtual publication.

Our springboard is Jan Johnsen’s article, “8 Landscaping Tips to Create an Attractive Garden.” To read this and other articles by this designer, go to and search for ‘Jan Johnsen’. Here are my comments on these design tips.

Curves in the Garden: The shape of the flower beds or walkways reflect the straight lines of the property lines, sidewalks, walkways, residence and garage. This rectilinearity promotes efficient development of urban areas, but the curved lines add interest and a natural feel to the garden. Look for opportunities to convert directly to a curve in the garden; you will like the result.

Hide and Show: A reliable landscaping guide is “the little plants out front; taller plants in the back. This approach works in specific cases, but when applied to the whole landscape, it’s what technicians would call a “core dump”, which Wikipedia defines as “any output of a large amount of raw data. for further examination or for other purposes “. The design trick is to use plants, mounds or structures to interrupt the view of parts of the garden and thus add interest.

Guide visitors to the garden. A garden of any size can be arranged to offer visitors clear and pleasant tours through the space. Johnsen suggests using path widths to guide movement: narrower = faster, wider = breaks to appreciate the features of the landscape. Branch paths of equal width may require directional cues (or even signs); dead-end roads must be avoided or kept short with a work of art or other “pay” to justify the detour.

Borrowed Landscape: Look for opportunities to draw attention to attractive features beyond the boundaries of the garden, to complement the smaller space. It can be a distant view or (more commonly) a nearby tree with colorful flowers or leaves, or an attractive shape. Set up your own garden to frame the view of this borrowed landscape. The flip side of this trick is to arrange your garden to block out less attractive prospects. Strategically placed trees or tall shrubs take time to develop but may be worth the wait.

Three-dimensional design: As you walk into your garden, you or your visitors would ideally see the foreground, background, and background areas. Planning for such a depth in the landscape works best when you have established a preferred entrance to the garden. It doesn’t have to be a formal walkway, just a logical access point to the garden from the back door of the house or a walkway around the house. Developing the depth of the landscape in large gardens requires vision and time. This is easier to achieve in small gardens, with the same inputs.

Play with perspective: walkways, flower beds or other elements seem more distant because they narrow in width. This phenomenon, used in painting in the Renaissance, has long been applied in landscaping. Its success in designing gardens depends on individual point of view. The use of this trick therefore begins with choosing a particular location in the garden from which the view could be improved by tricking the eye.

Harnessing a long view: Some gardens have a long, straight view by design or by the natural environment. Long views may be contrary to other concepts included in these design tips, but when they exist in the garden, they draw the viewer’s attention to the end of the feature. The design opportunity in such cases is to present the viewer with a visual destination: a plant specimen, sculptural art or ornament, a structure, a bench, whatever rewards the viewer.

The view from above: even gardens raised above the surrounding environment offer the possibility of designing one or more perspectives for attractive views beyond or even inside the garden. Hillside gardens can stage a distant view by surrounding it with plants and providing seating from which to admire the natural or built environment. Even gardens with lesser slopes could be landscaped in a selected area to provide an elevated view of an attractive setting.
Review your garden to explore possible improvements based on these design tips.

Improve your gardening knowledge

Here are the upcoming webinars to expand your knowledge and ideas.

Reminder: The Cactus and Succulent Society will present the “The New Information Age on Lithops” webinar at 10 am Saturday. Dr Roy Earle will discuss the work of the Lithops Foundation, which has resulted in a new book and projects to preserve and restore the Lithops settlements in Namibia and South Africa. Lithops, called “living stones”, are small succulents popular with collectors. No one hates lithops. To register for this free event, visit

Garden Design, the virtual garden magazine, features monthly live garden tours. The upcoming event is “A Journey Through Your September Garden with David Culp” at 3pm. September 9. These online events require a registration fee of $ 20, resulting in a limited number of “seats”, program notes including a plant list, a question and answer session, and a 30 day window to view the event. registered version of the program. This is an emerging model of garden webinars aimed at satisfying viewers and supporting growers. To register, visit

The Berkeley UC Botanical Garden has announced several webinars for September:

Zoom: Blooming in Place photography workshop with Becky Jaffe, 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., repeated on September 7, 14 and 21.
Virtual butterfly walk: 11 a.m.-12 p.m. on September 12.
Oaks of the UC Botanical Garden, 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. on September 16.
Crafting with California Native Plants (family program), 10:30 am-11:30am September 19.
Cork Oak Forests: Man-Shaped Conservation Value Systems, 10-11 a.m. September 21
Oak galls for natural stains with Kristine Vejar, 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. on September 30.
For more information and to register for these free events, visit

The Berkeley UC Botanical Garden has also published a series of virtual tours of its plant collections, available on Explore this world class garden from the comfort of your home! For descriptions of these tours, go to

UC Santa Cruz Farm & Garden will present a webinar titled “The Ten Best Medicinal Herbs to Grow in Santa Cruz County” at 5:00 pm on September 22nd. use them to improve your health and well-being and that of your family. For more information and to register, visit

The Ruth Bancroft Garden will present the “California Natives in Dry Gardens” webinar at 10:00 am on September 22. requires less pesticides, fertilizers and water. For more information and to register for this low cost event, visit

Enrich your gardening days

Enjoy your garden!

Tom Karwin is the past president of the Friends of the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum, the Monterey Bay Area Cactus & Succulent Society, and the Monterey Bay Iris Society, and UC Lifetime Master Gardener (certified 1999- 2009). He is now a board member and garden coach for the Santa Cruz Hostel Society. To view daily photos of his garden, To find an archive of previous gardening columns, visit


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