Which mulch do I use in the landscape garden?

Mulching the landscape garden—Which mulch to use for a low maintenance landscape?

One of the purposes of this blog is to answer lots of FAQ (frequently asked questions) that I run into on a daily basis.  Today, I will deal with the FAQ, “Which mulch should I use in my landscape garden?”  The main answer is, “It depends.”  Read on…..

fresh pine straw mulch in a natural area

pine straw mulch in a natural area

Mulching in the landscape garden—either around the plants or in bare spaces—is quite beneficial for the plants, as it helps with water retention and erosion control as well as providing a neat, well kept look.  The use of the proper mulch in just the right places can also be an art form, providing a subtle “picture frame” for plantings and natural areas.

The old folks around my home base in North Georgia have always used some kind of mulch for their flowers and gardens.  Some of them have recommended a mixture of newspaper, egg shells, and coffee grounds.  I agree that these are excellent mulching materials but they sort of miss it on the aesthetic level.  I thought about it and took a little ride with my trusty camera.  I started at Willow Creek Nursery in Rome, Ga.  The owner, Russ Head, carries a large variety of mulching materials

Independent nurseries like this one usually offer more expertise and more diversified products.

Independent nurseries like this one usually offer more expertise and more diversified products.

I guess the most popular mulching material in our area is pine straw.  The nursery keeps a trailer or two of pine straw bales on the lot at all times.  I have found that there is large variation in the quality of pine straw with different dealers.  I like the pine straw at Willow Creek because the bales are bigger, tighter, and cleaner (less sticks, leaves, and briars) than the bales at the box stores.  The price for the better bales is about the same, but I found that I can get 60 bales of box store pine straw in my truck and I can only get 50 of the better bales in there.  This means I get much more for my money.  So, if you’re looking for lots of straw, you may wish to shop around and include quality as well as price in your selection.

Over 1000 bales of nice pine straw from the wilds of south Georgia

Over 1000 bales of nice pine straw from the wilds of south Georgia

Hardwood mulch seems to be getting to be a big business these days.  Independent nurseries such as Willow Creek are starting to stock bulk hardwood mulches as well as different kinds of gravel for ground covers.  This nursery sells the wood mulch by the cubic yard and will load your truck or deliver for an additional fee.  This particular product runs about $25.00 per cubic yard and one yard will cover about 160 to 175 square feet.  And, I agree, I don’t like the red mulch, either, but lots of people do. But, then, the mulch comes in brown, black, and natural.

For large areas, you may purchase hardwood mulch by the truck load, picked up or delivered

For large areas, you may purchase hardwood mulch by the truck load, picked up or delivered

There are lots of different types of wood products for mulching packaged in plastic bags.  These products include pine bark nuggets, cypress mulch, ground hardwood mulch, and more. According to material and manufacturer, these bags will range in price from $2.50 up for two cubic feet which will cover about 6 sq. feet of bed area.  I prefer to use the bags on small to medium jobs because it is much easier to transport and spread.

The thing about wood mulch is that it turns to good dirt as it decomposes.

The thing about wood mulch is that it turns to good dirt as it decomposes.

Pea gravel is a popular item.  It may be bought in bags if you only need a little, but a visit to the nursery will save you lots and lots of money.  This gravel costs about $35.00 a cubic yard which is way cheaper than the bags.  If you just want a little bit, take a 5 gallon bucket to the nursery and fill it up.

If you need more than a few bags of pea gravel, buy it in bulk

If you need more than a few bags of pea gravel, buy it in bulk

Pea gravel doesn’t rot and go away like the organic mulches, but the most important thing about using pea gravel as a ground cover is that it needs to be contained.  Otherwise, it will get spread out all over the yard.  Below are pictures of a couple of applications of pea gravel.  Note the containment.

Pea gravel mulch in a pool area.  This ground cover was chosen here to provide ease in cleaning up behind a small dog.  It is more expensive to install, but never rots.  Note the containment

Pea gravel mulch in a pool area. This ground cover was chosen here to provide ease in cleaning up behind a small dog. It is more expensive to install, but never rots. Note the containment

Installation of a pea gravel walkway.  Note the containment border of cemented bricks.

Installation of a pea gravel walkway. Note the containment border of cemented bricks.

A good idea for covering natural areas is to plant a ground cover in your mulched areas so that you will eventually be free of having to add fresh mulch all the time.  One of my favorite ground covers for shady areas is vinca minor, or periwinkle.  (vinca minor has small leaves and is quite “tame”—DO NOT let anyone talk you into the larger leafed ‘vinca major’ as it will take over and become a pest.).  Here is a natural area that effectively uses vinca minor:

just the right groundcover like this vinca minor will soon diminish the need for expensive mulch.

just the right groundcover like this vinca minor will soon diminish the need for expensive mulch.

Here is a close up of the vinca minor.  These plants may be bought in a nursery or you may be fortunate enough to have a friend who will give you divisions.

Perennial periwinkle, or vinca minor as a ground cover in natural areas. It has pretty blue or white flowers in the spring.

perennial periwinkle, or vinca minor as a ground cover in natural areas. It has pretty blue or white flowers in the spring.

Lenten Rose (helleboris orientalis)  is also one of my favorite mulch savers.  One of the developing landscape gardens that I am working on features a hillside with flowering cherry trees, pine straw mulch, and a planting of Lenten roses. After two or three years, numerous seedlings from the lenten rose pop up, and if left to grow this bank will be covered in lovely winter blooming flowers in two or three more years.  At that point, there will be no more need for mulching.  It’s a good investment.

This bed under flowering cherry trees has lots of lenten rose seedlings which will shortly cover the entire bank and negate the need for pine straw.

This bed under flowering cherry trees has lots of lenten rose seedlings which will shortly cover the entire bank and negate the need for pine straw.

Wood chips may be used as a ground cover for many different applications.  A garden flagstone pathway bordered with wood chips is pleasing to look at or to walk on.  The flagstone and chips make for a good juxtaposition of textures.

