GardenSmart :: EPISODES :: 2004 show21
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Show #21

Many of us have an area of our yard we would rather forget. This week our experts transform an ugly side yard. This property has a steep slope and is highly eroded. We install stone steps and outdoor lighting, cover an unsightly exterior basement wall with a beautiful mural and utilize ground cover plants and in one weekend turn this ugly duckling into a beautiful swan.

Clint Higginbotham is a stone expert. He believes that stone has become popular because people are staying away from parks because of overcrowding or crime, therefore more people are staying at home and they want to create a park-like setting in their own backyards. Stone allows homeowners the opportunity to create what they want- waterfalls, ponds, walkways, etc.

This property presented several options but the decision was made to use Fieldstone Step Stones. Fieldstone Step Stones as stones that can be picked up in a field. They have a weathered look. Flagstone would not have worked well in this environment because Flagstone is a mined product, thus it is smooth and flat and needs to be kept clean or they can become slick. Fieldstone is irregular and rough, thus safer when underneath trees where moss can grow.

Jim Higginbotham (no relation) was the landscaper in charge of this project. The homeowner considered landscape timbers. Jim suggested against this move because of the surrounding foliage and because they could cause more damage to tree roots. As well, he felt the stepping stones would be longer lasting and provide a much more natural effect, more in keeping with the design of the house. It is an easily accessible product. Jim loves working with rock because it is a natural product, a beautiful product and provides a beautiful landscape picture when complete. Jim too believes stones can be used in many ways in the landscape-walkways, patios, stonewalls, water features, ponds and fountains.

The biggest problem with this project was the length and incline of the hill. It is approximately 100 feet in length with a 60 degree or more incline. Most of the stones were what Jim calls two man boulders. By that he means that it takes two men to move them. The rock is Tennessee Fieldstone, actually called Tennessee Fieldstone Stepping Stones. One supplier may have one name for a product, another supplier another name. Because of the potential confusion it is helpful to buy consistently from one supplier.

These stones could be purchased one at a time, ten at a time or by the ton. Buying in bulk is less expensive and what was done in this instance. Richard estimates that since the length of the project is approximately 100 feet and the stones are approximately 18 inches about 100-110 stones were needed. Jim paced the job and felt 90 stones would be needed and bought 8-12 extras to make sure he had enough, thus he also concluded 100 stones were needed. If any are left over they will look good elsewhere, in borders, as decoration, etc.

To get started Jim selected the stones, had them delivered, then laid them out. They started at the bottom of the hill because there is a tendency as the elevation gets steeper to place the front of a stone on the back of the stone in front. This is done for stability and to add needed height as the incline becomes steeper. These stones are sitting on dirt. Jim and his crew first cut into the hill, set the stone into the hill, then leveled the stones. They eye every stone in place because they don't want it to look too perfect and because the stones are irregular it would be difficult to level each stone. To determine how far the stones should be placed apart, Jim asks the homeowner, particularly the wife, to walk the steps and determine what is comfortable and what provides good footing based on pace, foot size, etc. The less steep the incline the further away the steps should be. The steeper the incline the steps will be shorter because one uses shorter paces. With the less steep incline there are planting spaces in between the stones, with a steeper incline the stones will be placed on the stone in front, allowing for more stability. When buying this amount of stone there will always be a lot of various stone sizes. So every few steps Jim puts two smaller stones together side by side to make one large step. It adds to the interest and beauty of the path. Since these stones are so heavy they require several men to move them get the stone delivered as close as possible to the project, that way rocks can either slide down the hill or they can be rolled. This makes the project go a lot smoother and is much easier.

If working an area with poor or eroded soil something must be done to improve the soil so plants will grow. A great tip is to use about 50% organic matter and 50% native soil, mix it together, put it around the rocks, then plant Thyme or other creeping plants. This will help the plants to establish themselves. Don't put organic matter under the rocks because over time it will allow the rocks to sink.

Billie Mathis has been painting for about 37 years. Even when in grammar school she knew she wanted to be an artist. She didn't get involved in watercolor until she was an adult, but when she did she loved it. It fits her personality, it is spontaneous and she likes the freshness. The homeowners asked her to come to their home, look at the wall and determine what might be done to make their foundation look presentable. She was given the freedom to choose what motif looked best. That is one thing about painting that she likes-the freedom of the intuitive self and the expressions that an artist can convey. Then hopefully when complete the audience will enjoy the finished work as much as she enjoyed painting it. She believes that art is one of life's pleasures.

This area was an eyesore. It is beneath a deck and had black waterproofing painted on a portion of the wall. A waterfall had been added but the wall wasn't attractive. When Billie looked at the wall she first asked- what motif is needed, then she thought about color around the pond. There are many beautiful surrounding plants and she thought about the Calla Lily because she felt it would blend in with the natural environment. That is a good point, if an area has a focal point, something like the waterfall, don't try to compete with it. Colors that blend, like beige, colors that work well with rocks, the mulch and the siding are good choices. Billie likes Calla Lilies because they are elegant and don't compete with the pond but they add to it. By looking at the surrounding area she found colors that were harmonious and complimentary.

