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Dormant Pruning With the Proper Tools

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Late winter pruning is often recommended for many trees and shrubs. Pruning the plants while they are dormant is less stressful for the plant and it’s also easier to view the structure of deciduous trees and shrubs without leaves to ensure the pruning helps create the desired shape. It’s also a time of the year when late winter sunshine makes us all long to be in our gardens and pruning is an excellent job to get us out there.

Pruning Tools

To get out and get pruning, you will need the proper tools. There are several types of pruners that should be in every serious gardener’s tool shed.

  • Hand Pruners
    The simplest tool, but the hardest to choose, is the hand pruner. There are two distinct styles of hand pruners: the anvil type and the bypass. The anvil pruner is good for pruning deadwood or undesirable growth. For more valuable specimens anvil pruners tend to smash the wood during cutting, leaving the wound open to insects and disease. Bypass pruners are like a pair of scissors and give you an easier, cleaner healthier cut. Different hand pruners are available in different sizes and grip styles, including options for both right-handed and left-handed gardeners. To get the best results, it is important to choose a hand pruner that feels comfortable but still provides adequate strength for the job.
  • Lopping Shears
    Another tool that comes in handy is the lopping shear. They are used for making larger cuts up to 1-1/2″ in diameter, and have longer handles to provide more power without stress or strain. The longer handles also provide a better reach than hand pruners. They are also excellent for clearing away undesirable growth in your yard, including trimming hedges.
  • Pole Pruners
    The last tool you’ll need is a pole pruner. It is a combination lopping shear and pruning saw. The pole pruner extends out to twelve feet and can be used for making small cosmetic cuts or larger limb removals without needing to set up a ladder. Pole pruners are also useful in dense canopies when using a ladder would not be practical or suitable.

To learn more about pruning specific trees or shrubs and to choose the appropriate tools for the job, please stop in or give us a call. We’ll be happy to help you be sure you are equipped to make clean, appropriate cuts that will help your trees and shrubs look their very best.

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Flirting with Spring

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In January and February, winter flirts with spring. Despite snow on the ground, there will be occasional warm days, balmy breezes and stunning blue skies that remind us of the rich colors of spring. On these flirtatious days, quince, forsythia and pussy willow begin to emerge from dormancy. With this slight swelling of buds, it is time to cut a few branches to bring spring indoors, so even when winter reappears with the next freeze or storm, we’re reminded of the warmer times to come.

Forcing Branches

Just like forcing bulbs, forcing branches will bring their buds into full beauty even if the outside weather isn’t quite right yet. To force branches, select plants that have set their buds in the fall or early winter. Look for branches with plump flower buds, and cut branches that you would have normally pruned in order to preserve the shape and health of the plant.

Next, scrape about 2 inches of the bark from the pruned end of the branch and make a 3-5 inch cut up the branch (lengthwise from the pruned end) to allow water to be absorbed. You can also split the end by carefully hammering it, but avoid crushing the tissues. Fill a tall container or vase with room-temperature water and floral preserver, then place the cut branches in it. Place the arrangement in a dimly lit room for 2-3 days, then move into a brighter area (but no direct sunlight). Change the water and cut 1 inch off the bottom of the stem each week. Mist the branches daily. Although they may take up to 3 weeks to bloom, the delightful bursts of color will be a celebrated reward for your time and efforts.

Flowering Branches for Forcing

Depending on when you want your buds to bloom, there are a variety of great branches you can work to force into brilliance even when spring is weeks away.

Early bloomers…

  • Witch Hazel
  • Cornelian Cherry
  • Forsythia
  • Pussy Willow
  • Azalea
  • Flowering Quince

For Later Blooms…

  • Magnolia
  • Apple
  • Crab Apple
  • Flowering Dogwood
  • Hawthorn
  • Red Bud
  • Mockorange

 Decorating With Forced Branches

There are many different ways you can add a little spring glory to your interior décor with forced branches. Consider…

  • Using blooming branches in lieu of any flowers in vases.
  • Putting shorter branches in bud vases on a windowsill.
  • Adding branches to candle centerpieces or other arrangements.
  • Twining thinner branches around a wreath form.
  • Using the tallest branches in a tall, thin floor vase.

Spring will be here before you know it, and you can speed it along when you force branches to enjoy their blooms a few weeks early!

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Seed Starting

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Starting seeds indoors is a rewarding gardening experience and can help extend your growing season to include more plant varieties than your outdoor season may permit. Furthermore, a larger selection of seed varieties doesn’t limit your opportunities to growing only those transplants that are available at planting time. The key to success in growing seedlings is in creating the proper environment.

