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Have you ever encountered this landscaping challenge? This blank wall is rather boring, and the home behind it dominates the view. So what would you do to fix these problems?

I faced this dilemma last month at a client’s home. The pool was the main focal point of the landscape, and the dull wall wasn’t doing it any favors. In coming up with a solution, we had to select a plant that was relatively low-litter, due to the proximity to the pool and that looked attractive throughout the entire year because of the high-profile location.

Hop Bush (Dodonaea viscosa)

I recommended adding three hop bush (Dodonaea viscosa). These are tall, evergreen shrubs that thrive in arid climates such as ours. 

One of the many things that I love about them is their versatility. They thrive in full sun and light shade, and can be allowed to grow up to 12 feet tall, or maintained at a lower height.

Hop bush can be allowed to grow to their natural shape…

…or pruned more formally.

For the area behind the pool, I recommend having it grow to its full height, which will help provide privacy while the attractive foliage will add a welcome screen of green throughout the year.

Hop bush flowers

Hop bush does produce light green, papery flowers in spring, but they aren’t particularly showy. So, we need to add a color element to the area behind the pool.

One of my favorite ways to add color to any landscape is to incorporate brightly colored containers in shade of blue, purple, or orange. That way, whether plants are in bloom or not, there is always a bright splash of color.

For this area, I recommended adding 3 blue pots, equally spaced.

Now it was time to decide what to plant in each pot. The client wanted a low-maintenance choice that wouldn’t require a lot of water.

Immediately, I remembered touring a landscape that had blue containers filled with ‘Blue Elf’ aloe. Even though the aloe had finished blooming for the year, their spiky blue-gray foliage added nice color contrast.

This small aloe is one of my favorite succulents for several reasons. First, it begins to bloom in late winter, lasting into spring adding welcome color to cool-season landscapes. Hummingbirds can’t resist the flowers either.

This aloe is best showcased when grouped together and thrives in full sun, unlike most aloe which prefer filtered shade. Finally, it is hardy to 15 degrees F. so cold winters seldom bother it.

And so, here is the planting that I suggested to my client that will provide year round beauty and privacy.

*Do you have a favorite plant or group of plants that you like to use against bare walls?

 

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Earlier this week, I stepped outside to receive a delivery and was quite surprised at the sight that greeted me…


There were two men and a BIG hole in my landscape.

Of course, I knew that we had utility boxes for the phone and cable companies on our property.  But, in the 14 years that we have lived here, no one has ever paid any attention to them.

Some of you may wonder if I was angry that I had a huge hole in my front yard.  

Well, I wasn’t mad.  You see, even though we own the property, I knew that utility boxes have an ‘easement’ that allows the utility companies to dig on your property without your permission.
In my work out in the field, I have encountered this often and when I design landscapes, I am careful to keep plants at least 3 ft. away from utility boxes AND keep a clear route to them from the street.

Now, utility boxes are ugly and no one likes to look at them.  But, you can add shrubs and other plants to screen them from your view.


BUT, be careful!  If plants are in the way – the utility company can pull them out.  The Red Yucca, above, would most likely be removed if work had to be done since they are in the way.

Be sure to keep a clear route to the street when hiding utility boxes.


A few of these Purple Ruellia are also in trouble if work needs to be done.

I would advise decreasing the lawn area by 3 ft. and planting the Purple Ruellia there and leaving free access for utility work that may be needed.


Utility workers will make reasonable attempts to protect your plants as long as they are not in the way.  They put a nylon tie around my Globe Mallow to keep it out of their way an put plastic down to protect the gravel.

It is normal to ignore the utility boxes, if you have them on your property and screening them out using plants is often, the first thing homeowners do when installing a landscape.

But, be careful where you place your plants.  Try to keep them at least 3 ft. off to the side of the utility boxes and NOT in front.
Because sooner or later, the utility company will have to dig a hole to repair and/or upgrade their wires.

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Yesterday, we received a box of my daughter, Rachele’s civilian belongings.  You see, as soon as she arrived at basic training for the Navy, she had to put all her clothes, shoes and other belongings into a box that was sent home.

It was a clear sign of her leaving behind her civilian life and the beginning of her military career.

In the box was also her cell phone charger.  But I couldn’t find her cell phone.  

Of course, leave it to my street-smart oldest daughter, Brittney, who simply looked inside one of the shoes where it was safely tucked away.

We are hoping to get our first letter from Rachele this week.  We can’t send her any letters until we receive a letter from her because we don’t get her address until she sends us that information.

We all have written her letters and I just bought a lot of stamps – so I am ready!