Thursday, December 10, 2009

Yard Tips - Winter Maintenance

 The leaves have changed color and have fallen to the ground. Now is the time to do your fall clean up. This includes racking the leaves from your lawn and planter areas as well as the base of all shrubs and trees. It is also time to cut back your herbaceous perennials.  Herbaceous perennials, in simple terms are the perennials that have soft green tissue and will die back down to the ground in the winter. These include Daylilies, Peonies, Hostas and other plants, which do not have a woody structure. Fall is the best time to take out your garden shears and cut them way back.

You can wait until early spring to cut back woody perennials and shrubs, but make sure you don't wait too long or you might damage the new growth. Ornamental grasses can also be trimmed in the fall or left until spring. It is safe to cut them back now if you want, but you will be looking at short stubs for 4-5 months! If you leave ornamental grasses until spring they will provide a nice structure and texture thru the winter months. Besides raking the leaves the fall clean up is pretty minimal, you can save the majority of pruning until spring if you prefer. Then you can get out there and enjoy the holidays!!

Designer's Toolbox - SketchUp

Have you ever had problems reading plan view drawings or envisioning the possibilities for your yard in 3D? Well there is a program out there that can help translate design ideas to true 3D. Unsure how a new deck and an outdoor kitchen would look in your back yard? Here comes Google SketchUp to the rescue. With the ability to show clients in true 3D how their future yard will look before a shovel hits the ground is a great asset. 3D images can be captured to show focal points and a walk thru animation can be created to help the client see their yard come to life.

SketchUp has a great ability to show how different levels and different rooms relate to each other. It can also show how an overhead canopy and a small wall can create a sense of enclosure without screening a specific view. Shadows can also be added so you can see how much shade your proposed shade structure will produce. All the images on this page have been created using SketchUp, but then enhanced using various other programs. If you have any questions on SketchUp or any of our other services, please feel free to contact us.

Focus On Plants - Weeping Cedar Of Lebanon

Cedrus libani 'Pendula'' or Weeping Cedar of Lebanon. This is a very interesting tree, and as it maturates it can look quite different from the tree you planted. This particular tree does not put out many horizontal limbs in the tree field or Nursery environment. As you can see by the photos, it has an extremely columnar form.

When first planted, this skinny tree might look out of place, but do not worry. In its second year, the amount of light colored new growth will surprise you. By its third year in the ground the arching arms will gracefully reach out and cascade down towards the tip. This tree is not the best screen tree because it is not symmetrical and is not full as compared to Colorado Spruce, but if you plant a grove of them, within 3-4 years the arms will grow together and you will have a nice screen.

I have noticed a few of these trees in the valley have had their leaders die during very cold winters. If this happens, you will need to stake a new branch to become the leader as it will not develop a new leader on its own. Instead of being an upright and fairly open tree, without the leader this tree turns into a true weeper and eventually becomes a denser form. If you like the weeping form, then just leave it alone, but if you want an upright open tree, you will have to train a new leader.
This is a tree that more people should try. It has nice light colored new growth in the spring and summer and also has a softer texture than the spruces and pines.

Hardscape? Oh that's Hardscape! - Concrete Pavers

Concrete pavers are one of the ways to expand your outdoor living space and add character and warmth at the same time. Pavers come in many different styles and colors, from the large 2x2 slabs that resemble cut slate to the smaller tumbled pavers that resemble European cobble stones. Whether you have a formal setting or a more casual setting, pavers can give the outdoor room that finishing touch.

The two main advantages pavers have over poured concrete are flexibility and permeability. If the ground moves under a concrete slab it will crack. You have two options, leave it alone or get a jack hammer and start again. With Pavers, if the ground moves, you can take out a small section, repair it and put the pavers back in place. Concrete pavers can also be permeable, and reduce your storm water runoff and drainage/puddling issues that can occur with concrete.

