Torrey Pines Landscape Company

Torrey Pines Landscape Company
As featured in Ranch & Coast Magazine ( design by )

Monday, September 27, 2010

Landscape Lighting For Your Gardens

The days are getting shorter and the nights longer....
Have you considered lighting up your landscaping to create a night time attraction? Some simple accent lighting done just right may be just what your landscape needs and can be also really impressive to see.
If you're installing a new landscape, adding the lighting
is really the cherry on the cake. Without it, you are depriving yourself and your neighbors of a simple appealing aesthetic for viewing night after night.

Basically there are five common applications of landscape lighting:

•Path lighting
•Down lighting
•Wall lighting
•Stair lighting
The most common of these are uplighting and path lighting. Uplighting trees, shrubs, walls, & columns add a great sharp accent to the outside of your home.
With uplighting trees & shrubs, one can really take notice of the unique branching structure of the given specimen. Also this can create some very artistic shadow patterns onto a wall or a particular facade of a home. Not only does this generate art in your garden but it also provides some visual clarity to areas around them that are commonly navigated at night.

Incorporating path lights in conjunction with uplighting is when your landscape really starts to illuminate boldly. Path lights are just what they describe. They light up a throughway for navigation, safety, as well as aesthetic. Whether it's walkways, drives, patios, stepping stones, around planter edges, etc., path lighting is almost mandatory for completing a landscape.

Next, there is down lighting. Down lighting as you can already guess, provides one of the best angles of light. However, downlighting is the least common you will see in the landscape due to simple convenience. Down lighting a tree is very unique in that it provides a different accent of the specified tree while distributing light on the ground around it. What's inconvenient however is that one has to climb the tree or use a ladder to provide maintenance to that particular light.

Other down lights are more typically used in trellises and other overhead structures. Another factor to consider when down lighting is the wiring. Instead of it all being directly buried, tubing or PVC conduit located up and behind a post is what is used to run wiring to the light. With down lighting a tree, staples pins, or straps can be used to secure the wiring.

The last two applications for landscape lighting are for walls and stairs. Options such as square, circular, or slit type of openings for lighting are most often seen. This type of lighting is really unique in that it also adds a solid aesthetic feature to the landscape. Whether it's a seatwall, planter wall, retaining wall, or a partition wall, adding a custom light into it is going to look captivating. Either showing some plants in the fore front with back lighting or displaying a bare wall in the landscape with lights set in will both create alot of awe. Stair lighting is a very important application since it provides safe viewing of significant elevational changes.

While using uplighting, path lighting, down lighting, wall and stair lighting, one has to balance these accents in the landscape accordingly. Using too little or too much lighting can deter from the overall coherence of the landscape.

In conclusion, lighting is a great commodity to have within your landscape. Safety, aethetics, and convenience are really the main benefits you will gain when applying light.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Design and Construction of Patio Covers and Arbors

Patio Covers, Arbors, Garden Roofs, Poolside Pavilions and Pergolas not only make your gardens more inviting but also serve as major architectural and landscaping elements.

*Shade - an overhead structure can diffuse the sun, reduce the sun's glare and convert a sun baked patio or deck into an inviting oasis
*Extend Livable Space- they draw guests into the garden making entertaining a delight and enhancing your home's livability and appearance
*Adding Visual Interest- by changing a non-descript roof-line with an attached structure or creating a focal point within the garden
*Enhance Privacy- especially when houses are built close together, an overhead structure provides a measure of privacy
As with any building or construction project, planning is one of the most important steps. With a plan, it's to common to wind up with mistakes that are costly both in time and money. In addition to developing a design that fulfills your needs and blends with your home, there are a number of other factors, as in legal restrictions and code requirements, that must be taken into consideration. Torrey Pines Landscape Co., Inc has the expertise to handle any over-head structure additions from design conceptualization, through permitting and construction, to completion. Visit our portfolio on the web at to see completed projects in Rancho Santa Fe, La Jolla, Del Mar and San Diego.

Before you begin, evaluate your needs... What is the purpose that you want the structure to serve? If you have lived in your home for some time you are aware of the seasonal weather patterns and how they effect the homes interior temperature and light. Location of a structure needs to take views, drainage and legal restrictions into consideration. Having an overall and comprehensive landscape plan can help to achieve a complete and harmonious result. The new structure needs to be a part of an overall design flow with walkways, patios and other landscape elements. A good design takes its cue from the homes architecture and should blend seamlessly while creating visual interest. What you don't want is a jarring contrast. The new additons should look like they have always been there...or that they fullfilled the 'missing piece' in your over-all design.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Fire-Resistant Landscaping in San Diego

Despite this weeks current cooling trend.....
September is largely a continuation of summer weather. We can even expect a nearly blistering, warming trend with the Santa Ana winds. Water-Wise Fire Resistant Landscaping is the key to protecting your home. The goal in fire protection is to reduce the potential fuel for wildfires. Those of you who have homes next to "wild-space" or chaparral are in jeopardy because much of the native vegetation is dry and highly flammable. Homes with slopes are particularly vulnerable to soil erosion when the native vegetation is removed for fire control. Torrey Pines Landscape Co. has worked with many home owners to protect their properties with installing "fire-resistant" plantings that help control erosion without wasting water.

