My landscape is a breeze
It has been happening slowing but surely that just as myself my Baby Boomer clients are maturing into a time of their lives where their desire or abilities have morphed. One of the most repeated input parameters is that I want less or no maintenance in my landscape. This changes the direction of how I scheme their outdoor spaces.
It has evolved that more of the space is developed into usable hardscape area and plantings that require less maintenance. This doesn’t mean the elimination of plantings in the process, just a more client specific planting design. The Baby Boomer landscape is used as a space to relax, entertain and live life in close proximity to nature by creating outdoor rooms with less energy expended. I still have the plant enthusiast who want to spend their leisure time tending a lush diverse garden of plantings. This provides them with a physical activity to keep the bones and connective tissue flexible through an outdoor activity while bringing some beauty into this world. There isn’t a right or wrong to this just a demographic observation that as a designer of thirty-seven years I am acutely aware of.
When you are thinking about the designing or redesigning of your Homescape just have an honest dialogue with yourself of what you are wanting from your outdoor space and how much energy along with your abilities to maintain it. Maybe like me you are ready for some smooth sailing into our sunset years.
I wish you fair winds!
Recently a distant relative from the southern tip of Florida came to our area, while discussing his drive up he made an interesting statement. “Man, don’t you guys have mowers and bush hogs up here, your road sides are a mess and need cutting.”
It was humorous to me, recently traveling our back roads I have been thrilled to see many of our native weeds coming into their own. This tapestry of unkept vegetation is much more interesting than the close scalped mown turf that is the goal of this labor intensive process.
One of my favorite undesirables is Ironweed ( Vernonia noveboracensis) , blooming in the Fall from August to October with reddish-purple blooms. It is found in moist ditch areas with profuse blooms bringing the fluttering of migrating butterflies with it.
These “weeds” can be used in the home garden setting and may be the answer to some of the moist /wet problem areas you might have. They are best used as backdrop perennial planting as they can reach three to six feet in height. English gardeners have used them since the 1700’s which to many plant snobs, I mean authorities, should make them socially acceptable even thought they are just a common ditch weed.
Maybe Ironweed doesn’t fit into your design theme or vision but we need to reconsider the endless maintenance of our roadside wastelands and just let them be a treasure trove of Fall color for us all.
Landscape design projects are not complete until the dust settles with the designer/ contractors/ installers gone and the client enjoying their new home environment privately with family and friends. With that said there also must be a beginning, this starts with the client having a fair understanding of their vision, desire or need.
One thing I am acutely aware of after thirty years plus of designing is that my clients and their projects are like snowflakes, no two are exactly alike. This makes communication with the client and an honest evaluation of their personal preferences paramount.
Just a picture
In the old days I would suggest that clients go through magazines, cut them out and put in a folder for us to review. Many times they just didn’t have time or access to good materials. In todays information age now there are so many access points to images it can be confusing.
One of the best beginning points I have found and suggest to clients is http://www.houzz.com It is the largest residential design database in the world with thousands of images that can be viewed and saved for a clear communication tool to start the design process. I have some images of my projects on there which you might want to look over.
But know that all these images started the same way, at the beginning utilizing a sound design process resulting into houzz reality.
This small layered tree slowly maturing into a six-foot high and a ten- foot spread plant creates a layered rounded form with lacy foliage in a hue of muted lime- green, much like a waterfall of greenery. Autumn brings a blaze of Fall color of copper, orange and red followed by a sculptured Winter form that makes it a beautiful four season plant.
The Dwarf Japanese Maple ‘Waterfall’ ( Acer palmatum dissectum ‘Waterfall’ ) cultivar has a deeply cut leaf that creates the soft lacy appearance . It tolerates the intense heat of Summer better that many of its dwarf cut leaf cousins, but does requires a well-drained soil with adequate mulch and irrigation during drought.
Dwarf Japanese Maple ‘ Waterfall’
I find it very effective as an accent plant and when located at the top of an elevated wall, its limbs do actually cascaded over the edge softing the lines of the wall and playing fine textured leaves on the wall material. Whether you have a formal balanced landscape/garden or a loose flowing organic one, Dwarf Japanese Maple ‘Waterfall’ will find itself at home bringing a feeling of refinement to either.
Garden spaces should have qualities that give special meaning to those that live in or visit them. Recently I was given the opportunity to design a very unique space created by the expansion of a hospital complex. It isn’t a large area, only measuring 27′ x 30′, defined by four brick walls. The garden space was part of the original hospital built in the 1930’s and designed by a Catholic Nun who was part of the nursing staff.
Two additions , one in the 60’s the other in the 70’s, engulfed the small garden and few of the current staff even know it exist. It can be seen from the rooms high above and only accessed via a maze of hallways and equipment rooms that lead to a door that opens into it. A single Dogwood survives here surrounded by hard sterile walls but thriving, growing and blooming through the seasons under harsh conditions.