While concrete pavers have a higher upfront installation cost than plain concrete, they are usually comparable to stamped and colored concrete. Pavers can't be beat for the rich texture and color they provide. A raised edge can also be added (using pavers or natural stone) to define the area and to keep bark mulch off the paving surface.
If you want to expand your outdoor living area and you want to add warmth and character to your outdoor room, contact us about the many paver options available to you.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Topics for the Yard - Winter Interest

Now that fall is behind us and the leaves are on the ground, we get to look forward to winter in the treasure Valley. This is the time of year that you will realize what type of yard you have. For the next 4-5 months you will be looking at nothing but twigs if you have not planned for winter interest. Good winter interest provides a variety of colors and textures during this time. It can also help frame your outdoor room and provide focal points to add holiday lights.

Plants are the most common way to achieve winter interest, but we are going to focus on a few other options. Some of the most popular elements in the landscape today are maintenance free. You will never have to water them, they will never die and they will add year round interest to the surrounding landscape. Now that I have your attention I would like to open your eyes to using landscape boulders, walls and Garden art to complement the surrounding plants and add year round interest.

Landscape Boulders add instant impact to the yard, when installed properly. Boulders can be installed in a natural setting or they can be installed using upright columns to make more or an artistic statement. The main key is to bury 1/3-1/4 of the boulder. For the boulders to look authentic and to be safely installed they need to be buried in the ground and have a stable anchored look. Lichen covered boulders tend to blend in with bark and rock mulch and they add a tremendous amount detail and texture. Table Rock sandstone boulders will pop out against bark and rock mulch, and when you get up close, they have a smooth texture.

Landscape walls and decorative fences help to create outdoor rooms and focal points, but they also add winter interest. Seatwalls can add a different feel or texture depending upon the materials used. Natural dry stack stone will give you a more naturalistic/gardenesque look while a cultured stone wall with wrought iron accents will give you a more formal/classical look. These walls will not only give you winter interest, they set the ambiance for the outdoor room in all seasons.

Garden art is an often overlooked landscape element. Garden art can be whimsical, classical or modern. The art work can be the center piece for which the outdoor room is built around or is can be tucked just around the corner, waiting to be discovered. Garden art is an extension of your personality. What would you like to say?

Broadleaf evergreen shrubs, groundcovers and perennials are the best way to ensure winter interest and avoid a dry look. There are several different varieties available, and they come in different sizes, colors & textures. These plants all have their own unique microclimate requirements, so it is best to contact us or your local nursery to discuss a specific plant. Some favorite broadleaf evergreens are Otto Luyken's English Laurel, Fraser's Red Tip Photinia, Wine Vinca Minor, Bressingham Ruby Bergenia and Evergreen Candytuft, just to name a few.

Winter Interest can be accomplished in several different ways. It's time to say good bye to the 70's and the overgrown junipers and to do something truly creative - contact us and we can show you how!

Designing Trends - Water Features

Add Image The soothing sound of water, it will calm the senses and bring inner peace to a hectic day. The best way to have a water feature and minimize maintenance is to go pondless. There are several ways to achieve the sound of water without the headaches of a pond.

A waterfall and disappearing stream is most naturalistic looking water feature. The water starts at the top of the waterfall and flows down the stream until it disappears into an underground storage tank. From there the water is pumped back to the top of the waterfall.

If you still want the sound of water and want something more naturalistic, but you do not have a lot of space, your best bet is to do a boulder outcrop water feature. Upright boulders are drilled in the center so the water can bubble up and flow down the boulder into an underground storage tank. The upright boulders are usually grouped in odd numbers with boulders of different heights. This gives a nice effect and doesn't take up a lot of space.

Are you are looking for something more contemporary, a spillway built into a wall can give you a soothing sound and an elegant focal point for your yard. The spillway is built into a wall and a smooth sheet of water flows in front of it and disappears into an underground storage tank. This is a simple yet very effect water feature.

The freestanding fountain water feature will give you the most amount of flexibility (it can be moved around your yard to different locations), but achieving the desired sound can sometimes be a challenge. Before you purchase a freestanding fountain, you will want to hear what it sounds like with water running though the system. Some of the freestanding fountains have a very nice soothing sound, while others provide only visual effect. The style of freestanding fountains, range from classical to whimsical - chose the one that fits you.