At the Garden Designer’s Roundtable this month we will show you our own gardens. This is no small thing for us, because most of us designers are busy at YOUR house making it look beautiful. And then we get home and experiment in our own gardens so you don’t have to. Truly, I don’t have a plant hoarding issue. Am I selling that well? Actually it is true. I buy plants and trial and error them at home fairly frequently, strictly for testing purposes. Still buyin it?
OK, actually we do try out design ideas and test some plants from Growers and Breeders. We try to figure out the million dollar Bunny and Deer deterrent fixes. We use our gardens for our own blogs to show our successes and sad seasonal distresses, but it’s really just our own place to play just like yours, the good the bad and the really really bad. We just don’t usually bare our collective souls like this to the general public.
So, ready or not here is a snap shot of where my back yard landscape has begun and where it is today thanks to my friends at May Creek Landscape.
We downsized from our giant, custom-built dream home in 2007 just before the crash in 2008 to what I lovingly refer to as our “Barbie Doll House”. We bought our current home in the middle of the block in an almost brand new neighborhood about 30 seconds from our former home so that our teenager would be able to finish school and stay near friends until she went off to college.
As a former Real Estate Agent who worked for one of the 5 builders in this planned community I knew the neighborhood well and the small, contemporary San Fransisco lot styles with the alley in the back were just the right amount of maintenance for me to handle. Our side yard property line is right up to the neighbors foundation.
When we bought the home it had already had two owners, most recently 5 Bachelors with a motorcycle hobby. Yup, they were beloved by ALL the neighbors for sure. Not to mention that yard maintenance was not exactly a priority. So, it was a typical example of a NEW fixer upper these days. But, also a VERY blank canvas from the stand point of the garden.
I’m pretty sure I spent the better part of the first year simply adding soil to even make it diggable. Yes, that is the most correct Hort-term I could think of for this awful, hard-pan clay soil. Also, as you can see across the back side, privacy is an issue, so my baby Leyland Cypress trees that I started as 1 Gallons are 3 ft. tall in this picture. I also started creating English Laurel Standards from 1 Gallon babies too- wait until you see those now!
The drainage here is abominable. The lawn is just a bog all winter and most of spring until it dries out in summer and then it’s impossible to keep watered. Even the dog didn’t want to walk out there. Luckily all of those big tree roots have been helping to suck some of it up.
Now skip ahead to early spring of this year before any of the color and fluff came on and this was where we were in 2012. My MASTER Plan is about to unfold before your very eyes!
Ta da! There are still a few tweaks and of course more plants needed. But, for the most part, it’s exactly as I had envisioned it. My landscape crew thought my idea was totally nuts, but now they see the light!
More updates on the new back yard to come this summer as I finish planting and getting it just the way I want it, this is only 2 weeks old now! I’ve now bared my garden soul to all of you. I hope you enjoyed what took me a long time to get here.
Please be sure to take a look at what the other brilliant Lords and Ladies of the Round Table have to share as well!
Focal Point Trees April 29, 2012
My tiny back yard has recently undergone a massive makeover this spring. I’m still finishing up a few details before I share it with all of you. But, I wanted to make a point about Focal Points and Focal Point Trees in particular. A small or large-scale tree placed strategically in the landscape for its shape, texture, color can add an immeasurable amount of artistic flair and drama with very little effort.
This brand new Larix pendula, ‘Weeping Larch’ does just that here at the end of my path as it opens into the main yard. In fall when the needles turn a warm gold and drop, then I will have that incredible weeping structure to look at all winter. WIN WIN!
Frequently, I have customers and clients who are SO bloom focused for the few weeks of a flowering tree or shrubs blooms in the year that they forget the rest of the season. I’m all for flowers, but don’t forget that a focal point plant of any type needs to bring more to the party than a pretty hat.
Steel, Rock and Sedum Focal Point April 3, 2012
This little vignette at a client’s home pleased me to no end on this lovely spring day and I just wanted to share this with you. I thought it illustrated a couple of cool things.
1) My client bought this steel pot because she simply fell in love with it and HAD to have it. I can totally understand this, I would too!
It’s common in my line of work that I’m the one that has to figure out where and how to fit this new thing of passion into a particular garden design. My homework assignment to the client was to find a great rock to pair with the container and help balance the scene. Since the homeowner’s son is very helpful in the garden he took the rock task on. And THIS is the fantastic rock that he chose. So much subtlety, elegance and geometry. It perfectly fit my vision for the spot!
2) One of the great things about Personal Garden Coaching that I LOVE is that I get to encourage homeowners to do what they already wanted to do by their own natural instincts….take down a tree, move a shrub, throw away bad plants. But the best times are when I give the client permission to have fun with it, be creative, and they do! I think nature is so much more a part of us than we give her a chance to be and when we let ourselves be open to it, such amazing thing can happen. When gardener’s open up to being creative and have fun with it, they free up themselves to not need so much permission to try new things in other areas of life.
This rock might not look that exciting, but to me, it means SO much more than just a piece in the garden.