Wood chip mulch gives definition and erosion control around stepping stones.

Wood chip mulch gives definition and erosion control around stepping stones.

Flagstone stepping stones also work well with pea gravel if installed properly

flagstone stepping stones with pea gravel

flagstone stepping stones with pea gravel

And, finally, since I took some of my pictures in Dot Fletcher’s lovely yard, I thought I might show you one of her window planters that she is rather proud of.  Can you see the little tube that takes the water to the planter from the drip irrigation system?  I can. It sure does make watering much easier.

Mrs. Fletcher's window planter

Mrs. Fletcher’s window planter

One last thing to think about.  If you have a tree surgeon friend who keeps really sharp blades on his chipper, you can get a deal on some really good wood chips.  These serve as a good mulch and as they decompose, the earthworms churn them into the dirt better than a tiller.

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As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

Try “see inside the book” Harce’s picture is on the cover

 

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Coffee with Bubba–How to catch a horse

COFFEE WITH BUBBA:  “HOW TO CATCH A HORSE”

 Morning conversations with my redneck friend Bubba give me a lot of things to think about.  I like to share these stories and observations on occasion. Here is “How to catch a horse.”

horse and baby

Every time the boys got close, the horses moved just out of reach

Bubba comes to my “office” for coffee about three mornings a week. He usually shows up at 7:45.  I had told him that 6 until 8:30 in the morning is my quiet time that I use for writing and ciphering and such as that, but he just keeps on coming.  One day, I decided to write down some of the things he was telling me in order to make up for the interruption.  Bubba doesn’t seem to mind if I am typing while he talks.

Bubba takes a break to ponder a bit of philosophy.

Bubba takes a break to ponder a bit of philosophy.

Yesterday, Bubba walked in with a grin on his face and went straight to the coffee pot.  He poured himself a cup and sat down on the couch. He took a sip and looked at me with a smug sort of half smile.  That was how I always knew a new “redneck story” was coming.

“Hey, John.  You know Miss Peggy don’t you—down the other side of Leroy’s house?”

I told him that I had met her and she seemed to be nice.

“Waal,” he said, “you know them city folks that done bought that farm up on the other side of Miss Peggy’s? Their name is Marcino or something like that.  They’re yankees. Come from Ohio. Bought that farm sometime last summer.”

I told him that I had heard about them but had never really talked with them.

“Waal”, he said, “I went over to Miss Peggy’s the other night to look at why her riding lawnmower won’t run and when I got it fixed, she asted me to set on the porch and have a glass of sweet tea.  Man, this here is some really good coffee, John. Helen’s coffee ain’t near this good.”

“Anyway, we was settin there on the porch and we seen this here really pretty horse coming down the road and it had this baby colt following it.  They had done got loose from the yankee’s farm.  They was coming down the road with a sort of lost look.  You know how a lost horse looks?  Kinda like he don’t know where to go but he’s got to go somewheres?”

I nodded and stopped for a sip of coffee.  I had seen a horse in that situation, running a bit, stopping to look around, moving timidly in unfamiliar territory.  Actually, I’d been in that situation myself, now and then.

Bubba continued, “Waal, that horse done decided to go over to Mr. Johnson’s house acrost from Miss Peggy’s and he stopped to eat him some grass cause it was tall cause Mr. Johnson don’t never cut his grass.  And then we seen them two Marcino teenage boys coming running up the road with a rope.  They was after them horses.

“Next, them two boys started running up to the mama horse but when they got there the horse had moved to the other side of the yard and that baby followed.  The boys run after them again and the horses moved jest out of reach.  Every time they went after the momma horse, the horse moved. Every time the horse moved, the baby moved.  We could see them boys warn’t never going to ketch them horses.”

Bubba got up, poured himself another cup of coffee, and sat back down.

“Waal, we could tell them boys warn’t never going to ketch that thar horse and then Miss Peggy hollered out, ‘Hey, you boys come on over here and set on the porch a while.’ And them boys told Miss Peggy they had to ketch the horses or their mother would skin them alive.

“Waal, Miss Peggy, she told them boys to get their butts over to the front porch and get them some sweet tea and she’d larn them how to ketch a horse so they come on over to the porch and she got them some ice tea.  Them boys loved that tea ‘cause they was sweating and tarred from chasing that horse.  That’s when Miss Peggy went to work.

“Miss Peggy walks kind of slow and she went to the shed and got her a metal bucket and then she went to the other side of the shed and put some shelled corn in the bucket—about half full, dontcha know.

“Then she told them boys to be quite and they said they would and Miss Peggy walked slow like she does all the way across the street and set down on a stump in Mr. Johnson’s yard.  She just set there.  The horses watched her out the side of their heads.

“Then Miss Peggy, she started this here low whistle and that horse raised its head and looked straight at her.  Miss Peggy acted like she was eating that corn and going ‘mmmm  mmmm’ kinda low and that momma horse kinda walked slowly over to her and sniffed the bucket.  Then, next that there horse waited for Miss Peggy to move and she didn’t even blink an eye—jest sat there going ‘mmm  mmm mmm’  kinda low.  Then she petted the horse on its nose and scratched between its ears.

how to catch a horse

get some feed and hum a slow tune soft and low. She’ll come

“Then, that there horse, she started eating that corn and next, the she stepped back and let the baby horse eat some. After a bit, Miss Peggy just kind of stood up and walked over to her house and that there horse follered her right up to the porch steps. The pretty baby colt came on right behind.  She taken the halter and the rope from them Marcino boys and she put it on the horse.

“You shoulda seen the looks on them boys’ faces.

“Miss Peggy handed the least one of them boys the rope and then she pointed her finger and said, ‘I hope this will teach you to close the gate.’” Them boys said they would be more careful.

