GardenSmart :: EPISODES :: 2003 show6
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This week we visit Aiken, South Carolina and learn about the history of Aiken and their beautiful parkways. Rosamund McDuffie is an Aiken native and involved with the historic preservation commission. The commission is a design review group and tries to protect and keep intact the culture and character of Aiken. There are three historic districts that help attract visitors and new residents. Aiken over the years has attracted many wealthy people. Some built beautiful homes, other stayed in hotels, like The Willcox. People like Fred Astaire, Dwight Eisenhower, the Nolans, the Vanderbilts, the Hitchcocks, etc. all were residents or visitors. One of the things that Rosamund feels makes Aiken special today is the beautiful parkways. There are 176 parkways, many in latter years fell into disrepair. The city hired Tom Rapp as the city horticulturist and he has done a magnificent job restoring these jewels. He and his staff design, restore, protect, plant, trim, and mulch these areas. Tom is a certified arborist, which is important because some of the trees date to the 1800's. Their care and success are important to the parkways and the beautiful look and feel of Aiken.

Tom Rapp shows us the parkways in Aiken. These parkways, 176 of them, were laid out years ago to have one way streets with medians in the middle. Over time many have worn down and eroded. Tom is in the process of trying to bring them all back to life.

When he looks at a parkway that needs to be renovated he first walks around and looks up at the trees. What kind of light conditions exist, where will the beds and grass be located? Tom uses a curvilinear bed line because it is pleasing to the eye and because it aids in mowing, the mower can easily go along the curving bedline. Since most of these parks have wonderful trees it generally works out that the parkways have 2/3 bed and 1/3 turf. This reduces maintenance. Since there is not a lot of pedestrian traffic they use St. Augustine turf - it thrives in sun or shade. One part of the parkway may be sunny, the other shady. When laying out the bedlines Tom pays attention to the drip line. The feeder roots are generally at the drip line, if he can keep mulch over this area the trees will benefit. When tilling the beds his people are mindful of the trees roots and always strive to keep any tree root damage to a minimum. He will often first spray the parkway with Round Up, to remove all undesirables. He then lays out the bed lines with sweeping, curving lines using a paint gun. Irrigation is necessary because the turf won't succeed without it, particularly considering the hot, dry summers the past few years. They pay special attention to watering the newly planted areas, more so than the older more mature areas. He fertilizes and limes the turf and beds, usually within a month or two of planting. Tom uses 1 pound of fertilizer per 1,000 square feet. We look at a parkway undergoing construction. The grass has been sprayed and turned brown, the irrigation crew is installing the irrigation system, some street lights have been installed, soil has been added to backfill the new curbing. He pays special attention to keep the added soil away from the tree trunks and away from the roots of the trees. That could cause decay problems. They keep the mulch about 12 inches from the tree trunk. And trench under the tree roots if necessary to avoid damaging them. Tom addresses 1 specific area. He will mulch the area and plant Dogwood, Eastern Redbud, Deciduous Azaleas and possibly others if something special is available in the nursery. He tries to avoid the hodge-podge effect. The aim is to have large masses of fewer plants.

We next view a completed parkway. Dr. Rick can't imagine a nicer area between 2 parts of the road. Tom explains his objectives. He has kept all plant material inside the bed lines, leaving the turf area without trees or shrubs, this ensures ease of maintenance. In areas where visibility is needed, around a stop sign for example, he has used low growing plants like Azaleas, Day Lilies, Lirope, often just mulch. Mulch is great for weed control and for moisture retention. The area looks very open, this philosophy applies to the homeowner as well - to enhance curb appeal, don't restrict the view. As with all gardeners there will be problems. Cinch bugs have become a problem in the St. Augustine grass. They come in the heat of the summer, in this case they weren't caught in time and created some damage. When you see a yellow circular pattern, compared to darker, greener grass you probably have Cinch Bugs. They are very small and feed on the root system. Tom uses a granular insecticide to kill them. It is more effective is to catch them early on, normally in early June. When the sun gets hot Cinch Bugs can become a problem, they're not as much of a problem when the temperature cools. Tom has utilized a lot of "bread and butter" plants. Plants we see frequently throughout the south. In particular Crepe Myrtle has been utilized. To show off the trunk, which is beautiful, they've not butchered the trunk every year. Many times we will see people trimming the Crepe Myrtle at the top, reducing the height. This destroys the look, it develops blooms, but they are weak. If Tom wanted to control the height he would move the plant or cut it to the ground and let it come back with fresh growth. Instead they've pruned correctly, they've taken inner branches off, not huge limbs allowing the tree to grow. Thebranches are attractive, the bark flakes when they're older, making an exquisite statement. In some areas he's massed plant material, Indian Hawthorne and Lorapedulum, for example. He's trying to create eye appeal at 40, 50, even 60 miles per hour , therefore he's massed plants together. Massing is planting many plants together to make it look like one huge plant. By then planting different plants in an area it looks lush, yet he has used tough durable plants that can be readily found. You don't have to use exotic plants, mass them, as long as they have color contrast and color form, it provides a beautiful effect. The bed lines are attractive. They define the bed lines, are precise, bold, yet simple. As mentioned they add to the ease of mowing and ease of maintenance. They create a undulating, relaxed look. Tom uses a steel edging, it blends well with the mulch, comes in 20 foot sections, with a stake that is driven into the soil. About one half an inch should show, it keeps the mulch behind in place. And a weed eater could then be used to trim, or a mower could have 2 wheels on the mulch, 2 on the grass and the blade wouldn't hit the edging. The past summers have been hot and dry and water has been scarce, thus it's important to conserve, to be efficient with water. Because of this Xeriscaping has become popular. Xeriscaping is efficient use of water. Some consider Xeriscaping no water, cactuses, sand and gravel. This is not the case. Tom utilizes Xeriscaping principles in the parkways. Again, he plans for 1/3 turf, 2/3 bed area, cutting down on turf area. He utilizes a fairly heavy layer of mulch (3-4 inches). After everything is planted and after everything has decayed down he comes back and brings the mulch back to that level. Massing plants helps keeps weeds under control and you need to water less when they're close together. They don't prune in the summer and keep fertilization to a minimum. Tom's objective, get the plants established, keep the plants healthy but not overgrowing. This conserves water. Dr. Rick feels Tom has done a wonderful job. He likes the bed lines, the color, the massing, etc. It creates a lot of curb appeal with bread and butter plants and it is beautiful.

Link: The Willcox

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