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Specializing in colorful, water-conserving gardens

Specializing in colorful, water-conserving gardens


Ask Joan

Do you have a question about Santa Barbara Garden Design's design or coaching services?

Would you like to learn more about a particular plant, or have a question about general gardening in our mild, wonderful Mediterranean climate?

If your questions pertain to gardening on the Central Coast of California -- or another similar region -- please submit them below.

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Please submit your questions about Central Coast gardening or our design or coaching services by clicking on “Leave a Comment.” Joan will do her best to answer.

Lawn Alternative + Eradicating Ivy


Joan, I’ve so enjoyed reading your blog. Any chance of getting an update on how Agrostis pallens performs as a lawn alternative? Also, do you have any suggestions for ways to eradicate invasive ivy?

Joan says:

Hi Caroline,

Thanks for your note.

Regarding Agrostis pallens — I first saw it last year at a landscape show put on by All Around Landscape Supply here in Santa Barbara. I’ve suggested it to a few clients. But generally my clients are removing lawns, not putting in new ones, and I haven’t gotten one to bite yet.

However, coincidentally, the show runs again next Wednesday and I’m hoping that S&S will be there again with the sod so that I can find out whether anyone actually has planted it here. If so, I definitely want to check it out. And if you’re local — it’s at the Earl Warren Showgrounds. You could call All-Around to get the particulars.

Removing ivy is a pain. While I don’t generally recommend using chemicals, some eradication efforts don’t get far without them. For ivy, I recommend Brush-B-Gone, which is a very strong systemic that has to get into the circulation system of the plant to work. Ivy has a waxy cuticle, which makes it difficult for the leaves to absorb the chemical. The best approach is to slash through your ivy first, which opens up its stems and leaves. Then immediately spray the Brush-B-Gone on all the oozing wounds. Obviously follow the safety instructions on the label and don’t spray on a windy day.

Good luck!

Copyright, Joan S. Bolton. All rights reserved. Reproduction of text or photos in any form is prohibited without written permission.

Hardscape Edging


Joan Bolton,

I read your article on edging material in the latest edition of Fine Gardening and hope you can give some advice. I have tried several types of edging to separate planting beds from lawn, but have had unsatisfactory results. Currently I have a product from Home Depot that comes on rolls (recycled plastic), but it is too thin (about 1/8th inch) to stand up to being run over by over vigorous contract lawn mowers. The board bender product you show in your excellent article looks a bit thicker and sturdier, but I can’t find it locally. Do you know of any supplier of that product?

I would appreciate any help you can offer!

Dick Pollard
Melbourne, FL

Joan says:

Hi Dick,

Glad to hear that you read Fine Gardening!

Your best bet would be to check with a local landscape supply or irrigation supply store.

For instance, I just looked up “landscape supplies” for Melbourne, Florida, on and found Sodding Depot in Palm Bay: 1378 Malabar Rd SE, Palm Bay, FL, 32907, (321) 728-2766. Based on the listing, you should be able to buy (or order) thicker recycled plastic benderboard there.

Then I looked up “irrigation supplies,” and switchboard came back with a whopping three pages of listings.

If you do those same two searches, I’m confident you’ll find a supplier.

As for the actual thickness — suppliers here typically offer recycled plastic benderboard in 1″ and 2″ (and 4″ or 6″ tall and 20′-0″ long). The 1″ is a little more flexible, so better for curves; the 2″ is better for straighter lines.

Good luck!

Copyright, Joan S. Bolton. All rights reserved. Reproduction of text or photos in any form is prohibited without written permission.

Repairing a Decomposed Granite Path


Hi Joan,

I’m re-doing a decomposed granite path at home and Tom said you use a concrete-like binder to hold together your paths.

With my sandy soil, despite weed barrier fabric and power tamping of the soil and DG, after a couple of years, the weeds come back. I’ve got bender board on the sides, too.

I think the DG tears apart the weed barrier. Maybe the binder might help keep the DG together and prevent this from happening.

Can you suggest something I can add to the DG?



Joan says:

Hi Len,

If you’re asking whether you can add something to the existing DG, I’m afraid there are no good solutions. The stabilizer/binder/catalyst is mixed in with the DG before it’s spread. Any building supply place that is selling you DG should also carry the stabilizer, and can suggest the proper ratio.

However, the ideal way to install a DG path is to excavate 3-4;” lay down filter fabric, which is heavier than landscape fabric; lay down several inches of crushed base and compact it; then lay down a couple inches of DG+stabilizer and compact it as well. If it’s in an area with gophers, it’s wise to lay down aviary wire beneath the filter fabric, too. It’s the same technique as laying a gravel path, except you substitute gravel for the DG and only lay down 1-1 1/2″ of gravel.

It’s way more time consuming and labor intensive, but the path lasts quite a bit longer.

I have a neighbor who tried pouring a weak slurry of portland cement over her disintegrating DG path. It looked horrible and started cracking almost immediately. The thing about the stabilizer is that it has some elasticity.

This may not be what you want to hear, but does it help?

Copyright, Joan S. Bolton. All rights reserved. Reproduction of text or photos in any form is prohibited without written permission.

Flowering Plum Worm + Design Help


Hello Joan,

We’re in Goleta and planted plum trees in January, which are doing well, except for a tiny black worm that is eating the leaves (about 1/4 ” long). Do you have any suggestions for how to get rid of this without chemicals, etc. ?

Thanks for your advice,

Best wishes

Ruth and Tim

Joan says:

Hi there,

There is a small worm that munches its way through the foliage of purple-leaf plum trees. Some years it’s more active than others. Generally the trees just shake off the damage, although the leaves can look pretty tattered by the end of the season.

You might snip off a damaged leaf + a worm, put them in a plastic bag and take them to Terra Sol Nursery on Overpass Road in Goleta. Show the leaf and the worm to the folks at the counter, and they should be able to suggest a biological control.

Good luck!

Copyright, Joan S. Bolton. All rights reserved. Reproduction of text or photos in any form is prohibited without written permission.

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