Devotedly Hoarding and Dividing Spring Perennials March 28, 2012
It has turned out that I have a great passion for collecting Heuchera, Heucherella and now some Tiarella too. Especially in part due to the eye candy of plants at the Terra Nova website. Dan Heims of Terra Nova Nurseries has built an empire of Heuchera and MANY other tempting delights. I never thought of myself as one of those gardener’s who would have a fixation for assembling great numbers of any one genre of plant, but these seem to be my thing. All right, you got me. That’s not ENTIRELY true I must have Euphorbia too!
I did have quite a love affair with Nandina of ALL types for many years, they still have a place in my heart, just not as ardently. I had an extremely prized ‘Threadleaf’ Nandina that made it to an impressive size at one home. I couldn’t bear to dig it up and take it with me as it seemed to complete the spot near the front door where it thrived.
You could add on to my list of devotions, Hellebore’s and Conifer’s now, thanks to my friend Mitch, a serious collector. His influence on me has been profound in a Plant Porn kind of way. I go to his garden for a biennial fix. Mitch is going to give me a division of some of his gorgeous Blue ‘Willow’ Gentians. I am SO excited!
It occurred to me the other day as I was out on spring garden clean up day two of probably ten, that I had not divided the Heuchera’s since I had been at this house. So, I grabbed my camera to show you, if you have never done it. It’s a shame that many people simply let them die and don’t realize that Heuchera can be divided incredibly easily and with a fabulous ratio of success!
When your, let’s call her the “Mama” Heuchera gets to about 4 years old or so, you will begin to see the foliage diminish slightly and she will develop finger length “Pups” that stick up about 3-4″ with a little tuffet of leaves at the top. I know this is terribly technical, but, stick with me!
In late March, I will either, dig up the whole plant, or if she’s a tough broad, sometimes I will just rip chunks off of her right from the ground. You will usually see anywhere from 5-10 “Pups”. Some that will be large and fat, about 4″ long and an inch around and some that are really small, only a few inches long and 1/3″ around. Yesterday, I got more than 40 divisions out of 5 plants. That’s a pretty great ROI on plants that are not inexpensive!
Simply plant them back in the garden, roots side down. Then hurry up and wait! Smaller ones take longer, larger ones just take off. Easy peasy! Try it and save yourself a few bucks to go out and get obsessed about a new plant to spend your money on.
AM Snow and PM Spring in the Garden Today March 23, 2012
Other than the sounds of snow thawing and water draining out of the unbelievably soggy lawn, you would never know that I woke up to snow this morning at 7:30am. It was a winter wonderland. Not an altogether happy one on my part, having just come back from a month away, where it was 70 in Philadelphia for 2 weeks and then 80 in Houston for almost another week. But, considering it is March in my beloved Seattle ‘Burbs, I know better than to whine. Much.
Here are some pics from the garden today. Clearly, my Euphorbia’s of ALL flavors are glorious in their Pre-Easter nodding fashion. The Hebe’s and Heuchera are pulling their weight too, and my winter container designs are quite striking in the early spring sun. I’m not sure how much of a hurry I may be in to trade them in just yet. Enjoy!
Garden Designer’s Roundtable – First Impressions February 28, 2012
Jane Austen began her second novel, Pride and Prejudice, before she was twenty-one. It was originally titled First Impression because the appearances of the characters created the plot of the novel. The two main characters formed immediate impressions of one another that set the entire story in motion.
Imagine the power that your front garden has on the first impression your guests might have about YOU or your HOME. Does it say anything about how the visitor might find the condition of your interior? What could your landscape be saying about your personal style? Does it say anything at all?
No matter what your landscape and climate might be, you have the opportunity to place your own personal stamp on what a passerby or first time visitor may think of you and your home. Small space or large, there are many ways to make it your own.
Even if you don’t have a landscape, some containers can create a big impressions.
Curb appeal or the first impression = A homes CHARISMA
“Landscape your outside entrance–Add a few new flower pots, small shrubs or hanging plants to spruce up the outside. Spending just $400 to $500 on fresh landscaping, according to the survey,can boost your home’s value by $1,600 to $1,800.”
Home Gain Survey 2007
As a former high end Real Estate Agent, I could go on and on about improving the first impression of your home. But, I thought some pictures of some landscapes that I’ve worked on changing over the years might be a good illustrator for you too. Unfortunately, I don’t have the original “BEFORE” shots on these homes, I was too eager to just jump right in and get started and forgot them. But, these are all taken over the course of a few years, all of them starting in the second or third year. Enjoy!
Originally, this front yard that blends into the main yard, had a very steep slope of lawn here that was impossible to mow and very little landscaping. The curving wall cured many ills here.
This is the third year, where we just wanted to add inexpensive but bold color until the larger plants
began to fill and mature.
By the fifth year, trees, shrubs and ground-covers began to mature and give a sense of scale.
This was into the second year of improving the “Builder Special” landscaping.
Third year and done up for a magazine here, not bad!
Second year on this side too. Still lots of inviting color and personality.
One year later. I’d say that’s a pretty WOW first impression!
Here is the number one piece of advice that I give my clients when we talk front yard landscape design- You should be able to pull up to the front of your home in the worst weather of the whole year and say WOW! If it looks great for the months that you are not out gardening actively and fully, then THAT is a great front yard!
For more on “First Impressions” from the Lords and Ladies of the Roundtable, please visit the links below. Enjoy!