GardenSmart :: EPISODES :: 2003 show31
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Show #31

We're working again on the Georgia lake house. Today we address issues with the front yard. We've purposely held off until fall for several reasons. It has been hot and dry this summer, there have been watering restrictions in place and because fall is a better time to plant the shrubs and trees. The outside temperatures are cooling but the soil will be a little warmer. This makes an excellent environment for the roots to establish themselves.

The front yard of the home has many challenges. Since it is on a severe slope it has been a rather barren site. It has a lot of eroded soil and a lot of underbrush. We first cleared the underbrush, anything smaller than an inch or two in diameter was removed. This gave us a clear view to the street and presented a cleaner feel to the property. The homeowner felt that the view looking from the house to the street was more important than the view from the street to the house. The plants are placed so they are easily seen from the house, specifically from the front door. Since we are striving to keep as natural a look as possible we've used pine straw extensively. One bale per 50 to 60 feet has been used which provides 2-3 inches of cover. This will serve as an insulating blanket and help prevent erosion and is attractive. It provides a nice backdrop for the Otto Lucen Laurels. They are balled and burlapped and provide a backdrop for the River Birch. Indigenous boulders have been utilized as well. These boulders were found close to the property, thus fit very naturally with the site. Variegated Liriop, a nice evergreen, has been used as a ground cover. They add a little spice and interest next to important circulation areas and also minimize erosion. It is a simple plan but effective.

River Birch, Betula Nigra - when this size, are typically balled and burlapped. When installing plants like this several people will be needed because of the weight. There is a wire basket covering the soil ball, leave it on. It will only slightly restrict root growth and then only where the roots would hit the wire. The wire provides a simple way to get the tree into the ground. Over time it will corrode and break down. The nylon strap, on the other hand, does need to be removed. The burlap can remain, it too will disintegrate, just peel it back from the trunk of the tree. Once planted the tree provides an upright, vertical focal point to the landscape. It's an attractive plant, especially for this location because it is woodsy, kind of informal. River Birches need a lot of moisture when they're establishing, don't let them dry out. For the first year or so water them 2 or 3 times a week, each time providing several gallons of water to the root ball, allowing the roots to establish.

The Deodore Cedar, Cedrus Deodora, is an evergreen, they can grow to 30 to 60 feet tall, even taller and 20 to 30 feet across. They provide a solid, dense screen because it has a fine texture with a blue-green or bluish-silver needle. It doesn't compete with other elements in the landscape, is a great plant for dry areas although it will respond well if moisture is present. It is tough and durable, sometimes not real cold tolerant but if in the middle to lower south it is a good choice.

This house has some very challenging spots for plants to survive. Warren Davenport is an ivy expert and has some unusual ivy plants that are ideal for difficult situations. Adult ivy, Hetera species in the adult form has flowers and fruit. This plant is called Treetop and is an excellent variety to put in an area that is harsh. This area has low available water, poor soil conditions and shade. This plant has an excellent root system and does well in these poor conditions. For the first couple of weeks it may need special care, watering, etc. but then will thrive in these conditions. He places this plant, Treetop under the deck, next to the waterfall, it will soften the corner and make a beautiful addition.

Warren has selected another ivy for the front of the house, this one is called Glacier. There are harsh lines at the corner of the house in the front, this plant will break those up. There is excellent drainage at this spot of the yard, combined with the fact there is little water in this area. Therefore, a drought resistant plant is needed. This plant will grow to between five and five and a half feet tall. It's circumference can reach nine and a half feet. It will be a specimen plant at the corner of the house. In planting we want a wide hole but not much deeper than the height of the root ball, in fact it will sit an inch to an inch and a half higher than the surrounding soil. As clay settles the plant will drop and we don't want a lot of soil around the crown of the stem. The root system is very healthy and when planting not much is needed. We add soil around the base, water several times throughout the next month, then leave it alone. Because of the low phosphorus in the soil at this location Warren uses a fertilizer with a higher phosphorus number.

