GardenSmart :: EPISODES :: 2003 show41
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Show #41

This show is a follow up to our landscaping project in Asheville, North Carolina. Alfie the gardener has been implementing Dr. Rick's landscaping plan. Many improvements have been made, there are some still remaining.

Today we review the work done so far. Alfie has created a path from the back of the house around the front connecting with the front sidewalk. He has used two striking mulches, one a red color the other black. The path goes in front of the Azaleas discussed before. The contrasting colors show the difference between pathway and bedding areas.

Alfie has saved the old Azaleas, moved some from other locations and added new Azaleas. They were in a straight line during our first visit. According to our landscape plan the bed lines are out from the house and they have a nice out-curve. By placing the Azaleas in a large massed bed they make a much more dramatic statement. You can see the difference between the old plants and new, but by the end of the summer with fertilization, water and care they should all match nicely. Alfie shows us how he moved the old Azaleas. Since the best time to move them would be late fall, early winter and because he knew it might be some time before the move was completed he took steps to reduce the transplant shock. He went all the way around the Azalea, then trimmed it back to the drip line about 12"-18" from the base, and cut the roots with sharp clean cuts. He did not dig under the plant, leaving those roots intact. This encourages feeder roots, the lateral roots, to bunch up around the root ball and absorb moisture and nutrients and encourage root growth. It also makes moving the plant easier. Alfie used a high phosphorus liquid fertilizer, a 15-30-15, which encourages root growth and provides needed nutrients to the Azalea. This was done in the spring, so the nitrogen didn't interfere with the blooming. To now move the plant we'll cut the roots underneath, place burlap underneath, lift it and move it. We'll add soil amendments and the Azalea should not know its' been moved.

Dr. Rick gives us an update. A lot of research has been done recently that tells us whether a plant will thrive, make it, barely make it or bite the dust. The number one criteria for survival is matching the plant to the site. Number two is the plant health during planting time, does it have a healthy root system, is there stored energy near the stem base, is the plant ready to deal with the rigors of establishment. And number three is what happens during establishment? Establishment is essentially intensive care time for your plant, it's the time it takes for the plant to feel at home in the new landscape site. Typically that takes 6-8 weeks but that depends on the size of plant. Smaller plants establish more quickly than larger plants. During establishment water is important. Established plants like deep and through watering. New plants, on the other hand, don't have a developed root system, they need to be watered lightly and frequently. If the soil dries out and the root system dries out on a regular basis the new young little roots, the root hairs won't establish themselves and it will shock the plant. So use small amounts of water almost on a daily basis. This is especially important if there is heavy clay soil, since clay soils wick the water away from the plant. A coarse mixture of pine bark will also pull water away from plants roots. So water lightly and frequently with new plants. Fertilization is also helpful in establishing the plant. Most effective is placing fertilizer on top of the soil. As the fertilizer slowly percolates down the root system, the roots will grow. Many gardeners add fertilizer to the soil when planting, that is not a good idea. It could burn the roots but even more importantly, roots in the south grow laterally, the fertilizer could miss the roots.

Alfie has done a lot of bed prep for the seasonal color, adding attractive bed lines. The flowers have presented a challenge because there is a range of sun to shade. The annuals were put close to the house so people on the porch or inside the house could enjoy them. From the street it draws your eye to the front of the house. The colors and plants are fabulous, very eye-catching and have a very different texture. They're refined, delicate, even elegant Alfie selected colors that matched the house and they're intricate plants that need to be viewed up close. To prep the beds Alfie used a garden soil and tilled it in with existing soil about 50 -50. That gave him the extra volume to raise the beds so they can be better presented and this allows the beds to drain well. The garden soil has bark, starter fertilizer and some manure. Most of the plants are sterile hybrids, which means they won't turn to seed, and will continue to bloom. They are new varieties that have been tested in this country and around the world to ensure success. Armesia, Candy Girl is one plant, low maintenance, just dead head. A perennial Oxalis, Alva, has little white flowers, does well on the edge of shade, but can take some direct light. Lungwort or Pulmonaria spreads and has a nice clumped, drifting area. It draws attention to dark corners, it has a variegated leaf with a pattern. It is a nice alternative to Hosta. Raspberry Splash has a cluster of spike like
flowers on top. Heuchera, Purple Petticoats is new and unusual. Foam Flower contrasts well with the dark mulch. Tiarella, Heronswood Mist, is variegated and helps woodland plants connect with the rest of the garden. Alfie has planted these plants in a natural, informal way. Nothing in a straight line, more like what you would find in the woods. These are low maintenance plants, don't require pruning or clipping and are insect or disease resistant.

Both trellises and an arbor have been added to provide privacy. The arbor is welded steel, strong enough to hold heavy vines, but light enough to be airy and doesn't dominate the area. On the arbor Alfie has put Wisteria. The Wisteria was here before, and provides an excellent screen from the alley and street. The Wisteria is a fast grower and has been wound around the Arbor. In three or four weeks it's covered almost half of the arbor. It is in full sun, which helps growth and Alfie thinks that it will quickly and completely cover the arbor. Alfie has placed a trellis nearby to screen the hillside. The trellis doesn't take a lot of space but provides an effective screen. The trellis is also a steel frame, but to make it stronger he's driven 18" of steel pipe or PVC pipe into the ground. This will keep erosion or wear and tear from weakening them over the years. Again he has Wisteria on the trellis. Wisteria is a naturalized plant and in some places it has taken over. The beauty to these locations for Wisteria is that it can be pruned with hedge trimmers several times a year and kept in its' place. Suckers or sprouts may grow around the plant, trim them and it should be

Alfie has taken the area with exposed tree roots, and the hill, before a barren waste land, and made it attractive. The steep hill before acted like a waterfall. He broke up the soil as much as possible, tilled the soil and again added lawn soil (in spots as much as five to eight inches) to somewhat level the area. He then seeded with grass seed. At one point he had to cover the area with burlap but roots are now taking hold and erosion shouldn't now be a problem. It is looking good, nice and green. One question Dr. Rick often receives is can you and if so how much soil or other material can be placed on top of roots. The answer is 4-5 inches, but it needs to be well drained, so it doesn't rot the roots. This allows you to plant something on top of the roots. It's best to incorporate whatever you put on top of the soil into the soil so there isn't a layering effect. In this yard, the roots are now covered with one exception and those roots don't get hit by a lawnmower. The lawn now acts like a giant sponge and now longer is there a waterfall. One of the things Alfie did to encourage growth in this area was to limb up the trees. He took four or five limbs off the tree, this allows in more light and takes less water. It creates high shade and makes the area a better place to grow plants.

Alfie has done a wonderful job. We'll be back in several weeks and review the progress in another part of the yard. We'll then return in a month or so to check on the job when finished.

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Photos and story by Monrovia Nursery Company

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