Eating Out: Quarantine Style

These days, going out to eat is a fraught proposition. Is your favorite place open for dine-in? If it is, do you feel safe going there? We all truly need a break from our great indoors and sometimes the best way to have a great time eating out is just a few steps away.

If you haven’t been eating out in your back yard much but really feel like it’s time let’s start with a few basic questions. Do you have a grill that never gets used? Do you wish that you could enjoy dining out in your garden but find it’s more trouble than it’s worth? I totally get it! A great outdoor kitchen is one of the top issues clients are itching to solve for. I’ve come up with a handy guide to help you get cooking and eating out.

The best way to maximize a garden, after all, is to enjoy meals in it. There is nothing like being outside at the end of long day, and enjoy the beauty and serenity of a fabulous garden. With fresh grilled foods and crisp cool beverages you not only feed the body but also the soul. And we all need a little more of that these days.

Sounds great doesn’t it? But somehow there always seems to be a barrier to that picture perfect scene. Too many bugs. It gets dark early and you can’t see anything. It’s a pain to clean up. It’s a hassle to keep walking back and forth: in for the tongs, out to cook; In for the sauce, out out to be with your guests. In for the foil, out to tidy up. Am I touching on any of the big ones for you? If so, let’s dive right in.

Here’s my super simple rule book for a fantastic outdoor kitchen

1. Know Thyself…or thy client:

How often do you want to eat outside? Every weekend? Once a month? Be realistic. Let’s not build the church for Easter Sunday, as the saying goes. If you love the idea of eating outside often even if you haven’t done it much before, then it’s totally worth budgeting for a complete kitchen. If you’re thinking of only grilling a bit in the summer, and only when you have guests, a pared down version will suit you just fine.


Grill (duh!). I recommend stainless steel, at least a 32” size. Minimum 4 burners, warming rack, lights, and grease tray that is removable.

Gas or Propane? The answer is a question: High cost now or high cost over time? It’s expensive to bring a gas line particularly if it is far from the house. Propane is comparatively inexpensive. If you are a daily or even weekly griller though, it is well worth it to choose gas.

Smooth countertops. No grout. It sucks to clean!

Counterspace Give yourself as much as possible. You want to fit a large platter on each side of the grill—one side for the prepped food, the other for the finished product. If you can manage 24” on either side great. If not, 11” on one side and 30” on the other.

Storage 3 drawers, a trash enclosure, and a double door cabinet at the base, minimum. I promise you will find plenty of things to fill them up.

Sink Some people avoid this due to the cost of bringing the water and drain line. But it’s super handy and prevents you from needing to run back and forth to the house! Save a tiny bit by not including hot water.

Outlets You will typically need at least two outlets that will be used for everything from a blender, to charging your phone.

Lights It is the only way you will use it all year long!

Construction method CMU (concrete masonry unit) are the big blocks you see walls made out of. They are inexpensive but cut down on your internal space. An alternative is steel framing with concrete board that gives you more storage space inside. Either choice allows you to add stucco or stone veneer for a beautiful finish.

  • Fun extras to complete your complete outdoor kitchen
    1. Speakers because, music!
    2. Ceiling Fan if you have a cover—keeps the air circulating, and the bugs at bay
    3. Citronella candles, speaking of bugs.
    4. Extra hidden storage is always a good thing.
    5. Heaters allow you to use your outdoor kitchen all year long
    6. TV totally not my thing when outside but some say it’s a must for watching the big game, or the big fight, or your favorite gardening show.


Free standing grill Choose one that has wing-like side shelves. This allows you to have a plate right next to you while grilling.

Solid paved surface The cooking area should be on solid ground such as concrete, leveled brick or tile etc. Gravel, turf and open soil is not a great place for grilling. It is unstable and unsafe.

Weatherproof storage is a must! Purchase or have some units made. Hollow benches with flip up lids are great because they serve two purposes. There should be enough room for long grilling tools, your kit of spices, plates, utensils, napkins, placemats and cloths to wipe surfaces down.

Trash Have a small decorative receptacle nearby.

Lights Any landscape is made better with lighting. The investment is even more valuable if you plan on eating out.

Two outlets at least. If you don’t have an overhead structure you can literally have them placed discretely on the ground with a waterproof cover.