What Seeds Need

Seeds are generally hardy, but to start them properly they do need gentle nurturing so they can produce healthy, vibrant plants. In general, seeds should be started 4-6 weeks before the recommended planting time so the seedlings will be large and strong enough to withstand the stresses of transplanting. Use a sterile growing mix which is light enough to encourage rich root growth. Sow the seeds thinly and cover lightly with sphagnum peat moss. Water using a fine spray but do not soak the seeds – they also need oxygen to germinate, and if they are overwatered they will drown. Cover the container with clear plastic to hold the moisture and increase humidity. Place the containers in a warm (70-80 degrees) spot and watch daily for germination. The top of the refrigerator is often an ideal location. When the first seeds germinate, place the seedlings in bright light or under artificial lights (tube lights should be 2-3” from seedling tops) for several hours each day, since late winter sunlight will not usually be sufficient to prevent weak, leggy seedlings. Daytime temperatures should range from 70-75 degrees. Night time temperatures should range from 60-65 degrees.

As Seeds Grow

When the seedlings develop their first true sets of leaves, add half-strength water soluble fertilizer to their water – organic fish emulsion or seaweed fertilizers are great to use. Repeat every second week to provide good nourishment. Thin the seedlings or transplant them to larger containers as they grow. Before planting outdoors, harden-off the plants at least one week before the planting date. Take the transplants outdoors in the daytime and bring them in at night if frost is likely. Gradually expose them to lower temperatures and more sunlight. The use of hotcaps and frost blankets to cover early plantings will also aid in the hardening off process so the seedlings can adjust well to their new outdoor environment.

Transplanting Seeds

Transplant seedlings into the garden after the safe planting date on a calm, overcast day. Pack the soil around the transplant with as little root disturbance as possible. Sprinkle the plants with water, keeping the soil moist until the plants become established.

Popular Indoor Seed Start Dates

The exact dates you want to start seeds will vary depending on your local growing season, the varieties of plants you choose and what their needs are. In general, dates for the most popular produce include…

Vegetable Seed Starting Dates

  • February – Asparagus, celery, onion
  • March 1 – Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale, lettuce
  • March 15 – Eggplant, peppers, tomatoes
  • April 1 – Summer squash
  • April 15 – Cantaloupes, cucumbers, winter squash

Flower Seed Starting Dates

  • January/February – Begonia, carnation, geranium, impatiens, nicotiana, pansy, rudbeckia, salvia, snapdragon, verbena, vinca
  • March 1 – Ageratum, dahlia, dianthus, petunia
  • April 15 – Aster, calendula, celosia, marigold, zinnia

Use seed starting dates as a general guide to ensure your seeds have plenty of time to reach their full harvest potential before the weather turns in autumn. At the same time, consider staggering seed starting every few days to lengthen your harvest and keep your favorite vegetables and flowers coming even longer during the growing season. As you gain more experience with starting seeds, you’ll be able to carefully plan your seed calendar to ensure a lush, rich, long harvest season.

Creating Depth and Character in the Garden

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No matter what you grow, your garden does not have to be a bland, predictable space. With careful planning, it is easy to create depth and character in the garden to reflect your personal flair and the enjoyment you find among your flowers, fruits, vegetables and herbs.

Understanding Your Foreground, Middle Ground and Background

Before planning your garden to enhance its depth and character, it is important to understand the different levels of space you have to work with. Your garden’s location, size and shape, as well as the overall layout, are part of these levels and can help you plan the best design to reflect your personal style.

  • Foreground – The front of your garden, including borders, edging, fences, and entryways, as well as the first plants a visitor encounters when stepping into the space. Visually, this area is the welcome to your gardening or landscaping space.
  • Middle Ground – The bulk of the garden or landscape, the center or middle areas. This will include most open spaces and the most heavily used parts of your garden, those that are accessed and admired the most.
  • Background – The furthest, rear point of your gardening space, that provides a backdrop or endpoint for the design. This can include rear fences, walls or property borders and is the stopping point for your garden.

As you design your garden, each of these areas can be enhanced to create a more aesthetically pleasing space and an overall design rich in texture, color and creativity.

