Tuesday, November 24, 2009

How does your garden Grow??

This week I'll do another dramatic transformation of one of my projects. This one is still a work in progress...we've been slowly chipping away at this garden since 2007. I met Kelly who was a referral from another past client of mine. She had bought a house and in the back was this mess (these photos aren't even remotely close to how bad it was.) of plants, weeds, and invasives. She was a novice gardener and was completely overwhelmed with the disaster behind her house. I'll admit now...I was overwhelmed too with the mess.

As we pulled and cleaned and pulled some more, an abandoned formal english herb garden started to appear. The photos here of the before were taken when this was discovered. There were some great plants hidden in the mess of bittersweet, stinging nettles, and overrun crap. Later I learned, the previous owner had worked at Blithewold, the arboretum in Bristol, RI. But, she had developed a phobia of going outside and the garden suffered because of that. So, we took an inventory of what was there and Kelly had me draft up a plan using the things she had and some new things she liked.

The entire garden had been surrounded by a wall of yews and the east side of them were removed to reveal the water view behind them. From a cultural standpoint, this was a good thing so we could open up the garden for air circulation and light. 2008 to this fall, we moved plants, shifted things to temporary places, and kept pulling out things we didn't want. Kelly was great through this whole project and I have to say the level of trust she put in me was huge. But, she has become a wonderful and talented gardener through all of this. I have been with her the whole way digging with her and teaching her what to do and how to take care of her new emerging landscape.

These photos below were taken on a whim with my phone in the middle of October. I do really need to take some real photos for the website because I think this garden is destined for some greatness. Her pink Knockout Roses and Geranium 'Rozanne' have been blooming like crazy all summer long and are still rocking and rolling as of last week when I stopped by for the last time this year. She couldn't be more happy with her garden and she tells me all the time how much joy they bring her. Once again, that's the real reason I do this job.

We've got about 85% percent of the moved plants moved and parts of the garden are completely planted. I think we just have to fill some holes with things we couldn't find or holes that housed something that had been moved this year. Next year, we're going to work on the shade side where the last wall of yews are now. It's close to being done and I think we can do it next year.

This corner below....is both of our favorite spot in the garden. The camera cannot capture how cool this little nook is.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

What's the big deal about invasives anyway?

Invasive plant material has become really pretty contraversial over the past couple of years. Most of the plants that are deemed invasives are plants that have become mainstays in the landscape - Norway Maple, Burning Bushes, Japanese honeysuckle, Japanese Barberry, Purple Loosestrife and so on. What makes these plants so durable in the landscape - nothing will eat them, they grow fast, and they are extremely adaptable. Well, those qualities carry over into natural areas too...nothing will eat them, so they grow with no checks and balances. They grow fast....they are the first to leaf out and the last to drop their leaves and native plants can't compete for space, light, nutrients, and water. They are extremely adaptable...they grow anywhere, under any conditions. You can sort of see where there's a problem starting to form. The icing on the cake that really isn't a landscape attribute is these plants produce a lot of seeds and these seed are capable of widespread dispersal. That is bad, really bad. Why this bad is that these plants are out competing our native plants which provide food for our native wildlife. No food means no wildlife and you can see the domino effect that has. Not to mention, if the naturalized areas begin to fill up with plants that deer can't eat, they are going to start looking for things they can...in your front yard.

When people tell me they like the main offenders of being invasive and they would like to see Burning Bush or whatever in their landscape. They are gobsmacked when I tell them they are invasive and I would rather not plant them. Usually, they will say- "well, I've grown it for years and I never had a problem with it taking over my yard." Well, they are thinking of plants I like to call "garden thugs". Garden thugs are plant bullies and will try to overrun their immediate neighbors in their beds. True invasives cause issues mostly in areas we don't tend to.

Over this fall, I have found myself in the woods a bit with Eric and his friend Leo scoping out prime places for deer hunting or with Lars. My Lars missions are usually geocaching and they take us in some pretty secluded places. I have been taking pictures of where things are growing where they shouldn't be.

Japanese Honeysuckle growing in a DEM area in Smithfield. Um yeah...a million dollars says that no one planted that there.

Here I am in Goddard Park in East Greenwich walking the trails and I found these different burning bushes along a short part of the path. Two of them were taller than I am...deer won't touch burning bush and that's why they are so tall out there.

Once again in Goddard, now it's barberry which is a plant that deer won't touch with a 10' pole. Barberry is a huge problem in Maine that they are doing tons of research on finding herbicides to wipe out the barberry in the woods. They are doing this because the deer populations are really suffering up there because of the lack of food source from the competition of barberry in the woods.

So, hopefully these photos will show gardeners who think Burning Bush doesn't really cause a problem just because they don't have them popping up all over their yards. It's not the yards that the problem lies, it's the places Mother Nature gardens instead.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Calling all of you Facebook junkies (like me)

I love facebook. No, I really love facebook. I fall for a good "time sucker" - hook, line, and sinker. People have stopped emailing me on my personal home email and now contact me on facebook because they know I check that place way more than I do my email. LOL

I also know that Facebook has about a gazillion people on it now. So, I know there are many others out there with this hopeless Facebook addiction like me. So, I thought I should take the leap and make a business page for The Garden Consultant. Through the wonders of technology, they have this handy, dandy little fan box widget you can add to various places like blogs. I thought that would be a great idea as well.

So, if you are so inclined and as much of a "crackbook" addict as me, please feel free to visit and become a fan of The Garden Consultant! As you can see on the right side of my blog, I have the fan box and you can find my page through that. I've always been one of those jump in feet first sort of folks and did it with Facebook and the page. Which direction it will go, I'm not sure. But I know it's going to be cool!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Root Flares in the wild

I think one of the things I talk about the most lately is the root flare on woody plant material and why it is important. There's a big problem of root flares being buried too deeply in the nursery pots or the field for B&B material. If the root flare is buried below the surface of the soil...the plant will either a) languish in plant purgatory or b) just die. The tissue beneath the bark moves the water and nutrients between the leaves and the roots. If that is buried too deeply, that tissue can rot and die and then the plant dies.

So, one of the questions I get is what does the root flare look like and where should I plant it. This oak tree in my neighborhood is the best example I have ever seen of what we should strive for in planting. The roots on that tree break just under the soil and you can clearly see the flaring of the trunk. That is what we should do when transplanting a woody plant.