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Does Your Foundation Planting Show Your House In Its Best Light?

The original purpose of foundation plantings were to hide the gray concrete foundation that was thought to distract from the beauty of the house. Today, foundation plantings have evolved into much more. They range from a few flowers to hide the foundation to elaborate gardens at the front of the house. Meanwhile, some landscape designers argue that foundation plantings are unnecessary. They say that we all know houses rest on foundations, so why hide them with foliage and flowers?

No matter which camp you reside in, the bottom line is to enhance your house, not hide it. The first thing to remember is that the front door should be the focal point of the house. To be welcoming, it has to be visible from the street, as well as close up. This means choosing plants that will keep the door visible and welcoming.

To be sure your front door is visible, choose your front yard plants wisely. That includes the giant tree in the front yard as well as the tall foundation shrubs. Smaller growing ornamentals are more appropriate for the front yard than large shade or conifer trees.

The best path to satisfaction is to learn how each plant you buy grows. For example, a shrub that may be the ideal plant for your foundation planting may also be available in tree form that could grow too big for the space, and even block the view from your front windows. Actually, some shrubs can also grow so tall that they block the windows and require constant pruning, So if less maintenance is one of your goals, be sure you plant shrubs that don’t grow up to window level.

If you find you, or the previous owner, chose plants that grew too large for the space or don’t fit the image you’re trying to create, don’t be afraid to pull them out and replace them with plants that do meet your requirements. If the plants you remove can be transplanted, don’t compost them. Try finding an appropriate spot for them in your landscape or give them away to neighbors or friends…or donate them to a non-profit plant exchange.

If you are renovating your front yard to enhance the foundation planting, this might also be an excellent opportunity to get rid of some of your lawn and replace it with plants like groundcover. Besides making your house the focal point of your yard, you will also reduce your lawn maintenance time and expenses.

Law enforcement officials also give us a good reason to minimize foundation and other plantings near the house. Thick foliage provides burglars with good cover behind which to do their nefarious deeds..

If you think this advice makes sense but you don’t know where to begin, our landscape professionals can work with you to create the landscape that best fits your taste and lifestyle.

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Why Consider A Water Feature?

A water feature completes a landscape. Water is part of nature, just like plants and birds. Its sound is soothing, and watching it flow or fall is relaxing, almost Zen like.

All water features are variations on three basic designs – ponds, streams and fountains. Space is one of the primary considerations when selecting a style of water feature. If you have a very small space, you may prefer a fountain. If you want to raise koi, you’ll want a pond. And, for the natural look, consider a stream. Regardless of the type of water feature you select, the water should be circulated through a pump and, in some cases, a filter. All water features should recirculate the water in order to be environmentally sound and sustainable.

Ponds with fish swimming in them are the most popular water features in our area. They are followed by streams. Either a pond or stream is built by digging out the water feature area. The space is then lined with a flexible, rubber liner. The liner is hidden with rocks and plants. A place also has to be made to hide the pump and filter. This is often behind a waterfall, which can be incorporated into both ponds and streams.

Ponds and streams are usually more rustic and natural than most fountains. Fountains blend in with the hardscape more than the plantscape, and may be of any design that fits your landscape. They range from classic fountains reminiscent of formal European gardens to more modern designs. Bubbler fountains are quite popular because of their unique, soothing sound. Some are at ground level; they look like water bubbling out of a stone or a hole in a paving piece. Regardless of the design, the water bubbling from them is nice and relaxing.

Other unique water features include water walls like that pictured. This one was at Minter Gardens, a public garden (now closed) near Vancouver, British Columbia. Creative, cascading fountains know no limits. They are only limited by the designer’s imagination.

If the thought of designing and building a water feature is overwhelming, our designers are experienced at integrating water features into all styles of landscape designs. And, we have the skilled installation professionals who can bring it all to reality without you ever having to lift a finger.

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Pruning Flowering Shrubs

Now that most spring flowering shrubs have finished blooming, it’s OK to prune them. An arborist’s best practice, however, is to prune only to meet specific objectives, not just because they’ve finished blooming.

Objectives may include reducing the height or girth or removing interfering shoots. Shoots may be cascading over a sidewalk or driveway. This doesn’t mean that you should cut back the whole shrub. Just remove the offending shoots.