Depth in the Garden

Adding depth to the garden varies the space and makes the garden appear larger and more spacious. This can easily improve a narrow landscaping area or open up a small garden, and it maximizes growing space to allow for more plants. Great options to add more garden depth include…

  • Tiers
    Tiers, with taller plants at the back and shorter plants in the foreground, expand the space and give it a better scale. Taller plants can be added in corners or at the sides, with shorter plants filling in the center. Terraces, containers and raised beds can all create tiers.
  • Colors
    Warm colors, such as red, yellow and orange, are bold and filling, and are best used at the front of the garden to create a welcoming flow. Cooler tones, such as greens and blues, are best in the background where they recede from the eye and give an illusion of greater depth and openness.
  • Contrasting Textures
    Gardens and landscapes look smaller when they are uniform. Textural contrasts, however, break up sightlines and add more visual interest, enhancing depth. Opt for finer textures and airy plant structures to increase depth in the middle ground and background, while fuller, more compact textures are best in the foreground.
  • Plant Size
    Positioning larger, taller plants in the background and reserving smaller plants for the foreground of your garden will enhance its depth. In small gardens, dwarf or miniature plant varieties immediately create greater depth and make the space seem more generous.
  • Secret Spaces
    Adding a secret space will create depth as it draws the eye into the landscaping design and encourages more detailed examination of the area. Meditation niches, cozy benches or swings, or other places invite more interest in the garden and improve the depth.
  • Reflections
    Just like a mirror creates more depth in a small room, reflections create more depth in a garden. Gazing balls, reflecting pools or mosaics are great options, but be sure there are no overly focused reflections that might damage nearby plants with excess glare.
  • Views
    If your garden overlooks a dramatic view, such as a mountain range, ocean cliff or adjacent park, take advantage of that view for more personal garden depth. Avoid blocking the view, and instead frame it to draw the eye deeper into your space.
  • Vertical Gardening
    Taking your garden vertical with climbing plants on a green wall, trellis or other support is a great way to increase depth and add more gardening space. Many vegetables and flowering vines can easily be trained to grow vertically.

Character in the Garden

Adding character to the garden personalizes it to reflect your unique style and flair. This adds a meaningful touch to your space, no matter how big or small it may be. Fun ways to give your garden more character include…

  • Specimen Plants
    Unusual plants create a focal point in your garden and draw the eye into the space. Even in a veggie garden or berry patch, an unexpected specimen can be an interesting feature.
  • Unique Shapes
    Give your garden extra flair by incorporating unusual shapes, such as topiaries or plants with unexpected foliage or flower shapes. This extra texture will also enhance the garden’s depth.
  • Curves
    Gardens and landscaping don’t need to follow straight lines. Help your landscape flow with curved garden rows, curving beds or other smooth, elegant lines.
  • Fill-Ins
    Bare spaces cause a disjointed look in the garden, but you can easily fill in patches with extra herbs, flowers or ornamental grasses. This will add even more texture and interest to the area.
  • Welcomes
    Welcome visitors to your garden with a fun, customized gate, quirky arbor or unique archway. This feature will draw the eye and encourage visitors to enter and enjoy the space.
  • Curbing
    Get creative with curbing to border your garden area with personal flair. Instead of predictable options, choose colored curbing or add accents such as glass bottles or stepping stones.
  • Wildlife
    Welcome wildlife to your garden to add life to the space. Bird feeders and baths, a butterfly, bee or toad house, or even a koi pond can bring movement and life to your garden.
  • Surprises
    There’s always room in the garden for a surprise or two. It might be a hidden gnome peeking out at guests, scattered sunflowers that grow through other plantings, exotic edibles or flowers with potent perfumes to lure guests in to seek out the surprise.

You can add depth and character to your garden in many ways. If you aren’t sure just how to go about personalizing and enhancing your garden, ask our experts for help to create the garden of your dreams!

How to Design Your Outdoor Living Area for Mixed Generations

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Creating your perfect landscape can be a project that lasts a lifetime, but how can you effectively design your outdoor living area when your needs, activities and preferences may change over the years? Fortunately, with a little careful consideration, you can create a functional and beautiful landscape that all generations of your family will enjoy.

Assess Your Landscape

When you’re planning outdoor spaces, it is critical to work with what already exists in your landscape. This means creating a landscape that flows with the contours of your property, is suitable for your overall space and will thrive in your climate. Before planning extensive landscape work, consider…

  • Soil quality and condition and any adjustments that may be required
  • Irrigation needs, including sprinkler systems, runoff and natural rainfall
  • Sunlight levels and how light changes throughout the year
  • General climate and microclimates throughout the yard
  • Views from different angles, including those you may want to preserve or block
  • Existing structures, pathways and borders that may or may not be altered
  • Potential trouble spots, such as narrow yards, steep slopes or poor drainage

 

By thoroughly understanding your landscape before you begin redesigning an outdoor space, you can effectively plan proper landscaping that will thrive rather than struggle.

