Archive for the ‘Shrubs’ Category

Where have all the landscapes gone?   1 comment


My front landscape.
Curved beds, large perennial & shrub garden.

For the last 4 years, I’ve been working on my front landscape.  Trying to find that bed shape that’s just right…a shape that enhances the landscape, without overpowering it.  Something curvy, flowing, more organic.  No straight lines, please!  It’s not quite right, so I search for inspiration for the bed lines and replacement trees, for sick and overgrown trees.

I really seriously struggled with this.  I want my front garden & landscape to be inviting.  But I don’t want to look “over landscaped”.  I already have more perennials in my front yard than anyone in my neighborhood.  I don’t want to look like I’ve given up all grass.

So, a few times a week, I find myself out driving neighborhoods, to get some inspiration.  I mainly drive neighborhoods that look like mine… 10-15 year old, mass developed neighborhoods.  Well, guess what I’m finding?  NO ONE plants in their front yard.  Why?

I mean, don’t get me wrong, the 7 shrubs and rock mulch, plus the 1-2 trees (as required by the city) are all well and good, but what happened to having an inviting front landscape?  A diverse planting of shrubs and perennials and annuals.  And lovely container pots.  Where did all the landscaping go?  I also noticed that trees are no longer sited in front of the home, rather off to the side.  It makes me wonder, as a kid, did these now-parents never get to climb a tree in their own front yard?

So, I set out to find something online.  Google, Houzz, Pinterest, back issues of mags.  The pickin’s are slim y’all!  Where are all the front landscapes?  There seemed to be plenty to chose from if you live on a small city lot, with a sidewalk out front where your home is only 25 feet from the curb.  But what about people like me… 1/3 acre, 50 foot setback, house barely differentiated from the next beige house.

So,  why has this become so difficult?  I can’t find ANY houses that have much more than a small island planting in their front yard.  Is it for the same reason that wonderful locally-owned garden centers like Linders are going by the wayside?

I accidentally turned into a 40 year old neighborhood last week.  What was this?  LANDSCAPES!!  Nicely maintained ones.  And it wasn’t a neighborhood where you’d expect people to have garden services.  These were owner-maintained yards.  I even saw a few people out working in their yards.  They were older than me, possibly retirement age.

Then it occurred to me.  Is it a generational thing?

So, who is buying all these new homes?  Oh, I get it now!  These homes are mostly being bought by 20- and 30-somethings.   Landscaping is not a big priority to that generation.  We know that HGTV doesn’t really do much “G” anymore.  These homes are 4-bedroom 2-story homes.  These homes were being bought by young families who have priorities that do not include maintaining a landscape.

I’m also working on a section of my back garden…completely reworking it.  So I decided to sell off a dozen or so mature clumps of daylilies.  I listed them on an online garage sale and to my surprise, 2 separate wonderfully nice 20-something ladies showed up to pick up their purchases.  I engaged both in a conversation about this very thing.  I applauded them for being young and being interested in gardening.  One told me NONE of her friends wanted anything to do with it.  They all lived in townhouses and had the requisite ONE hanging basket, that by now, is already dead from neglect.  She knows no one her age interested in landscaping. The other shared that her home came with a lot of plants she didn’t know what to do with, and I gave her some quick tutorials on dividing perennials of different kinds. I’m so thrilled they both have an interest.

What does this say for the landscapes of generations to come?  What does it say for true nurseries and garden centers?  Will they all be replaced by the limited offerings of what you can find at big-box stores so called “garden centers”?  Are these mass-produced homes going to give way to mass-produced gardens? Are we doomed to cookie-cutter landscapes that contain little more than a few Goldflame Spirea, Autumn Blaze Maple, and Stella d’Oro Daylilies? Oh, and lest we forget the occasional black-eyed susan.

It’s sad, really.  What can we do to get the younger generation to be more interested in gardening?  I know many of them want to plant veggies, but what about flowers? shrubs? true landscapes?

Posted June 12, 2014 by koskashostas in Garden Design, Other Perennials, Shrubs, Trees

Landscape Rock + Black Plastic Weed liner = BAD CHOICE   5 comments

I moved to Minnesota in 1999 and I noticed that most houses did this rock mulch thing…  I get it…. cuts down on weeds, gives a clean appearance and doesn’t need refreshing  like  wood mulches.

But, I have to say, my tune  has TOTALLY changed.

Yes, it’s generally effective for keeping weeds at bay, but it requires tons and tons of rock and it’s not foolproof.  The weeds will get thru the spots where the landscape staples pierce the black plastic.  But beyond that, it’s terrible.

