Posted in gardening, The Southern Garden

Rejuvenate or Re-do?

In the next series of blogs, I am going to address a problem many homeowners eventually face. How do you deal with an older landscape?

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Down here in the south, things grow fast. There is no dormant, or cold period, to moderate the growth. Yes, there are changes to the pace of growth during different seasons, but few plants will actually drop their leaves and go dormant for 3-4 months of the year. Because of this, the average life span of the landscape is accelerated. In south Florida, it is safe to say this life span is 12-15 years for most foundation plantings, hedging, and mass planting. Trees grow larger at a much faster rate, often leaving only trunks to look at from the eaves of the home to the ground. Those graceful palm fronds are now above the roof line. This dramatically changes the look of the landscape from what it was when first planted.

This also puts the homeowner in the position of needing to relandscape. But do you rip everything out and start from scratch, or do you rejuvenate your existing landscape?

Before you make this decision, there are a few things you need to consider.

1. What are your landscape goals? Are you looking for a new look, or merely to improve on your existing landscape? Do you need to change a viewpoint, traffic pattern or maybe add a piece of hardscape?

2. Do you have a budget for the work to be done? Bear in mind that removal of some larger established plants will eat into that budget.

3. Does your existing landscape serve a purpose other than beautifying your home? Are you screening something from view, defining your property lines or trying to cut down on the noise from nearby traffic?

4. Does your landscape create “good neighbor vibes”?Do you and your neighbor both benefit from the existing plants? Take into consideration if relandscaping will cause a strain on your relationship with your neighbor.

5. How accessible is the area in question? This may be an essential factor if any equipment is necessary to do the job.

6. Is your current landscape achieving goals a new landscape may not be able to do until it is established? For instance; is a large tree providing shade that a new tree would take years to offer.

7. Are you looking to hire a professional landscaper or do the work yourself?

You should be able to answer these questions before you proceed with any further with your landscape plans. In the next post, I will discuss the pros and cons of rejuvenating your landscape ~vs. ~ completely re-landscaping your area.


Posted in gardening, The Southern Garden

It’s not only about the plants.

There could be more your garden than just plants. Landscaping has a kissing-cousin called Hard-scaping.
Hard-scape is simply the use of non-plant material to create your garden.

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This can include walkways, structural components, stone accents, decorative containers, fountains, waterfalls, statuary and any other component you bring into your landscape that doesn’t have to be fed and fertilized. No matter what the size of a garden, a few pieces of hard-scape can add interest and contrast. Often making your plants even more attractive. A simple way for a small garden to add hard-scape is to add a decorative pot filled with flowers or an oversize boulder to contrast with landscape plants. In a larger area you might want to incorporate a walk. This could be a natural-looking path of mulch or a structured path of stone, gravel, or pavers.

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Creating little nooks within your garden with the use of the bench or small water feature can take an average landscape and make it more personable and more enticing. The bench could set the tone for a traditional garden or a more contemporary look using a modern bench of bold color.
Even adding features such as a bistro set, a small swing, or fire pit are considered hard-scape. Not only do these items add interest your garden they also serve a purpose.
Maintenance on these materials is sometimes it’s simply cleaning them off from debris. Sometimes you don’t want to even do that much. To me, there’s nothing more appealing than an old rock that has moss growing in and out of its crevices. You don’t want mold growth because it can be slippery and dangerous. But moss or lichen can add a touch of age to your garden.
The addition of statuary or artwork is a personal decision. Statues range from all walks of life from cute little woodland creatures to an Oriental Buda. Spinners, which are metal artworks that move with the wind, adds not only beauty but the sense of movement.
Hard skating can be an expensive investment and is often a permanent investment. After all, who wants to dig up 5 yards of gravel after making a gravel pathway. So the decision needs to be designed properly for both the beauty it will provide but also the function it needs to achieve.

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If you’re adding a walkway, walk it. Find out where the most natural steps are so you’re not leading your guest to sharp turns against a wall. When you lay down the paver first steppingstone put it down and walk it so you’re not doing double steps to go from one paver to the next. You want it to be a smooth walking experience. Stone walls and retaining walls need to be properly installed to meet county regulations. If you have the expertise, great. If not, I would highly recommend hiring an expert. These walls not only need to look pretty but they’re there to function and hold back soil or sand from your garden.
Hard-scaping doesn’t always need to be a huge investment either. Sometimes you can walk around and find a beautiful piece of driftwood that can be incorporated into your garden. This looks nice if you have a bromeliad garden. A small birdbath added in the right area will catch the glint of the sun and attract birds.

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Adding hard-scape material to your garden not only adds interest, but it also gives you the opportunity to add your own personal touch.

