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  • Writer's pictureJefferson Landscape

Plant What Pops

Make Room for Plants that Appeal to You!

Nothing is more delightful than taking a walk around the neighborhood and seeing a wide variety of plants. Not the same ubiquitous, tired, over-used selection installed by most landscapers, but the eye-catching beauties those of us who live in the Bay Area are allowed to plant because the temperate zones afford us that opportunity.

If you haven’t been successful in choosing plants that pop, perhaps some of our favorites are worth considering. We tend to pick plants that vary in texture, height, color and even so-called motifs, or styles, so long as their juxtaposition is complimentary to the surrounding plants in your landscape. Quality comes first, as the aesthetic to a landscape’s design is second only to its function.

Map it out!

Perhaps, if this is a do-it-yourself project, you can sketch out your spots using a scale ruler in order to have some semblance of accuracy when giving consideration to your spatial needs. A scale ruler can usually be found at East Bay Blueprint and ordered online (Amazon too will have them). Jefferson Landscape and Design typically use the 1/8” scale, but if your area is small consider using the ¼” scale (both are on the same ruler and easy to use!). Once you’ve figured out how big your area is by measuring it, use the scale ruler to emulate it on paper. For example, 1/8” on paper will equal one foot of space in your yard; if you have a plant that will mature at four feet wide, you’ll have covered 4/8” (or 1/2”) in your drawing, and so on.

After putting together your list and know their size at maturity, plot your plants on paper. Use the same scale to draw in your plant symbols. Your project may not even require this effort if it’s small or if you’re starting with one spot. You can generally do a crude measurement to figure out the size of your shady area, the area that gets partial shade, and the area that’s sunny all day long.

Consider whether the plants you admire belong in the sun or in the shade!

Now that you know how large the areas are, you can look at the plants you like and make your lists: one list for shade, another for sun (maybe one for partial shade—most plants do best with a little shade, but not all). If you don’t have a well-balanced portion of shade in your yard, consider planting trees!

Write down the colors of any blooms (or the color of its leaves, fronds, needles or blades, etc.) and the general sizes you’re looking for because this information will be important as you figure out what goes where. As you find plants you like, write down their name. You’ll also want to make a note of its color, the size it’ll reach, whether it needs heavy, moderate or light watering (so you can set up the proper drips, i.e., ½ gph, 1 gph or 2gph), whether it grows fast or slow, and of course, sun or shade. Use good soil and mix it with the soils indigenous to your yard!

Begin your search and make your list!

Tropical plants

Eye-catching plants

Exotic plants, lush plants…you are the designer!

Take Advantage of Some of Our Favorites

Now that you’ve set out to plan your area, check out some of the favorites of Jefferson Landscape and Design. Use them as a starting point if you like, and good luck! You may also want to check out our blogs on Butterflies, Hummingbirds, Birds and Bees for more ideas!

There’s no such thing as a comprehensive list, but we have provided a few of our regular picks to help get you going. It’s tough to know where to start, there are so many types, and everyone’s taste is different.


Botanical Name Common Name

Hibiscus Rosa-Sinensis Hibiscus ‘White Wings’

Acacia Cognata Cousin Itt

Salvia 'Ember's Wish' Salvia 'Ember's Wish'

Jacaranda Mimosifolia Mimosa (Tree)

Hydrangea Quercifolia Hydrangea ‘Oakleaf’

Azalea Southern Indica Varieties

Camellia Japonica 'Nuccio Pearl' Camellia Japonica 'Nuccio Pearl'

Forsythia ‘Lynwood Gold’ Forsythia ‘Lynwood Gold’

Acer (aka Japanese Maple) Red Dragon (Tree)

Spiarea Vanhouteii Vanhoutte Spirea or Bridalwreath

Hibiscus Rosa-Sinensis Hibiscus ‘Brilliant’

Viburnum Plicatum Viburnum ‘Doublefile’

Phoenix Roebelenii Pygmy Date Palm

Disksonia Antarctica Tasmanian Fern

Anisodontea Capensis Cape Mallow or African Queen

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