“Then Miss Peggy said, ‘Now, I want you boys to know that you ain’t never going to ketch a horse by chasin’ it.  A horse is a curious creature and you got to make it want to come.

“’I know you boys cain’t think like a girl, but if you could, you would know that you kin catch anything you want anytime you want—All you got to do is hum a tune low and easy, and use the proper bait.’”

It was time for Bubba to open his shop so he rinsed out his cup and headed for the door.

“You be careful, now, John.  See you around.”

More “Coffee with Bubba stories:

Bubba the squirrel trainer

Bubba’s Christmas Letter

This is a work of fiction.  Copyright 2010 by John P. Schulz

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

Try “see inside the book” Harce’s picture is on the cover

 

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Pondering landscape design in the urban southeast

Thoughts on landscape design in the urban southeast.

I guess little kids can remember different sorts of things. I can remember a couple of the houses that I lived in during the early 1950s in a small town in the piedmont area of North Carolina.  These houses didn’t have closed foundations, but were built on top of concrete block columns.  I guess I remember this because it made it easy to go play under the house on hot summer days.  I have a vision of myself sitting under the house, quietly playing with my toy soldiers that I had ordered from the back page of a comic book.

This is where I am going--read on

This is where I am going–read on

Knowing what I do now, I assume that these houses built on blocks were either pre-war homes or some that were thrown up quickly to take care of the needs of home-coming soldiers or those moving to town from the country.  Urban living was changing fast in those days.  I can also remember my father taking me to visit in a new neighborhood where the outside walls of the house went all the way to the ground. I guess I remember because  I felt sorry for those poor people—where would they play on a hot summer day?

And here’s how this relates to landscaping.  Most southern houses built during the first half of the twentieth century were perched up on a set of block or rock columns.  This left an ugly space at the bottom of the outside walls and people started planting shrubbery in front of the space to cover it.  And this is where the term “foundation planting” came from.

To this day, even though the outside walls now go all the way to the ground and there is no ugly space, we refer to our landscape gardens as “foundation planting.”  When I first started working in the landscaping business during a housing boom30 years ago, contractors would call and say, “Hey, John, I need a ‘close the loan special’.  That’s exactly what they wanted.  I found that a “close the loan special” meant to smooth down the front yard, plant 5 plants on one side of the front door, 7 plants on the other side of the front door, throw out grass seed and cover it with wheat straw.  I was very happy when my business got to the point where I didn’t have to do this any more.

A shaded area between the road and the home promises something special and adds depth to a small front yard.

A shaded area between the road and the home promises something special and adds depth to a small front yard.

Now, we have come to realize that since we don’t actually need foundation planting in the original sense of the phrase, we can extend our landscape plantings and gardens out into the yard and strive to create an effect that the house grew in the middle of a garden.  It is all relative to the view.  One of the rules of residential landscaping is to guide the visitor to the front door.  What better way is there to accomplish this than to build a garden around the entrance walkway?

Bold design creates an inviting and interesting entrance

Bold design creates an inviting and interesting entrance

An entrance through a garden is designed to be peaceful, to make the visitor comfortable, and to give a promise of being welcome.

Enter through the garden path

Enter through the garden path

It is also interesting to build a well designed and colorful garden in a spot which would ordinarily be relegated to grass.  The de Wits of Kingsport, Tennessee have spent several years tending and manicuring this front garden which contains dianthus, a perfectly shaped eastern red bud, and trailing roses among other delights.

An interesting front yard with no grass to mow.

An interesting front yard with no grass to mow.

The concept in this article swings around the dimensional viewing of a landscape garden.  A garden is an art form that may be viewed from the inside out as well as from the outside in.  I once thought there was a fourth dimension in landscape gardens.  I thought that dimension was time.  But, now, I wonder if there are not more sub dimensions within the fourth dimension.  As John Denver said, “It keeps changing fast, and it don’t last too long.”

 Got Questions?  Enter a comment.  I always try to answer.

I try to put up a new article every Sunday. Stay in touch.  Share it with your friends.

If you live in or around the northwest Georgia area and would like to have a consultation with johntheplantman, you may contact John Schulz by email at

wherdepony@bellsouth.net .  Do not send pictures or attachments as they will be deleted.

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

or print:

http://www.amazon.com/Requiem-Redneck-John-P-Schulz/dp/0981825206/

Try “see inside the book”

Here's where you'll find Johntheplantman at his best

Here’s where you’ll find Johntheplantman at his best

Summertime care for Knockout roses

Knockout Roses and summertime maintenance.

Over the last few years nothing has affected the color of our landscape like the Knockout rose.  Originally this rose was praised as “maintenance free” (and it is, to a point) but we have learned that there are certain tricks to getting the most out of the plant.  Read on—

Beautiful flowers on a Knockout rose, but the spring flush is starting to fade.

Beautiful flowers on a Knockout rose, but the spring flush is starting to fade.

After over 30 years as a landscaper and plant grower, I have learned that there is no such thing as “no maintenance”, only “low maintenance.” The Knockout rose is definitely in the low maintenance category.  After the first beautiful flush of bloom, the plant begins to fade.  This is because the first blooms have been pollinated and the plant is busy with its inherited job of making seeds.  This shows up as dead blooms and an overall dropping of the early spring petals.

The seed pods develop and the petals fall.

The seed pods develop and the petals fall.

Here’s what is going on.  The flowers have been pollinated and are in the process of making seed pods.  There is a chemical produced in the plant that slows down the next blooms so that the seed pods can mature.  In order to fool the plant that it needs to make more flowers, the seed pods must be removed.  This is called “deadheading.” All serious flower growers know about deadheading and I talked to Judy about her Knockout roses the other day about it.  Judy said that cutting off each spent bloom took a lot of time and trouble.  It started me thinking about the best way to accomplish the job.

My feeling on the deadheading job on the roses (and the way I do it on the job) is to combine the job of deadheading and cosmetic pruning into one operation.  I start by looking down into the plant to isolate the stems which have mostly spent blooms.

