February 2016



Welcome to our February edition. I want to start out by thanking everyone who came to speak with me at the Home and Landscape show. I really appreciated your comments on how the articles are helpful and interesting and of course how you felt about the Christmas article – they all come from the same heart and motive, to be of help.

Last year we ended on small landscapes, which was really helpful for people who fit this category. It allows them (you) to envision how the landscape can be and how much can actually be done with a smaller space. We will shift our focus now and go back to larger landscapes or landscapes that may not be large areas but landscapes that we did from the ground up, such as the one we are going to discuss in this month’s article. I hope by spending several months last year on smaller yards, you know that we are not just proficient at large landscapes, we are happy to help with any size and even have one of the four landscape crews dedicated to smaller yards.

With that said, let’s start. We will be discussing this landscape for at least a couple months. We did both the front and back, completely down to the dirt, removing plants, lawn and cement (patio and sidewalks in back, driveway and sidewalks in front). We started with the back and so that is where our discussion will begin this month. By the end of a job of this size (took about 2 months for front and back) I felt like the owners were my new uncle and aunt. The landscape (see before picture), though it looks ok in the picture, was not meeting the clients’ needs (Bob and Suzie), especially Suzie who enjoys entertaining. What you cannot see is that the space was chopped up. Unfortunately, due to the limited space, I can only show one before picture, which does not adequately show the yard’s proportions. Not only did the landscape get a new face lift, even the pool became modernized. The pool was about 30 years old having had the same plaster and tile for those years. Having the pool completed prior to the landscape allowed me to see the tile colors and be mindful of those colors when completing the rest of the work. When a job involves several contractors timing and order is important. We needed to start prior to the cement contractor so as to remove all the plants and lawn. He then needed to remove all the cement and give me a clean slate to design the new patio and walkways. Once the new design was approved, the cement contractor could come back and finish his work. While he was working in the back, we started our work in the front, and so it went. Coordinating with each trade is not complicated, especially when there is an understanding of the order of what has to be done. Since we do pavers and flagstone “in house,” I was anxious to see the finished color of the new cement to properly complement it with the flagstone patio we were going to build. This patio was designed to be a go-to place for more personal conversations, for reading or breakfast or coffee time. Also because of its proximity to the redwoods it is a great place in the summer; cool and shady and due to its location you definitely feel more connected to the landscape and nature. Since Suzie desired to use more of the space for entertaining, that limited what space was left for the landscape. The problem I had was with the redwoods. The trunks are the only thing you can see in the pictures, but they are easily 100 feet tall. Whatever landscape we did, we could not compete with the sheer size of these trees. I had to do something in a limited space that would hold its own and complement the redwoods. The design I came up with was the first of its kind. I designed two dry stream beds with a raised island in the center. In each picture you can see only one part of the stream bed but not the whole because of the raised island. The goal was to put as much “bang” into that space without being overly busy and keeping it clean and colorful. Contributing to that was the raised island that had as its focal point, a specimen Red Leaf Japanese Maple – a classic eye-catching small tree. It is light and airy, whereas the redwoods are stiff and dense. The analogy that comes to mind of what I was seeking to create is best illustrated by the Disney movie the “Beauty and the Beast.” The size differences and appearances of both the characters are so contrasting that they each stand out, neither one takes from the other and that is what I wanted. By using a specimen Japanese Maple, more boulders than I would normally use given the space, creating two dry streams beds with a raised island in the center were our means to give this landscape its own standing. And when a breakfast table is placed on the flagstone patio it too becomes part of this “Beauty and Beast” story. Given our “story” what would it be without night lights. They were a must. We install night lights in about 80 percent of our jobs. They extend the enjoyment of the landscape, especially when the evenings are warmer. However, even if you are just looking out from within your home, correctly placed night lights make the landscape very peaceful, almost magical in that they capture an aspect of the landscape that can only be seen with evening light. Gardeners, I am a little late on giving this advice. The fruit trees need to have their winter pruning as well as dormant spray. Two is recommended. So there is not much time left to do this.

Until next time – Good Gardening.