GardenSmart :: EPISODES :: 2003 show32
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Show #32

We check on the progress of the landscaping project in Asheville, North Carolina.

Alfie, the gardener extraordinaire, has been in charge of plant installation. He reports that every step has been made harder because it has been so dry. Asheville is experiencing a rain shortfall of about 15 to 18 inches so far this year, combined with previous years deficits it's well over 30 inches below normal. Some plants did better than others. The Hostas were purchased in gallon pots and had more established root systems, plus they were in a good potting mix with added amendments. Thus they stayed about the same, they didn't grow dramatically but don't show signs of suffering. As you remember, the ferns were bare rooted, they didn't have much of a root system. Some have done ok some have failed, none of them grew dramatically. When planting, Alfie used soil amendments, an under mulch, ground bark, about an inch and a half of soil conditioner, which once wet holds moisture like a sponge. He added a layer of mulch on the top, it is not only decorative but also holds moisture. If you have a fine textured organic matter and don't cover it, it will quickly evaporate. By using a chunkier mulch it protects or keeps the fine textured mulch from evaporating as quickly. So it is a good idea in dry conditions to layer
the different soil amendments.

Alfie planted understory trees, like the Eastern Redbud and they seem to be holding their own. To prepare the soil he dug a normal sized hole. He realized he hadn't hit any moisture and was down 2 and 1/2 feet. He went down to about 3 feet, found a little moisture in the clay. He then made a clay cone to hold the tree up because the tree will settle in the hole and if it were to settle the organic matter he lined the hole with could decay the tree. Then the hole was filled with water, several hours later the hole had dried and was filled again. This insures the soil around the plant won't wick away the water from the plant. Then soil and soil amendments, like garden soil, were added.

These trees were balled and burlap. The burlap is still on the root system. This doesn't need to be removed from the plant it will disintegrate over time. Even if there is wire around the ball it too will rust in the ground over time. This tree had a rigid collar (it could be cotton, manila, wire, nylon or plastic) around the tree trunk, it should be removed. It could girdle the plant when it grows in girth making it strangle the tree causing severe damage.

The Eastern Redbud was a good selection for an understory tree. Understory trees are trees that live underneath large, mature trees. They are second tier trees under mature hardwoods. The key to success when selecting these trees is to select trees that tolerate dry conditions because the mature hardwoods suck up or pull moisture from the soil. They also need to tolerate shade. Eastern Redbuds, Dogwoods are both good, they are native to shady areas. Look for understory trees that have flowers in the spring and interesting fall color. They will provide a nice smooth transition between small plants, like ground covers, hostas, ivies or small shrubs like Azaleas and mature trees.

In any installation you will have successes and failures. The perennials look very good and a lot were planted. They have put on a good deal of growth, they will need about a year and a half to make their full cycle. Plants like fox glove, astilbe look great. Some plants didn't bloom this year but will next spring, early summer. There is growth on the tierella, it has put out pups. When it gets a little cooler clip the little string that attaches and move it around the garden where it is wanted and let them cluster. The area with perennials was an important area because it is near the sitting area. They're small but will really take off in several years. Perennials don't have the growth spurt of annuals such as coleus. They are building their roots and next year will start their blooming process.

Establishing woody plants in drought conditions can be a challenge. A key is matching the plant to the sight. Rhododendrons tolerate well drained soil, in fact they require it, and they like some shade. Alfie picked healthy plants with full root systems. The time it takes for the roots to establish themselves or feel at home in the landscape may take normally several weeks or several months but in a drought it may take a year or so. The key is how they are watered and fertilized during establishment. With mature root systems they can be watered infrequently and deeply. This encourages the root system to grow deep and the plant thrives. With plants recently put in the landscape, it is best to water frequently and lightly, once a day or even twice a day water lightly. This will keep the root ball moist, that encourages root hairs, small hairs, to grow out into the soil. If we water thoroughly, yet infrequently the root hairs will dry out and that shocks the immature plant. Thus water lightly yet frequently. Another important step is to fertilize. With woody plants fertilize past the drip line, the edge of the plant. This encourages the root system to grow out into the soil as opposed to down below the plant. Don't place the fertilizer near the base of the plant, it could cause burning and there are no feeder roots in that area.

One of the most expensive, challenging and time consuming aspects of establishing a landscape is keeping it watered or irrigated, especially with a drought. Water restrictions make the task even more difficult. Often when we think about irrigation we think about overhead systems. An overhead system is reasonably efficient but allows for an enormous amount of evaporation and run off. It has been estimated that up to 40% of the water in this type system is wasted. Alfie has installed a much more efficient system, it is a soaker hose. It oozes water along the complete tubing. He has curved it back and forth between plants. Under normal conditions it will provide coverage about a foot on each side of the hose. It is placed around the drip line of plants and again that encourages the roots to grow into the entire planting bed. There is no water run off and with this soaker hose we get the same amount of water at the top of a hill or end of the hose as at the faucet. It is made of recycled rubber, the holes are very small allowing just a few gallons of water per hour flow depending on water pressure. The hose can be moved throughout your garden or bury it in mulch (the hose is black) so it isn't noticeable. It comes with a little holder to keep it in place. This hose has a UV inhibitor so it won't break down in full sunlight. Alfie is running two 75 foot soaker hoses from one faucet. He has a "Y" connector on the faucet that allows him to connect two systems and switch back and forth.

Creating outdoor rooms is an important element of any landscape plan. Alfie has created a stone patio with inexpensive materials and not a lot of work. He leveled the ground, going down to the basic clay, removing all organic matter. He packed the ground and added stone dust or screenings from granite, this makes for a variety of different sizes. He packed it down and edged it with chicken wire. He then stuccoed it with a masons mix (S-type, waterproof concrete) making about 3/4 inch of reinforced concrete framing. Add sand, then place the stone on it, wiggle it around making it level (on 2 sides). He added mortar to the top to make sure lawn furniture wouldn't catch or the sand wouldn't wash out. It is nice looking, takes less time than placing the stones in mortar mix and is inexpensive.

When designing outdoor living spaces where should the furniture be placed for maximum efficiency of this area?

First, buy the nicest furniture you can afford, it can be viewed as a piece of artwork from both the inside as well as the outside of your house. Remember 90% of the time we're inside the house. Then determine which parts of the garden you want emphasized. If the furniture is not an art object it may be treated as a forb. A forb is a plant that lives on the edge of the turf, actually in the mulch, in the planting bed allowing you to view the open turf area. Desire lines are the lines of natural circulation. Place your benches or furniture near or around those areas. Where two paths meet might be a good area. Where people tend to congregate, near a pond, near something fragrant, all are excellent spots to place furniture. These areas can actually lower blood pressure and make a difference in the quality of time spent in your landscape.

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Photos and story by Monrovia Nursery Company

Lavender is the on-trend plant for gardeners this year. Click here for an article that details a top-tier selection of lavender that ensures success.

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