4. Placement

Placement of your outdoor kitchen is the key to success! You want your location to be easily accessible to and from your indoor kitchen. Going around corners, and navigating around obstacles will definitely put a damper on your outdoor dining plans! (Read more about this in my previous post, Draw Them In Deep). Best case scenario, it should be very close to the house. Next best is deep in the garden but with a very direct path of travel.

If you’ve followed my advise so far, you’ll have everything you need to enjoy eating out night after night! Eating out, quarantine style, just got way more exciting.

As we say in Japan before enjoying a delicious meal, Ita daki masu!

Tillandsia Art

Can a plant be a piece of art? Some might say no. I say, absolutely, yes! You might think “Of course a plant person would say that!” Perhaps it sounds like I’m elevating plants to an unreasonable status. Let me be clear. I don’t think that all plants are works of art, but Tillandsias, or Air Plants, are not your regular, run of the mill plant. Tillandsia Art, therefore, is something distinct and even extraordinary!

This marvellous, group of ancient plants (estimated at around 30 million years old) are members of the Bromeliad family and come in copious sizes, forms and colors. In fact there are at least 500 known varieties and can be as small as your thumb or as large as your head.

But the thing that I like most about them, what makes them unique, and frankly magnificent, is that they grow without soil!

What?! You are probably exclaiming. That’s right. No soil. No planting. None of it! You can stick it on a shelf or hang it on the wall; you can put it in a glass bowl or string them up on a wire. This is why Tillandsias are without a doubt, Living Art. Without the limiting nature of their soil-bound counterparts, they can go just about anywhere.

How to care for them

It’s tempting for me to dive into the care of these crazy little relics but I’ll resist the urge. My mission with this blog is about creating magnificent gardens through great design, proper tools and dynamic art. Caring for Air Plants properly is absolutely important, because while they are very low maintenance plants, they by no means are not NO maintenance. They need a very special kind of attention and if you don’t give it to them, you will most assuredly kill them. So instead I suggest you check out to get the basics.

Now that we’ve got that cleared up! Let’s learn creative techniques on how to use them to create your own one-of-a-kind Tillandsia Art.


Creating your own piece of art with tillandsias is limited only by your imagination. Your piece can be simple, using only a single plant, or large and complex, using multiple varieties. Here are some examples of how I’ve used them in creating works of art for myself and my clients. I also have ideas I’ve been tossing around but haven’t executed yet.

Wall Art #1, GreenWall

Green walls are an amazing answer to small space design. Indoors or out, sometimes the only way to green up the space is by going up. There are a slew of products out there for this: wooly pockets are a favorite, and other cell based planters are common as well. Tillandsias, however, offer a fantastic alternative. But there is a right and wrong way to do it.

Learn from my mistake! I had a client who was looking for an 8’x2’ green wall. Attempt #1 was pretty beautiful. The client loved it. I loved it. Unfortunately the Air Plants did not love it. It was not successful.

  • I used marine grade plywood as my framing board. This part was successful. Since the plants need to have water sprayed upon them regularly you need a moisture barrier which can hold water that won’t seep through to the wall. Marine grade plywood is great for that.
  • I used nails as supports for each air plant. Not in and of itself a problem but ultimately was not a good solution for my design.
  • I used a variety of Tillandsia called Ionantha Guat for the entire board. Turns out, these are very small and not very hardy. They are sensitive and short lived.
  • I placed the Ionantha Guats too close together on the hard board. They began to die almost immediately. I replaced about 1/4 of the plants but they continued to die until I reworked the design.

Why did they die? Probably a combination of a few factors. Because they were placed so closely together but up against a hard board, the theory is that the 3 main saboteurs were 1. Not enough air flow, 2. They continuously dried out too quickly after being watered, 3. Their delicate nature was sensitive to the above two issues and so they could not get established.

Wall Art #2, GreenWall

TIllandsia Art

I ended up revising the greenwall and started almost completely from scratch. I kept the board, removed the nails, did some research, and found a new technique and some new plants.

