Archive for March, 2010

MacDonald Residence Landscape Design

The MacDonald project was a very fun project for me.  The home is in Cottonwood Heights and is a great example of my landscape design for the Salt Lake, Utah area.  Access was limited, which complicated things, but I was able to work things out and complete this Outdoor Reading Room as it was designed.  Notice the difference between the first picture below without any accessories and the rest of the pictures.  An Outdoor Living Space or flower bed is naked without accessories.


Don’t Become the Old Woman that Lived in the Shoe!

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe,

She had so many kids she didn’t know what to do…

Make sure you can handle the plants you put in your Outdoor Living Spaces and flower beds!  This probably goes without saying, but I see common sense lost in many yards.

One big problem is not so much planting too many plants, but putting invasive plants in the wrong spot.  Before you know it you have little purple flowers (Grape Hyacinth) in your lawn and grape vine (Virginia Creeper) burying your perennials.  You really need to know about the plants you are putting in your yard.

Also, understand the difference between the maintenance requirements of different trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals in general. 

Trees require little time, but you do need to make sure you get them on a routine plan to develop the structure and keep them clean and healthy.

Shrubs are similar to trees, but require a little more attention if they flower.  If you want them to continue looking nice and flowering year after year, you have to deadhead the shrubs after they bloom.

Perennials require deadheading after they bloom and also a lot of fall or spring cleaning to cut back the dead.  Most perennials are not woody and will die back almost to the ground.

Annuals require deadheading to keep them looking nice.  There are also spring and summer annuals which means that they have to be pulled out and replaced twice each year.  Annuals don’t get the chance to get as established as the other plants which means that weeds will pop up in between the flowers, so annuals will require more weeding that other plantings over time.

Along the lines of weeds, all plantings will require weeding at first to some degree.  A good four inch mulch will reduce the amount of time you will spend weeding, but there will be some weeding.  Over time, perennials and shrubs planted a proper distance from each other will choke out a healthy majority of the weeds and reduce your time requirement.

Reduce the amount of time you spend in your garden by understanding the plants you pick, and pairing your time available to work in your garden with the proper plants.  Remember that the amount of time required for pruning and weeding will depend largely on the plants you select.  So conserve your time and do a little research before visiting the nursery!

Running the Gauntlet

My kids love to watch the show Ninja Warrior.  Myriads of individuals dedicate their whole lives to mastering Mount Midoriama, the nearly impossible, japanese obstacle course.  I watch the show with my children, remembering the time when I would have thought the obstacle course very fun, but now…well, let’s just say I creak a little more than I used to.

You could very safely say that I am in no condition to run a modern day gauntlet, so why should I in my Outdoor Living Spaces and flower beds.  I cringe every time I visit Jordan Landing in West Jordan because they have thousands of feet of five foot wide strips in the middle of the roads with three foot high rolling hills  and covered in grass.  Those little hills would be an absolute nightmare to take care of–hours of tight turns and ups and downs.  Even after that, hours of string trimming would be required to keep it looking nice.  That, my friends, is the ultimate gauntlet.  The landscape architect there must have hated the maintenance people!

Previously, I spoke about getting to equipment easily and then getting it to the various maintenance spots.  The actual spots should be easy to maintain also.  Identify problem spots and make quick changes!  Some things to look for are tight radius’ or corners in the lawn, lawn planted right up to the fence, cacti that you have to weed up next to, grass right up next to tree trunks, rock mulch that isn’t at least three inches thick and multi-layered (rocks are a pain to weed in), grass in park strips and in any strip smaller than five feet wide, and shrubs or trees planted too close together or too close to a structure like your home.

Notice a recurring culprit?  Lawn requires a LOT of time.  That is why I love when a person tells me they want something low maintenance, so they just want grass everywhere. 

Anyway, make life easier on yourself, unless you plan to take an active part in the American Gladiators revival!  Get rid of those difficult maintenance spots.

How to Buy More Time

There are some rather inexpensive ways that you can buy more time when it comes to maintaining your Outdoor Living Spaces and flower beds.  Mulch is one of those ways to buy yourself more time.

I have spoken briefly about the water-saving qualities of mulch, but mulch can also cut down on maintenance time by limiting the number of weeds that pop up in your flower beds and Outdoor Living Spaces.  Four inches of mulch will strangle out most weeds.  Not to mention, it looks so much better.

Remember that when you are buying mulch, it is most cost effective to buy in bulk, by the yard.  One yard of mulch will cover 81 square feet, four inches deep. 

Rake the mulch each spring to freshen it up and add a little bit more as the mulch breaks down.  I recommend going with dyed mulch because it will look nice for a longer period of time. 

So invest in mulch and buy back countless hours of back-breaking weeding!  You will smile as you spend time playing in your yard instead of working in it.

What is Your Time Worth?

I would like to open the next section of posts with a quick question–Is your landscape worth the time you invest in it?  I don’t mean the time to install it, but the time to keep it looking nice each week.

Having spent more than my fair share doing yard maintenance, I look at some landscapes and cringe as I picture the time wasted to keep some parts of it looking attractive.  While the time a landscape consumes may not typically be considered a component of a sustainable landscape, I include it because there is no more important natural resource than your time and everyone hates to see it wasted.

The first way that I see time wasted  in a landscape is with poor access to tools, equipment and areas to be maintained.  Think about where you keep your lawnmower.  Do you have to dig out your lawnmower and maneuver it through an intricate obstacle course just to get it out of the garage or shed?  You know you will end up putting it back in the same spot when you are done, so whatever time it takes you to get it out doubles when you put it back in the same place.

Then you have to get the mower to the lawn.  If you have to go up hills and in between bushes, trees and fence posts to make it to your lawn, you are wasting even more time. 

That is only the lawnmowing.  Think about all the time wasted scaling rock walls to maintain a small spot on the top of the wall, or trying to carry an armful of weeds or trimmings to the garbage can.

When maintaining your yard is difficult because every task is so complicated and time-wasting, subconsciously everything about your yard becomes a chore.  You will be less likely to spend the time needed to keep it looking nice and you won’t spend time in your outdoor living spaces and enjoying your flower beds because nobody wants to spend time in a work zone. 

The solution to this problem is more common sense than design aesthetics.  Keep your equipment and tools where you can easily get to them.  Create paths and access ways to make reaching your maintenance areas quick and easy.  Last, change the plantings or landscape in really hard to reach areas to things that don’t require much effort to maintain.

Once again, what is your time worth?  Think about the time spent maintaining your landscape and if your landscape is not worth the time you spend in it, redesign and rennovate!  Make your landscape worth the time you spend maintaining it.  You owe it to yourself.