week we follow up on our landscaping project in Asheville,
North Carolina. Alfie has continued to make great progress,
the yard is looking great and many of the lessons learned
here apply to others' yards as well.
landscaping plan Dr. Rick had chosen Rhododendron as one
of the plants for this yard. It is an interesting plant
and has handsome foliage. Alfie chose Rosa Pink a mid sized
variety that will grow to 5-6 feet tall. It is hardy in
this area, will blend well with the bedding plants and hanging
baskets and looks good from the sitting area in the yard.
Rhododendron are handsome plants but finicky and drainage
is a problem, they don't like wet feet. To address this
Alfie tilled and loosened the soil and added soil additives
to help with drainage. These were planted on a slope, which
is a big help. As well he planted them slightly above ground
level. He dug a hole, filled it with some soil, then planted
the plant, leaving it above the surrounding ground level.
He then added as much as 3 inches of mulch around the base
of the plant. Although these plants don't like wet feet
they do like some moisture all the time. To address this
Alfie added several cupfuls of moisturizing potting soil
in with the original soil and around each plant. This will
make the soil looser and more moisture retentive. Rhododendrons
also like an acidic environment. There are a lot of Oak
trees in the yard and they make the soil acidic. But Alfie
wanted to provide a boost and instead of using lime he used
an acidifying liquid fertilizer. Dr. Rick has a tip. If
you notice your Rhododendron's leaves are turning yellow
but the veins stay green they have Chlorosis. The PH is
too high, the soil is too Alkaline. Keep the soil acidic.
Rhododendrons have shallow roots, so don't do any deep weeding
or cultivating near these plants. Keep weeds under control
with mulch around these plants and don't use a herbicide
around them. Wind damage can also be a problem, especially
in the winter. This house screens them in the winter but
covering them on especially cold or windy days with burlap
might be necessary. Salt air can also cause problems, effecting
the older growth more than the newer growth. Try to protect
them from salt air or at least wash them off. After Rhododendrons
bloom it is best to remove the old flowers, at least do
some tip pruning, which removes the spent flower and an
inch or so of new growth. No shearing, just a little pruning
of the tip. It also gives the plant a more rounded, uniform
shape, encourages denser growth in the lower part of the
shrub and it doesn't get a "leggy" look. If you
notice a branch die or uniform wilting, move quickly and
cut out all diseased area, all the way back to the green
area, as close to the trunk as possible. If any doubts about
a soil borne organism it might be best to remove the entire
shrub and replace it.
Native ferns are a great choice to give a relaxed, informal
feeling. Alfie has planted Christmas Ferns because they
are semi evergreen, visually pleasing year round and are
light and airy. They don't compete, yet contrast nicely
with Rhododendrons for a focal point and make a nice accent
plant. Alfie has placed them in a kind of drift, like what
you would see in the woods. He's mixed several different
ferns together. The Christmas ferns will grow 12-18 inches
tall. Behind those Alfie has added Ostrich, Royal and Cinnamon
Ferns. The Royals will grow 4-6 feet tall, providing a dramatic
difference in height. The fine texture ties them all together.
Alfie has chosen very small plants, planting over a hundred
in a small area. These are Crown or Bare Root ferns, chosen
because they inexpensive and because it is often difficult
to find a hundred of the same variety in a nursery. Within
a month or so they will mature and the area will be filled.
When the plants mature little dots or spores will appear
on the back of the leaves, when they hit the ground even
more ferns will grow. Heavy mulch around the ferns will
be a good bedding ground for the spores and the area will
fill. It's a great way to fill gaps between coarser or heavier
textured plants and a nice accent to the statuary placed
in this area.
Hydrangeas were selected to provide a barrier between the
street and other parts of the landscape. Chosen were Hydrangea
Macrofila, they have bold leaves, long lasting flowers,
coarse texture and can be enjoyed from a distance. They've
been placed close enough together to present a bold mass.