So what happens if you want to plant something?  First, understand that soil is alive.  But when you put plastic over it, and cover that with 50 lbs of rock on a square foot of ground, you’re smothering the ground.  No oxygen, no moisture = NO LIFE.  So, 3 years after you put down the plastic, don’t be surprised when you find no earthworms or other bugs cuz they can’t live there either.  So, what makes you think a shrub or perennial would want to live there?  You want to cut a hole the size of the pot the plant came in so you minimize the amount of non-plastic area to minimize weeds.  Well, guess what?  Only that area is going to get oxygen and moisture.  The roots are not going to want to expand past the width of the hole.  The weeds and grass are going to rush to that hole and now your plant is going to have MORE than its fair share of weeds!

Now, I’m going to stop preaching and give you a REAL LIFE example from my OWN experience:

The daylily story.
2 years ago, I planted 6 daylilies (Rosy Returns) in that terrible rock mulch that the previous owners put ALL THE WAY around the house.  I figured they could handle it.  Well, even THEY hated being planted there.

I noticed very little growth from them in the last 2 years and when I pulled them out, I could see why.  I could see that the hole I cut for them into the black plastic weed barrier was only about the width of a 1 gallon pot.  So, there was nowhere for new growth to go.  When I dug them up, I could see new fans trying to pop thru, but couldn’t.  The roots hadn’t wandered much past the width of the cut plastic.

What floored me was the extent of the grass infestation.  The bluegrass/quackgrass had traveled 12 inches from the lawn to get thru to the daylily holes.  And there were sections of grass that were nearly as big as the daylily.  Pulling this grass was pointless… the roots were NOT coming up!

So, when I took out the daylilies, I washed most of the soil off so I could see where the grass roots were and get them removed.  There were some grass roots that were encircling the plants and nearly choking the daylily roots. Some of those roots were almost as thick as drinking straws.

My goodness, that was a lot of work for those little plants!  But, now I can see that if I intend to plant anything in the areas where the previous owner loaded tons and tons of limestone on top of  2 layers of black plastic, I am going to have to remove all of that junk to allow the soil to breath and re-acclimate to LIFE!

Posted May 15, 2010 by koskashostas in Garden Design, Other Perennials, Shrubs, Weeds

My new PLAN!   1 comment

Ok, lemme start by saying that I am UBER excited about today!

I went to the Fabulous Fronts Landscape Design Workshop at Gerten’s this morning.  It was $65 for 2 hours.  I’m guessing there were about 20-25 people in the class and 4 senior landscape designers.  We were sent our homework about 10 days ago.  We were asked to draw, to scale, our front landscape (or lack thereof for some people).  Each designer was assigned a row of workshop participants to  advise.  In my row, there were a total of 6 people, but 2 sets of couples, so really just 4 designs.

The designer made rounds… about 4…. to each of us.  First, she started with bedding and hardscape lines, second-shrubs, third-perennials, fourth-wrap up.

So, I walked away with a ready-to-execute full garden plan for the front of my yard!  Normally, Gerten’s charges $75+ for design work.  This seminar was a fabulous option for me, cuz I never wanted to give up control in doing the design.  So, I basically had a coach for 2 hours!

I’m super super excited about my plan.  I don’t think I’ll execute it all this year as it could get a bit spendy.  I’m going to re-use a lot of what I have already, but there are a lot of new shrubs and those will get expensive really quick, if I cannot find them on sale.   I’ll be starting a new perennial bed out front, so I’ll be moving a lot of my perennials to that bed.

Diablo Ninebark Tree

Remember the weeping siberian peashrub that bit it in the spring thaw?  I’ve finally decided on its replacement. It’s a Diablo Ninebark TREE form. When I first heard of this tree, I assumed that it was a Diablo that had been grafted onto a standard.  This is NOT the case here! This is a 1″ thick trunk with all the other shoots pruned away so that it will form a tree.  It has exfoliating bark and is very interesting.  It’ll grow to no more than 10 feet tall, but it can take hard pruning to keep it at its current 5 feet tall.

I particularly like this choice because I’m trying to keep the front garden within a planting color scheme.  It’ll be dark red/purple with lime green and blue-grey.  So, this was really my only and best choice to have the dark purple foliage.  I’ll post pics after it has been planted!

I also wanted to share with you a blessing I received this week.  My friend Deb, from church, once told me she loved lilacs.  Well, I’d planned to remove a couple of lilacs that were not blooming, due to being in the shade.  I immediately thought of Deb and shot an email out to her and her hubby, Tom.  She was a little anxious about accepting them since she had no gardening experience (she had to buy her first garden shovel to plant them!).  So, I delivered them to her yesterday, Good Friday.  She was shocked at their size … 6-7′ tall.  I gave her some coaching on how to plant them and loaned her a book on shrubs.  She was so grateful.  I really think *I* received the blessing here.  I’m always so glad to pass along garden plants that no longer have an appropriate home in my garden.  I can’t wait for Tom & Deb to tel me that the lilacs are doing great and that they’ve bloomed in their new home!

Posted April 3, 2010 by koskashostas in Garden Design, Other Perennials, Shrubs