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
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
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,