Don’t prune spring flowering shrubs back to the ground like you do with later blooming shrubs like butterfly bushes (Buddleia davidii). These plants bloom on new wood. Early blooming shrubs like forsythia and lilacs bloom on last year’s wood. If you prune that wood as far back as you would a butterfly bush, you could kill the shrub since you’ve removed most or all of the leaf buds, as well.

Early blooming shrubs set their flower buds in the fall. If you prune before they bloom, there’s a good chance you’ll cut off these flower buds. This could result in a spring with no flowers on the pruned shrub.

When pruning early spring bloomers, use good, sharp, bypass pruners. These work like scissors; the blades cut cleanly as they bypass each other. The other style pruning shears are anvil style. As you apply pressure, a sharp blade on one half goes into a shallow groove on the other half. As the blade dulls, the cuts become more ragged. For pruning in hard to reach places, use loppers. (Loppers are always bypass style.)

Ideally, you should make your shrub pruning cuts at ground level and remove whole shoots. If you are just reducing the height rather than thinning, make your cuts at branch joints if possible. Absent any joints, cut just above a leaf.

It’s not a good idea to use hedge clippers on woody shrubs. The wood is usually too dense to make a clean cut with hedge clippers. Wood can also jam in the teeth of electric clippers and removing the wood can be dangerous.

Wear a long sleeve shirt and gloves when pruning shrubs. When you reach inside a shrub, the surrounding branches can be very sharp.

DIY shrub pruning is not as dangerous as pruning trees but it isn’t accident-free. Our arborists have the training, experience and equipment to prune shrubs safely, and they would be happy to do the job for you.

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June Is The Time To Prune Evergreens

June is the time when many evergreens have finished their new growth, which means you can prune them without worrying about additional new growth. The best way to be sure they are ready to prune is to watch the needle or leaf color at the end of the branches. New conifer needles are lighter green and feel softer than older needles. New broad leaf evergreen leaves are smaller and lighter green. When the new growth is finished, the needles and leaves will begin to darken. This is the time to prune because the wood is still soft. Pruning too early results in additional new growth and the need to reprune.

Shrub pruning may be a relatively safe do-it-yourself job, but we don’t recommend that you attempt major tree pruning. Pruning a large pine or spruce tree can be very dangerous for several reasons.

• Leaving the ground to reach the upper branches can result in serious injury or even death if you fall from high up in the tree.
• Those needles are sharp, especially if they fall on you or whip around and hit you. If this happens up in the tree, you can fall, adding to the injuries caused by the branch.
• Each cut lets more messy sap ooze out to get all over you.

Please wear eye protection when pruning any size evergreen. If you are pruning over head, wear a hard hat. And, if you are using power tools, wear ear protection, too.

When pruning broadleaf evergreens like rhododendrons and boxwoods, follow the same procedures as pruning deciduous trees. In the case of tight plants like boxwood, cuts can be made just above a leaf’s attachment to the branch. Cuts on looser plants like rhododendrons should be made at a branch joint or at the base of the branch you want to remove.

Our arborists would be happy to take pruning of both shrubs and trees off your to do list. Since our late spring has caused you to postpone many spring landscaping tasks, I’m sure you’d be happy to share the work, so why not turn this one over to our professionals?

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Landscaping Trends For 2018

If you’re still undecided about landscape plans for 2018, here are some ideas from the industry’s annual surveys. Each year, landscape and gardening magazines ask landscape designers what customers are asking for this year.

Smaller gardens top this year’s list of trends. That’s because more and more people are opting for smaller homes on smaller lots. The benefits include less maintenance and cost savings that can then be invested in higher quality products. Smaller landscapes also allow a sense of enclosure to be created. This, too, is on the lists of trends I reviewed.

The tranquility of water features continues to be popular, as does the outdoor living concept. One magazine even showed an example of an outdoor eating area in the middle of the landscape, quite some distance from the house. The living space becomes part of the landscape, rather than the landscape simply being a view from the patio.

There is also a trend towards trying new things, including growing unusual edibles.

Imperfect gardening may be one of this year’s hottest trends. This even has a name – Wabi-Sabi. It’s said to be a Japanese term for the appreciation of nature’s imperfections.

