Los Angeles is full of busy people who want to have good-looking homes and gardens without dedicating their entire lives to the upkeep and maintenance of their property. With this in mind, plants are an easy, cost efficient way to decorate the home, impress the neighbors, and eat healthfully and organically.
Live plants give a house a more complete fresh feel. “The indoor plant can be used as the focal point in an otherwise functional room, or it can provide interest in a dull corner. It can bring color to the view from a window or be used against a busy wall paper to produce a sense of calm,” said John Evans in his book The Complete Book of Houseplants. A Practical Guide to Selecting and Caring for House Plants.
An undemanding indoor plant is “Sanserieria, also known as Mother In-Laws-Tongue, and requires very little water and not much light,” said Jerry Wasser, the nursery worker at Merihew’s Sunset Gardens in Santa Monica. “Schefflera, or umbrella plants, are also easy and only need to be watered once a week. Both plants are insect and problem free.” Most indoor plants are not difficult to care for, except orchids, which are one of the most difficult flowers because once they are watered, all of the water has to drain out in order for them to survive.
A green thumb doesn’t come naturally to all people because it takes patience and practice to make an ideal garden. “Food crops need a steady supply of water throughout the season. If plants are allowed to dry out, they eventually die. Yet too much water, especially in poorly drained soil, deprives plant roots of oxygen, which may also kill them. Figuring out the best way to water your garden is an ongoing learning process,” said Janet Sanchez author of Sunset: The Edible Garden.
Other factors to consider about gardening are different climates. For example the ocean dominates Santa Monica’s weather, and in the spring and early summer the mornings are often overcast. The winters are mild in temperature, and the air is hardly ever very dry. “Tender perennials like geraniums and impatiens rarely go out of bloom in this environment,” said Kathleen Norris Brenzel in her Sunset Western Garden book. “In this climate, gardens that have ornamental figs, rubber trees, and schefflera can become jungles.” The great climate in Santa Monica makes it easy to have a colorful, flourishing garden.
“Most flowers should be in full sun or full shade and watered once a week. The most popular flowers this summer are Marigolds, Impatiens, Cosmos, and Begonias,” said Wasser. “Marigolds are good because they help detour insects from other plants.”
For the garden, “outside grasses, especially Mondo grass, are low maintenance. Succulents and cactuses are the easiest plants because they only need to be watered once every ten days and require partial light,” said Wasser. “However if they are in the full sun they will cook.” Succulents come in a variety of colors from green to blue to purple, and come in many different shapes and sizes.
For those who want more than just decorative flowers, there are several vegetable plants to choose from. “Some of the best tasting vegetables are the cold season crops you harvest in the fall. The combination of warm days and cool night make root crops such as carrots and beets crisp and sweet. A touch of frost brings out the mild, delicious flowers of vitamin-rich leafy green such as kale, cabbage, and spinach,” said Sanchez. Not only would a vegetable garden improve the aesthetics of a backyard, the fresh organic vegetables are full in nutrients that are good for you and for the environment.