What to get your gardener for Christmas?

my boots

If you are wondering what to get your gardener for Christmas I have a recommendation: Hunter Boots. I love my Hunter boots. I have them in green (pictured here), silver, and also in blue. I favor the original tall rain boot.

If your gardener already has Hunter boots, you might consider an additional pair or even two – or the Hunter Boots Cable-Cuff Welly Socks are nice – a great accessory.

Hunter Boots are made of durable rubber, not cheesy plastic. They’re a design classic with more than 150 years of history.

Hunter historically was a Scottish company but has evolved over the years and is now a global brand. I’ve long been a fan but they weren’t always easy to find. In recent years that’s changed. They’ve become more fashionable and are widely distributed. You can order them online and they stock them at stores such as Nordstrom. Nordstrom’s website currently has 57 reviews.

A Housewarming and Concert with Erhu Virtuoso Jiebing Chen

How do you become one of the best in the world at your instrument? It takes talent of course, and practice – as in the old joke – how do you get to Carnage Hall?

Jiebing Chen is one of the leading Erhu masters in the world. Her dad made her practice for eight hours a day starting at age five.

She’s incredible.

Jiebing and her husband Jim hosted a lovely housewarming party for family and friends this weekend.

They were very kind to also invite and acknowledge the team that created their amazing new home: architect Sid Hoover and builder Jim Gade, along with the incredibly talented craftsmen that are part of his company – Benchmark Construction.

I designed the landscaping.

This was no ordinary housewarming party – it included a private concert by Jiebing and friends right in her living room, a special experience. It was raining this weekend, so the concert was held inside rather than in the outdoor performance space we designed.

The Erhu is a two-stringed bowed musical instrument, used as a solo instrument as well as in small ensembles and large orchestras. In the west, it is sometimes called “Chinese violin.”

This is video from my iPhone of Jiebing performing during the party. The instrument accompanying Jiebing is called a Guzheng. Jiebing’s husband Jim is a banker but is also an accomplished Guzheng player. He’s passionate about his home and loves great music.

Martha’s first iPad issue is cool

I finally had a chance to download and open the premier digital issue of Martha Stewart Living for iPad. It came out last week.

The cover photo image is spectacular. It’s a photo of a peony that opens up when you tap it. The time lapse flower opening on the cover is made up of 180 stills of the peony opening up over 10 hours.

I’ve seen digital versions of a couple of my favorite design magazines but they didn’t take advantage of of changing technology like this does.

Martha didn’t just slap the magazine up on the iPad platform to do it. It was really well thought through. Her team worked closely with the folks at Adobe to put it together and make use of interactive features.

The panoramic photos and the videos are wonderful. The photos really pop. You can scroll pages in any direction, and the articles have links to video. The ads have direct links to videos and to advertiser websites, which I find very convenient (no more typing in wrong urls from magazine listings).

In the premier issue, you can read a Q&A with Martha where she talks about putting the new digital magazine together and about the interplay between creativity and technology. I enjoyed listening to a sound file of the interview too.

The digital magazine issue has a panoramic tour of Martha’s peony garden.

“There are three million iPad owners. If I can encourage some of them to plant peonies or frost a cake, I’ve done my job,” says Martha.

Here’s a video I found on youtube where Martha talks about the thinking that went into developing the new iPad app.

Eco-lawn and straight dope on gas-powered lawn mowers

Conventional lawns aren’t so much in style these days, at least here in Northern California. They require a lot of maintenance and are often frowned on because they suck up a lot of water. They’re just not very sustainable. More often than not, my clients tend to favor drought tolerant native plants and grasses. If they are to have some traditional lawn, they typically limit it to a small area, though there are exceptions. Meadow gardens are in favor these days.

As an aside, this article from Cecil Adams at The Straight Dope says Americans likely burn more than 600 million gallons of gasoline a year cutting the grass (thanks to Michelle at Fine Gardening for the link).

There are a variety of environmentally friendly options. One product I’ve come across is called Eco-Lawn. They call it the “ultimate low-maintenance drought-tolerant lawn.” Eco-lawn was first was brought to my attention by Miriam Goldberger.  It seems to be catching on and — check out this video — has even received attention from Martha Stewart. I like it.

I’ve used the “no-mow” lawn before with good results. The Eco lawn uses less water – a big plus – but is available as seed – not sod. You can use it in the shade, in part-shade or in full sun

This is some “eco-lawn” we seeded at a site in Napa. It is still growing in. It looks great, uses less water, and doesn’t require one of those gas-sucking lawn mowers either.

Makes sense.

These Guys are Giants Fans

Sonoma Materials provides a variety of landscaping and building materials and unless you’ve been under a rock you probably know that the Giants just won the World Series. Well, check out the orange truck at Sonoma Materials

What to do about deer

I’ve put forth a great deal of effort researching and designing with plants that are considered “deer proof.” On a couple of occasions, though, I’ve been quite frustrated.

It’s annoying when deer chow down on landscape plants, especially when its a new plant installation because the deer want to taste what’s new on the block. Younger plants, even if they’re deer reistant, are tastier to the deer.

It happened again this last week. Our crew applied coyote urine as a precaution but that didn’t stop the deer from feasting on the newly installed deer resistant plants.

The deer don’t read the lists. In fact, many of the plants that were once considered bullet proof have been taken off the lists.

David Arnold, who has 40 years in the business, tells me most of the eating habits of different herds of deer are determined by learned behavior and/or availability of native food sources.  It’s not consistent either. Many times deer will experiment with a newly installed landscape and then never bother it again. David at one point got lion feces from the San Francisco Zoo but the deer weren’t phased.

This 76-year old woman went overboard.

This article from the Washington Post calls deer “rats with hooves.”

Deer fences are sometimes an option but often are not.  I have also heard that there has been success reported by those that have installed motion sensor sprinkler heads along the traffic patterns of the local deer.  The sound of the water surging through the sprinkler head when activated spooks the deer enough to change their route.

If anybody has any ideas that work please let me know. Comments?

Moving Ancient Olives to Sonoma Too

Today we moved three more olive trees from that construction site – see my previous post – This time they went to a job-site in Sonoma we’re just getting going on. More later.

I like these hose hangers

Three out of 13 ain’t bad. This was first spotted in the June 2010 Real Simple.

I like the hose horse by Metalfab below because it’s simple and easy for the hose to slip off with ease.

This stainless steel “hose reel” is the real deal and will last forever. It’s cool.

Finally, the chic cheap way to go is the rust proof “hose hanger.” Form follow’s function and at $9.50 you got-ta love it. For more information, like where to get one for yourself, check out these hose holders and others at Real Simple.