Protecting Against Crazy Rainy Weather

Colorful bougainvillea paper flower in the garden.

In San Francisco, where drought-tolerant plants are a big deal and succulents spring up everywhere, what’s a gardener to do when the rain pours down unexpectedly like it has this May?

According to the National Weather Service, this month has been the wettest May since 1998. In fact, it ranks in the top 12 for lots of rain. In San Jose, it’s the wettest since 2005. That’s all to say that if you feel like you’re slogging through your backyard, you’re not alone. If you feel like you’ve been swimming through the workdays, you’re probably right.

While the thought of rain might make you happy–after all, it’s the nectar of Nature for your plants-the reality of it may be too much. Here are a few tips to keep your garden happy no matter the weather.

Shore Up Your Vines.

If you’ve ever walked past a home covered in brightly colored purple, pink, magenta, yellow, white-even orange-flowers, chances are you’ve walked past flourishing Bougainvillea plant. It’s so prevalent, it might as well be San Francisco’s official flower. You can find these bursts of color from Telegraph Hill to Paradise Valley and everywhere in between.

But when Mother Nature drops a bucket of rain on top of them and whips them around with wind, a lot of that color can end up on the ground. How do you protect these beautifully colored carpets and flowering wallpaper?

The secret is keeping them shored up with a trellis, turning them into Bougainvillea standards (or trees), and giving them the added support they need.

  1. If you’re going to allow your Bougainvillea to lounge around in blooming luxury, you’ll need a trellis. Make sure your trellis is firmly tied down before training your Bougainvillea to grow on it. The trellis (or trellises) should be hardy and able to bear a fair amount of weight, because these plants will really blossom in normal San Francisco weather. This is yet another reason they’re so common here.
  2. If you’re going to push them to conformity, you can train your Bougainvillea to grow in tree shape. You’ll need to plant them in large pots that can be moved around (plant stands work well). As you allow plant stems to grow and shoot out from the root, braid them around each other while they’re still flexible enough to bend without breaking. This builds on the “trunk” of the tree and helps it to grow sturdy enough to support the crown with the bright colors. Use untreated stakes buried in the dirt next to the plant and tie the plant to the stake with an organic material such as strips of old rags (plastic will chafe the plant and can inhibit growth).

Plant Your Succulents in Well-Draining Soil

Succulents are excellent plants for San Francisco’s warm weather, but a little bit of extra rain can turn something beautiful into something rotten. While they flourish with a little bit of water, overwatering can destroy a thriving succulent. As well, the wrong kind of soil that won’t drain can cause root rot to set in.

For your succulents to thrive, you can do a few things.

  • Plant them in pots of different sizes that can be moved during raining periods. This allows you to be flexible about where your succulents are being showcased, as well as being able to adapt their environment for the weather. The con is that you have to be very on top of things. If it rains while you’re gone and you don’t have your succulents in good soil, for example, say bye-bye to your paddle cactus.
  • Plant them in the ground in well-draining soil. This is much easier on you and allows the succulent to drop roots. Planted in soil similar to their natural habit gives them the ability to thrive whether you’re around or not.

If you’re a “helicopter gardener” and you must meddle, you can toss a sheet over your plants during the rain. This protects sensitive new growth from being torched when the sun uses the fresh rainwater as a magnifying glass.

While it’s true that vines and succulents aren’t the only plants out there in San Francisco land, they are some of the most common.

By following these simple tips, you can keep your garden looking beautiful all season long. Keep your garden blooming and looking beautiful with a little bit of extra help. Shore up your plants; trim off the dead bits; plant them in the right type of soil.

If you need help planting or maintaining your garden, give Tamate Landscaping a call. We’re experts in creating and caring for gardens of all shapes and sizes, and we’d be happy to help you get the most out of your outdoor space. Your garden will thank you!

3 Tips for a Beautiful, Sloped Landscape

If you live in San Francisco, chances are you either have a sloped yard or know someone who does. After all, the city is well known for its hillsides and awesome views… thanks to the hillsides.