Victoria LK Williams

Botanical Concepts

Posted in gardening, The Southern Garden

Flower Care in the Hot, Hot Summer

Down here in the South we have two summer seasons; hot and hotter.

Once May slips through we’re into summer. And there won’t be much of a break from the heat until October/November. As the summer months crawl along, the heat builds up, day after day. Sometimes we get an afternoon rain to give us relief, but the humidity just builds until there’s a good old-fashioned thunderstorm. Or even worse, a hurricane!
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It goes without saying the plants we planted for color and beauty during the winter months will not survive in this hot heat. Even in the shade, the sturdiest of plants will suffer.
That’s why it is important to pick summer annuals to replace your winter annuals. You can still achieve a beautiful garden by using the right plants.

Listed below are summer annuals I like to use.
Caladiums, Cassandra, Periwinkle, Purslane, Sedum, Pentas, Portulaca, Lantana, Bush Daisy, Blue Daze, Angelina, Coleus, Phlox, Dipladenia, Scaevola, Gomphrena, Zinnia, Sunpatiens, Mexican Heather, Gaura, Society Garlic, and some varieties of Begonias.

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Along with selecting the right plants, proper care is essential. You need to make sure that the plants are watered consistently and thoroughly, fertilized when needed and check for insects weekly. This also means removing debris from around the base of the plant, looking at the underside of the leaves for the critters and snapping off any problem areas. Because the plants grow so fast during the summer months, the insects thinks it’s a feeding frenzy for them. A healthy plant will tolerate an insect infestation much better than a week plant, and that’s why it’s important to make sure they’re watered and fertilized properly.
With all this heat and humidity it is also important to keep an eye out for disease, mold and fungus problems.

This is also when most landscapers do their hard cut-backs on the landscape plants. Often this looks severe, but the plants will flush back out over the summer months to their full lush beauty. In the meantime, the area where you had your winter annuals may now be exposed to the full brunt of the summer sun, with no shade from the surrounding shrubbery. You need to be aware of these changes when you decide what plants to plant.
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But don’t be afraid to continue to garden in the summer months. Switch out those old tired annuals and put in fresh flowers that will last the summer.

Then hop in the pool and enjoy your garden.
Go ahead, you earned it!

 

If you enjoyed this blog, please click the follow button for more gardening tips. Have a question or a suggestion for a blog post? Let me know, if I don’t know the answer, I’ll find it for you.

http://www.VictoriaLKWilliams

Posted in gardening, The Southern Garden

A Garden’s Charm

Fountains In The Garden 

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Close your eyes as you walk through a garden.  Every little sound you hear seems more pronounced.  Now imagine the sound of water.  Is it the gentle trickle from a small ornate fountain tucked in a corner, or the splashing of a waterfall that is the focal point of the garden?
Water has been one of the major elements of the garden since the beginning of gardens. I would bet that the Garden of Eden had water features in it: streams, falls, pools. I’m sure Adam and Eve enjoyed these eliminates as much as we do today.
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But today our gardens are usually small compact areas. Here, we strive to create an oasis to enjoy and relax in.  As a result, the water features we use have had to become smaller.  Thankfully, there is a wide variety of fountains in sizes and styles that will meet almost every need.  Great works of art have inspired makers of fountains into combining statues with water.  Beautiful containers have become fountains with a simple addition of a bubbler added to it after the drainage hole is plugged.
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Nature provides great inspiration for the style of a fountain.  It is not uncommon to see a fountain with birds, forest animals or fish as the main focal point. Fountains can also create a meditative area, the style of the fountain reflecting a simplistic viewpoint.
Yes, I think I can speak for most of us; we enjoy the addition of water to our gardens.  But for every pro there can be a con, and this is no exception.  Smaller fountains tend to have a water evaporation problem and if the water gets too low, then the pump can burn itself out.  Even larger fountains and waterfalls can have problems; too shady of an area and you can find your water feature is more of a spot for algae to grow and leaves to collect in.

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But do not give up on your fountain, they are worth the effort you put into them.  And if you find they are just too much work–well they make terrific planters too!

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This blog is a response from a one word challenge I sent out to my readers.  Send me one word and see if I can create a gardening blog from it.  This Blog’s word was Fountain, from Marie.  Thanks Marie!  Join in the fun and send me your word, too.

 

www.VictoriaLKWilliams

 

 

Posted in gardening, The Southern Garden

Know Your Space

“Space. The final frontier.”

Or is it?
Well, at least in the garden, space is the important frontier.
Space can be the final say regarding what you plant and how you plant. The smaller the garden, the more important the amount of space you have. And the more important it is to use it properly. One of the first steps in using space properly is to know how much space you there is to work with.