Look inside the plant to isolate the stems with spent blooms

Look inside the plant to isolate the stems with spent blooms

In performing my task, I am trying to promote new growth and more flowers.  I want to be careful to leave any new growth which looks like this:

Careful pruning and deadheading will produce new growth like this--with lots of flowers.

Careful pruning and deadheading will produce new growth like this–with lots of flowers.

If I reach inside the plant and cut the stem (directly above a new leaf node) I can not only get the plant deadheaded in less time but also cause the stem to branch out and make even more flowers than before.  You may read about some of the principles of pruning in this article onhow to prune a jade plant.”  The principle is the same. I carefully cut a stem in a manner that performs two tasks.  Here is what I cut.

deadheading and pruning the Knockout rose at the same time.

deadheading and pruning the Knockout rose at the same time.

After this cutting, the old stem will branch out and form new growth which will develop more flowers and will, again, look like this:

New growth on the Knockout rose

New growth on the Knockout rose

The process is really rather simple and you probably won’t mess up.  You can cut the stem short and get more branching at the top of the plant or you may wish to take out a larger cutting which will let more light inside the plant and increase the later flowering even more. You may wish to try deadheading on all of your flowers, especially marigolds and petunias. It does make a difference in the number of flowers you will get.

An application of a high phosphorous plant food or fertilizer will also help the plant to flourish and produce even more flowers.  Maybe use something with an analysis of 15-30-15 or a similar ratio.  Liquid feeds are fine and it doesn’t hurt to pour it all over the leaves as well as around the roots.  The upside for liquid is that it works faster.  The downside is that it doesn’t last as long.

Time release fertilizers such as Shake ‘n Feed or Osmocote will work well and last the entire season.  You need to scratch these into the soil or pour them into a small trench around the plant for full effect.

Time release fertilizers break down slowly and feed for the entire season

Time release fertilizers break down slowly and feed for the entire season

You may wish to read my article on fertilizer here.

Another article on pruning Knockout roses

And an article on pruning crape myrtles is here.

Every now and then you may get fungus on the roses, and sometimes aphids will set in.  I suggest a combination fungicide/insecticide which you can purchase at any good nursery.

Got Questions?  Enter a comment.  I always try to answer.

I try to put up a new article every Sunday. Stay in touch.  Share it with your friends.

If you live in or around the northwest Georgia area and would like to have a consultation on your property with johntheplantman, you may contact John Schulz by email at

wherdepony@bellsouth.net .  Do not send pictures or attachments as they will be deleted.

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

Or the traditional print edition:

http://www.amazon.com/Requiem-Redneck-John-P-Schulz/dp/0981825206/

Try “see inside the book”

 

Boys and Girls Club vegetable garden update

Garden update–Boys and Girls Club vegetable garden
Mother’s Day–It was time to check on the garden at the Maple Street Boys and Girls Club here in lovely Rome, Georgia.  The garden is a project of the Three Rivers Garden Club and is sponsored by the Rome Federated Garden guild. I have been involved in the the project from the design stage a year ago. So far, this garden has produced food for hundreds of people and has served as a learning experience for children and adults alike.
New gazebo and entrance arbors

New gazebo and entrance arbors

The garden design from last year called for a gazebo and for entrance arches. They are almost finished.  The kids are going to love this gazebo.  They already love the garden.

start with a picture of a gazebo

start with a picture of a gazebo

Mr. Barry Webb , who is the construction instructor at Georgia Northwestern Technical College was able to take a picture (above) and turn it into a reality.    The crew had started around the first of April and have almost finished the job.

The sign on the pick up truck was a welcome sight

The sign on the pick up truck was a welcome sight

The sign on the truck door announced the arrival of the building crew.

laying it out just right

laying it out just right

laying it out just right

The floor for the gazebo

William James and I took a walk around the garden.  He is kind of new to gardening and wanted to know exactly what needs to be done next.  I wanted to know all about what has happened with the kids, the staff, and the produce.

Mr. James was really proud of the strawberries.  There is a bumper crop coming on and a few days ago the boys and girls were able to have an afternoon snack with strawberries from the garden and some bananas that had been donated from a local organization.

Beautiful strawberries just starting to come in.

Beautiful strawberries just starting to come in.

These beautiful strawberry plants are loaded with little almost ready berries.  Love that compost!

These beautiful strawberry plants are loaded with little almost ready berries. Love that compost!

I liked this, also–earlier this spring, we got the kids in the garden and cleaned out the beds.  To make room for lettuce and spinach, the kids harvested over a hundred pounds of turnips and turnip greens which were donated to the local community kitchen.  Is that cool or what?  One organization growing produce for another.  At any rate, the produce goes where it is needed.

The lettuce likes the raised beds, also.

The lettuce likes the raised beds, also.

Mr. James told me that the children had had a number of afternoon salads from the garden with their own lettuce, onions, radishes, and spinach leaves.  He told me that the staff started sending “salad makings” home with the parents.

Now we are getting ready to plant tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, and lots of other veggies for the summer season.  Below is a picture of the almost finished gazebo with William James and Diane Harbin.  Mrs. Harbin is a member of Three Rivers Garden Club and has directed the garden project.  She knows how to get the job done.

Mrs. Harbin and Mr. James are proud of the progress on the gazebo

Mrs. Harbin and Mr. James are proud of the progress on the gazebo

Every time I visit the garden, watch, and interact with the children, I come away with a happy feeling.  It is an amazing project.  It helps people to laugh, work, learn, eat, and above all share.

This garden provided food for over 200 members of the Boys and Girls Club last summer and fall.  It provided learning for children and adults alike.  It is an amazing project.  I am proud to be a part in it.

Mrs. Harbin and Mr. James are proud of the progress on the gazebo

A strawberry plant blooms in the sun.

