Liquidambar specializes in transforming ordinary or difficult sites into gardens that blend function with aesthetics. We use subtainable landscape practices that nurture the soil, conserve water and energy, and recycle or repurpose your materials. Transforming small challenging urban spaces is our specialty.

23 September 2010

Speedy New Service

Speedy Garden Make-Over... some samples included at:;

This is suitable for small, simple spaces such as typical urban front or back gardens measuring approx. 25 x 30 feet or similar that don’t require complex or multi-level retaining elements or other major structures. Appropriate also for curb appeal upgrades, intimate spaces within large gardens, replacing thirsty lawns with drought-tolerant plants, installing water feature to buffer street noises and more. Here’s how it works:

 Your complete a questionnaire, describing your needs and how you wish to use the space

 Based on your needs we develop your design concept on site or in our studio during 1 or 2 design consultations;

 Includes layout plan drawn to scale indicating location of built elements such as patios, walls, decks, arbors, etc;

 Locates primary plants and planting beds along with list of plants and materials;

 Provides referrals to reputable landscape contractors, gardeners and suppliers

Once completed, you can then decide whether to coordinate the installation yourself or engage us to implement it for you. (The size & location of the garden determines exact hours & cost)

Of course we still provide our
Fully Developed, Documented Design Concepts … suitable for large, challenging or complex Bay Area sites that often require retaining walls, terracing, multi-level patios or decks, custom water features and more. Consequently, design development may involve more thorough site investigation and design consideration, take longer and cost more.

To discuss your garden contact;

For more information, see;

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21 September 2010

Bay Friendly Practices

Nurture the Soil is the third principle and a cornerstone of Bay Friendly practices… based on the theory that feeding the soil, not the plant, encourages a thriving food-web of microorganism, worms and other beneficial creatures. Healthy, living soil teems with all kinds of bacteria, worms and other organisms that carry out these crucial actions:

Build soil structure;
Store and cycle nutrients;
Protect plants from pests;
Improve water infiltration and storage;
Filter out urban pollutants.

Before and during any construction or garden renovations, always follow these procedures:

1 - Protect the topsoil, typically the first few inches of soil, which nurtures a plants ‘feeder roots.’ Topsoil is a valuable resource that often is removed or mixed with subsoil during construction; conserving it can reduce many problems over the long run and minimize fertilizer and irrigation requirements.

2 - Protect soil from compaction: heavy equipment can compact soil down to 2 feet below the surface. Compacted soils don’t have adequate space for air or water; avoid walking on and working in soil that is too wet or too dry.

3 – Defend against erosion: during construction, prevent loss of soil by storm-water runoff or wind … stock-pile and cover topsoil for reuse. On steep slopes, create terraces; and don’t remove valuable trees or shrubs, which help to prevent erosion, and protect them with fencing.

4 – Amend soil with compost before planting: Compost improves problem soils, especially those that are compacted, heavy clay or sandy, or lead contaminated. For trees and shrubs, amend the entire planting bed or dig planting holes no deeper than the root ball and a minimum of 3 times the size of the new plant’s root ball. Rough up the sides of the hole and mix soil compost into soil, then backfill. If possible use compost made from local green and food waste.

5 – Grasscycle: if you still have lawn, leave the clippings on the lawn after mowing, except when grass is too wet or too long. Clippings can meet some of the lawn’s nitrogen needs and supply other nutrients as well.

6 – Mulch regularly: organic materials - bark chips, composted green waste, leaves, etc – supply nutrients. Maintain 2-4 inches of organic mulch over the soil surface at all times; this helps to conserve water, suppress weed growth, provide nutrients that enhance growth and make the garden look clean and fresh!
• See article below ‘ Sheet Mulching.

7 – Aerate compacted soils: one easy way is to use power augers or water jets to create holes in compacted soil around trees and shrubs and fill with compost. For turf/sod, top-dressing with compost after aerating in spring is best.

8 – Naturally feed soil: Apply compost each spring and fall either with compost tea (see links following) or by top-dressing; this means spreading compost around the base of the plant and letting it work its way into the planting bed, then replace the mulch. For information on compost tea, check or

9 – Avoid synthetic, quick release fertilizers: a plant’s nutrient requirements are best met with compost, naturally derived fertilizers or slow-release fertilizer – only if your plant really needs nourishing.

10 – Avoid or at least Minimize Chemical Pesticides: some can be toxic to soil dwelling creatures such as earthworms. Minimizing pesticides reduces water pollution and helps support soil life.

Next time, we’ll focus on conserving water, a huge issue throughout California.