Assess Your Needs

Once you know what you already have to work with in your landscape, you can assess what your needs are for an outdoor living space and how you can create a fun and enjoyable sanctuary in your yard. The needs of toddlers, teens and adults can be very different, however, and it is important to note how preferences may change in the years to come. By thinking ahead, you can make full use of your landscape through different life and family stages without needing to redesign the yard every few years. Consider your family size and how it may change, including whether family members may move away or move closer, whether different family members may be interested in different outdoor activities and how changing schedules may affect how your landscape is used over time.

Planning Outdoor Spaces for Changing Needs

It may seem impossible to plan a beautiful landscape that will be just as enjoyable and useful a decade from now as it is today. Considering different aspects of your outdoor living space one by one, however, can help you develop a master landscape plan that your entire family, as well as friends, neighbors and guests, will enjoy for years. When designing your outdoor living space, consider…

  • Seating
    There should not only be enough seating for the entire family to share, but also for entertaining. This might include casual kids’ parties, summer barbecues or more formal events such as a graduation party or bridal shower. While you may not have a seat for every guest over the years, be sure there is space to add additional seating for special events if needed.
  • Storage
    From garden tools and children’s toys to sports equipment, patio cushions and outdoor holiday decorations, there is always a need for more storage related to your landscape. A shed is a good option, or integrate storage areas that will serve multiple purposes such as built-in storage benches or bins that are part of the patio or deck design.
  • Gardens
    If you want a productive, delicious garden as part of your landscape, opt for adjustable gardening areas such as raised garden beds, container gardens or vertical gardening spaces. These types of gardens are more easily adjusted over the years as your desire and needs for fresh produce changes, as well as being more adjustable for garden care.
  • Activity Areas
    Plan activity areas in your outdoor space that can be modified over the years to meet different needs and preferences. A play structure in an open area, for example, can be removed when young children outgrow it, and that same area can become a badminton court for the whole family. A fire pit area, yoga space or meditation niche can also be adjusted through the years.
  • Pathways
    Getting from one area to another in your yard should be easy for everyone to navigate. Broader pathways will be easier for unsteady youngsters as well as seniors with mobility assistance, and shallower steps are easier for feet of all ages. Be sure paths are level and even, and plants should not overgrow busy traffic areas.
  • Entertaining
    If you enjoy entertaining in your yard, be sure to incorporate gathering spaces for groups to enjoy. This might include a fire pit with conversation seating, a grilling area with good access to tools and supplies or even an outdoor kitchen for more elaborate parties. Proper lighting or a speaker system for music can also be essential for an outdoor entertaining space.
  • Lighting
    You will want to see your outdoor living space and enjoy it even after the sun goes down. Pathway lighting, spotlights on focal points and fun string lighting or outdoor chandeliers in entertaining areas can all be part of your lighting design to keep your outdoor space functional as well as festive after dark.
  • Privacy
    Always consider privacy when designing your outdoor living space, not only from nearby streets or neighbors’ yards, but also from different areas of your yard. Be sure there are good sightlines where necessary, but also consider cozier niches where individuals or smaller groups can feel more private. Plants, screens and lattices or trellises are all good options for enhancing privacy.
  • Plants
    Choosing plants for your landscape is easy when you consider not only your own future needs, but the future needs of the plants as well. Note the mature sizes and growth patterns of plants when placing them in your landscape, and consider how much maintenance they may require over the years to be sure you can give them the care they require even as your life changes.
  • Focal Points
    Focal points can unite your landscape and bring it together visually, even as your needs may change. An eye-catching specimen plant, for example, can become the backdrop for family events and photos, and these familiar sights will always be welcome to your family even as its composition changes.

No matter how your outdoor living space may need to change over the years as your family and its preferences change, you can plan a versatile, adaptable space to change with your family. What won’t change, however, is how much you can enjoy that space and how it will bring your family together for many memorable moments.

Need help planning the perfect landscape for your family’s diverse and changing needs? Our experts can help you craft outdoor living spaces you will enjoy for years! 

The Sweet Scents of Spring

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Each year, we gardeners grow antsy as winter draws to a close but it seems spring will never arrive. Daily, the season teases, tempts and enchants us with the slightest offerings as the temperatures rise, a balmy breeze brushes our cheeks and the days grow a bit longer, but all we see is a world of gray and white muck, dull skies and bare plants. Finally, there is a flamboyant explosion of branch, leaf, bud and bloom that renders our famished sense of sight satiated when in just a short time spring literally springs to life.

