Design concepts – The Six Courtyard Houses

The Six Courtyard Houses were designed by Ibarra Rosano Design Architects in Arizona.

This article has images and plan views. I’m not familiar with the climate in Arizona. I must say that I wouldn’t want to live in the landscape pictured for these houses. It’s a bit.. stark and exposed.

What was the thought process for it? “I would like there to be a big central platform viewable from every window in the house. Plus, three plants.” heeheee. I kid! Or do I?

I’m more of a Secret Garden’ kinda gal. But I want to learn more about this starker more modern/contemporary style. This Pintrest Board has tons of great examples.

Various design concept sketches.
I need to pick one to develop further. 1, 6 or 2?





Tags: ,
Posted in Gardens, Landscape, Sketchbook No Comments »

Jumping and Creating

Kids playing in the’Nature Zone’ Playspace.

The tree stump circle is either used for jumping

or for building on…

These are rolly poly houses.




Final houses:


Posted in Gardens, Play, Playscapes & Playgrounds, Projects No Comments »

Fun at Tilden Botanic Garden

I really love Tilden Botanic Garden. For one thing there are about one million little bridges. And there is just a pleasing variety of microclimates and fab plants.

The one on the end is a nudibranch or maybe a paramecium.

I realize a botanic garden probably isn’t the right venue for this but I did it anyway and it was pleasing. I will stick to using nature to make ephemeral art in urban places.

Posted in Gardens, Landscape, Plants, Public Spaces No Comments »

Making infused oils and salves with stuff from my garden.

One of the things I enjoy most from our garden in the spring is the chamomile. Fresh chamomile tea is NOTHING like the stuff you might get in a tea bag. This year I have made infused oils using chamomile flowers, comfrey, calendula, and lavender from my garden.

My first experiment was to make a whipped coconut oil body butter using the recipe on The Nourished Life. I added in comfrey and chamomile. Whipping the coconut oil gives it a soft texture and you can scoop it out of a jar easily. It’s quite nice but I wanted more.

I tried my hand at making a salve. I sort of roughly followed this recipe from Ramblings of a Happy Homemaker. I used coconut oil, beeswax, and, calendula, lavender, comfrey, and chamomile oils, and also some vitamin E oil.

For my next trick I will try with some grapeseed oil. In fact, I might start infusing grape seed oil instead of olive oil and incorporating some local honey would kind of rock too. Crunchy Betty has a nice sounding recipe that includes honey.

I made the mistake of smearing some salve all over myself, forgetting that salve does NOT equal lotion. So yeah. The whipped coconut oil worked well as a lotion. it wqasnt too heavy or greasy and absorbed into my skin nicely.


I might try a recipe similar to this one at To Come Full Circle with clove.



The following list is taken from

Coconut oil ~ Super moisturizing oil, a solid at room temperature but melts easily on the skin. Its consistency makes it very easy to mix and very useful in facial masks. Protects skin from the elements by forming a thin film which is not absorbed. Also useful as an after sun oil. Good cleansing properties and very mild.

Comfrey – Contains allantoin, an ingredient that promotes healing, and is known for its regenerating and soothing properties. The extract of the Comfrey plant is anti-inflammatory, astringent and emollient. It can help the healing of open wounds, cuts, burns, and bruises

Lavender ~ Soothes and calmes your skin, has antiviral, anti-fungal, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. Can relieve muscle tension, speeds healing and reduces scarring. Also works as anti depressant, stimulates circulation, is a mild sedative and reduces nervous tension.

Chamomile ~ There are Roman and German chamomile. They are rejuvenating and relaxing and have soothing effect on burns and irritations. Are also slightly sedative.

Beeswax ~ Beeswax locks in moisture, fosters cells and protects skin from damaging environmental factors. reports beeswax effectively “softens your skin and creates a long-lasting protective coating against the elements. It also is a naturally nourishing moisturizer as well as being anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, anti-allergenic and a germicidal antioxidant.” According to, “Even after processing, beeswax still remains a biologically active product, retaining some anti-bacterial properties and also contains some vitamin A, which is necessary for normal cell development.” The Mayo Clinic recommends lip balm made from beeswax for chapped lip care and prevention.

Since beeswax does not clog pores, states, “When it is properly used, (beeswax) will not promote the formation of acne or pimples.”

Tags: , ,
Posted in Gardens, Play, Projects No Comments »

More Labyrinth pictures from around town

Sibley volcanic preserve
labyrinth - sibley volcanic preserve

There’s a tiny old one over by Lake Merritt. I can’t find a picture of it right now.