To visit the original article on the garden, click on the link below:

Raised beds for a vegetable garden

A beautiful backyard garden path

A walk through a garden pathway

I showed up to “tweak” the garden in preparation for a party.  I hadn’t been there for a while and when I walked up to the trellised gateway, I just stopped and said “wow.”

For a number of years I have helped Susan in developing the garden picture that she keeps in her head.  The garden is reaching maturity and Susan’s overall concept is beginning to really show up.  The gate is open and inviting.  How could you not walk through it?

An invitation to enter the garden

An invitation to enter the garden

Susan is anxiously waiting for the day when the magnolias, hemlocks, and white pines completely hide the black fence in the back and the houses to the sides.  The screen is almost there.  If you look really hard, you can get a glimpse of a neighboring house, but not much of one.

Seclusion created over a number of years

Seclusion created over a number of years

There are three pathway entrances to the garden.  The one pictured below leads from a grassy area past a koi pond and waterfall up into the garden itself.  The pathway is made with the use of random pieces of flagstone and a few custom poured stepping stones. A mulch of natural wood chips adds the perfect complement of texture and color.

Come on in and enjoy the garden. It calls

Come on in and enjoy the garden. It calls

When we established the pathway a few years ago, we used mostly flagstones, but we added hand made stepping stones using whisky barrel rings for a mold.  Leaves from surrounding plants were incorporated into the design, and the stones were colored with an acid stain.  I still remember seeing Susan bending over to look at a stepping stone and then straightening up to look around at the nearby plants. Grinning.

Hand poured stepping stones for accent

Hand poured stepping stones for accent

The pathway meanders to a secluded flagstone sitting area.  I like the way the hostas guide the visitor around the curve.

A flagstone sitting area for meditation

A flagstone sitting area for meditation

Walking toward the rear of the garden from the sitting area is like heading out into “the woods.”  I found azaleas on the left of me and a very large bed of Lenten roses to the right.  A snowball viburnum was showing off its spring glory.

From the sitting area into the garden

From the sitting area into the garden

At a curve in the walk I found this cute little bunny that is probably not going to ever get around to eating that hosta.

Little accents are tucked in interesting places

Little accents are tucked in interesting places

An entrance from the other side of the yard gives a vista of freshly planted begonias, coleus, white azaleas fading into a row of red Encore azaleas, and a beautiful Japanese maple.  As the azaleas fade, a large collection of hydrangeas will bloom in their place.  That’s when the Encore azaleas will really show off, also.

Waiting for the hydrangeas to bloom

Waiting for the hydrangeas to bloom

A view from the patio shows a short retaining wall built with large rocks and plantings to the front with a background of white azaleas.

From detail to background.  Lots of thought has been put into the garden.

From detail to background. Lots of thought has been put into the garden.

A good eye and an attention to detail give us the plantings on and in the rock borders.  Here we have variegated Solomon seal, ferns, and fig vine.  I really liked the basket accent.

Solomon seal and ferns soften the rocks.

Solomon seal and ferns soften the rocks.

The garden entrance from the patio is framed by a Buddha and a dragon fly giving an instant feeling of inner peace. I thought about the juxtaposition of the freedom of the dragon fly in flight and the quiet meditation of the Buddha.

A pensive freedom

Standing over the koi pond and next to a Japanese maple is the statue “la Breeza.” With the wind at her back she welcomes the sun to the garden.

"La Breeza" welcomes the wind and the morning sun.

“La Breeza” welcomes the wind and the morning sun.

I hope you enjoyed the tour as much as I did.  I’ll be back when the hydrangeas are in bloom.

Johntheplantman.

If you live in or around the northwest Georgia area and would like to have a consultation with johntheplantman, you may contact John Schulz by email at wherdepony@bellsouth.net  Do not send pictures or attachments as they will be instantly deleted.

related articles:

flagstone walkway and garden entrance part one

 

Flagstone walkway and garden entrance part two

Lenten roses, planting grass 

These articles are brought to you by John P. Schulz, author of the novel, Requiem for a Redneck .  You can read more of the adventures of John the plant man by visiting the sites below:

ebook:http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00FOAJCGO

or the print version:

http://www.amazon.com/Requiem-Redneck-John-P-Schulz/dp/0981825206/

Try “see inside the book”

 

Visiting the Chieftans plant sale

The Chieftans Museum 26th annual plant sale.

I was honored this week to be asked to participate in the Chieftans plant sale.  I have attended the sale a number of times in the past, but it was quite an experience to participate from the “inside.”  I took my trusty little camera and was issued a nice yellow apron which would identify me as a volunteer.

johntheplantman is on the job

johntheplantman is on the job

The Chieftans Museum/Major Ridge Home is located in Beautiful Rome, Georgia and is “Dedicated to become a nationally recognized destination to experience 19th century Cherokee life and the events leading to the ‘clash of cultures’ that culminated in the Trail of Tears.”  I’ll tell you about the plant sale.  You may find more about the museum HERE.

The ladies who put this sale together comb the area to find herb plants, perennials, ferns, flowering plants, and many hard to find an unusual specimens.  They began the sale years ago in the yard of the museum, but it grew and grew until they had to move the sale to the cattle barn at the local fair grounds.  The ladies did an amazing job of putting this year’s collection together—there were thousands of plants, all labeled, priced, and identified with picture signs.

I got to the fairgrounds around 8 a.m. and found a lot of activity going on all around.  There were three sales tables being organized and stacks of “beer flats” at the entrance.  Visitors started showing up and the place soon filled up with browsers and plant buyers by the hundreds.

Thousands of plants were set up in categories with tags and pictures

Thousands of plants were set up in categories with tags and pictures

A holding area was set up in some of the stalls at the rear of the cattle barn and one of my jobs was to find people with full boxes of plants if I could “take this to holding, and, by the way, here’s another box.”  The holding area soon began to look like a garden in and of itself.