They are fast growing but may need a little pruning after
they flower. This may allow a second flush of flowers in
a season. They are a great plant for shade. There are a
lot of different varieties. If you want a lot of really
large blooms cut off a lot of limbs; for a lot of flowers
but smaller blooms, leave as many stems as possible. Hydrangeas
can be used as indicator plants, when they droop, along
with Impatiens, they indicate the rest of the garden needs
water. The temporary wilt doesn't hurt the plant but tells
you your garden needs water, possibly saving water by not
automatically turning on water each week.
The design called for sweeping bed lines. The purpose was
to create simple spaces, a resting place for the eye. This
is especially important if you have a lot of plants and
a variety of different textures, forms and colors. Alfie
created these bed lines with the help of a garden hose.
With a warm hose he laid out the bed line, came back with
a shovel with a flat edge and cut the bed line. Then he
tilled the beds. The bed is several inches lower than the
turf. When the mulch is added it won't spill into the lawn
and a lawnmower can have one wheel on the mulch, one wheel
on the lawn and it will cut cleanly. Once every year or
so. come back and redefine the edge with the shovel. This
is a clean, quick, neat, inexpensive, simple way to have
a good looking bed line.
In the south when it rains it often drops an enormous amount
of water in a short amount of time. This causes erosion,
especially where we have heavy clay. The water doesn't percolate
into the ground, we loose top soil so, especially on sloping
areas we need to cover the ground. Alfie fixed a problem
in this yard by toning down the grade. He did this by adding
4-6 inches of lawn soil to the worst spots. He then planted
a fine bladed Fescue that is shade tolerant. This fine bladed
grass wouldn't hold up well with heavy foot traffic but
works well in this area. One spot had sunk about 8 inches
from an earlier digging . Alfie built it up with compost
and lawn soil, it is a little higher now than the surrounding
area but it will settle with time. It typically takes the
earth between 6 months and a year and a half for the earth
to settle back to normal, so it is always a good idea to
ridge up when replacing dirt. It looks like all grass seed
has sprouted and a full lawn should soon follow.
When planting your own landscape it is always prudent to
take into consideration what's going on in the neighbors'
yard. Is it a view you want to keep or hide? If your neighbor
has an attractive area, emphasize that, if not de-emphasize
that area, don't compete visually with attractive areas.
In this yard we've screened some views with heavy foliage.
Another view however is very attractive. Here we've utilized
a technique called "borrowing a perspective" this
means we're doing everything we can to emphasize the neighbors'
yard. we planted Azaleas low, when in bloom (2 or 3 weeks
each year) they will look spectacular, but the other 49-50
weeks they will be somewhat plain. These low plants then
will provide a nice foundation then but not interfere with
the beautiful view. The neighbors yard has day Lilies, Lambs
Ear, Stachus - a great plant with silver foliage, used more
as a transition plant- even a gazing ball. Folk lore says
gazing balls were used in small gardens to allow the gardener
to see who was coming in and out of the garden and to see
around corners. It is a great focal point, something interesting
in a wild and natural looking garden. It adds a bit of formality.
Ferns in baskets are a wonderful addition to your landscape.
Their fine textures go with about everything. One problem
with ferns is that they are native to areas where their
roots are constantly moist. Accordingly over a long period
of time their roots have developed a waterproof coating,
otherwise they would become waterlogged and root rot would
occur. Therefore water tends to hit the top, shed off the
roots and go down the side of the container or out the bottom.
The soil ball in the middle of the container gets and stays
very dry. when that happens the leaves yellow. to solve
the problem take a long handled screw driver and punch holes
towards the center of the container. This allows the water
to move to and stay in the middle of the container and the
fern doesn't dry out. Another option with ferns is to place
them into another container with water and let them soak
water from the bottom. This will
completely saturate the root ball.
We'll be back in several more weeks to update the progress
of this landscaping project in Asheville. Hopefully these
tips have been helpful
and you'll find ideas that will work in your yards and gardens. Back to Top
By Justin Hancock, Costa Farms Horticulturist,
Photographs courtesy of Costa Farms
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