I know there is another labyrinth in Tilden somewhere but I haven’t made it out there.

Okay, this one is on Maui. I can dream it is about town.
labyrinth @ Nakalele Blowhole

This is the labyrinth I talk about here and here.

Posted in Gardens, Inspiration, Play, Playscapes & Playgrounds, Projects No Comments »

Gardens at NIMBY – A Playground for Adults

About 5 years after NIMBY moved to a new location in East Oakland I finally made it over there for a fundraiser and got to check out the space. The first thing I noticed that there there were plants everywhere and I was really surprised. Thinking about it now I’m not surprised at all. who better to create gardens from cast off junk than the founder of the largest do-it-yourself industrial art space in the Bay Area? The second thing i noticed was that they have an old metals twisty slide from a Mcdonalds and I WANT IT! Like, really want it. It could totally fit in our side yard and would be awesome.


But, back to the gardens at NIMBY… one of the first containers of unexpected food were these old ducts filled with kale and then this pink bath tube with more food plants:
food in unexpected places pink bathtub with food plants

gardens @ nimby

Apparently it is very east to get cheap discarded hydroponic/pot grow house equipment like these huge trays:
gardens @ nimby
Love the tree house going up in the background. I saw that out on the playa about a month later. :)

I counted about 5 big trays of food plants and many smaller pots scattered about. That’s a lot of fresh veggies to share!

And here are the beginnings of some aquaponics tanks. I think they could build a decent chicken coop on top of this that dogs would not be able to get in to. A sort of chicken condo, if you will.
gardens @ nimbycan you find the Buddha peeing and the hamburglar? Then there was this huge tank filled with beautiful glass sculptures, fish and plants used to a be a huge gas tank. I think? I could be remembering wrong, but either way, it was very pretty and soothing!

There were some great succulent gardens as well. I wish I had written down the name of the person who made this lovely wall sculpture with succulents:

And outside, there were these great plastic pipes filled with succulents. I can see this working really well on a back porch or even front yard.

Industrial junk being turned to good use, whether for art or to grow food or to make a playground is always beautiful and inspiring!

morning glories and razor wire @ NIMBY

Posted in Gardens, Inspiration, Playscapes & Playgrounds No Comments »

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day – June 2012

My first Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day post a few days late. :P

What is happening back here flower wise these days?

Zucchini Flower!

Poppies, poppies and more poppies.

Yarrow and CA fushias and salvia clevelandii.


Cerinthe major

cat + Mimulus

I bought a few small plants yesterday so maybe I’ll have an actual in bloom flower bed later this year. :)

Posted in Gardens, Projects 9 Comments »

KaBoom – Online Resources

It looks like KaBoom has some interesting sounding talks you can listen to online about various aspects of playground design and installation. Heres a link.

There are interviews with designers, how to maintain a community garden and get volunteers, info about outdoor schools and tons more. Go check it out if you are interesting in getting your community active in having playgrounds installed and including kids in landscapes.

I see KaBoom also has a new iPhone app called Playgrounds! I haven’t tried it yet and I see that it gets mixed reviews. One reviewer mentions that it seems to include any school campus regardless of age range. It’s not often you find a high school with a playground… and even if you did it might not be open to the public. I’ll download this myself and give it a try. Hopefully my very old and getting decrepit iPhone can handle it.

Posted in Gardens, Playscapes & Playgrounds No Comments »

Evolution of an herb spiral

When we moved in and had an arborist come cut down some of the plum trees we kept all the branches. When I was making my herb spiral I dug a hole to mix in compost and such and I buried some of the plum branches in a nod to Hugelculture. We also piled up most of them along the back wall and dumped dirt on it and hove things growing on it (oh, and an embedded hillside) in a more traditional hugelculture bed.

April 2011:
herb spiral to be.

It started fairly small.
June 2011:
herb spiral

I enlarged it to include an attached bed for flowers.

October 2011:
herb spiral

February 2012:
herb spiral is getting bigger and bigger

Here’s the flower part of it in May 2012:
Spring 2012 - backyard

I had a fantastic crop of borage, chamomile and comfrey plus some nice annuals this spring. I have prepared the bed for some new things but I’m not sure what. I already sprinkled some seeds randomly and put in a few ground cherries. There is also some lovely lovely smelling lemongrass and some valerian in there plus some basic herbs like rosemary and oregano.

Here it is June 2012:

Posted in Gardens, Inspiration, Plants, Tutorial No Comments »