First the concrete was covered with a concrete sealer, then a faux finish was added. All were applied with a roller. The faux finish consisted of, first a light coat, then two tones of darker paint. All were applied with a faux sponge type roller. With that finished the artistic part and Billie began. Billie used an acrylic paint and the mural is beautiful. Once complete, since it's outside, a clear polyurethane sealer needs to be applied. It is in the shade, thus shouldn't fade. If in full sun make sure two coats of protective coating are added and use a really good brand of paint. Thanks Billie you turned a nasty looking wall into a beautiful backdrop for the fountain and the entire area. It's a beautiful job.

Another art form that puts the icing on the cake for landscaping is outdoor lighting. Darren Huff with Artistic Nights is an outdoor lighting expert. He feels that when an area is landscaped, when plants, pathways and murals are added there is one thing missing. That is outdoor lighting. It is beautiful during daylight hours but can't be seen at night, thus a large portion of the time to enjoy an area could be lost. Darren always tries to make a job simple, determine how effective can it be and what quality is needed. That said, it is important not to over light an area. Every light should have a specific purpose, a function, an area or element it will light. Darren finds it ironic that someone would spend a lot of money on a house or landscape project yet go to a home improvement store and buy a lighting kit to show off the project for $70.

On this project Darren used a variety of lights. The frog lights on the waterfalls blend in, they're like a piece of artwork. During the day one wouldn't know they are lights, yet they serve a valuable lighting function at night. The utility lights create spread lighting along the path. They punctuate the path. To highlight the mural he had to get creative, thus used a deck light. His partner climbed several very tall trees and positioned the Moonlights. When they climb the tree they don't use spikes. Another reason to use top quality lighting is because nobody wants to constantly go up the tree to change bulbs, these bulbs can last 11 years. These fixtures are mercury vapor, they put off a nice cool, blue light that really imitates moonlight. It isn't intense, in terms of foot candles but provides the intensity similar to a full moon. And, it is stunning. The lighting really makes this landscaping stand out in the evening when it is dark and the landscaping can truly be enjoyed 24 hours a day.

When finishing any project with plants involved don't forget about the mulch. It is a great way to insulate, to keep weeds down and a great way to create drama, especially if two different types of mulch are used. In this case pine straw against pine bark was utilized. These provide two different textures, the fine texture of the pine straw and the coarser texture of the pine bark. It creates a real sense of contrast, a sense of interest and at the same time protects the plants. It is a great way to create a finished look but with a lot of drama and contrast.

An important finishing touch to the rocks, lighting and painting is the plants. The plants make them all look natural and informal. Stones are very hard surfaces and present a hard look. Jim wanted to soften that look throughout the whole walkway. This walkway is divided. Part is shaded and part is sunny, thus plants were chosen that could accommodate the different situations, yet still provide a natural look. In full sun Jim used Lantana. It is a wonderful plant to use and comes in different colors. For this job he chose Lantana with beautiful yellow blooms. It grows profusely in the spring or summer and really lightens up a walkway. May Night Sage, Blue Salvia, grows profusely and comes back year after year. Its' blue flower compliments the yellow gold Lantana. The walkway is about 2/3 in the shade and for the shaded area several different Hostas were chosen. The first is Honey Bells. It has a plain green leaf and pale lavender or white flowers. Another Hosta, Marginata, has a yellow edge and it too brightens an area. It is a great idea to use variegation up and down the pathway to add spice and punch. Both of these textures are coarse, thus should be used sparingly, just as accents. Jim spreads them out singularly up and down the walkway then uses other plants to accent around them. The pattern is no pattern, this helps achieve a very natural look. Asian Jasmine was chosen because it has variegated leaves. It is also a streamy vine, it can be placed in front of rocks. The stems will root in the ground and help hold the soil in place on the hill. Mondo was also used. It is fine textured and provides a real contrast to the large leafed plants. Don't plant the whole plant together. Buy the one gallon plant, then separate the plants into 2 or 3 different plants. This provides more bang for the buck. The plants start smaller but will spread well and within two or three years the clumps will be substantial. Jim has found native plants from the surrounding wooded area. These plants grow in the wild here and will flourish in this new setting. Moss will grow very well on the rocks of the pathway. Shave the moss off the ground, then for the first few weeks after applying to the top of a rock keep it moist and it will attach itself and thrive. Things like Lykens and moss make everything look natural and fill in little cracks, they really soften the rocks.

Thanks this week to Clint Higginbotham, Jim Higginbotham, Billie Mathis and Darren Huff. Everyone did an amazing job. This side yard makeover is beautiful. The homeowner loves the job and our viewers should find tips throughout that will apply to their yards. Thanks everyone.

Contact Information ::
Clint Higginbotham --
Jim Higginbotham--Gardens 'N Stuff - email - [email protected]
Billie Mathis--email-- [email protected]
Darren Huff--

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