-But what if you want a garden landscape? What if you don’t want a flat landscape, but can’t think of how else you might develop your sloped backyard for a beautiful flowered view?

Thankfully, you aren’t automatically stuck with either flatlands or hard, precise, terraced walls. Although both are beautiful in their own rights, there are other options that can be done with your sloped yard to turn it into a landscaped paradise.

Gently sloping pathways

Some think that gardening on a hill is nothing but difficulty, which is one of the reasons many prefer to terrace. However, a gently sloping path that cuts across the grade (height of the slope) can go a long way to making it easier to garden the top or bottom of the hill. With an appropriately placed pathway, you don’t have to worry about falling down a hill or huffing up one.

Planting in layers

There’s more than one way to make layers in a garden. For example, planting taller plants in the background and shorter plants in the foreground allows for an added depth to your landscape. As well, carefully placed mounds of earth in which to plant low-lying plants can create additional interest, drawing the eye down the path.

Choosing complimentary colors

Plants with complimentary colors against the landscape

Choose plants with complimentary colors that don’t blend in to each other. For example, Rainbow Maiden or Pink Electric Cordyline would be striking against Hollywood Juniper, with Asparagus Fern in front. Surrounded by bright green, the deep burgundy of the Maiden and Cordyline would stand out quite well. While plants like Cape Rush and Blue Fescue are beautiful, they have a tendency to blend into each other when looked at from an angle.

In short, there’s more to sloping landscapes than creating terraces or using retaining walls to hold back the earth. These are excellent options of course, but not the end-all-be-all solution. Sloped backyards allow for unique angles from which to view your garden, as well as several places to incorporate sitting room.

In other words, don’t give up on your sloped yard just yet. If you’re looking for a way to design your garden so you can get the whole use of it, contact Tamate Landscaping. We specialize in creating the garden of your dreams, and have over 30 years’ experience to prove it. We look forward to discussing your project!

How to Choose the Right Fish for Your Japanese Koi Pond

Japanese Koi fish swimming in the pond
Japanese Koi fish swimming in the pond

Water features are a common addition to most Japanese garden designs, whether that water feature is a trickling fountain, a tiny stream, or a mini Japanese Koi pond. As one of the five elements, water represents the flowing, fluid things in nature and constant renewal. It’s part of Onmyōdō: the Yin to stone’s Yang, creating a balanced landscape.

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The Case for Annuals – Why “Once a Year” Isn’t a Waste

Dahlia Garden, courtesy of Buckeye Yard & Garden onLine, Ohio State University

When you think “garden”, a lot of people think of something that blooms all year round, and several years in a row. Many think of lovingly tending to this plant or that bush and watching it grow. In other words, perennials, of one sort or another. You may, in fact, be a plant snob, who wouldn’t even think about planting one of those single year plants like those less knowing hayseeds that just plant any old thing.

 Of course, in that garden you’re picturing, you might also see bursts of bright colors and emerald green leaves. If so, you just might be picturing those poor second cousins to your beloved perennials.

5 Reasons to Buy Annual Flowers

Annuals have their own charm. Although they don’t set up long-term roots like perennials do, their blooms tend to be brighter and longer lasting than perennials. And that’s just one positive reason to go to your nearest nursery and purchase some. Here are a few more:

1. Annual flowers and plants are great stand-ins for beginning gardens.

If you’re just starting out with your new landscape, you’re probably going to have some bare spaces around those handsome new plants of yours. You may be staring at your sapling, trying to force a picture of a well-grown palm tree that currently has five feet of bare ground around it. Enter annuals, with their bright, cheerful flowers, just waiting to fill in that space. When they die, replace them with a new color or plant until your perennials are well established.

2. They can add year round color to your garden.

Annuals can fill in that empty blooming space between spring and fall, when the perennials are all sleeping. If you step outside and your colorful garden looks like a sea of green, you may need to step down from the perennial high-horse and find out what annuals are all about.

3. Perennials are often more expensive.

Sure, annuals don’t stick around for ten years, but for the cost, the time they do stick around is well worth it. You can get a whole tray of gorgeous annuals for a few dollars. Try doing that with their higher costing cousins.