The holding area became a garden

The holding area became a garden

Marion is a dynamo.  I couldn’t believe her energy and her horticultural knowledge as she took on the role of resident expert.  It seemed that if no one else knew an answer to a question, they were told, “Just find Marion, she’ll know.”

"Find Marion, She'll know"

“Find Marion, She’ll know”

I enjoyed looking at one of the largest displays of herb plants that I had ever seen.  I looked and saw replacements under the tables.  Volunteers went around and pulled replacements out from under the table and replaced the ones that had been sold.  I enjoyed rubbing the curry plant and smelling my fingers.  Mmmmm. I like curry. I got hungry.  They had fresh donuts at the head table.  I like donuts, too.

Finding just the right herbs.

Finding just the right herbs.

Lots of lovely ladies had a good time finding what they were looking for and learning about new plants.

"Is this going to grow in the shade?  Why not? I want it to grow in the shade.

“Is this going to grow in the shade? Why not? I want it to grow in the shade.

I was delighted at the amount of fun everyone was having, especially the volunteers who were rather knowledgeable and extremely nice and helpful.

"This will give you the effect you want. That's my story and I'm sticking with it."

“This will give you the effect you want. That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.”

I may have gotten the figure wrong, but I think I was told that last year the plant sale generated a $27,000 profit to donate to the museum. I thought that this was an amazingly successful fund raiser.

If you would like to read more about the history of the Chieftans museum, go to their website HERE.

I also thought that you might like a nice picture of my town–Rome, Georgia.  This is taken from the top of Myrtle Hill in the cemetary.  Rome was built around seven hills–sound familiar?

Rome, Ga. looking down from Myrtle Hill. Photo by Dekie Hicks

Rome, Ga. looking down from Myrtle Hill. Photo by Dekie Hicks

These articles are brought to you by John P. Schulz, author of the novel, Requiem for a Redneck .  You can read more of the adventures of John the Plant man here:

ebook: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00FOAJCGO

Or the print version:

http://www.amazon.com/Requiem-Redneck-John-P-Schulz/dp/0981825206/

Try “see inside the book”

 

Planting instead of mowing on a hillside.

Installing a low maintenance planting on a small hill.

She said, “I don’t mind cutting the grass, but I would like for you to start taking care of that hill out front.  It’s kind of scary to mow.”  I guess she meant for me to mow the bank.  I always try to do as I’m told, but I don’t cut grass for starters and a long time ago I slipped while mowing a bank and my toe got caught under the mower.  Many years later this toe is so ugly it has a name, “Horace bad toe

A picture came to mind:

I got a picture in my head.

I got a picture in my head.

Anyway, since she didn’t say that I had to actually cut the grass but only to “take care of it”, I started thinking out of the box that I never think inside of anyway.  I looked at the project and thought about it for a while.  Then I got out the trusty Roundup sprayer and killed the grass on the bank.  That took care of that problem. But, then I had another problem.

Oakwood Street is aptly named.  It runs between rows of beautiful trees and well kept yards.

Oakwood Street is aptly named. It runs between rows of beautiful trees and well kept yards.

Oakwood Street is aptly named as you can see in the picture, and the yards are neat and well kept. It is a street where people walk their dogs, push their strollers, and jog so I wasn’t surprised a couple of weeks after the Roundup episode to hear the neighbors asking, “What’s wrong with your grass? And what are you going to do about it?”   I grinned because I had a picture in my head.  It was this:

An alternative solution to mowing a bank--cover it with cypress chips and plant neat stuff!

An alternative solution to mowing a bank–cover it with cypress chips and plant neat stuff!

In order to get the job done, I had to accept that any landscaping project includes a fourth dimension.  There are the three common dimensions of width, depth, and height, but a landscaping project also includes the dimension of time.  So, I took my time.  I started by purchasing and spreading 40 bags of cypress mulch that I got from my friendly Lowe’s nursery center.  Then I spread some high nitrogen seed starter fertilizer on top.  This would counteract the nitrogen depletion in the soil caused by the chips.

I found a bunch of liriope (monkey grass), dug a trench right behind the curb and planted it solid.  This would keep anything from falling out into the street.  Borders are important in landscaping as in life.  They define the parameters.

Liriope (monkey grass) installed as a curb side border.

Liriope (monkey grass) installed as a curb side border.

I set out to plant something new every day, but that determination soon changed to once a week.  I started out with some annuals last summer and then replaced them with pansies and violas for the winter.  Violas are very nice—they are hardy and long lasting.

Violas are very nice in the winter and they look fabulous in the spring

Violas are very nice in the winter and they look fabulous in the spring

Next, I started adding some perennials plants and ground covers.  Some lavender was nice at the entrance and of course, we had to plant a clematis to climb up the mailbox.

Clematis, of course, on the mailbox.  Lavender backing it up.

Clematis, of course, on the mailbox. Lavender backing it up.

I found a bit of Artemesia ‘silver mound’ to plant.  It disappears in the winter but comes out strong in the spring.  I love the dainty texture of the silver leaves.

artemesia 'silver mound'--one of my favorite perennials

artemesia ‘silver mound’–one of my favorite perennials

Another plant that will cover a lot of the bank with a silver/blue cast will be the santolina.  Santolina is a member of the same family as the chrysanthemum and blooms a pretty yellow, but its strong evergreen trailing foliage with a gentle frangrance is what I like.

Santolina--offers texture, fragrance, color, spreads, tolerates drought, and deer don't like it.  What more could you ask?  Kinda hard to find, though.

Santolina–offers texture, fragrance, color, spreads, tolerates drought, and deer don’t like it. What more could you ask? Kinda hard to find, though

This spring, the plants started coming out in clumps.  I will wait for the spreading clumps of dianthus, ice plant, and sedum to fill out around the larger plants.