Close Your Eyes and Sniff

Sight, however, is not the strongest of senses, smell is. Even before we see signs of spring, we can smell it in the air. Science has proven that pleasant scents have a positive effect on the brain causing feelings of contentment, relaxation and happiness. Scent is also one of the strongest memory triggers, and a whiff of a favorite bloom can remind us of all the joy we find in gardening and the pleasure our spring blooms can bring. With this in mind, why not plant your early spring garden to satisfy the nose and improve your disposition?

Early Flowers, Early Scents

Bulbs provide some of the earliest spring blooms. Many gardeners have long enjoyed the sweet scent of hyacinth but it’s not well known that there are countless other fragrant flower bulbs to captivate our sense of smell. Some of these blossoms are already familiar spring favorites, and their perfumes may be best appreciated if the bulbs are planted closer to the nose. Consider adding these bulbs to a tall pot, a window box or a garden bed atop a stone wall and you’ll smell them even easier. These flowers are also well suited for cutting and enjoying indoors in a vase, where they will bring the sweet scent of spring indoors even if the season isn’t yet well advanced in the garden.

Fragrant Spring Bulbs

These are just a few of the more fragrant, early-blooming bulbs and their sweet-smelling cultivars that can bring the scent of spring to your garden. Which ones will you try this year?

Narcissus

  • Large Cupped Daffodils
    • ‘Carlton’
    • ‘Flower Record’
    • ‘Fragrant Breeze’
    • ‘Ice Follies’
    • ‘Romance’
    • ‘Professor Einstein’
  • Small Cupped Daffodils
    • ‘Edna Earl’
    • ‘Polar Ice’
    • ‘Sinopel’
  • Double Daffodils
    • ‘Bridal Crown’
    • ‘Cheerfulness’
    • ‘Erlicheer’
    • ‘Flower Drift’
    • ‘Obdam’
    • ‘Sir Winston Churchill’
    • ‘Tahiti’
    • ‘White Lion’
    • ‘Yellow Cheerfulness’
  • Jonquilla Daffodils
    • ‘Baby Moon’
    • ‘Bell Song’
    • ‘Pink Angel’
    • ‘Pipit’
    • ‘Pueblo’
    • ‘Punchline’
    • ‘Quail’
    • ‘Sailboat’
    • ‘Stratosphere’
    • ‘Sundisc’
    • ‘Suzy’
    • ‘Trevithian’
  • Poeticus Daffodils
    • ‘Actaea’
    • ‘Pheasant’s Eye’
  • Triandrus Daffodils
    • ‘Hawera’
    • ‘Ice Wings’
    • ‘Petrel’
    • ‘Thalia’
  • Tazetta Daffodils
    • ‘Avalanche’
    • ‘Cragford’
    • ‘Geranium’
    • ‘Minnow’
    • ‘Silver Chimes’

Tulips

  • Species:
    • Tulip biflora
    • Tulip ‘Little Beauty’
    • Tulip ‘Little Princess’
  • Single Early:
    • ‘Beauty Queen’
    • ‘Bellona’
    • ‘Candy Prince’
    • ‘Christmas Dream’
    • ‘Christmas Marvel’
    • ‘Couleur Cardinal’
    • ‘Keizerkroon’
    • ‘Princess Irene’
  • Double Early:
    • ‘Abba’
    • ‘Mondial’
    • ‘Monsella’
    • ‘Monte Carlo’
    • ‘Montreux’
    • ‘Peach Blossom’
    • ‘Schoonoord’
  • Triumph:
    • ‘Annie Schilder’
    • ‘Apricot Beauty’
    • ‘Attila’
    • ‘Bastogne’
    • ‘Cairo’
    • ‘Hermitage’
    • ‘Jan Ohms’
    • ‘Salmon Pearl’
  • Darwin Hybrid:
    • ‘Daydream’
    • ‘Holland’s Glory’
    • ‘Lightening Sun’
    • ‘Silverstream’
  • Parrot:
    • ‘Apricot Parrot’
  • Lily Flowering:
    • ‘Ballerina’
    • ‘West Point’
  • Double Late (Peony):
    • ‘Abigail’
    • ‘Angelique’
    • ‘Black Hero’
    • ‘Carnavel de Nice’
    • ‘Casablanca’
    • ‘Crème Upstar’
    • ‘Hermione’
    • ‘Lilac Perfection’
    • ‘Maravilla’
    • ‘Maywonder’
    • ‘Miranda’
    • ‘Mount Tacoma’
    • ‘Orange Princess’
    • ‘Upstar’
    • ‘Wirosa’
  • Single Late
    • ‘Dillenburg’

Phased Landscape Installation

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Redoing your landscape, whether you are starting from scratch, updating parts of an existing design or completely renovating your yard, can be a lengthy and expensive process. Phased landscape installation can help you adjust your time, labor and budget to create your dream landscape in easy-to-manage steps.