Imperfect landscapes are more natural than formal landscapes. As humans, we have always sought order in our lives, and that spilled over into our landscaping. Mother Nature, on the other hand, prefers a more informal, almost spontaneous approach to her landscape, which we call wild.

Today, we have a large group of baby boomers who are finding it physically difficult to maintain the formality they’ve been used to. On the other end of the spectrum, we have millennials who have other interests and commitments, leaving no time to maintain the traditional formality. So, each group is looking to Mother Nature for help and her answer is, “Embrace imperfection.”

For assistance in designing the transformation from formal to informal, and the installation and maintenance of the designers’ creation, turn to our professionals. To them, imperfection is perfection.

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Memorial Day – Time To Plant Annuals

There’s a reason why Memorial Day is considered the start of the spring growing season. That reason was quite apparent this spring. Even when days felt like spring, nighttime temperatures dipped down into the 30s, sometimes even below freezing. Tender annuals, even those rated for our hardiness zone 5, have a difficult time acclimating to these wide temperature swings.

Memorial Day is this Monday (May 28), and garden centers will surely be open that day. So, if you can’t get out to buy annuals this week, you can always do it between the parade and cook-out. Before you go to the garden center, note where you’re going to plant annuals. How big are the planting beds? If you plot out and measure where you’re going to plant each variety, you’ll know how many plants to buy? Then buy a few more. If you can’t use them all in your planting beds, you can always plant the extras in containers. They’ll bring a nice spring freshness into your house.

Speaking of containers, you can do your knees a favor by planting annuals in decorative containers and then placing them in strategic spots in the planting beds. Besides looking nice and complementing the other plants in the beds, this planting method makes deadheading (pinching or cutting off spent blooms to encourage reblooming) and replacement easy. You can use a stool to sit down and deadhead. Most annuals need to be changed out during the season or as seasons change. You can sit on your stool to do that, also.

If you really want your annuals in the ground, buy individual plants like geraniums and begonias and sink the nursery pot into the ground. If you buy annuals by the six pack, you can stand at your potting bench and transplant them into old nursery pots and sink them into the ground. An even easier shortcut is to sink one size bigger nursery pots than the ones you’re using for the annuals. Then you only have to slip the transplant pot into the sunken pot when you “plant” them initially and when you change them out. Can’t be much simpler than that.

If you aren’t able to plant your purchases right away, keep them outside on the deck or patio during nice warm days. But if the nighttime temps are forecast to dip down below 40 or 45 degrees, bring the plants inside for the night.

Annuals are like the frosting on your landscaping cake. Regardless of whether you embrace the tried and true traditional planting method or one of the labor (and knee) saving ideas presented here, the weekend to plant annuals is coming up. Why not put it on your calendar?

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Dividing Perennials This Spring

If you didn’t divide your spreading perennials last fall, you might want to make that an early task this spring. Just letting them go may result in their squeezing out other plants that share the same bed. If your spreading perennials are near a sidewalk, they may impede you or guests using the walk. If the bed is next to the lawn, these spreading plants may overflow the bed and kill the grass. Dividing is the method used to keep these spreaders in check. It’s also an inexpensive propagation method.

you’ve never divided perennials, it’s an easy DIY job. Just dig up the whole plant and lay it on a tarp. Then cut the root in half from the foliage to the bottom of the root. Finally, cut each section in half again, so that you’ve quartered it. The cutting method depends on the thickness of the roots and your strength. While many of our landscape professionals can cut sizeable roots with one blow from their sharp shovel, you may be more comfortable using a pruning saw or loppers. Your tool choice depends on the size of the job.

Once cut, return one quarter to the original planting hole. Backfill just as you would when planting a new plant. Finish by thoroughly watering it in.

What you do with the other three sections is up to you. I suggest you plant them in other beds on your property, give them to friends or contribute them to a charity plant sale.

Dividing perennials has a similar effect on them as pruning has on trees and woody shrubs. It makes them grow stronger and healthier.

If you’d rather not divide your own perennials, our landscape professionals will be happy to do it for you. And, the next time you buy perennials, check the nursery tags and ask one of the garden center horticulturists about their behavior pattern and if the plants you’re considering need dividing.