General Fire-Protection Landscaping Guidelines:
*Remove highly flammable native brush & vegetation
*Stabilize slope areas by planting deep rooted ground covers & adding widely space groups of shrubs and trees to maximize slope stability
*Don't use plantings with innate combustible oils that can fires to spread rapidly close to any structures
*Keep shrubs and trees thinned, well-maintained and in general away from any structures
*Use succulents and other plants with a high moisture content close to the home to create a line of defense

Zone 1
The area closest to the home. Choose low-growing plants with low fuel volume. Remove plants that would give fire a ladder to climb from the ground into a tree. Ideally there shouldn't be any tall plantings, but realistically this zone can have aesthetics in mind with plants selected with defensive in mind. What helps is hardscape. A lot of it! Brick, stone or concrete patios & walkways. Masonry seats, decorative walls and rock mulches. Shade structures and decks should be constructed of fire-resistant materials. See our portfolio at Keeping the gardens around your home well irrigated and neatly pruned is a good defensive strategy as well. Our maintenance teams also remove combustible materials like dried pine needles or leaves from the grounds. We suggest having us use gravel, pebbles or river rock as mulch instead of flammable materials. Ground Covers for this zone could include succulents - Sedums, Senicios, Crassulas, Aeoniumsor any of the various ice-plants.

Zone 2
The focus here is to reduce the fuel for a fire with low-growing ground covers that are resistant to fire which, when properly maintained, may halt a fire befor it reaches the house. Examples are some of these perennials - Fragaria chiloensis (Beach Strawberry), Ajuga reptans (Carpet Bugle), Dymondia margaretea(Mini gazania), Verbena peruviana , Salvia sonomensis(Sonoma Sage), Santolina rosmarinifolia (Green lavender Cotton) or Thymus pseudolanuginosus (Woolly Thyme)

Zone 3
This zone is the transition area between the homes garden and the wild space. A mix of low shrubs and perrenials that may be native or drought-resistant introduced. Examples are: Prunus ilicifolia (Catalina Cherry),Ceanothus thyrsiflorusrepens (Creeping Blue Blossom),Portulacaria afra (Elephant's food), Heteromeles arbutifolia (California Holly), Cistus(Rock Rose), or Carissa macrocarpa 'Green Carpet' (Natal Plum).

Zone 4
This zone refers to the existing native vegetation farthest from the house that needs to be thinned to reduce the fuel volume. Whole plants needs to be cleared away to space between these native shrubs and trees.

The closer one's home is is to wild-space, the wiser it would be to solicit help from a professional to create a fire-resisant landscape.
-'Garden Girl' at Torry Pines Landscape Co. Inc
visit us on the web at

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Agaves...easy-care with dramatic flair

Agaves are an easy-care succulent that can tolerate less than ideal conditions while providing a dramatic silhouette in your San Diego garden. They predominantely are native to Mexico. They range in size from 6" across to 10' wide and 4' high. With the exception of Agave attenuata,which eventually forms a trunk, most agave's are stemless rosettes. They all have tapered leaves that spiral outward and upward. The leaf shape, size and margin features vary with species. Most are monocarpic meaning they flower once then die, but it takes years for an agave to mature to bloom and the flower stalk is magnificent. During flowering, a tall stem (bloom spike) grows from the center of the rosette and bears a large number of tubular flowers. They usually reproduce from seeds, bublis (plants that form along the bloom stalk) or pups (new plants from lateral roots). Their shallow root system and dramatic shapes make the smaller varieties an excellent choice for containers. Maintenance requirements are low. The leaves may shrivel a bit with serious drought, but plump up again with watering or rainfall. Most are truly hardy, doing well in our full sun and weathering our winters. Grooming an agave is easy: snip the sharp tips, remove any dirt or debris that may have fallen into the crown and when cutting, trim flush with the stem. Designing a garden with agaves may not be for everyone. Most species have rigid spikes at the tips and sharp teeth along the margins as well as toxic sap. The juice from many species can cause acute contact dermatitis, a reddening and blistering than can continue to itch even after the rash has disappeared. The dried parts of the plant can be handled without risk. It's not the go-to plant for a garden that will host rambunctious children or curious pets. Don't despair if those are your circumstances because Agave attenuata is just the ticket for you. It is "user-friendly" meaning the smooth leaves have no vicious barbs or points.

Agave americana - Century Plant (so named for the time one must wait before it blooms...poetic license here...depending on the conditions and plant, it usually can bloom after 10 years) They are large (10' wide), with blue-green leaves and formidable hooked spines along the margins. The flower stalk (15 - 40' tall) bears yellow to green flowers. The 'Medio Alba' variety is smaller (3-4' high/wide) has bold stripes and a more graceful undulating leaf.

Agave villmoriniana - Octopus agave has blue green leaves that undulate, as though swept by an ocean current and curl inward creating a tubular look. This is another soft or user-friendly agave

Agave parryi - has a silver blue-gray wide leaf with reddish black serrated edges and tips. Growing to about 2' high and wide, this tight rosette is frost tolerant.

Agave victoriae-reginae - has dark green rigid and blunt leaves with thin white stripes that end in black points. Because of its natural symmetry, this is gorgeous when grown in a container

Agave geminiflora has thin, narrow flexible leaves that grow out from the center like a perennial fire-work exploding.

Agaves are surging in popularity for San Diego's landscapes, let us at Torrey Pines Landscape Co., help you to incorporate these dramatic, easy-care gems into your garden.