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Allan designs and plants flowering gardens in Montreal, Zone 5 [USDA Zone 4] .

See website, design work and favorite flowering plants at  gardengurumontreal.ca

Consultation and coaching for do-it-yourselfers is provided. Occasional emailed questions are welcome and answered free of charge. Oui, je parle francais.

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Entries in Landscaping (25)

Thursday
Dec102009

How To Paint a Masterpiece in The Garden, Part Three.

A mixed border at Lakemount Garden in County Cork, Ireland.This chapter deal with the cost of perennial flower gardening and concludes a three-part series on how to create a garden that is not a hodge podge.

Budget:  Most of the great gardens that inspire us were created for landowners with budgets exceeding the annual earnings of many private gardeners. For those of us who need to exercise fiscal restraint, here is a list of some money-saving tips.

A. Create a long term planting plan. Make a scale diagram on graph paper indicating the location for each plant. Shop for plants with a list generated from the master plan and stick to it.

The garden should be realized at whatever speed the budget allows. Some readers will create theirs in a flash; most will need several years to accomplish that goal. That’s OK! Beautiful things are worth the wait; the journey will be as pleasurable as the destination.

B. Make friends with gardeners who lift and divide their perennials regularly and then offer them to others. Take only those plants that fit into the master plan. Don’t take plants that won’t work just because they are free. 

C. Purchase the smallest size perennials available. Use them to propagate more plants over time. Many big box garden centers sell vigorous growing perennials in tiny 2-inch pots, at low prices. If these plants are part of the master plan, the big box store is a good place to start because vigorous plants can grow exponentially in the first season. Most other small plants need only three years to reach maturity and to deliver impressive results.

The sizes of potted plants vary from one retailer to another and from one species of plant to another. Get to know the inventory of local nurseries. Some are more likely than others to stock the needed size. Avoid higher priced mature products until the garden is complete and no additional budget for gardening is required.

D. When three or more perennials of one kind are required, consider buying a single mature perennial in a larger pot. Some plants in large containers propagate themselves while still in their pots. It might be possible to make three small plants out of one. Do the math to determine if one large split-able plant will cost less than three smaller ones. If in doubt, consult the sales staff to confirm that the plant can sustain division.

E. Find out when local nurseries reduce the price of their inventory and reserve some cash flow for that time. The discounts are usually around 20% at nurseries, sometime higher at big box stores. In some areas, discounts become greater as the weather gets colder.

F. At regular retail prices, locally purchased plants are better value than those available on-line or by mail order. The exception to this rule applies to growers that offer plants on-line, at wholesale prices. However, most growers specialize in one or a few species only and all of them insist on a minimum dollar value per order. Do the math to determine if the savings are real.

G. Consider joining a local garden club that schedules plant exchanges between members.

H. Rural fields and undeveloped urban land are good sources of free rocks and stones that add architectural detail to a garden. A few strategically placed boulders will fill up negative space while adding a “wow” factor to a modest garden. Large rocks make the scrawniest plants look good and give the garden a “professional” look.

I. Good quality commercial fertilizer is expensive and, in the long term, not as effective as compost. At retail, compost is also costly. The Public Works Department of municipalities that collect kitchen scraps often distributes free compost to homeowners.

J. Be on the lookout for local renovations and demolitions. Landscapers and builders find it more cost effective to remove plants, rocks, patio stones and other debris with a back-hoe that empties into a dumpster. Try to negotiate with the homeowner or site manager for permission to take these items as they are being uprooted.

Creating a garden that is a masterpiece will always be a work in progress. Plan ahead, be patient, persevere, take pride and expect to rearrange a few plants when a composition doesn’t work out.

Click here to read Part Two

Click here to read Part One

Friday
Dec042009

How to Paint a Masterpiece in The Garden, Part Two.

Photo courtesy of Judy Glattstein, BelleWood Gardens. Click on the image to visit her site.Ten aspects of garden planning are introduced in this, the second of three chapters on designing a garden that is not a hodge podge. With a background established and a color scheme chosen, the gardener now needs to decide where plants will be placed in order to create a beautiful garden.

Rhythm: Plant several of the same perennials through out the garden. This will create a pattern that leads the eye through the flower beds and at the same time pulls the composition together. When planting multiples of any one perennial or any one color, it is best to work in odd numbers. Use three or five of the same plant or color and avoid planting even numbers of anything. The above photo of Longwood Gardens in Philadelphia demonstrates how the pink flowers tie the composition together by rhythmic repetition.


Height: Tall perennials work best in the back of the border, short plants show best in the front and medium height plants do well in the middle.  Do not deviate from this plan until the garden is complete. On the other hand, if one is designing an island garden, plant tall flowers in the center, short flowers at the perimeter and medium height plants in-between.

Bulbs: Plant bulbs in groups of 5 or more of the same kind. If assorted bulbs are preferred, plant them in drifts of 7, 9 or 13.

Borders: Some garden beds are enormously enhanced when they are trimmed at the edges with short perennials planted in rhythmic repetition. The more disciplined the edging perennials, the more elegant and controlled the garden will appear.


Flowering Period: The assortment of perennials planted in the garden should ensure flowers all season long. This is where the hard word begins. Researching bloom time is more difficult than digging planting holes.

Neatness: Whenever possible, opt for neat easy-care plants. Stake flowers that tend to flop over. Cut down spent blooms on a regular basis.