  • Instead of nails, I used peat moss held to the board with 1” chicken wire. I then nested the Tillandsias with their wiry roots (and some fine gauged wire) in to the framing I had created.
  • Instead of the tiny Ionantha Guat, I used a combination of Bronze Crown, Stricta Hugo, Aeranthos Purple Leather and several others to make a wall that varied in color and texture. It was far more dynamic and contained larger, more sturdy plants to withstand the rigors of the indoor conditions. The peat moss rather than just the board backing allowed the plants to hold moisture better, preventing them from drying out instantly but did not keep them soggy either. A beautiful result.

notes about greenwalls

When building an extensive green wall, the client should be made aware that, 1. Just because they are Air Plants, it does not mean that they require no maintenance and 2. Tillandsias die and need to be replaced just like any other plants. ALL green walls require ongoing maintenance and a replacement program (and budget). Tillandsias are no different.

Wall Art #3, Accent on Art

Some of the larger Air Plants are so primevally dramatic all by themselves. They yearn to shine in the spotlight all alone. I have created a mounting board with long nails to support them but the nails were insufficient—the plant would tip forward and fall off its perch. The solution was to use nylon wire and a hook and eye solution. The eye was screwed into the board and the nylon wire with a hook was wrapped around the base of the plant and affixed to the eye. Voila! The best part is that the nylon is practically invisible.

tillandsia art Curtain

Ok, I’ve never actually done this one but I totally want to give it a try. Air Plants can literally be strung up and survive the process. By that I mean that you can use a needle and nylon thread and basically sew through them to create an effect such as a curtain. Take the needle and nylon and pierce it through the base of the plant, tie knots if you want to prevent them from sliding down. This will not kill the plant (I know! Hard to believe, right?) I’ve seen it done but would love to try making a full doorway curtain with them. If any of you have done this, send pictures!

Tillandsia Art Planters

About a year ago I received one of my favorite requests from a client. Someone had gifted them an old steel wheelbarrow. My instructions were to transform it into a beautiful planter that…wait for it… would not require irrigation. The wheel barrow was alarmingly unstable and could not bear a great deal of weight. But the clients were adventurous and artists so I knew I could have some fun with it.

Using lava rocks (because they are extremely lightweight), some of the artists own pottery and a wide array of Tillandsias, strategically placed, I knew we could make something fantastic.


The moral of this art story is that ANYTHING can be turned into a fabulous piece of botanical art by incorporating Tillandsias into it. Hopefully you’ve gotten a few ideas to get you going and you’re ready to give it a try yourself. I think you’ll fall in love with them as I have. And if you’re not ready to make your own, we at Minanda Landscape Design offer custom, one of a kind garden art and would be happy to work with you to create a spectacular piece of Tillandsia art for your home, office or outdoor room! Just give us a call or send an email:


Connect With Your Garden

These are strange days, right? Perhaps that’s an understatement. The outbreak of a global pandemic was simply not on my radar. At all. I’m certainly not the only one. As far as I can tell each of us is filled with urgent stories of surreal experiences, and intense emotions as we grapple with this new, unprecedented reality. During this forced isolation I think we’re collectively yearning for connection. What could be better than taking time to connect with your garden?

The garden has been a place of solace to me ever since I was a child. I remember one Saturday afternoon being scolded by my dad. I was about six years old and had surely committed some egregious offense. My punishment: 2 hours in the “Weed Patch”. The Weed Patch was a small rectangle of about 10’x15′ where we planted our tomatoes and wild flowers every year. My dad used that chore as a punishment because it took me away from friends and tv. I’d trudge through the Patch with messy tears and snot smeared across my face and my little trowel in hand to begin my penance. But at some point during the chore, the tears would stop and I actually began enjoying myself.

Lately, I’ve been feeling overwhelmed with the weight of this crisis and the stories of human tragedy and fear. Do you feel it, too? I spend too much time scrolling through news articles and social media posts then feel shaken with an urge to fight or run.

A few days ago, I woke up to news that the State Department initiated a Level 4 travel advisory (seriously limiting International travel). It was quickly followed by the governor of California instituting a “stay-in-place” ordinance. I was apoplectic over the ramifications it could have for my return from Japan as well as for our family and friends struggling back in California. I needed to do something to settle myself down.

Feeling like the walls were closing in, I bolted outside. Here in Tokyo, I don’t have a much of garden to speak of. I merely have a narrow strip containing a row of anemic, dwarf azaleas with a constant understory of weeds. Out of mindless habit, I got down on my hands and knees and started pulling. The sun was shining. It was a little breezy. There were birds chirping—so many birds. And before long I began to feel like myself again. I could breath freer, my shoulders softened and I felt calmer. I could hardly believe how quickly the fear settled into a calm disquiet. Not perfect. But so. much. better.

