Aconitum is a bright blue perennial that stands up on its own for great late fall color. It is highly poisonous but otherwise has no down side. My dogs stay away from it – but it is not so good if you have a leaf-eating youngster or pet.
These features show up other times of year but seem more striking as landscapes are stripped of leaves and flowers.
Pyracantha- This picture shows one which we have espaliered correctly, so it doesn’t take over or fall off the wall.
Viburnum- You might mistake this for a butterfly bush. It lovely waxy berries make it one of my favorite viburnum, but I can’t find the cultivar! Go to this link and try to help me out!
Japanese beautyberry or callicarpa loves shade. The deer have left mine alone.
Red fall leaves are not the only feature of these cool Snake Bark Maple and Paper bark Maple. It is like bark for modern art!
When this long time friend told me he had a project for me, I never suspected it would interweave so many practical and artistic components simultaneously. He had recovered beautifully from 2 knee replacements, but he and his wife both thought it would be prudent to reconfigure the steep access to often-used side door entrance.
He suggested we cut steps into the gravel driveway to meet the grade at the bottom step of his side porch. I asked them what they thought of no stairs at all? I explained how we could build over the existing landing and stairs so there was a direct and level path to his side door. They were both thrilled at the prospect.
When we met at the stone yard, they picked a unique violet Pennsylvania fieldstone for the stonewalls, and an Old Town Cobble Autumn Blend paver. The paver has red and purple tones to blend with the brick foundation and match the fieldstone.
After any great idea and concept sketch, there is always the more important execution of the job in real space. After we ripped out the 20 year old shrubbery, we saw clearly how the bed grade was going to be 2′ lower than the walkway!
What we constructed is a space that holds 2 sunken gardens with interlocking curves for the walls and seat walls. The terrace is fan shaped and big!
There is even a step built to easily access one of the sunken gardens. The cool thing is that you look at the back of the wall as you sit at the kitchen table. It is a freestanding design with 2 sides that you see. No need to cover up the stonework with plants, right? Wherever you drive or walk around the space, close up, or from the road, the design shifts.
A Sango kaku specimen tree with bright orange seasonal color and bright red bark fills up the space in the smaller garden. Abelia, heather, ajuga , fragrant viburnum and crape myrtle are other plants in the larger size bed. The ground cover, ajuga in both gardens will do away with any need for future mulch.
Another aspect of the project included redirecting the drainage. We also power washed the front brick on the house, and cleared a long bank full of 15-year-old shrubbery along the community road. The client and our company chipped in and planted 200 daffodils on the bank, so the whole neighbor hood can enjoy bright yellow flowers in the cold March weather.
Today when my client-friend called me to discuss watering needs for the winter, his first comment was, ” Well m’dear, I have to say…Every time I walk out my door, I am tickled right up to my earlobes! ”
I couldn’t ask for a better compliment.
Cary Street Road in Windsor Farms
This was a traditional home with old azaleas and hollies in the front. This client, however, is anything but traditional, and after 30 years was ready for a change.
Together we decided to go with a conifer / oriental look and blend it with sturdy flowering shrubs of roses, abelia, and sambucus in the beds.
Three hornbeam trees mark the entrance behind a brick wall and give the space vertical structural height.
The compliments have been terrific and mostly because it is so different than the usual look for the neighborhood. One of her dear friends even said, “I envy you!” Wow!
Indian paintbrush is my favorite cutting flower. A year and a half ago Kevin and I followed all the rules for planting a wildflower mix of bi-annuals and perennials. We killed our underlying meadow lawn by staking down black plastic. After a few weeks, we raked out the dead thatch and roto-tilled the 20′ by 20’ area. We sowed about twice as much seed as the label instructed because we wanted a thick crop of color.
Last spring nothing happened. We got some spotty flowers that lasted a few weeks at most. I gave a cynical shake of my head as I drove past the ugly square of ground for 15 months, wondering why we had put so much energy into the space.
But look now! Ka -boom! This mass of flowers at the end of our country driveway greets us every time we drive by.
Foxglove- this biannual reseeds itself in large masses or in other fertile areas…like trees stumps.
The seeds dropping from the flower of the yellow Wood Poppy create bigger plants each year. Seeds are carried by the wind or birds to random parts of the yard. I love how this one is tucked into the rocks.
Columbine will cultivate easily elsewhere if you cut off the pods that stand on a single spiky stem. Break open the pod and empty the seeds on bare dirt in a part shade spot.
I love helping in gardens where the client wants to use all Nature’s elements of stone, water, wood, and plants. Our skilled workers and their diversity allow easy project shifts that can impact grading, drainage, or stonework, when the client or I change our mind!
