June – Making the Most of Your Yard

Welcome to June, and darn, now it’s summer. It was a nice spring especially when it stopped raining, though I did enjoy the rain, it did make it tough to landscape. 

Summer, with its hot days is when I routinely get asked the question, “should we be landscaping?” Coming from the wholesale nursery field I have a perspective that most do not have. Summertime in the nursery was challenging, keeping the plants watered down was a full time job. The irrigation systems needed to be run daily and even at that, the bigger plants still needed supplemental watering. The plastic can, heats up, drying out the soil, not to mention what the plant uses. I spent many hot afternoons walking the fields making sure everything was well watered. 

So when you landscape it’s like giving the plants a vacation. The plastic can is removed and the plant is placed in the earth, which is a great insulator. Added to that insulation is a two-inch layer of bark that boosts the insulation factor that much more. 

Now, that doesn’tmean that there is nothing to worry about. Until the plant begins to root out into the earth from its root ball, it can still dry out. However, drip irrigation is superior (as opposed to overhead irrigation) by by-passing the foliage of the plants and going directly into the root zone of the plant. Adding to that is the amending of the soil that we do, which adds further moisture retention. There is a little “babysitting” involved but it is easily dealt with. Therefore, no matter what the season, the plant is the happiest when in the ground – Viva la planta!

Now for our featured landscape, which included both the front and backyard. We completed this job about six years ago. Looking at the “before” photo, the front yard was long, narrow and uneventful. The back was similar and to improve that we landscaped, installed a flagstone patio and had Patio Perfections install a free-standing patio cover.  Next month we will go into detail regarding the back.

Since I already stated the problem with the front yard in the preceding paragraph, can you guess what the overall approach was?  In the before picture the eye goes from the sidewalk straight to the house. The house is an average two-story in height, yet because the landscape is so flat, it looks extra tall. Therefore, since the house is not going to get any shorter, the solution was to elevate the landscape. That was our big picture solution. To do that we started by building the two half walls you see in front. We were able to add a considerable amount of soil and reduce the natural slope, effectively raising the yard. 

When it came to the plants, we started with smaller growing trees, ornamental crabapples, up front to immediately hinder the eye from traveling forward.   The trees also give a “gate like” presence that as you walk past them you get the feeling as entering into the front yard. Once in, the eye is greeted by different textures, sizes and colors of plants with the birch tree, being planted closest to the house further reducing the house’s roof line. 

Sadly, out of all of the plants we planted, it is the birch tree (or Betula) that did not perform well. Even with all my years of choosing plants it’s still challenging to ascertain plants  individual  genetic coding. I have seen the same variety plants, two of them side by side, having the same appearance at the time of planting, grow differently. Some taller, some wider and like this birch, not much growth at all. Plants in that respect are very similar to us. As there is variability in us, there is variability with plants, especially for the plants that are propagated from seed.

Other features we added to this yard included a raised lawn. In asking the homeowner about his preference when it came to mowing, he preferred to mow a level lawn. Therefore, we created a block border backfilling with topsoil blend raising the elevation just a little more. To make the border more interesting we embedded boulders into it. Looking back on it now I wish I would have added a couple more groupings of boulders.  However, the more creative one is the more it impacts the budget and since this was a front yard and backyard landscape I did not want to overdo it.   

Next to appreciate the full  width of the yard we added a dry stream bed to the far left. It adds additional color to that side of the yard as well as acting as an antithesis to the block which is very structured, thus inviting   a more natural feel to the landscape. . 

What I like about landscaping is everything is done by intent. Nothing is just because, each plant, each block, each boulder and its placement is with thought and purpose. In this sense I liken landscaping a little to Creation, though I am using things already made, their purpose is intentional.    

Lastly, and I am so pleased with how it has grown, is the Blue Atlantic Cedar (Cedrus alantica glauca). What better way to announce a front door entrance with something that is one of a kind. The Atlantic Cedar grew exactly as I wanted it to and does the job it was planted to do. We had a dull blank corner against a tall house and we needed something that grew much taller than wide and drew the eye away from the blank wall. And before you know it you are at the front door and the long narrow appearance of the front yard has disappeared into the landscape. 

Landscapes are beautiful when done correctly and cared for. The investment or cost is many times rewarded back over the course of the years of its enjoyment. Most things depreciate over time as they get older, landscapes as they get older come into their own, growing more beautiful, giving our souls the restful feel we need.  

As I mentioned last month, I’m going to forego our garden section to share the following. I am considering teaching classes on landscape and the care needed afterwards. The timing of the classes would be from November to mid February. The format would be very similar to the articles but more in-depth. If this is something you would be interested in, please email me at Arthur@executivecareinc.com. and in the subject type classes with your email. 

Thank you.