Welcome to our August edition of “Landscape Talk.” Last month we started to review the articles written to date in order to provide readers with an index of the information available. We have already covered January-July 09. Now we will continue with August 09 and finish the year. For those of you who do not receive this publication monthly, you can request it from Home Improvement & Remodeling Magazine, or view all our articles either on our website, www.executivecareinc.com, under publications or on www.homeimprovement-magazine.com. So with that introduction, let’s get started!
August 09 covered a topic near to my heart. As a guy who really values the benefits of a healthy garden/landscape, it kills me when I see drip irrigation improperly installed. Whether the landscaper is trying to take short cuts because he gave a low bid, or the homeowner has installed it incorrectly, the effects on the plants are the same. When someone says to me, “My landscape was installed a couple years ago and it looked really nice the first few years, but over this last year it has started to decline,” I know it is one of these two things or both in combination. They are either not watering enough and/or the drip irrigation was installed wrong. As alluded to, there are short cuts—ways to cut out extra time and materials to insure a low bid, or ways to finish the job faster and cheaper if the landscaper finds he is going over his bid. One of the ways is to overstretch the drip system, which means that more plants have been loaded onto one valve than can be watered adequately. I cannot tell you how many landscapes we have redone because of this, and it is embarrassing to me that this occurs. People hire a landscaper assuming that he or she is knowledgeable, and that the work will be completed as it should be. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. When dealing with any trade, the consumer benefits by knowing something of the subject so they can rightly dis-cern and select the contractor that will be best able to assist them in accomplishing their goals. I would encourage you to read this article in its full length.
September 09 looked at a “new” development that is actually one of the oldest methods of conserving water known to man—the rain water cistern. Several companies have developed various means to catch rain water. One method has the cistern visible, so it needs to have landscape or a built structure around it to minimize its appearance. Another method puts the cistern underground, beneath a water feature such as a waterfall or rock spire. The water feature not only hides the cistern, but also aerates the stored water. My personal opinion is the latter is better for smaller yards, where space is at a premium. The first is more economical because it requires less time to install. Both systems rely on the roof top as the main source of collecting the water, and have the downspouts plumbed so they feed into the cistern. The latter can even use the drains in the landscape to collect water, so it has a larger “water footprint” to collect from.
October 09 was written to help you to understand the plant. One of the questions I am most frequently asked is, “When is the right time to plant?” I always reply, “right now.” Why? Well, if you were a plant, living in a dark plastic can, and had to face summer temperatures of 100°, or winter temperatures of 32°, wouldn’t you prefer to be in the ground? In the summer the ground is cooler, especially with bark over the top. Theground is likewise warmer in the winter, with the bark acting again as an insulator. So summer or winter, putting the plant in the ground is the right decision. Now that is not to say that in the summer we do not take precautions, watering the plants well before planting them and again once they are in the ground. In winter, we keep sensitive plants covered, and watered as well. Dry cold is the hardest on plants; it takes the moisture right out of them.
November 09 looks at edible landscapes,which incorporate food crops into our landscape. This is a topic I am still learning about. In fact, when I wrote the article, I offered lunch to anyone who could educate me more on edible landscapes. My offer still stands. In the meantime, the article was written to encourage sustainability. Some of us get really into it, others not so much; but all of us can have a lemon or tangerine tree in the landscape. Planting vegetables or fruit trees will not only give you homegrown produce, but will also teach our children the value of sustainability and help to instill in them a love of gardening.This is a great way to get kids outside, playing in the dirt. Vegetables like tomatoes, garlic and onions actually ward off aphids. So if we have plants that are prone to aphid, such as roses, we can plant aphid resistant crops between them. This reduces our dependence on chemicals, making our garden more people and earth-friendly. The way I see it,there’s nothing but an upside to edible landscapes.