As I looked up I realized that many people surely have looked down on this isolated Dogwood as they dealt with their own health issues or of loved ones. I thought, this tiny niche is a HEALING garden. This drove my vision as I sketched the design ideas on paper. Bold curving lines, reflective water, interesting textures and lush foliage will hopefully bring peace to those looking down on it, if only for a brief moment.
As my pencil moved across my drawing board , I thought of a mother giving birth to her youngest son in the old portion of the complex in the 1950’s. YES, this is the place of my birth.
This design experience has given me a deeper understanding of the concept of ” Bigger is not always better.” I hope you find a space in your garden to create a place for healing, no matter how small.
I am perplexed with the ongoing mutilation of Crapemyrtles (Lagerstroemia indica ) in the landscape. Much press has been given to ” Crape Murder”, the chopping of Crapemyrtles within arms and pruners reach every spring. Goggle the term Crape murder and you will be directed to a multitude of information on the subject. I first saw this term in a book “Crapemyrtle, A Grower’s Thoughts”By David Byer in 1997. David is a third generation nurseryman, degreed and has literally written the book on Crapemyrtles. His book has an excellent section on the subject of pruning of this tree and should be read by all before they abuse, I mean prune this plant.
I’m not suggesting that a selective pruning of Crapes is not acceptable but stumpcutting is. Bottom line, this beautiful tree with strong structural trunks and mottled bark should be appreciated for its form as well as blooms. Think about this, would you cut a gracefully branching dogwood to six feet above the ground every year because, well because everyone else does, even the professional. ( some with horticultural degrees)
Take a trip to Charleston, South Carolina, Mobile Alabama or another historic southern town and see how the natural beauty of the trunks and bark of this tree creates a strong visual presence in the landscape. You might even take a glance at the blooms but leave your chain saws and pruning tools at home. Please!
I have found that rough doodles/ thumbnail sketches open up the mind/hand connection to let creative ideas flow. Rough doodling is a great way for the client and designer to communicate and exchange ideas. I encourage my clients to sketch out or doodle their visions on a graph page which is a part of my landscape planning guide on my web site and vision book. I love it when I get a doodle or sketch of their ideas, the hard part for many is to loosen up (designers like me included) and free up the hand not worrying about creating a piece of art. Doodling/ thumbnail sketching is only part of the design process. Just have fun and let the pen or pencil flow!
This is a hard time of the year on wildlife that inhabit our gardens and natural spaces. The habitats that supply the basic necessities for life have been stressed even more by this years natural and man-made disasters.
If everyone would develop just a portion of the space that surrounds our homes, business and institutions for wildlife habitation, the collective space would greatly help offset what has been lost.
The National Wildlife Federation outlines the basic elements needed for wildlife habitat as food, water, cover and places to raise young. This Christmas give a gift of life to the creatures that share this earth with us as well as our future generations. Just a little space for all God’s creatures.
You can learn more about the Certified Wildlife Habitat program at www.nwf.org/habitat
Jens Jensen, "Siftings"
As a landscape designer I have been influenced by many observations, experiences and people, one being Jens Jensen. Known as the Dean of American landscape architecture, he has had a profound impact on my design ethic and the way I view the natural environment.
I grew up with a great love of the natural world which surrounded me and this helped guide my life and vocation. I discovered Jens Jensen and his book ” Siftings” after years of designing outdoor spaces also discovering a kindred spirit.
This book is an easy read about his own personal evolution as a designer and a person. I highly recommend it to anyone that appreciates native plant material of our own region and the importance of natural spaces in our lives.
For those who know my work or live in a homescape I helped plan, you will recognize many Jensen elements such as the council ring. But I promise, I had my oversized mustache long before I knew Mr. Jensen!
Lattice provides privacy
Lattice usually conjures up the vision of the flimsy prefab panels bought at the big box lumber yard. You see them underpinning many homes usually trying to hide something unsightly or create quick privacy.
I have mumbled the word in many design presentations hoping the client wouldn’t catch it or I come up with some vague description such as ” A wooden vertical design component thingamagig. ” When they do finally realize what I have said their reaction is much like when the toddler repeats a unacceptable word that they heard Uncle Butch say.
Much of the lattice readily available can make a landscape look cheap, breaks easily and disintegrates in a short time. Lattice done well can be a design element that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing. A single panel can diffuse an unwanted view, create privacy or create a strong support for a cascading vine to climb onto. There are many design situations where a lattice panel or screen is the best way to create a vertical design element in a constricted space or create a sense of enclosurement . Usually I specify a vertical/horizontal grid lattice that is a completely different structure than the diagonal panels which most people envision.
So next time you hear or see the word LATTICE on your landscape plan, remember it’s really not a dirty word.