The holiday season is here! It’s time for family and friends to gather around a warm fireplace. But here in Southern California, with weather that does not get anywhere near freezing, why not gather around the outdoor fire pit?


Winter is an excellent time to clean and spruce up the landscape in Southern California. Winter trimming improves the shape and branching structure of plants, when appropriately done. When plants start growing more vigorously in spring, this winter trimming will have helped the undying plant structure, making for a more beautiful garden. Trimming is needed less during the cool season as plant growth slows down, so having a winter cleanup will help to keep the landscape looking cared for throughout the season.


Before hiring a company (such as ours) to do a fall landscape cleanup, please ask yourself, “what aesthetic is appropriate for my landscape?” Should it be kept somewhat natural or more formally hedged? Most people want their yard to look clean, but clean does not mean everything must be hedged. Many plants, especially California natives, do not respond well to formal hedging and should be carefully hand pruned, if they need pruning at all. Depending on the landscape design, specific plants, and aesthetic choices of the property owner, a fall landscape cleanup can involve many different areas of work.


Often a winter landscape cleanup includes:

  • Aeration of the lawn – this breaks up the soil to help prevent water from pooling during those few rainy winter days we have. It also allows for oxygen and nutrients (if the lawn is being fertilized) to enter the soil. Finally, it lowers the compaction level of the soil to further induce water and nutrients soil infiltration and encourage deep root growth.


  • Remove fallen leaves – fallen leaves make good mulch and fertilizer, adding organic material to the soil, also improving the soil structure, however they can make yards look untidy. Also, leaves on the lawn can block out sunlight and trap moisture to promote fugus and rot.


  • Fertilize the lawn – especially to promote healthy root growth of fescue lawns. This will help them to retain more green during the winter. Warm season grasses will stay green a bit longer into the winter with a fertilizer application, however St Augustine and Bermuda will soon be going dormant so get ready for some brown.


  • Overseeding lawns – applying perennial rye grass overseed will help you maintain some green in the cool months for grasses such as Bermuda and St. Augustine. Perennial rye germinates fairly quickly and will die off when the warm weather comes in later spring.


  • Trimming plants. To hedge or not to hedge? That seems to be the common question.
    • Salvias – prune back before new growth begins, pruning later might remove developing flowers. Be careful because pruned older stacks do not resprout.
    • Do not heavily prune or fertilize frost sensitive plants such as bougainvillea, citrus, hibiscus, or natal plum. Heavy pruning and fertilizer will promote new growth, that will be damaged at the first frost of winter.


  • Dig up and split large plants such as agapanthus. This is really only needed if the agapanthus, or other such bulb plant, is too large for the area it is growing in.


  • Birds of paradise – remove stems after the flowers have faded.


  • Checking an adjusting the irrigation is an important one here in Southern California. As the cooler weather comes, and perhaps even a day or two of rain, your irrigation controller (if you have one) should be adjusted. Adjustments are always specific to the water needs of your landscape, but water conservation is the name of the game.  Also, we’ve found that most irrigation systems, especially if they are not being regularly maintained, will have system errors and leaks leading to water wastefulness.


Tree trimming is usually best done in winter, as most trees should be pruned during dormancy (usually winter) to reduce pathogens.


Mulch should be moved around to promote oxygen. A touch up of mulch will help the soil to retain moisture when we get the rains.


Does your property need a spruce up for the holidays? Whether it’s cleaning a landscape, repairing irrigation, or any other landscape project, Creative Concepts Landscape will be happy to discuss possibilities with you. Take a look at our Yelp page and contact us today (818 248-7436), to see what we can do for your landscape.


By Daniel Williams

Client Liaison for Creative Concepts Landscape