March 2016

Welcome to our March edition. I appreciate the responses I have been receiving from the articles – thank you. It is a challenge between running a business, writing and being a grandpa (the best part) to keep up with it all. So I am grateful the articles are making sense and are of benefit. Last month we discussed the backyard of Bob and Suzie. We talked about my challenge as a designer and how I saw the yard as somewhat of a “Beauty and the Beast” situation. Based on some comments I have received about this specific article I feel comfortable that the main points were understood and that we can move forward and start our discussion about the front yard. Though the front and back were similar in that both areas were designed from the ground up, the front was a little more complicated. We needed to determine several things before starting. I needed the homeowners’ input on what they would like to see when it was all done. Though they could not imagine it completed, I could, so my questions guided me to have the final landscape they wanted. We needed to have answers to questions about whether they wanted a level lawn, or instead a bit of a slope, which directly determined the height of the walls we were going to build. Did they want the walls to go to the sidewalk or have a planter bed between the sidewalk and the walls? Also, since we were going to remove the driveway, walkway and steps, it all needed to be replaced with something. Fortunately, they had already decided on stamped concrete as opposed to pavers (more expensive). However, we needed to decide on the positioning of the steps. Many times steps are offset from the door. This was critical for it determined where the walls would start and stop. In addition, we needed to decide how much area we were going to leave for lawn (this landscape was completed prior to our water regulations). To successfully do a design and landscape for them I needed to understand their preferences. I wanted them to be proud of their new yard. There were more questions I asked, not all pertaining to the landscape. Questions that gave me a window into their personalities so in case something did arise that I did not ask, I was confident in my knowledge of them that I could answer it for them. In dealing with so many clients I find there are those who like to play it safe with design, nothing too complicated or fancy. Others like creativity and a change from the standard mode of doing things and there are also people in between these two extremes. Therefore, the questions I always ask allow me to understand my clients. It definitely is Psychology 101. The other benefit of these questions is that it builds their confidence in me. By asking these questions they understand that I know my field and we are competent to give them an end product they will be proud of. The first job, and though I do not like using chemicals, at times it is necessary for efficiency, was to kill the lawn. Though the lawn is green in the before picture, it was mixed with Bermuda grass. The Bermuda had to be treated with Roundup. It takes about 2 to 3 applications to do this (at least a month has to be considered prior to starting to landscape). Once the dead lawn was removed and the ground tilled, the wall could be started. As always, a footing has to be dug to ensure a solid base that will not move. Gravity, especially on slopes, tends to push downward and forward and having the first course of block locked in is critical. This particular style block comes in several colors and positano is the name for this combination of tan and grey. However, the house is faced with brick, which is red. In reviewing with them they preferred the positano color combination to the sienna color, which would have been more red. For decisions like these I needed their input because given the house colors you can chose to blend with the brick or with the house and fascia. That definitely is an owner decision. Psychology 101 is not advanced enough. Building the wall was a big deal for them; they now were beginning to see the big picture. From this point forward I was pretty confident of my decisions. I had all the information needed to complete the job. The steps were going to be in line with the front door and the area for the lawn was decided. It was all pretty straight forward. I held a couple surprises for them though. They enjoyed travelling and towards the end of the job when we had about 8 days left to finish, they took a 5-day trip (with the backyard they were gone for 3 weeks). During this time I took a few “creative risks” on the company’s dime. It was something that no one has done, not even me, so I could not send them anywhere to see it and it was too hard to paint the expression of what I wanted with words for them to be able to picture it. On both ends of the yard are what I call creative expressions, though the whole landscape is that, these would definitely be surprises. The first surprise pictured here is something I’ve never seen done before. It’s a drystream bed that breaks through a wall. Without the break the stream bed would have ended behind the wall, which is fine, but I find this more creative. In doing it we changed it a few times until we got the look I was wanting – it was fun. In the next article I will tell you about the other surprise we did at the other end of the yard. Gardeners – time to rise and shine. This is our month. However, be prepared to protect your tomatoes in case we get a freeze. The rest of the vegetables should be able to handle a night or so of cold. Make sure to apply ample organic fertilizer and add a little starter fertilizer. And in this case if a little is good, more is better is NOT TRUE. DO NOT OVERDO THE STARTER FERTILIZER. TO FORCE TOO MUCH NEW GROWTH IS TO MAKE THE PLANT MORE SENSITIVE TO THE COLD.  

Until next time – Good Gardening.