Clumps of mounding ground covers develop well with the verticals supplied by the iris.  (there are also some 'roof iris' coming on)

Clumps of mounding ground covers develop well with the verticals supplied by the iris. (there are also some ‘roof iris’ coming on)

Now the only thing I have to do is pull a weed every now and then.  The chips will slowly decompose and earthworms will churn it into the soil, making a compost rich bed with time. I like the little dianthus, also–very dependable.

I like the little dianthus for foliage, bloom, and fragrance.  They are actually miniature carnations.

I like the little dianthus for foliage, bloom, and fragrance. They are actually miniature carnations.

I also love to use ice plant and different kinds of sedum.

Ice plant is a good choice for a bank.  It covers well, has purple flowers, deer don't eat it, and it is drought tolerant.

Ice plant is a good choice for a bank. It covers well, has purple flowers, deer don’t eat it, and it is drought tolerant.

Sweetie can cut the grass now and I will “take care” of the bank at the road by pulling a weed every now and then, adding some water when necessary, and sticking in a plant or two as it suits my fancy.   God’s in his heaven and all’s right with the world.

 These articles are brought to you by John P. Schulz, author of the novel, Requiem for a Redneck .  You can read more of the adventures of John the Plant man here:

http://www.amazon.com/Requiem-Redneck-John-P-Schulz/dp/0981825206/

Try “see inside the book”

Or you may prefer the ebook edition:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00FOAJCGO

A grand weeping cherry…and preparing flower beds

Going to see the grandpa weeping cherry …preparing some flower beds

First, the tree:

There’s a big, old weeping cherry tree on top of Mt. Alto.  I’ve been trimming on it and feeding it for over 20 years, and it was big when I got there.  I figured it was time for it to be in bloom so I took my camera and my lady to go check it out.  As we wound our way up the driveway, the tree dominated the top of the hill. I really couldn’t get a picture to do it justice.

A grand old weeping cherry.  The owners refer to it as "THE tree"

A grand old weeping cherry. The owners refer to it as “THE tree”

I think that my favorite view of the tree (either with blooms, with leaves, or bare) is from the top of the upper terrace.  It’s like looking through the top of a living sculpture into the valley below. This tree is on its own roots—not a graft—and it’s the biggest weeping cherry I have ever seen.

Looking through the tree into the valley below is a treat.

Looking through the tree into the valley below is a treat.

I walked around to look at everything and stopped to admire the Lenten roses which framed the shady flagstone walkway.

I love the lenten roses.  They brighten up a shady corner for Easter.

I love the lenten roses. They brighten up a shady corner for Easter.

I enjoyed seeing the bonsai tree sitting on the table creating a concept of a “mountain on a mountain”– macrocosm vs. microcosm.

The bonsai is in a hand made "hypertuffa" concrete dish.

The bonsai is in a hand made “hypertuffa” concrete dish.

We’ll probably have to make another trip in a week or so.  The flower buds on the magnificent old wisteria are getting ready to show off big time.

The wisteria will be covered with beautiful blue flowers soon.

The wisteria will be covered with beautiful blue flowers soon.

It’s funny, but for a long time this wisteria wouldn’t bloom.  Some old people told me to hit it with a sledge hammer.  I didn’t do that, but we pruned it quite a bit this past year.  Maybe that’s why it’s going to bloom so heavily.

I turned and noticed a stem of cherry blossoms hanging over Dekie’s head just asking for this picture. It was a delightful trip to the mountain top.

Walking through the cherry tree blooms.

Walking through the cherry tree blooms.

And on to prepare flower beds at another site:

A well thought out garden needs a touch of johntheplantman

A well thought out garden needs a touch of johntheplantman

On the other side of the county from the weeping cherry is a wonderful, secluded yard on the river.  The overall landscape has been well thought out and nestled appropriately into the environment.  But the flower beds have not been performing well.  After digging around a bit, I figured that flowers just weren’t ever going to be happy in unprepared clay.

On the upper gardens, we piled and shaped compost to form a mounded flower bed from the entrance of the yard down the steps to the lower level and the lake.  There is just something about a truckload of compost that I love.  The flowers will perform well the first year in this medium and the earth worms will churn the compost and mix it in with the clay, causing the bed to get better and better.

I tell people you can stick a pencil in this soil and grow erasers.

I tell people you can stick a pencil in this soil and grow erasers.

For the lower rock gardens, we carefully removed the plants-or what was left of them- and dug out the existing dirt about 8 inches deep.

Sometimes it is best to just get rid of the old dirt and start over.  We will pile it high with good stuff.

Sometimes it is best to just get rid of the old dirt and start over. We will pile it high with good stuff.

We pulled back the pine straw, replaced the dirt, and then put the straw back.  It looked a lot better even without the plants.

Rock garden ready for planting in a week or two.

Rock garden ready for planting in a week or two.

In a few days, according to the weather, we will return to the site and plant it with hostas, ferns, impatiens, and a number of perennial plants.  I love me some compost.  This mix is produced by Fineview Soils in Menlo, Ga.  Mike mixes cottonseed waste, manure, and other organics, turning it until it “cures”.  Before delivery, he has to add wood chips to keep the mix from being too rich.  It is wonderful. I will go back and take photos for this blog in a couple of months to show just how well this method of bed preparation works.

The benefits of my job as a “landscape artist” include meeting and getting to know some wonderful people who are talented in their own areas.  This time, I was able to tour the pottery studio operated by Julie Windler.  She makes beautiful and distinctive pottery and really loves her work.  You may wish to visit her website at The Riverside Potter

Julie Windler, The Riverside Potter. Look closely and you will see a picture of her from sometime back. (Woodstock days?)

Julie Windler, The Riverside Potter. Look closely and you will see a picture of her from sometime back. (Woodstock days?)

These articles are brought to you by John P. Schulz, author of the novel, Requiem for a Redneck .  You can read more of the adventures of John the Plant man here:

For the ebook edition: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00FOAJCGO

http://www.amazon.com/Requiem-Redneck-John-P-Schulz/dp/0981825206/

Try “see inside the book”

 

Lenten Roses, planting grass seed, and the early spring vegetable garden

Getting gardens ready for the early spring growing season.

