on the progress of the landscaping project in Asheville,
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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