Q: Our property needs quite a bit of landscaping but we can’t afford to do it all at once. Can you price out a job and then we finish it in small bits?

A: Sure! What we’ve always strived for with this type of request is carrying out the plan and the work in such a way so as to eliminate doing any of the same work twice. For example, if there is only one means of accessing the rear yard area, we would try to accomplish all the work back there first, so we would not have to keep repairing lawns, moving trees and shrubs out of the way and then replanting them, topdressing lawns and filling ruts, and so on. Using a master plan, we would divide the entire landscape into smaller jobs, while guaranteeing pricing for the remaining work up to 2 years forward.

Q: We would like to have a flagstone patio installed surrounded by plantings, but that part of the yard tends to flood and hold water in that area sometimes even leaking into our basement. We don’t want the terrace to flood, or our plantings to drown. How would you take care of this problem?

A: This is a great time to deal with drainage issues. We will be grading and leveling the whole area, and can address any drainage problems at this time. There may be accumulated water pouring in from a neighboring property, or from the street, or your roof water may need to be piped away from the house. Whatever you need, we have designed and installed everything from simple diversion ditches to complete foundation digs, where we have reparged, sealed, wrapped the foundation with 50mil pond liner, and installed adequate piping to direct the water away from the permanently sealed foundation.

Q: We have always dreamed of an English cottage-style landscape, yet none of the designers we’ve contacted seem to understand this concept. Can you design this type of garden to fit with our home and yard?

A: Sure! I have often wondered why hundreds of spring gardening guides espouse the English cottage garden theme, yet practically no one in the landscape business embraces it wholeheartedly. We have planted a number of these romantic gardens over the years, and hope to design many more. The basic ingredients of an English garden are old-fashioned roses, lady’s mantle(alchemilla), catmint(nepeta), iris, bouquet phlox(phlox paniculata), and any of a number of venerable old garden favorites. To be embraced by the never-ending parade of bloom, foliage, fragrance, and soft (mostly) color in this style of garden is one of the more pleasant aspects of a spring or summer day.

Q: We have been talking about having landscape work done on our property for a year or so, but in looking at many of our neighbors’ landscapes, we see that many of them seem to be overgrown, or out of scale with their surroundings- what do we do about that, and how can we prevent that from happening?

A: You are asking a question from which many other questions arise, so this a great time to comment on the overgrown look, or the out of scale problems, which are closely related. There are some general rules-of-thumb which work well in establishing the placement of plants and the heightxwidth at which they mature. For instance, if you would like to swing the planting area on either front corner of your home generously outward in order to visually anchor the home to its surroundings with an appropriate grouping of plants: #1. estimate the height of your home above final grade #2. for a 2 story home, from final grade to the eave of the roof will be about 18 feet. #3 take 60% of that height (about 12 feet) #4. You will want to place a clump-form ornamental about 12 feet off the corner on a 30-45degree offset from the front plane of the house. Choose a plant type which either matures at 12 feet in height or less, or one which can be attractively maintained at 12 feet or less. Underplant this tree (a clump shad, or redbud, or Japanese dogwood, for instance) with an assortment of shrubs which mature at 60% of 12 feet, (about 7 feet in height) to “dress down” the clump tree and make it appear as though it is arising from the midst of an existing planting. Select plant types with informal growth characteristics such as arching, spreading, vase shaped, etc. Follow up with ground level plantings of mixed perennials, ferns and groundcovers.
As long as you or your designer either know your plants or are studying them intently, if you place a plant where it will mature and fill the space you’ve allotted it and no more, you will never have an overgrown landscape. It is a physical impossibility. On the other hand, if you plant “cute” little blue spruces 3’ from your house, below your window, they will overpower and crush out everything near them, in the end they will have to be removed. All that time lost, due to improper plant selection! (blue spruces mature at 25’w x 90’ h)

For more questions, answers, tips, and practical suggestions, please visit my blog.