December 09, was probably the hardest article I’ve ever written, yet it is the one I received the most thankful comments on. I am passionate about all my articles; but this one, titled “Landscaping for the Soul” involved every part of me. It will be difficult to get into detail within a paragraph, but in summary I will say this:
We are all the same at our core. We all seek to validate who we are as a person. It reminds me of the end of “Finding Private Ryan, Ryan is standing at the sergeant’s grave, and says “I have tried to live a good life, be a good father and husband…” What he is really saying is, “I hope that the life I have lived is worthy of your death for me because it was by your death that I am alive today.” Now, there are numerous ways we seek to validate ourselves both consciously and subconsciously. We may look for a title before our name, or to a hug from our child saying, “I love you Mommy or Daddy.” We might measure ourselves by the size of our house, the fanciness of our car, how good we are at our job or how many friends we have. We might also try to be a really good person who is charitable and kind. I, too, have looked for validation, and this article is the story of how I found it. That story is best illustrated by a personal comment from me: “…but when in humility I kneel in prayer, burdened by a worry or fear, and spend time in His presence, I rise a soldier.” My highest validation and hope comes from a personal relationship with the LORD. Private Ryan’s life was validated by the sergeant’s death, so our lives are validated by HIS, and in a relationship with HIM we experience the reality of that. I would encourage you, whether you are on the “top of your game” or really struggling, to read both part I and II, this would be a good time mid-year to get some “spiritual fuel,” premium that is. I trust that this index of articles is helpful. If there are specific topics you would like me to address in future articles, let me know. In addition to my writing, I will be offering private consultation/classes this winter. I will walk your yard, teaching you about landscape care specific to your yard and plants. If you are interested in this, go to my website and under “contact” fill out the form and in comments write “winter consultation.” As always, I thank you for your support. Until next month, Good Gardening!
If you are a do-it-yourselfer please use this article as a guide. If you need help, please do not hesitate to call at (916) 765-9040 or visit our website www.executivecareinc.com. Executive Care Landscape Management, Inc. is a local full service residential and com-mercial landscape company. We specialize both in commercial (H.O.A.s, etc.) landscape maintenance and residential custom installs and re-dos. If you have missed previous articles, they can all be found on our website under publications. To schedule an at-home consultation click on “contact” then fill out the form. Lastly we appreciate the support of the community, and ask that if we do not return your call in a couple of days, that you would recall. I am not always able to understand the message.
Plants have a powerful influence over people. They can lift our mood and spirit, or bring us down. When a landscape is attractive, we spend time in our garden and are refreshed when we look at it through our windows. When a landscape is unattractive, we stay inside and keep our blinds closed. The difference between an attractive and unattractive garden is in the selection of the plants used, and in how the plants are used. For example, they can be misused, as with the Chinese Fringe flower. They can be overused, as with Carpet Roses . They can also be underused, as with the Brunsfelsia. Our goal with Plant Talk is to learn about the plants so we can use them correctly. So with that said, let’s learn about this month’s star, Brunnera macrophylla, the common name for which is just Brunnera. Brunnera is a perennial and native to Eastern Europe. The leaves are heart shaped, rough to the touch like fine grade sand paper and approximately 3” to 4” wide. It grows to about 1- 1 1/2’ wide, mounding in form to about 12”. The variety in the picture is Jack Frost and it is a gorgeous plant for a shade garden setting. The one pictured is in a morning sun area of my yard, and it is planted under a Japanese Dissectum Red leaf maple with Camellias, Belgian Azaleas, Heucheras and Gardenia Radicans surrounding it. In that setting its variegated foliage just shines, and definitely catches your eye. A beautiful accent with just the foliage alone, but it also has attractive small bluish flowers in mid-Spring on moderately tall leafy stems, approximately 2’ tall that are wispy and irregular in shape, giving it kind of a natural woodland look. It does not take dog urine at all. I have green fencing around this area to keep my little pug out, but he managed to hit one of them. It was completely dead, a pile of black leaves within a couple of days. I have not seen Brunnera in the big box stores, but I’m sure it can be requested wherever you shop, and Green Acres always seems to have a few. Find a place for it, and enjoy its beautiful distinct foliage. As always, Blessings to you.