Category Archives: Educational

Home make over – Sierra Madre.

#3 sierra madre#5 sierra madre#6 sierra madre
After the pool was installed it was time to design a low maintenance landscape. My choices were: French lavender, Salvia leucantha, Muhlenbergia rigens with a sinuous pathway of river rock. The drip irrigation is beneath the two inches of mulch which serve as a weed deterrent as well as keeping the soil moisture from drying out.
This project will grow in nicely in about 6 months and soften up the pathway’s solid edges.

Mike Brown Design
Sierra Madre 2013.

Salvia leucantha makes a terrific statement in the garden…

011 copy
Make sure you give your Salvia leucantha plenty of room to spread – as it will do. It usually tops off at about 6′ wide by 3′-4′ in height. Full sun and well drained soils are best, otherwise it gets leggy in the shade. Cut back to the ground after blooming (usually January)..this will allow sunlight to penetrate the lower stems and flush out again when the weather is warm. In climates like Southern California, Arizona and Florida cut back after bloom and it will usually start to regrow immediately.

A whimsical color palate of summer flowers…

This colorful summer garden I designed for Descanso Gardens started with a fall planting of perennial salvia and echium. I then added poppies and gaillardia in late spring. Last years self seeded linaria will never disappoint you as they always come up and if you look close you will see a few left over foxglove, pincushion and snapdragon from my early spring planting. To the right I added a mass of ornamental grasses. The upkeep was fairly easy as the density of the planting and mulch kept the weeds at bay as well as kept the soil from becoming too dry.

If you have any questions please address them to I’m Mike Brown your garden consultant and host of I hope to be seeing you around the garden!

Photo credit and design: Mike Brown

Saving water by planting a climate appropriate garden!

david 1david 2david 3david 4
Here is another example of what you can do by removing your lawn completely. We took out the large Crepe Myrtle along with some very thirsty sod and created an informal climate appropriate garden. We installed: Miscanthus ‘morning light’ ornamental grass, Festuca ‘glauca’, Ceanothus, Santolina, Salvia leucantha, a Michelia champaca and an Acacia baileyana. We placed a weed barrier beneath the mulch for weed suppression and any errant grass that may try to re-grow. This is more than 2 years after the installation. (I’m not a fan of red mulch but in this case it actually helps to make the plant material stand out.

Photo credit and design: Mike Brown

Summer gardens mean lots of work and color payoff….

Start your summer annual gardens in early spring and watch the magic unfold. For those on the east coast as soon as the soil temperatures heat up to 60+ degrees plants are on a mission to grace your garden. In this garden I planted Cleome the previous season (they self seeded and here is the design they came up with). Along with them I planted Rudbeckia and allowed everyone to tackle the elbow room together…plants can get along too you know. As a bonus for being well-behaved -they got a weekly dose of compost tea (made with sea-kelp and earthworm castings)….they got a root drench and a foliar splash too! Oh, you might see an errant snapdragon or two as well.

Enjoy your whimsical summer! :)

Photo and design credit: Mike Brown and Mother nature at self seeding.

Be creative with your containers and plant choices…

Hotel 1


This galvanized container is filled to the brim with phormium, sedum, fescue and beautiful blooming calandrina. The container has appropriate drainage and is coated with a sealant to prevent interior erosion of the metal. In addition, ¬†I used a very porous soil to expedite water away from the roots as these plants do best in well drained soil. These ¬†containers can be seen at the hip and down to earth Farmer’s Daughter Hotel on Fairfax Avenue, West Hollywood.

Project green-scaping is “Greening the world, one container at a time”!

Design and photo credit: Mike Brown


Above ground vegetable planter boxes…

Above ground vegetable boxes are great if you have poor soil and you don’t want to amend your soil. Just make sure the soil beneath is tilled to help facilitate water percolation into the soil profile. Also, make sure the vegetables you are planting will have enough soil to root themselves into – I recommend at least 18″ of composted soil depth. Make sure the timber or wood you are using is not pressure treated – cedar or redwood lasts longer and is not pressure treated. Place your planter box in the sun or whatever the crop you are planting requires. Tomatoes and peppers need at least 6 hours of sunlight. I mix steer manure and composted soil together to give my seedlings the best head start. I also recommend compost tea at least twice a month as a foliar spray or root drench. Don’t forget to plant marigolds to help deter aphids and mealy bugs. Happy gardening!

Photo credit: Mike Brown

Before, during and after a home make over Bel Air style…

This narrow strip of property was overdue for a landscape makeover. These old shrubs and soil were excavated and sent to the landfill. In addition, the water requirements for Schefflera and the other shrubs were obsessive. I designed this climate appropriate landscape that complemented the house as well as the budget.

Design and Photo: Mike Brown 2012


Join me for garden and landscape lectures…..

Watch for my latest garden and landscape lecture and walks around the greater Los Angeles area! On Saturday January 19th our group will meet at Jurassic Gardens in North Hollywood at 11am. This walking lecture will be about a hour and a half. There will be a $10 class fee for adults – children are free.

For more information – please check out

Please join us and I’ll be seeing you around the garden! :)