The week before the vernal equinox was a busy one.  The gardens were calling.  I walked into a back yard and enjoyed seeing a section of the beautiful meditation garden that was highlighted by the Edgeworthia and the Lenten roses.  I love Lenten roses (helleborus species) because they are true to their name, blooming without fail for Lent.

A meditation garden with Edgeworthia and Lenten roses

A meditation garden with Edgeworthia and Lenten roses

I studied the various colors of the Lenten roses and then carefully moved some of the leaves that had been left from the fall to find exactly what I thought would be there.  The seedlings from last year’s blooms were up and thriving.  Helleborus will often make a beautiful colony if it is planted in the proper location.

I love seeing the little Lenten rose seedlings up from last years blooms

I love seeing the little Lenten rose seedlings up from last years blooms

Lenten rose seedlings may be left to mature and become hardy.  Fall is usually a good time to carefully lift the baby plants, separate them, and move them around the garden.  They grow rather slowly and they seem to abhor the confinement of pots, but transplanting and thinning will give them room to grow and show off.  If you ever end up with too many Lenten roses, they make a wonderful gift for a friend.

Lenten rose, one of the first flowers of the new year--and long lasting.

Lenten rose, one of the first flowers of the new year–and long lasting.

Please remember my rule for giving plants to “mature” ladies (see, Mom, one more time I didn’t say “old lady”)—if you are going to give plants to someone, it helps to plant them also.  Sometimes a gift of plants creates a burden on the recipient.  At any rate, the gift of Lenten roses will always be appreciated.  They grow best in loose dirt in the shade and deer don’t seem to eat them.  What a plant!

Enjoying the seedlings made me think of the reason I had come to this garden in the first place.  I needed to patch up a little piece of fescue grass that had not performed properly.  Here’s a picture of the problem.

March is the perfect time to fix bad places in seeded lawns

Apparently some of the grass had washed out over the extremely rainy winter.  At least, I think that’s what happened.  One never knows.  The usual practice is to aerate and over seed cool season grasses in September, but if it doesn’t turn out quite right, an early spring patching job will usually suffice.  In my much younger days I tried just spreading seed on the ground but nothing ever came up.  Later, I learned how to do it.

Clean the area so the seeds will not have to compete

Clean the area so the seeds will not have to compete

Starter fertilizer, turf-type fescue seed, a potato hoe, and a rake--that's all you need

Starter fertilizer, turf-type fescue seed, a potato hoe, and a rake–that’s all you need

The important part of the process is to chop up the ground just a little so that the seeds can be covered just a bit.  I like to use what Granny called a “potato hoe”.  This is one of my favorite tools.  I use the potato hoe to chop into the ground in the bare spots.  It’s kind of like painting a floor and not ending up in the corner.  You don’t want to walk over the chopped up ground until after the seeds are in.

A potato hoe is ideal for the preparation

The next step is to spread the seeds and fertilizer over the chopped up places.  I use a starter fertilizer with high phosphorous which should get the roots moving fast as the seeds germinate.  After spreading the seed and fertilizer, I cover it up by running a leaf rake over the area.  You may think this will rake up the grass seed, but it won’t.  The raking will wiggle the seed around and down.

Rake the soil after putting down the seed and fertilizer.  Bring the seed into contact with the ground

Rake the soil after putting down the seed and fertilizer. Bring the seed into contact with the ground

Finally, it is good to tamp the ground and pack it around and over the seed.  You can rent or buy fancy equipment for this, or if you are lucky, you will have some size thirteen shoes to work with like I do.

The cheapest tool to tamp the seeds and dirt down.

The cheapest tool to tamp the seeds and dirt down.

I started carefully walking on the grass and got bored, so I backed the truck up and found just the right music to dance to.  I spent a delightful fifteen minutes dancing all over the grass while the cd player cranked out the song by Friends of Distinction:

“GROOVIN’ IN THE GRASS IS A GAS, BABY CAN YOU DIG IT?”

I started dancing and waving my arms and grinning at the coming of spring and the fact that it was a beautiful sunshiny day.

Dance

Dance

BABY CAN YOU DIG IT?

And off to the vegetable garden. I figured that it would rain in a day or two, so instead of watering in the seed as I usually do, I headed out to the Boys and Girls Club.  The early spring veggies needed planting.  The kids had cleaned out the left over turnip greens and were able to donate somewhere around 200 pounds of greens to the Community kitchen.  I thought that was a neat twist!!

We planted sugar snaps peas, lettuce, spinach, radishes, and beets in the beds.

Planting early spring veggies.  My first time for beets.

Planting early spring veggies. My first time for beets.

And this was funny

I had also ordered sets for potatoes—French fingerling and Yukon Gold.  The trick is to cut the potatoes up and plant them so that the eye can grow and make plants.  Some of the kids were astounded to learn that we would plant potatoes to grow potatoes.

The ten year old never knew that potatoes were planted to grow potatoes.

The ten year old never knew that potatoes were planted to grow potatoes.

One of the youngsters found a piece of hambone in the dirt—just a little circle like you would get with sliced country ham.  I don’t know how it got there, but I couldn’t resist when he asked me what a ham bone was doing in the garden and I told him, “We put that in there so we could grow us a big ol’ hog.”

The boy just shook his head and said, “Man I sure did learn me a bunch of stuff today.”

To read a previous article about the Boys and Girls club garden, go here:

http://johntheplantman.wordpress.com/2009/11/29/raised-beds-for-a-vegetable-garden/

*********

These articles are brought to you by John P. Schulz, author of the novel, Requiem for a Redneck .  You can read more of the adventures of John the Plant man on our Amazon page:

For the ebook edition, click here:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00FOAJCGO or for the print edition go to:

http://www.amazon.com/Requiem-Redneck-John-P-Schulz/dp/0981825206/