4. Annuals aren’t as picky.

Perennials know they’re important to a garden and are kind of snobby about where you place them. They turn their flowered noses up at flower borders and containers. Hanging baskets and sidewalk decorations are below them. Annuals don’t care. They’re happy to grow anywhere: baskets, sidewalks, borders, containers, rooftops, rain drains. If something can grow somewhere, it’s probably an annual.

5. Annuals don’t take as much care.

Perennials demand a lot of TLC. Separate the roots so they don’t get too big. Prune the leaves for healthy, even growth. Water regularly. Annuals take far less work, as they don’t get big enough for root separation or pruning. So go ahead and baby your perennials, but have some annuals around to enjoy while doing so!

Annual Flowers – Not Necessarily a One-Year Wonder

Now that we’ve shared some of the benefits, consider also San Francisco’s weather patterns. Thanks to the sun and (mostly) comfortable weather, plants tend to thrive here. This includes annual flowers.

After giving out their burst of color, annuals also throw out their seeds before they die. This often translates into a surprise bloom of color the next year. However, (and again, thanks to the weather) occasionally those annuals will surprise you by lasting into the next year… and the next… and the next, before dying a dignified death at the foot of your now firmly entrenched perennial.

The Moral of the Story

Perennials serve their purpose in your garden, creating long-lasting plants to nurture, grow, prune and cultivate. They bring us the bright green bushes during the summer, beautiful bouquets in the spring and fall, and wonderful butterflies, birds and other wildlife.

However, annuals also serve their purpose. Although not long lasting, they are vibrant cousins to the perennial, taking up the places the perennials will not. If you want year round color, a full garden, and butterflies, don’t neglect the annuals.

If you need help with your San Francisco landscape design, contact Tamate Landscaping. We can help you design the garden of your dreams, with the look you want no matter the time of year.

Green Construction: Metal Recycling

By On November 10, 2012 In Green Construction, Landscape Trucks and Equipment, Landscaping Design: Materials With Comments Off on Green Construction: Metal Recycling Permanent Link to Green Construction: Metal RecyclingPermalink

Yet another green facility in our responsible landscape operation is Circosta Iron and Metal Company.  During the demo phase of our projects, we often run into all kinds of old metal fences, rebar, pipes, furniture etc.  Instead of bringing it to landfills, we’ll sort it and recycle it.  Below you see our truck on the scale prior to unloading.

Green Construction: Sustainable Crushing

By On November 10, 2012 In Green Construction, Landscape Trucks and Equipment, Landscaping Design: Materials With Comments Off on Green Construction: Sustainable Crushing Permanent Link to Green Construction: Sustainable CrushingPermalink

Below is Recology’s Sustainable Crushing, another green facility that Tamate landscaping utilizes.  This operation is only known to tradesman,  and is hidden in the Bayview.  Heres the only sign they have, no address or phone number.  They crush and recycle concrete and sell it back to contractors and concrete mixing companies.


Here we are dumping our load.  In the background is the conveyor for the massive crushing machine.

Lights and Lanterns

Landscape Lights and Lanterns in San Francisco is a bit specialized. What works in the South Bay may be a complete failure in the city. The 49 square miles that we call home is often shrouded in fog and laiden with moisture and salt, wreaking havoc on poorly selected landscape lighting fixtures. Tamate Landscaping only uses high end copper and brass or stone fixtures that have proven to resist the elements. Yes, the initial costs will far exceed the price of something available at Home Depot but you will reap the benefits in a system that last exponentially longer. In addition, we select fixtures that accentuate the overall design of our projects. Here you see a Miyoshi lantern. It can be illuminated and is available 30″, 36″, 48″ and 60″ versions. Also available in a rustic finish version.

Below is one of our favorite and most used fixtures. Made by FX Luminaire, its the Saguaro Petite. Elegant, simple and of all copper/brass construction. Its used to illuminate pathways, patios and other landscape elements that are low to the ground by casting a 24″ soft, glare free light on the ground. Comes with a 20 watt bulb but can be retrofitted to use a LED bulb.

