Welcome to our June edition. School is out and time for vacations – except if you’re a landscaper. As the farmers use to say, you got to make hay while the sun is shining, so such is the case for businesses that rely on good weather to work. Though we work year-round this is our busier season, March to November. And since we are talking about weather, remember that summer is a good time to landscape. A plant is going to live in a hot plastic can in the nursery, or it can live in the cooler ground with bark as insulation. Remember the leaves have a waxy covering (some more and some less) but have their means to handle the heat, it is the roots you want to protect, which the plastic can cannot do. The earth, soil with bark over the top, is the best place for the plant to be. Now for our topic. Normally I adopt my clients as my uncle and aunt, but in this case with my clients being younger, they adopted me and now I have more family in town (yeah!) This was a front and backyard landscape project completed in December and January and for this month I want to start with the front yard. The in the following months we will discuss the back. The title “Keep It Simple” comes from the concept of where less is more. As you can see, the landscape basically consists of a very big oak tree, a dry stream bed, boulders and plants. There are really only a few “moving parts,” no walls, flagstone patios etc., however it is how it is done that gives this small space (compared to the backyard) such a neat feeling. Rob and Regina’s (the owners) front yard was similar to the backyard of my “Uncle and aunt,” Bob and Suzie whose yard we featured in March with their huge redwood trees. Unlike the redwoods, that if you do not look up you only see the trunks, here the canopy of the oak is unavoidable. There definitely is no ignoring it. Therefore, the oak was going to take “center stage,” whether I wanted it to or not. What could be done to keep it the masterpiece that it is, but at the same time bring beauty and substance to the rest of the yard so that it would not be dominated by the oak’s presence? We had two things in our favor. The oak leaves, as with all oaks, are monochrome in color with a stiff texture and in that lied my answer. By introducing plants of varying colors and textures I would be adding to the beauty of the oak, using it as a backdrop; much like the night sky with the stars. Neither one competes with each other, rather they enhance each other’s natural beauty. Also it is very similar to how you ladies dress. You have your main outfit but then accessorize, accessorize and accessorize to bring out the best of all the items worn. There is no competition, only enhancement. Such was my approach to the front yard. From the dry stream bed and its unique shape, to the lighter colored boulders, to the choices of textures and colors within the plant selections etc., these were my “accessories.” And don’t forget height. Though there is no competing with the oak’s height, adding small trees on the perimeter (staggered height approach) helps anchor the oak and make it not as overwhelming. Currently the trees are small and will need to grow to get to the vision I have, however by using the lighter, airier, colorful leaves of the Japanese Maple the contrast becomes a complement. In deciding on the boulders we had three choices. There are moss rock boulders, which are common in nature with oaks, as well as granite boulders and Sierra boulders. The Sierra boulder is a quartz boulder that may be common with oaks but I have not seen it in this geographical location with oaks. My determining factor in selecting the right boulder was how it reflected the light. I needed to take advantage of what light filtered down through the canopy. Things that are darker in color absorb the light, so the moss rock boulders with their dark moss and lichen would not work. So they were out. Yet the granite boulders were too bright, too stark and they are not a “warm” boulder. However, the Sierra boulders with their quartz base and varying earth tones, along with the blues, grays and cream colors did exactly what I needed them to do – reflect the light. Also, they added more diversity to the color scheme and with the dry stream bed they were a necessary addition and enhancement furthering our end goal. Creation is fascinating in its way of design and multiple combinations. There were many plant selections and dry stream bed designs I could have done, but by keeping the stream bed simple and in front of the oak and the plants around the oak in their varying colors and textures it accomplishes the goal and it makes one feel that they are viewing a beautiful slice of nature. Definitely good for our souls. Gardeners – a quick word. By now you are harvesting some of the labor of your hands; however, you have help in the form of aphids, caterpillars, loppers etc. Remember we only have three means to deal with these guys. One is to keep the vegetables healthy by being regular with your organic fertilizer. Also by keeping the vegetable leaves rinsed (morning hours only) of dust you discourage spider mite, and lastly to control loppers, caterpillars etc., use Bt for spraying. Stay away from oils in the summer months.
Good Gardening – Arthur