We ripped out the rotted old deck and changed the shape to allow more seating room. Two sets of stairs were widened and one set at an angle for a dramatic effect. The sunrise motifs in the railing are like hanging pictures on the deck.
We directed water that poured off the roof away from the new terrace and planting bed. A French drain that ran underneath and far away from our dry lay captured any water that headed toward the terrace.
There was nothing but lawn here before. The stone is a Golden Sunset flagstone. The seat wall is Heather Gray thin stone. The seat capstone is a bull nosed limestone.
My son, the geologist, described the formation of the terrace’s mica schist stone. It is develops underground where warm stone bends upon itself over and over again. I will spare you any more details except to say he was pretty impressed that we were using it in a terrace. It is the most beautiful after a rain, as seen here, when the green, gold, and browns glisten.
Notice the play in the square shaped terrace edge, which creates visual movement. Also for visual movement is the mesmerizing re-circulating fountain set in a circle of stones and then in a square of stone.
The vegetable garden includes a custom made, 2 drawer potting bench and 3 vegetable boxes. Pictures of that follow next month.
Plantings go in next week. Stay tuned!
It is not often that we are given the luxury of developing a garden from the ground up. This client from Hartford Connecticut was “all in” for a relaxed Virginia farmhouse look. We started with the hardscaping.
In the front, grading left us with a very steep hill to the front porch. We created a dry lay walkway in stone dust on this steep hill to promote a farmhouse look. We had to lay a block base at each landing and fill it with crusher run to support the base of the walkway. Erosion and heavy rains would dissolve the structure otherwise. These 5 feet wide, 7-inch high stone steps took 4 strong men to move, especially after the hurricane where the mud became a slip and slide. The Van Tassel stone stacked wall at the base of the stairs is a stunning first feature that you see as you enter the property from a hilly, winding driveway.
Here is a “Before and After Picture” of a raised brick paver terrace we designed and built in the back of the house. Lots of layering and tamping of crusher run gravel goes into the cinder block base of the brick faced terrace to match the grade of the fireplace. The pavers here are a 6-pattern design. The steps are bluestone treads which add another dimension into the color scape.
This front walk is mortared because the slope of the land creates heavy erosion during a rain. Any dry lay walkway would wash away.
We lay a cement pad, then carefully measured out and lay a brick border. We matched the house brick by using the Shade and Wise Brick Company specialist to help us choose by showing us several brick samples at the site.
This brick edge pulls in the red from the brick house, and serves as the perfect boundary and edge to hold the bluestone. A cement footprint goes down first, then mortar under each individual stone and then the stone itself. Lastly, the mortar is mixed and the same batch is used so the color matches. Our artisans actually use a bag resembling a pastry-frosting sac. Mortar goes on slow and exact.
Instead of one large step to the doorway, we created 2 rectangle tiers. The Palladium style arcs above the front door entrance, rectangle landings, and bluestone squares laid on the diagonal create a geometric blend that compliments the modern architecture.
Martha Stewart magazines are great in showing you stunning perennial gardens. Christie’s create those magazine cover gardens too. What Martha doesn’t tell you is what the quintessential perennial garden looks right after it goes in and what it will need until it is “magazine worthy.”
Here is the reality check.
So why does this enthusiastic client, who asked me to put only blooming plants in her front beds, do it?
Ask Martha. Or better yet check out the June 2013 issue of her magazine and guess who you’ll see!
While walking my pup after the last snow, I was amazed to see some perennials that I thought had died back in the winter, popping up and looking the same as they had in the fall. I attribute this to the fact that we have not had a lot of drying winds to cope with, but more melting snows which prevent the foliage from getting brittle and breaking off. Here are a few pictures of plants I often suggest.
Lavender with its nice gray foliage (no flowers in this season) still makes a statement in winter.
Geranium Cranesbill- This blooms with small pink, purple or blue flowers from late spring to late autumn. The foliage still holds its burnt red color that it had in the fall.
Hypericum (St. John’s Wort)- The maintenance for this ground cover is weed eating it to the ground in February. It has lovely yellow intermittent flowers in July and red foliage in the fall, and apparently after a snow.
Autumn Fern- If had had one perennial to bring to another planet, it would be this one. This picture shows it bent under the weight of the snow. It perked up after the snow melt and retains its green foliage. In the spring we will cut it back to the ground. The new foliage will come up a burnish red then turn to green.
Heather- This is an evergreen bloomer and comes with white, pink or purple flowers. I use these in the more prominent beds in the winter, then move them to a less visible area in the summer since their foliage alone can look a bit coarse.