How Phased Landscape Installation Works

Instead of doing an entire large landscape at one time from start to finish, phased landscape installation breaks the project into more manageable pieces. It may take several weeks, months or years to complete the landscape installation in phases, depending on the size of the project and what resources are available to complete it.

Phased landscape installation can be beneficial in several ways. Not only does it make a large project more manageable, but it also allows for tweaks and refinements throughout the process as needs, preferences and living styles may change over time. Installing a landscape in phases can also better accommodate a limited budget or limited time with shorter seasons, while still allowing for the yard, garden and landscape to be used and enjoyed before the full project is complete.

Designing a Master Landscaping Plan

Creating a master landscaping plan is a critical first step in phased landscape installation. A master plan is necessary to keep the landscape’s end result in mind, and that plan can be adjusted as needed throughout the different phases. When the full project can be envisioned, it is also easier to plan the order of phases to be installed with the greatest efficiency so there is less disruption to established parts of the landscape when a new phase is begun.

The first part of a master plan should involve a comprehensive evaluation of the site and its landscaping needs. This should include soil condition and quality, drainage concerns, sunlight levels, potential erosion problems and more. This evaluation can help direct the landscape installation to correct difficulties with each step. After the overall evaluation, the first phases of landscape installation need to be sufficiently detailed for the project to get underway. Later phases and finishing touches may change by the time the final phase of installation is ready to begin, and so those phases may not necessarily be as firm when the landscaping plan is first developed.

It is important to keep the master plan accessible, especially when it may take several years to fully install a larger, more elaborate landscape. Notes, changes, suggestions and updates should all be documented. This will ensure that all contractors and experts – who may change over the years – are aware of the overall landscape vision.

Landscape Phases to Plan

The order of projects in phased installation will vary depending on the overall master plan for the landscape, as well as how each phase is integrated into the overall process. Needs and preferences can also influence which phases are implemented first to ensure the landscape is usable and enjoyable from the very first phase. Typical phases in a landscape plan may include…

  • Surfaces – Sod, seeding, groundcovers, or mulching for erosion control and visual appeal.
  • Hardscapes – Borders and edging, terraces, retaining walls, etc.
  • Gas and Electrical Lines – Support for water feature pumps, lighting, outdoor kitchens, etc.
  • Irrigation – Sprinkler systems and drip plans as well as drainage adjustments.
  • Shade – Large trees and plants to provide shade for outdoor living spaces as well as structures.
  • Entertaining Space – Patios, decks, pool surrounds and similar high use spaces.
  • Structures – Pergolas, trellises, arbors, sheds, play structures, etc.
  • Waterscapes – Ponds or pondless waterfalls, creeks and streams, or fountains.
  • Garden Space – Raised beds or dedicated growing areas for practical harvests, fruit trees, etc.
  • Pathways – Connections between parts of the landscape or around the entire home.
  • Plantings – Shrubbery and flowerbeds, specimen plants, etc.

While the order of phase installation can vary greatly, many plans opt to put surfaces, hardscapes and shade early in the master plan. Surfaces are often used right away and help a landscape look attractive even as the plan is being implemented, while hardscapes establish the borders that will gradually frame the entire landscape. Shade is also important to implement early, as larger trees have slower growth cycles and will take longer to mature and provide their full benefits, so the sooner they are planted the sooner they will be providing that shade. Of course, depending on the exact budget and master landscaping plan, several phases may be implemented at once, or smaller phases may be spread out over a greater period.

In addition to these potential phases, it is important to consider the final phase of landscape installation – care and maintenance. Particularly when plants are young and the ground may still be settling, extra care may be needed to nurture plants and ensure they adjust to their new environment. Proper care, including pruning, fertilization and pest control, will help keep the landscape looking just as attractive and inviting as it is from the first moment of installation.

Are you considering phased landscape installation? Our experts can help develop your master landscaping plan and recommend the best phases to create your dream landscape!

The Use of Focal Points in the Landscape

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We have all used focal points in our daily lives, from showcasing favorite photos in a gallery wall to throw pillows adding a pop of color on the sofa to choosing accessories to highlight our best features. But did you know you can use landscape focal points in a similar way, drawing the eye to the very best features of your home and property to accentuate its unique characteristics and highlight its beauty? Learn how to truly showcase your landscaping with the best focal points to give your home extra flair.

