GardenSmart :: EPISODES :: 2003 show47
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Show #47

This 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.

In the 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.

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Photos and story by Monrovia Nursery Company

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