Welcome to our November edition. What a horrific two months it has been, between hurricanes, floods, shootings and now fires, these have been extremely challenging and mournful months for a great number of people. Here in Sacramento and surrounding cities we have been spared any of these events and should count our blessings, however at the very least learn the lessons that tragedies are  presenting to us.  What we have is not nearly as important as who we have, our family, our friends and each other. Putting our relationships before things is to gain wisdom from these events and in so doing is to live life with minimal regret . To live with regret is a painful lesson for it often cannot be undone. If we learn just this one lesson these tragedies would not have been in vain.

  I will be talking more about this topic in our December (Christmas edition), look for it please. 

 Before getting into our article I want to remind everyone that as we go into the cooler months we continue to landscape. The plants will either stay in the nursery in a cold plastic can through winter, with the  cold being harder on them than if they were in the ground. In fact, the same plant in the ground will bloom and/or leaf out up to three weeks earlier than the same variety sitting in the nursery. In the plastic can the whole plant is cold, from roots to shoots. In the ground, only the shoots are cold, but the roots, or the heart of the plant is warm. The vast majority of plants or shoots can cope with the cold. Some varieties will need frost blankets dependent upon our night temperatures and by covering them, the leaves are protected from frost damage otherwise come spring they will grow out of it or the damage can be pruned off.  

This has been a good series on “Being Creative.”  In the very first article (September’s), Joe and Katy’s project was a joint front yard effort  between them and us. The second landscape (October’s), Kent’s backyard, was mostly his input with the exceptions  of the input that I noted in the article. We were his hands.  Now with this month’s landscape the homeowners stayed pretty much inside unless I brought them outside to view our progress.  

Ed and Melissa told me in our first meeting they really didn’t have a clue about how they wanted the yard to look.   They had several requests but that was it. They wanted low maintenance, no lawn,  a pathway from the sidewalk to the front door and color. Most of these requests, except for the pathway, we incorporate in all of our designs as it is. 

 I felt that if maybe I took Melissa to Green Acres with me to view the plants that she might come up with more personalized requests. .However, her reply was that she was so out of her realm when it came to plants that she was afraid she’d be a hindrance to me.She felt more comfortable just having me do it.  She had been reading my articles and was confident that she would get a better job if she just let me complete the vision I had for the front yard. Because of this I spent a little extra time  asking her questions until I felt I knew her  well enough that I could accurately represent her. Ed’s, her husband, only concern was for low maintenance. Even though people may not have a clue as to what they want , their personalities clues me in to the type of landscape they would enjoy. Touring my clients around Green Acres and learning their taste in plants plus following up with specific questions outlines their personalities for me , which then  allows me to accurately represent them.

In starting this job the first thing was the removal of the lawn. Then came checking the irrigation and converting it to drip irrigation.Following this we checked drainage and then began our normal procedure of amending the soil by tilling in a special mix that I have made just for Executive Care.( A side note:because of this upfront prep work we do we are often higher in cost than other landscapers. It takes a couple extra days  to do this but in so doing  we are adding longevity and enjoyment by creating a healthy environment for the plants to flourish in ).

  We also beef up the irrigation. Often, an irrigation valve is watering too much area, especially when it comes to   drip irrigation. Since this happens frequently with the jobs we undertake it has become part of our procedure to “split the valve,” adding a second valve so that there are now two drip valves watering the same area that one valve was watering. This one change alone in the water pressure makes a huge difference to the health of the plants. With the normal way of “stretching the valve,” as I call it, the plants often outgrown their water source and the landscape slowly begins to decline. This is a short cut in the trade that is done to keep the bid down. We take no short cuts.  

Recently I went on an appointment where the landscape was installed about three years ago. I thought the cost was considerable for what was done.  It was a corner lot with 80 percent of it being in lawn, which is the easiest and least expensive part of any landscape. More lawn equals a lower bid, another “trick of the trade.” Unfortunately, it was done in our drought years and the City of Roseville began sending notices of excessive water usage and an increase rate for continued  water use . Instead of paying more for the water they let all the landscape die, except for a few trees and plants that they hand-watered to keep alive. The client was super frustrated and I was mad. They were much like Ed and Melissa, unknowledgeable  regarding landscaping and were taken advantage of.  We are now discussing  how to re-do-the landscape, but in phases.

In ending, what I have shared thus far regarding Ed and Melissa’s landscape gives the foundation for the next article.  We will pick up again in February, so please save this article. December, as mentioned, will be our Christmas or inspirational writing and January is our yearly article on landscape maintenance. It makes no sense to get a new landscape if you do not have some basic knowledge of landscape care. 

Gardeners – prepare your cold frames to encourage continued growth in the cooler months.  

Until next time, Good Gardening.