What Is a Focal Point?

A focal point is a highlighted, outstanding feature that draws the eye and grabs attention. In the landscape, this can be nearly any type of feature, from plants to structures to hardscaping to ornamentation. Popular landscaping focal points include…

  • Unique specimen plants, either unusual varieties, unique shapes or exceptional sizes
  • Water features such as ponds, waterfalls or fountains
  • Boulders, terraces or other dramatic hardscape details
  • A bird feeding station or other wildlife-oriented feature
  • A colorful flowerbed, container garden or even a dramatic window box
  • A statue or sculpture, even as simple as a gazing ball or sundial
  • Inviting structures such as gates, arbors, pergolas or arches
  • A seating area or other outdoor gathering space
  • A uniquely designed pathway, such as a mosaic, stepping stones or bridge
  • Specially designed pavers, such as a mural-like feature

A focal point can be anything unique, whether it is a naturally-occurring feature of the existing landscape or something you have dreamed of adding to your yard or garden.

The Purpose of a Focal Point

While a focal point initially draws the eye, it actually does far more than just attract attention. A well designed landscape will work with focal points to bring order and dimension to the yard, centralizing the view and directing guests’ viewpoints. A focal point can add character to the yard as well, whether it creates a sense of natural elegance, adds a chic, modern touch or even introduces a bit of whimsy to the landscape. Focal points can also help distract from less aesthetically pleasing views, such as drawing attention away from a neighbor’s yard, minimizing the appearance of a trouble spot or redirecting sightlines away from a utility box or air conditioning unit.

Choosing a Landscaping Focal Point

Which focal point you choose for your landscape will depend on several factors, and you want to consider each one carefully when planning to use a focal point.

  • Yard Size: The focal point should be proportionally sized to the yard. A too-large focal point will overwhelm a small, intimate yard, making it seem more crowded and cramped, while a too-small focal point can be lost in a larger space.
  • Landscape Style: A focal point should coordinate with the style of the yard and garden. A cozy cottage garden can look great when focused around a romantic statue or elegant bird bath, but a stark obelisk would look out of place.
  • Seasonal Changes: Ideally, a focal point will remain attractive and eye-catching throughout the year, even with seasonal changes in nearby plants and light levels. Opt for a focal point that can be enjoyed year-round for the best results.
  • Viewing Angles: A good focal point will draw the eye in a pleasing way no matter where it is viewed from, including different angles, windows or approaches. Paying attention to every viewpoint will ensure the focal point serves its purpose however it is viewed.

Once these factors are considered, a landscape may have one or more focal points. So long as they are balanced and appropriate to the yard’s design, they can be beautiful features that will be stunning highlights in the landscape.

Designing Your Landscape Around a Focal Point

Once you have selected a focal point for the landscape, it is best to coordinate the landscape’s overall design to enhance and complement that focus. This will ensure its beauty and prominence in the landscape without creating an overwhelming or dominating effect. Easy ways to design your landscape around a focal point include…

  • Paying attention to symmetry to draw the eye to the focal point. You may opt for a completely symmetrical, geometric layout to lead the eye to the focal point, or choose a deliberately asymmetrical design that builds dramatically to the focus.
  • Coordinate colors, plants and other features to work with the focal point rather than contrast and detract from it. Coordinated colors, shapes and textures – even when used in variety – can add to your focal point and enhance its beauty and drama.
  • Highlight the focal point without blocking it from view, particularly when considering views from different angles and in different seasons. This may include regular pruning and other care to keep the surrounding landscape in check.
  • Keep the focal point in good condition so it is not a disappointment when it draws the eye. Plants should be properly pruned and shaped, while statues and other accents may need regular cleaning. Structures may need regular repairs or repainting to look their best.
  • Consider muting nearby landscaping features to further highlight the focal point. Opt for more subtle plants and fewer accents away from the focal point to ensure no other areas of the landscape compete with the intended focus.
  • Design pathways, borders and lighting to highlight the focal point and draw attention to the appropriate space, both visually and physically. This will keep your focal point centralized in the landscape at all times, serving its purpose as your landscape highlight.

A focal point is more than just a highlight of your yard, it can become the centerpiece of your landscape, set the mood for your outdoor space and showcase the beauty of your home. Working with a focal point can help you draw together the entire space in an eye-catching way you’ll always be proud to see.

Want to design your landscape around an appropriate focal point? Our design experts can help you choose just the right focus and create a stunning look to highlight your landscape’s best features!