It reminded me that in the most emotional and difficult times, to connect with your garden—whether by weeding it, planting something new in it, or simply walking through it—can help you find peace in the one place you can still go right now. Connecting with your garden allows you to effect change, not just in the garden but in your mind, body and spirit. And that is something we could all use a little bit of.

I encourage you, whether you are a career landscape professional, an avid enthusiast, or an admirer, take a few minutes out of your day to try one of these suggestions. Connect with your garden and the space around you and disconnect from the challenges on the horizon. I promise, you won’t regret it!


The first thing our maintenance team does when they arrive at our clients’ homes before getting to work is to walk around and take a look. It’s one of the most important steps in maintenance because it gives you a chance to take stock of what’s there and determine how you want to set your priorities.

Here’s how:

  • Start at the place closest to your door and walk slowly around all the planting areas, making a complete loop through the garden.
  • Your pace should be slow. No faster than if you were trying to sneak up on your pet without waking them up.
  • First look around with a soft focus. You’re trying to get a sense of the garden as a whole. Does anything stand out? Is there a plant that you love but can’t see because it’s blocked by something else? Are there any plants that are way bigger than you remember them being? Or way smaller?
  • Next, look at each individual plant as you pass it. Is it blooming? Are any of the blooms looking old and spent? Are there any leaves or branches that are brown or dying? Do you see weeds? Are there plants growing on top of other plants? Do you see any pests?
  • Make a mental note of what you see that stands out to you. Plan on returning to any spots that you really want to play with.
  • No judgement allowed. If you haven’t spent much time in the garden lately, that’s fine! The goal here is connecting with your garden, making observations and maybe considering what you might want to do with it next time.
  • Don’t forget to take some deep breaths as you go along. This is important. Just because it’s good for you!
  • End at your starting point. You now have a mental map of your garden and hopefully have enjoyed a nice break.


Once a chore imposed on me as a child, now, it’s one of the most meditative, dare I say enjoyable, gardening tasks I perform. The more weeds the better!

Here’s how:
It’s usually best to have a tool with you: hori hori, dandelion fork, hand hoe, weeding fork or if you have a bad back, a long handled tool: long handled diamond fork, Niwashi (Japanese weeding tool), etc. But hands also work.

  • Find the spot with the most weeds. (Don’t be scared!)
  • If the soil is hard, using your tool, dig down the side of the weed and leverage the weed out of the ground.
  • If the soil is soft and relatively loose pinch the base of the weed with your fingers as low as possible, below the soil level if you can.
  • Try to bring up the weed with it’s roots in tact. If you leave roots, it’s offspring will be back before dinnertime.
  • Start slow and pay attention to what you’re doing to really try getting those roots. As you get the hang of it, move faster but continue to concentrate. If your mind starts to wander, gently bring your attention back to the task.
  • Put the weeds in the compost heap (one that heats up, in order to kill any seeds)
  • Continue until you are sufficiently relaxed and mentally present. Or until the weeds are gone.
  • If you still feel anxious but all your weeds are gone, try weeding your neighbor’s front yard, for good measure. It helps with mindfulness and will help you make friends too (as long as you stay 6′ apart).

Note: This is a great activity to do with kids! It isn’t difficult, they get to see what a great job they’ve done and they feel a sense of accomplishment. My garden never had fewer weeds than when my son was a willing helper!


Certain plants, particularly strappy ones, continuously shed leaves to make room for fresh new ones. Clearing out those yellowing or brown leaves makes a huge difference in having a beautiful versus a so-so looking garden.

