Ten Things to a Better Garden: Part One

So many neighbors, friends and blog followers ask me what are the key things that  you have done to make your  garden so healthy and abundant.....
that's a  good question?!

So I thought about the top 10 things 
that I have done lately and actually over the last 15 years, 
that have made me a better gardener 
and why using those things have made 
  this  garden easier to manage
   more beautiful

here they are:

1.  Keep a master plant list

Throughout the process of this extensive landscape design
 I have kept lists of what we ordered, 
 how big the plants were & when we planted them,

ie. 1 gallon, 5 gallon, 24 inch box etc.
The list is organized by
 genius and species and also common name

I keep this list with my drawings of the landscape design in a binder 
and add little notes 
and ideas now and then.  

I continue to add things like bulb orders, 
notes on veggie seed packets that have worked well and when I planted certain specialty items that I wanted to bloom at a certain time during the year

 It sounds sort of silly, but I actually refer to my design binder
many times throughout the year 

It keeps me reminded as to what is actually working...
And how big certain plants have gotten 
and what I may want to change next year

I also read and re- read the Western Garden Handbook 
as well as many other great  books and publications from Master Gardeners, Fine Gardening and Garden Design

2.Use a Color Wheel

Just with interiors, color, texture and variety are key to a beautiful garden

If you're stumped about which colors work well together look at a color wheel. 

The color wheel shows you the most basic Primary, Tertiary and Secondary colors

Colors to the left or right of one another tend to work well together as do colors directly opposite of one another.

 And don't forget about playing up the beauty of  spectacular foliage like bronze tones and lime green, as well as variegated leaves.

My garden in Ojai has a distinct color pallet and I planned it that way
I never stray from it...ever

3.  De -Clutter

I love the messy  English style beds 
but I love an orderly mess

Let your plants do their thing and then clean up...
kind of like dealing with kids after they get going with boxes of play things
What we have found is that if we don't really stay on top of what needs to be done it gets away from us....really quickly

Today we cleaned out three large beds
We typically do a first of summer trim and clean out, 
after the big spring bloom starts to fade,
and then another big prune in the fall

We usually take  at least 2 full pick up loads full of garden debris and clippings 
to the organic re-cycle center each month
in exchange we get a discount on great compost!

We also have a triple bin composter which yields 
about 6 cubic feet of compost every month

TIP:  Get some good flexible buckets like these here...these are invaluable

Next to my felco prunners these tubs are my best buds

5. Outside of the neighborhood thinking

Go on as many garden tours, beautiful home drive-by's, 
nursery walks etc. 
as you have the time for 

And don't for get to use your parks, trails, wonderful hotels 
and garden shops 
as your inspiration

Many of these gardens are designed by our best and most famous landscape Architects and we can learn so much from them

Five more to come.... have a wonderful Weekend



New things in the shop here

  1. Such great advice. I wish I were a more organized gardener. I agree...english style...no no in Ca. I am learning to love the plants that thrive in my micro climate and give up on the rest....my best friends, lavender, nepeta, teucreum...grasses and old roses....the list evolves!!

  2. You have beautiful gardens and yes they will get away from you very quickly. It amazes me how quickly weeds will show up.

  3. Thanks for sharing! Would love to see your garden notes and binder!

  4. what a great list kelley. i do keep a garden journal too b/c it's really easy to lose track of details w/o one. love, love, love your garden!

  5. This is great advise, Kelley, and definitely a keeper...but I'm exhausted. There two things you left off your list: a great deal of energy, and coffee, lots of coffee.

  6. Awesome! I love reading about your garden!!!! Can't wait to read the next five tips!!

  7. I live in Texas and really struggle with what will grow here or not be melted by the scorching summers. I can't wait to read the rest of your gardening series : o )

  8. Wonderful post Kelley, and great tips. I have always kept a house notebook but never thought about a gardening notebook. What a smart idea! Looking forward to more on this.

  9. Kelley,

    I remember when you first started working on your garden...it is so gorgeous now. I know how much work goes into it, we have a large yard as well. (but it doesn't look near as lovely as yours)

    I love garden tours and sometimes my husband and I just walk around certain neighborhoods to get ideas.

    Linda in San Diego

  10. I've been a reluctant garden for many years but lately, I have been enjoying it more and more (it might be because I have been getting better at keeping things alive). I am always looking for tips to help make it easier and more enjoyable, so thanks for these! I have never even thought of using a colour wheel in the garden!

  11. I'm going to remember this for my new (old) house...keeping a a garden journal...great idea and one I will start right away. I love seeing the outside of your home....it's just beautiful.

  12. Great tips!! I can't tell you how many plants my husband and I have lost by planting others on top of them, weeding them, etc all because we forgot what we planted there or what it looked like etc. A garden map/journal would be a great idea!

  13. Kelley,
    Such a great post. I will have to be more diligent about writing things down. I start out strong and before I know it an entire season of planting and such has gone by and I've not written a single thing down. Great inspirational post, thank you.

  14. Thank you so much for your wonderful tips. I really need to keep a master list. I started out doing it, but along the way I got side tracked. I would also like to suggest going to the Garden Conservancy Open Days each spring (a calendar is available online). I always go to the gardens in Pasadena and Los Angeles. There are six gardens in each location and I never fail to get inspired. Usually you have the opportunity to talk to the gardener/homeowner or their landscape designer and get a wealth of information. I have implemented many ideas in my garden from small gardens like mine to ideas from large estates.

  15. Do you know how often I have tried the write down thing??? MANY. I just never keep it up. Kudos to you and your amazing garden

  16. Ojai town has that distinct character, which I love. What an amazing garden you created. I keep thinking about keeping a garden journal. But I never did. I think it is time to start one. Thanks for sharing your beautiful garden.

  17. Dear Kelley, so happy to have found you, very lovely blog! Very good advice as well, which I shall record and use! I love the faux bios table and benches in this post....lovely! Can you tell me where it is from? Thank you, N .xo


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