Variety: Don’t restrict the garden to flowers only. Select some plants for the texture of their foliage. Include new varieties of miniature ornamental shrubs and ornamental grasses. Consider easy-care and Hardy roses.

High Impact Plants: Nothing helps more to create a powerful garden display better than a tall, dramatic, high-impact plant. See posting of November 25, 2009 for more information.

Trick the Eye: Plant disciplined perennials and miniature shrubs up close to living spaces such as patios, pools, decks and windows. This gives structure to the immediate view of the garden. Place larger, floppier and otherwise less disciplined plants farther away. The placement of plants should be inversely proportionate to their scragliness. The messier they are, the farther away they should be planted.

Always Edit: Avoid plants that look cute up close but mediocre when planted. Don't get too attached to any plant. If it does nothing to enhance the garden, get rid of it. All plants need to be team players. The garden in its entirety has to be more beautiful than any one plant.

Click here to continue reading Part Three that deals with gardening on a budget. Yes, it can be done!

Click here to read Part One

Sunday
May032009

Budget Gardening; Protecting an Investment When Times Are Tough. Part 4- Flower Beds

This is Diana's Garden at Veseys.comA flower bed, no matter how beautiful to behold, doesn't have the same impact on a home’s value as do trees, foundation plants and hedges. Nevertheless, the visual impact of a striking flower bed on a prospective buyer is undeniable. It finishes off the landscaping just as a cherry finishes off an ice cream sundae. It makes the property more attractive even if it adds no perceived value to the home.

To effectively create a flower bed on a budget, it is necessary to begin with a master plan or vision, a blueprint of the flower bed design and a very disciplined shopping list of plants for that bed. To respect a tight budget, start with a small composition. Divide the area designated for flower beds into several sections. Do one section each season. By the time you get to the next section, some of the flowers you planted last year may have multiplied enough to be divided, thereby reducing the amount of new plants needed.

Make friends with people whose gardens are mature and who are eager to give you cuttings of what they grow. This is the least expensive way to build a flower garden. Just be sure that the plants you take actually fit into your master plan. No matter how tempting they are, avoid gift plants that do not respect the master plan.

Some online suppliers will reduce the prices of their plants soon after they ship out the spring orders. Retailers will wait until the early fall to put their inventory on sale. There are excellent prices to be had at these times. The patient gardener who is determined not to pay full price for plants can save from 20 to 50 percent by waiting for prices to be discounted.

Respect the esthetics of the community you live in by ensuring that the color of the flowers you plant blend well with the exterior of the home and enhance rather than depreciate it. Do not use tacky or recycled objects as planters or lawn ornaments no matter how cute they look or how clever they make you feel for using them. These are guaranteed to reduce the perceived value of the home.

Beware of beds that contain only flowers. They can become messy with time and diminish, rather than improve, a property’s value. Always begin a flower bed design by planting small evergreen shrubs and by adding boulders. Plant the flowers later on when funds permit. The combination of textures of evergreen foliage, boulders and flowers will create a professional-looking flower bed. This composition also offers visual contrast during the growing season and architectural interest during the winter. These are essential matters because one can never predict the season when a house will be put on the market for sale.

 

Friday
May012009

Budget Gardening: Protecting an Investment When Times Are Tough. Part 2 - Foundation Plantings

Photo courtesy of Davis Design, Marion, Ma.Flowering and evergreen shrubs that hide unsightly foundations also soften the hard geometry of the contours of a house and blend that building into the land. If, in the future, you choose to add a flower bed, the foundation plantings will supply a lush background that will enhance the appearance of the flowers. When selecting shrubs, don’t be tempted to buy one that you would otherwise consider inappropriate just because it’s on sale. You will never be truly pleased  Select shrubs whose heights will complement rather than overwhelm the building. Make sure that the colors of the foliage and flowers enhance, rather than clash with the exterior of the home. Deciduous shrubs i.e. shrubs that lose their leaves in autumn, are usually less expensive than evergreen shrubs and definitely less expensive than Rhododendrons and Azaleas. Tomorrow’s blog will discuss hedges as fencing.

 

Thursday
Apr302009

Budgt Gardening: ,Protecting an Investment When Times Are Tough. Part 1-Trees

 Thanks to flicker.com for this imageA well landscaped terrain adds to the perceived value of a property and may improve a home’s resale value by 5 to 15 percent. If your home is unlandscaped or perfunctorily trimmed with a few specimen shrubs, consider a modest landscaping project to elevate its curb appeal and, hopefully, to increase its perceived value. This can be done with any size budget. It just takes a bit longer when money is tight.

Planting one or several trees on a property is the equivalent of buying a picture frame for an oil painting. It showcases what it frames. A tree is the only other large object on the property and its size helps to anchor the house to the land as well as to add balance to the overall appearance of the property.

Research the eventual spread of a tree before making a purchase. At maturity, it should never block any part of the house. Its branches must avoid touching buildings and overhead wires; its roots must not endanger the foundation, septic tank, and sewer pipes. The shadow it casts should not interfere with the master plan for landscaping.

If your home is in a neighborhood that has many mature trees, evaluate those that have already grown on neighbors’ properties. Do they add sufficient character to the neighborhood and to your property simply by being close by? If they do, don’t waste precious money planting trees. Allow the surrounding mature trees to grace your property. Tomorrow’s blog will discuss foundation plantings.

 

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