Here’s how:

  • Identify the plants in your garden that have regular die-off. Hemerocallis (Day Lilies), Agapanthus, Carex, Dietes (Fortnight lilies), Elymus Giant Rye Grass and most grasses are the most notorious ones.
  • Using your hands, fluff up each of the plants (unless it has sharp edges, in which case use a tool), lift up the fresh green blades/leaves and see what’s underneath.
  • Pull yellowing and brown leaves from the base and remove with your hands. If it freely comes loose, great.
  • If the leaves do not come loose, use one of your knife-like tools. I like the hori hori or the turf cutter for those.
  • Cut away from the very base of the plant watching out for fingers and drip lines.
  • If you’re working on shrubs, always use your clippers to remove any branches. No tearing.
  • If you have browning leaves on a shrub you can simply run your hands through the plants to shake loose anything that has died off. Don’t pluck!
  • After you finish a plant or two, stand back. Appreciate that you have made a change here and things look better than they did when you started! Sometimes you can’t tell when you’re in the middle of it, so stepping back from time to time helps.


All blooming plants should be “deadheaded” regularly. All that means is take off the flowers when they look kind of old and sad. Roses, for example, will bloom much more prolifically if you continuously cut away the spent roses. It’s the same for salvias, lavenders, and all the others.

Here’s how:

  • Start with a good pair of clippers. Or a bad pair if that’s all you have. In fact, since you’re most likely stuck at home, if you don’t have clippers I won’t tell anyone if you use a pair of household scissors (just don’t forget to clean them afterwards otherwise your kid’s next art project might be ruined).
  • You are looking for bloomers that look old and sad. By this I mean that their color has faded compared with newer blooms, they droop downward or have lost some or most of their petals.
  • If you have a plant that has flower spikes (the bloom is at the end of a long stem), you should cut it down as close to the base as possible.
  • If you’re working on a rose bush, find the rose you want to cut, look down the stem for the next cluster of leaves that faces outward of the plant and cut about 1/4 of an inch before that leaf. The new rose will grow from that junction.
  • If you’re deadheading a flowering shrub such as a lavender just cut off the bloom down the stem as close to the first leaf cluster as possible.
  • When deadheading an azalea or camellia, grab the old bloomer in your hand and gently try to snap or pull it off. If it doesn’t come off in your hand, it isn’t ready yet. (For azaleas, try putting a little cooking oil on your fingers before working with them—to avoid getting sticky from the sap which I find particularly annoying.)
  • What ever the plant is that you’re deadheading be sure to talk lovingly to it as you look for each bloom you want to remove. Stay with me, ok? I don’t mean tell it your problems—although I sometimes find them to be excellent, non-judgmental listeners. What I mean is, speak your thoughts as you look for the blooms that need to be cut, “How are you doing? You look like you’re about done, is that right? Wow, you’ve lost all your petals already, I’m sorry I missed that.” It’s another way to be present in the moment with what you are doing. To suspend judgement of anything else that’s happening in your life or in the world, to let go of the past and not worry about the future. Just take that moment to think about that flower in front of you. Right now.


There are few things more hopeful than planting seeds! These teeny tiny capsules of hope are one of the best ways to connect with your garden. Planting seeds is another great activity to share with kids.

Here’s how:

  • Sunflower seeds are my all time favorites for personal gratification. The seeds are big and easy to plant, they germinate in about as much time as it takes to put your tools away, and the end result of bright, boppy, funflowers is less than 2 months away.
  • Plant a new group every two weeks to make your sunny days last longer.
  • California poppies or other wildflowers make another great choice for planting. And talk about easy. Water the soil where you want them to go. Loosen the soil. Then sprinkle them, don’t bury them. Finally press them down to make firm contact with the soil, and water once more and keep things moist. You’ll see them germinate in about a week.
  • Veggies are a must for some extremely gratifying gardening. Choose varieties that you actually like to eat. Don’t plant tomatoes if you don’t like tomatoes! Cucumbers, zucchini bell peppers and of course tomatoes are great choices and easy to grow. Start with 4” pots and plant them either in larger pots or directly in the ground. Cucumbers and zucchini can cascade over the edge of a pot, making a lovely green edible garden even with very little space.
  • Give yourself a schedule for watering, weeding and feeding your veggies every week. They need you! And having a routine when things feel loosy-goosy at home is a mental health saver!
  • Enjoy the satisfaction of seeing something you have put your energy and positivity into, grow and thrive despite whatever is happening around you.

There is simply no roadmap for what is happening in the world right now. We are charting new territory. It’s sometimes scary, and upsetting, and sometimes inspiring. One thing is for sure though, the effects of staying inside constantly can be toxic. Be sure to step out and breath deeply. The beauty that you find outdoors and to connect with your garden can offer you the gift of inspiration, rejuvenation and optimism. Be well!

