Welcome to our March issue. It is hard to believe that Spring is already here. I want to start off a little differently with this article by asking a question. The question is, what are the key ingredients for business success? An initial answer would be that it would depend upon the business and the end goal. However, there are general statements or goals that would benefit any business. Being unique or original, satisfying and/or surpassing expectations, great quality at a fair price etc., are all parts of a successful business model. But the one that I want to address in our March edition is being Proactive. How does this fit into the context of landscaping?
Landscaping, whether in Arizona, where the landscape is serene and the plant combinations consist of drought tolerant plants or in a tropical area such as Hawaii, where the landscape is full, lush and very green, must be done with the knowledge of the climate zone and its plant types. There are plants that are indigenous to those areas, as well as plants that have the “qualifications,” or better said, the adaptability to grow in those zones. No region, with maybe the exception of the Sahara Desert, is without its native plants. We can go anywhere and enjoy good landscapes, that invite you out or calms you down, and causes you –almost subconsciously–to be in a good mood. High end resorts, regardless of their location, invest a lot of money and time in their landscapes for this reason, and they are very good examples of the diversity, beauty and adaptability of the plant kingdom.
Apart from knowing the correct plant species and how to use them, it is also part of my job to pay attention to our weather and be ‘proactive’ in regards to those changes. Permanent climate changes I am not qualified to determine, for much of our weather is cyclic. However seasonal changes that affect us I am qualified to deal with. It is no secret that our rainfall has been limited this year, and though I have not heard of any water restrictions (as of 2/23) I do expect them. So , is it being proactive to install large areas of lawn? A case in point: I was just at a local nursery yesterday, and someone had bought approximately 2,200 square feet of sod. That is an area of 50 feet by 45 feet, and represents a fair amount of labor and materials when you consider the grading, drainage, irrigation, topsoil and lawn, to risk losing. I was quite upset, especially when there are so many good alternatives to installing a lawn like this.
Two years ago we had water restrictions, and I wrote a series on making your landscape “water restriction proof” which involved hybrids of lawns that, once established, only need one good watering a week. I also discussed next generation sprinkler nozzles that have the trade name of “water miser nozzles.” I also discussed the correct way to install a drip irrigation system, which, when done correctly, is the best system for the plants. The water goes right to the plant, we are able to quantify that amount, and nothing is wasted. So what is my point? Being proactive involves adapting to what nature gives us. Living within our “natural means” is only good stewardship. The good news is that we have the tools and the plants to do so without sacrificing the beauty and the pleasure of the outdoors.
So with the idea of being proactive, let’s start with this month’s landscape. I like to rotate between larger yards and smaller yards, giving everyone a chance to see concepts and designs that can potentially fit into their yards. Having just concluded a three part series on a larger yard, I am excited to share with you the concepts and designs that went into this smaller yard. We will start with the front this month, and review the back next month. The front, as the before picture shows, was the standard builder’s landscape. Which, while everything else gets settled with new home ownership, works. Our clients had been in the home for about six months, and were now ready for a change. Not wanting any lawn due to allergies as well as because of the maintenance they requested a lawn free landscape design with a Northern California/Asian blended theme. Often people ask how a theme is determined. With these clients it was a matter of preference. The husband grew up in Washington state and enjoys our Northern California look, with mixed ornamentals and conifers. His wife, Asian by decent, enjoys the influences of that theme. So a mixed theme is easy to understand. In this case it was more a matter of personal preferences; in other cases it depends on trying to match the surrounding area, or trees that will remain, or the outside architecture or interior decor of the house.
In designing a smaller yard, the challenge is making the different design elements and plant selections fit into the proportions of the yard. Everything from boulder selections, to stream width and length, to the maturing heights and width of plants and the amount of night lights comes into greater focus with a smaller yard. It is fun because of this challenge, but not easy. It is very easy to overcrowd a smaller yard in later years if all of these elements are not taken into account. Initially “over planting” looks nice, filling out the smaller yard and making it appear a little bigger than it really is. However, as the landscape matures, and the plants grow, just the opposite begins to happen. The plants crowd themselves and the area begins to appear smaller. The challenge is to resist the temptation to give a “bigger” look to the yard, and design for the future, which, for me, is the third year of growth. By then the plants are at the size that I want to maintain them. The trees of course will continue to grow, but by the third year, they have come into their own beauty. And if cared for properly, will only become more of a focal point in the landscape.
Next month we will discuss the back yard. Please however read the new column as we expand into two full pages. For next month the new column will be titled ” If Plants Could Talk ” which is going to be a fun column for you plant enthusiasts. However for this month, I feel it very important to give a review on drip irrigation—not as exciting, but it is the life line of your plants. Also this January and February I covered in detail lawn irrigation tips in the articles on my website under ‘Publications.’ Call if we can help, and please let us know if the request is for a family activity soon to happen, or if you have time. We are needing to rank our response according to client need.
OK, that’s it for now, have a great month, and Good Gardening!