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Nothing is harder to do than to figure your space without taking measurements-inevitably you’re wrong. When you take those measurements, it’s important to be as accurate as possible, because in a small space an inch can mean a lot. A foot can make a difference with what type of plants you plant, and a yard to make the difference in the type of material you use for hard-scaping.
When taking your measurements, it is imperative to find out where the building sits on the property. While it is important to measure the windows and doors, don’t forget to look for the other little things you might not consider. The downspouts, hose bib, gas meter, utility area; all of these must be considered in your drawing. If you don’t incorporate them in the drawing, you will be in for a big surprise when you go to plant a six-foot plant in front of a 3-foot window. It’s a little hard to explain to the customer why their view is blocked because you didn’t measure properly. I’ve learned through my own mistakes and experiences, that it never hurts to take an extra measurement or two,  Without fail, when you get back to the office and sit at the drawing table, there is a missing measurement somewhere. With other measurements, you can triangulate and coordinate where you will be planting and approximate that missing measurement.

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But only knowing the measurements of the length and width of an area isn’t the only thing you need to consider. Look up over your head. Are there power lines in the way of where you will plant that oak tree? Is there an awning you need to consider, or are you going to be blocking sunlight for the new planting? These are other considerations you need to think about when you’re measuring your space. If you’re adding hard-scape to your landscape, you also need to consider the physical movements of both people and items such as wheelchairs, a golf cart, a stroller or a gardening cart. Take into consideration not only the straight path these items will take, but the curves and arches they need to take to turn safely without damaging your landscape or your property.
There are some great tools on the market for measuring other than the good old-fashioned measuring tape. There’s even a battery powered one that automatically retracts for you. Some are measuring tapes that can electronically figure out your space by doing the math for you. And there are even some new tapes that can visually measure and figure out your space without the use of a physical tape.

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Need a simpler tool? Try the walking measuring stick. The handle is attached to a counter and wheel, and it calculates the feet as you walk. When you’re measuring long distances, there’s nothing better, because a measuring tape often will not go much farther than 100 feet. A walking measuring tape can be as sophisticated as you would like to spend the money on. They can figure out your square feet of the area. For a larger project. you might need to hire a surveyor and get the site plotted out in more detail.
Don’t forget those underground utility lines. Many municipalities provide services where they will come out and mark the utilities for you. A good rule of thumb, is to always mark before you dig-there’s nothing worse than sticking that shovel in the ground and cutting off somebody’s cable, telephone or worse yet, breaking a waterline.
So, remember to take all things into consideration when planning out your garden space. Get it right the first time and then you can enjoy the planting experience rather than being frustrated.

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Once you’re all finished, grab that cold glass of iced tea and head out to the garden to sit and relax and enjoy that beautiful space you created.

Enjoy Time In The Garden!

http://www.VictoriaLKWilliams.com

 

Posted in gardening, The Southern Garden

Out with the Old

There’s something both heartbreaking and exhilarating about redoing a landscaping. It’s sad to tear out old plants that have reached their maturity and are declining, but it is also necessary for a new landscape to be installed.

When I’m called in to do a re-landscape, the first thing I look at are the bones of the landscaping. It took years for a palm tree to get to the height that balances with the house, or for an oak to provide a beautiful canopy to shade and offer cool sitting areas for the homeowner. As for the bougainvillea growing up and over the arch of your front entry; why would you want to remove something so gorgeous? But other plants just tore out after about 12 to 15 years down here in South. And rather than leave plants that are going downhill, having weak stems and are prone to insect and disease problems—we need to take them out.

It’s my job just determine what goes and what stays. Once a determination is made, I can begin the design. Bed lines are often changed to add new interest and to accommodate the growth of the larger plants remaining in the landscape. This is the opportunity to create a whole new look. Pathways can be added, vignettes of privacy can be snuck in and views that have matured over the years can be enhanced. This is also the perfect opportunity to incorporate some beautiful container plantings. I especially like to do this in areas where the roots are so thick that you can’t dig a new plant into.

Since the original landscape was installed, there have been many improvements on the plants available, hybrids have been created that will tolerate the southern heat better and new varieties have been introduced to the market. This is a perfect opportunity for the homeowner to take it vantage of these.

It’s rather like the old saying for a bride: something old something new and something borrowed. The old: the mature plants that will stay anchored landscape. The new: different varieties of plants now on the market. And the borrowed? Reusing some old standbys that helped create the foundation of a good landscape.

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Don’t be afraid to take out a shrub here there, or even an entire hedgerow. This is the south and things will grow quickly.

Before you know it your new landscape will look like it’s been there all along.

http://www.VictoriaLKWilliams.com