Now, let’s go out and get our hands dirty!

What’s in the Garden Pro’s Tool Kit?

There are few things more irritating than being waist deep in a giant, twisted rosemary bush—or worse, rose—discovering that a whole 3/4” diameter branch has died off, and realizing that you didn’t bring your ratchet pruners. So instead of using the proper tool, you try gnawing it off with your standard clippers. It takes twice as long, and leaves a jagged stump. It’s not pretty. What you should have had with you is the Garden Pro’s Tool Kit!

When I design a garden I’m crossing all my fingers and toes that the client will also hire my team to maintain it . I cannot overemphasize the importance of good maintenance. It’s as much a part of the art of landscape design as it is the function of it. This is why my kit and the kit of everyone on the team is filled to the brim with not just necessities, but handy little conveniences too. This way we keep the gardens looking just as I envisioned them in the design, and keep our sanity too.

Every Landscape Pro’s Tool Kit will have some of the same equipment. But for every individual there is a different recipe for getting the job done with ease. If you plan on spending a lot of time cheering on those plants and trying to get them to behave, here’s what you need, now!

Every garden pro’s tool kit needs…

Garden Tools
My Felco Clippers are a must!

Your favorite pair of clippers. Mine are a pair of Felcos that are about 12 years old. Like a great pair of jeans this tool seems to mold right into only my hand. Keep them oiled and clean them after each use. Spraying a bit of alcohol on the blades prevents spreading disease.

Garden tools
Turf cutters have dozens of uses in the garden

Turf cutter referred to by my son as the “Death Stick”. It’s a great one for the tool kit that is often overlooked. Good for turf but also, there simply is nothing better when reducing the diameter of any strappy plant. You can use your free hand to select a section and then dive right in to the base to go just below the soil line and get a clean cut. Warning: watch out for drip lines and fingers! It will ruin you if you miss.

My other go-to is a hori hori. I barely leave the house without this one. It has so many uses, and if you don’t have one yet it’s a must for your next purchase. You can use it for dividing, cutting, digging, planting, seeding, opening compost bags and, of course, looking super-cool.

Discovering ratchet pruners was like having dark clouds part and the sun pour down on me! I received them as a gift and thought, “that’s nice”. But once I discovered their magic I was won over. Sometimes you really need to cut a substantial branch but don’t have the room for loppers. Ratchet pruners can handle up to 3/4” but I’ve surely cut up to a full inch.

Battery Powered Blower I am four-square against the big gasoline blowers and in most residential gardens they are 100% not necessary. The small Toro blowers that have a rechargeable battery are perfect for clearing off walkways and they don’t suffocate us all with their fumes. If you are doing more than one property, either bring your charger or a back-up battery for longer use.

Large Items

Pole pruners
Pruning scissors
Short ladder

Super Handy Small Stuff

Green landscape tape
Screw driver
Soil moisture probe
Irrigation flags
Extra Drip tubing
Drip tubing connectors and T’s
Drip tubing staples
Multi-tool (Swiss Army Knife)

Save Yourself Necessities

Lip balm
Sun screen
Heavy duty cream for dry hands
Hat with wide brim (not a baseball cap)
Knee pads
2 pairs of gloves (in case one gets wet or…otherwise “soiled”)
Large refillable insulated water bottle—no PET bottles, they get hot and gross anyway
Granola bar or banana, some kind of quick energy for when you bonk from working in the sun too long

How to Carry it all

It’s best to have wheels so you don’t have to lug it everywhere. Sometimes you have to cover some pretty significant obstacles to get your tools to their final destination. Either way, always choose the smallest one that comfortably carries everything you need. Some recommendations:
Paint bucket from a Hardware Store
Bucket with pockets on the outside
Case with rollers
Hip toolbelt for the 4 or 5 items you use constantly (clippers, hori hori, turf cutter, twine for me)

The trick in having the absolute best Garden Pro’s Tool Kit is to remember to occasionally take inventory. Sometimes you wind up with items you find you really don’t ever need or struggle to make due without things you do.

I guarantee, you will be a better, more professional Landscape Specialist with a solid kit that you can rely on to get the job done right every time.

Let me know what else you put in your toolkit!