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
where will the beds and grass be located? Tom uses a curvilinear
line because it is pleasing to the eye and because it aids
the mower can easily go along the curving bedline. Since
most of these
parks have wonderful trees it generally works out that the
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
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
sprayed and turned brown, the irrigation crew is installing
system, some street lights have been installed, soil has
been added to
backfill the new curbing. He pays special attention to keep
soil away from the tree trunks and away from the roots of
That could cause decay problems. They keep the mulch about
from the tree trunk. And trench under the tree roots if
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
trees or shrubs, this ensures ease of maintenance. In areas
visibility is needed, around a stop sign for example, he
has used low
growing plants like Azaleas, Day Lilies, Lirope, often just
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
Xeriscaping has become popular. Xeriscaping is efficient
use of water.
Some consider Xeriscaping no water, cactuses, sand and gravel.
not the case. Tom utilizes Xeriscaping principles in the
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).
is planted and after everything has decayed down he comes
brings the mulch back to that level. Massing plants helps
under control and you need to water less when they're close
They don't prune in the summer and keep fertilization to
Tom's objective, get the plants established, keep the plants
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.
Back to Top