We've previously discussed the problems moving people from the front of the property, down the steep hill, to the lower deck, then ultimately to the greenspace and the lake itself. Erosion is a problem because the water from the front yard and from the driveway move down the hill. The builder installed a french drain, black plastic pipe, it captures water coming off the driveway but there are no holes in the drain so the water rockets through the tube and creates erosion at the end of the tubing. We've decided on installing railroad/landscaping type ties all the way down to the greenspace. These ties will be in the shape of a "U" and will be filled with pebbles. These will offer secure steps, will act as a type of retaining wall and slow the water as it moves through the area.

At the bottom we view some steps already installed. We have two primary objectives for these steps. As steps, move people from the top of the property to the bottom and secondly to stop or at least slow erosion. We're actually using landscape timbers and have placed one on top of another. They are pressure treated, thus will last a long time. They've been imbedded into the ground with 2 foot re-bar or iron spikes. This secures the timbers to the ground and acts like a mini-retaining wall. We've added gravel-type material to fill in the step or tread area. This is effective because it is non-skid or non-slick regardless if it's wet or dry and because when it rains the water percolates slowly through the stone and into the ground without washing the soil away. This is an economical, convenient, yet effective way to address the problems of the area.

In the south we can enjoy our landscapes 365 days a a year, but many of us leave before the sun rises and get home after the sun sets. Outdoor lighting allows us to enjoy our yards and landscape 24 hours a day. Darren Huff is an outdoor lighting expert with Artistic Nights. He frequently receives calls from homeowners, especially this time of year, saying we've put money into landscaping but can't enjoy it as we would like. Darren has placed some very attractive lighting fixtures in this yard that accent the landscaping and add to the livability of this home. The homeowner frequently visits the neighbors at night, therefore paths have been created with mulch and river rocks. Darren didn't want to compete with these features and believes in the "less is more" philosophy. He wanted a light fixture that would provide a spread of light throughout the area but not over light the area. The light chosen is unique in that it is not traditionally used as a path light. It is a beautiful fixture, sturdy, yet barely noticeable. The light it provides is barely visible from above, yet lights the pathway. It's dubbed a barbecue light because it is traditionally used over barbecue grills. The light spreads well and Darren knew it wouldn't require many fixtures. He used four lights in one area that is about 200 feet in length. He believes in using the fewest number of lights needed to illuminate an area, make it secure, but not make it look like a prison courtyard. The down lit lighting used on the pathways creates a very natural feel. It is similar to the sun or moon.

At the waterfalls Darren has used a frog and umbrella fixture. In some instances it isn't possible to conceal a fixture as he has with the barbecue lights. The frog and umbrella fixtures go with the water feature but also serves to enhance the landscaping rather than competing with it. This feature enhances the textures - the mulch, the water moving, etc. This fixture is beautiful, a sculpture. It isn't a good idea to put a light in the water itself because it can make the water look murky.

In the front yard Darren has used uplighting. Anytime there is a focal point, a tree, a home, things like that if up lit, creates a dramatic reverse effect of what the sun of moon accomplish. In this case he's used his basic fixture which is a spotlight. This is different from what might be found at a home improvement store, even the stake that goes in the ground looks substantial. We've all seen landscaping lights leaning and broken, these are solid, they're not going to break easily. This light is a 50 watt halogen creating a more dramatic effect, it could be replaced with something as low as a 20 watt bulb. The lights used in the other fixtures were all 25 watts or less, producing the "moon glow' effect Darren wanted.

These lights create a very soothing effect, not glaring, just a nice glow at night that lets the homeowner subtly enjoy the landscape. As he says, we don't want the yard to look like a landing strip for a small airplane. Darren has done a wonderful job.

It is estimated that one third of the country has experienced a severe drought this summer. If that is the case yet you still want a beautiful landscape consider an efficient, yet economical watering approach. A drip system is one of Dr. Rick's' favorites. We can install this system ourselves, we don't need to hire someone, it's simple, reasonable,


   
 
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