This fine stone lantern is a staple of the Japanese garden. Its the Yukimi Lantern. Made of solid granite and comes in 18″, 24″, 30″ and 36″. Tamate landscape often uses this piece to complement their designs.

FX Luminaires new PO series.  This little fixture is LED, solid brass and highly efficient at 2.4 watts.  Its used to provide a “wall wash” effect for retaining walls or you could even mount it on a 4×4 post.

Working  with water features in San Francisco over the last decade and experimenting with different fixtures to illuminate the underwater environment has been somewhat of a challenge.  We’ve tried many different companies to find quality fixtures while keeping in mind that the average consumer doesn’t want to spend in excess of $500 for one fixture only.  Most have failed or lasted only a few years until moisture slowly finds its way into the housing.  Below is an underwater light from Kichler.  Its a 4.25 watt LED and fully encased in epoxy within a stainless steel housing which makes the possibility of leaks impossible.  And Kichler backs that up with a 15 years warranty. Listing at $170, its not exactly cheap but the way to go in the long run. Below is a photo of the Kichler, model 15711 SS and also 3 in one of our koi ponds.

This is the Oribe lantern in a rustic finish.  It’s a lantern that was designed by Lord Oribe, a tea ceremony practitioner in the 16th century.  It has a light box at the top and a carved buddha on the bottom.  Available in 30″, 36″ and 48″ in rustic as well as new grey granite.

 Next is the FX RotundaLuna®. Its specifically designed to gently illuminate small scale plant material, boulders, and short garden walls. Halogen lamp model produces a white light that enhances green plant material. The xenon lamp has a mellow golden light output for enriching earth tone elements.

Another staple landscape lighting fixture, The FX Luminaire LustroRame.The LustroRame provides a source of subtle light from a flawless luminaire. This solid copper and brass unit is an excellent choice for shadowing or backlighting small plant material or garden sculptures on upscale residential or small commercial projects. The MR-16 halogen lamp based LustroRame produces a powerful crisp light that enhances plant material and larger scale landscape elements.

Pictured below is the all granite Kanjuji Lantern.  The Japanese Kanjuji lantern offers clean lines with a east-west blend of garden styling. The Kanjuji lantern can add a Zen feeling to a garden around a western building.  Its perfect also for a contemporary asian garden.  Pictured below is a 24″ tall version with a low voltage light hooked up to a timer.

Pressure Treated Lumber (PT)

What is Pressure Treated Lumber (PT)?

Pressure treated (PT) lumber is the predominant wood material used in San Francisco landscapes where the exposure will be in a wet environment or when there is earth/wood contact.

This treated lumber is created by infusing chemicals into the wood under high pressure and temperature to create a product that is rot and bug resistant. The chemicals used in the process are registered with the EPA and have been determined to be safe for use in residential settings.

PT lumber can be used for a variety of applications including decks, fences, retaining walls, and playgrounds. While PT lumber is more expensive than untreated lumber, it has a longer lifespan and requires less maintenance, making it a worthwhile investment for any San Francisco homeowner.

Its identified by a greenish or very brown color with staple size slits on all surfaces except the ends.  PT lumber is basically a douglas fir or equivalent lumber that has been infused with preservatives. The preservative used until 2004 for home applications was CCA or chromated copper arsenate with the arsenate component being highly toxic and a known carcinogen.

Today we use PT that has been infused with amine copper quat (ACQ) or copper azole (CA) or micronized copper quaternary (MCQ), all products without the arsenate and much safer.  Does that mean we would recommend building a raised vegetable planter out of it?

 Although the manufacturer says its safe, we still would not recommend it.  But we at Tamate Landscaping do use it for the structural components of decks and fences since it’s the most economical and will last the longest.  Still there are some options in some applications.

For example, instead of a PT retaining wall, consider concrete.  Or for fences, consider all redwood instead of PT structural components.  These options will cost much more but they are options none the less.

Do your own research regarding these products and feel free to contact us for different options for your specific application.