Choosing a Japanese Maple

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We’re certain you’ve heard it numerous times: fall is the best time to buy your Japanese maple. Have you come into the garden center to pick one? Did the varieties overwhelm you? Let us make it easier for you by explaining Japanese maple differences. Then, when you come in, you’ll know exactly what you want.

The species Japanese maple, Acer palmatum, moderately grows to a 20′ by 20′ multi-trunked tree. The leaves have 5-9 finely cut lobes giving them a more delicate look than other maples. Red spring leaves turn to green in the summer and blaze with yellow, orange and red in the fall. All do best with protection from drying winds and hot overhead afternoon sun. During their centuries of use in gardens around the world, gardeners have discovered and propagated those selections with unusual growth habits and bark patterns, as well as leaf color and shape. With hundreds of Japanese maple varieties available at garden centers, we feel a little simplification is in order.

  • Leaf Shape
    The variation Dissectum or Laceleaf Japanese Maple has leaves are deeply cut and finely lobed giving a lace cutout look. These varieties generally grow best in shady locations as the leaves easily burn or scorch. The leaves of non-Dissectum varieties are much less lacy. They resemble the leaves of native maples but are smaller and more deeply cut.
  • Leaf Color
    The leaf color of different Japanese maples also varies. Many have red spring growth changing to green in the summer. However, some retain the red through the growing season. Some varieties have variegated leaves with white, cream, gold or pink. Variegated leaves burn easily in the sun but can revert to all green in too much shade. Green leaves tolerate more sun than red. Autumn is when Japanese maples really put on a show with a riot of blazing colors.
  • Tree Form
    Non-Dissectum varieties grow more quickly into upright forms. Some varieties remain less than 10′ tall but others can grow to 25′ tall by 20′ wide. Laceleaf maples slowly develop a weeping form approximately 8-10′ tall and 8-12′ wide. However, ‘Seiryu’ is an exception, growing into an upright form.

Laceleaf (Dissectum)

Non-Dissectum

Location

More shade

Less shade

Size

Smaller

10-25′ tall depending upon variety

Tree Form

Weeping

Upright

Leaf Shape

Lacy, fine cut

Lobed

Leaf Color

Red, green

Red, green, variegated

Now that you have identified a suitable planting location and the type of Japanese maple you prefer, come see us and let our friendly staff show you the varieties that meet your requirements. Autumn colors are blazing now so this is a great time to make your selection.

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Winter Interest in the Garden

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Many gardeners think of the fourth season as a time for rest, but winter can be interesting and fun to plan for a bold, appealing landscape. While most of us plan our landscapes for bloom times in spring and summer, there are many plants offering color and texture appeal for the cold season landscape.

Winter Beauty in Your Landscape

Winter is a time of special beauty and interest. Berries sparkle on shrubs under a layer of frost and ice, while other shrubs have shades of bronze leaves that cling and rattle in winter breezes. The leafless branches of larger trees cast dramatic shadows across the freshly fallen snow. Bark hidden by the leaves of summer stands out gorgeously in the winter. Barks of silvery gray, white, green, yellow, purple or red hues add a burst of color when the landscape is covered in white. Even barks that are deeply fissured, sleek as satin, peeling in thin layers or curiously pocked by a pitted surface give interest to a wonderful winter landscape. Dried grasses stand out in bright contrast against the backdrop of dark evergreens, shaking snow off their delicate heads. There is even the surprising yellow ribbon-like blooms of witch-hazel which flower in mid-winter or the delicate lavenders and blues of tiny species of crocuses under the snow. Pansies are also a great addition for late-season winter color in your flowerbeds. Everywhere you look, there can be beauty in the winter landscape.

Top Plants for Winter Interest

Many different plants offer interesting features that reach their full potential in the winter landscape. Popular options include…

  • Paperbark Maple (Acer grisium)
  • Threadleaf Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum dissectum)
  • Red Chokeberry (Aronia arbutifalia)
  • Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata)
  • Blue Atlas Cedar (Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca’)
  • Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick (Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’)
  • Winter Dephne (Daphne odora)
  • Common Snow Drops (Galanthus nivalis)
  • Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)
  • Christmas Rose (Heleboris niger)
  • Chinese witch-hazel (Hamamelis mollis)
  • Winterberry Holly (Ilex verticillata) Need female and male plant for berries
  • Christmas fern (Polystichun acrostichoides)
  • Common Camellia (Camellia japonica)
  • Heathers/Heaths

Not sure which plants will offer the beauty you want to see all winter long? Our experts are always happy to help you plan the best landscape design for all four seasons, so come in and share your ideas today and we’ll help you be prepared for an amazing winter landscape.

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