Assignment: Design and Build An Attractive Mail Box Planter That Is Both Drought Tolerant and Deer Proof.

Nancy has a beautiful home and yard in a very nice subdivision. She had decided that she wanted to maintain the wooded lot and to have a yard that would echo the statement of a lovely home to be crafted with stone and timbers. Years later she decided that it was time to deal with the “ugly mailbox.” She called and said, “This is a job for john the plant man.”

mailbox 1

We need to build a planting bed that will make this look better and that will fit into the landscape concept.

Nancy had given the project a lot of thought. We talked about it. She had bought different varieties of thyme—four varieties, six pots of each—to plant the project with. She had learned some things about living in her house

  • Deer like wooded lots and eat up landscaping plants
  • Deer do not like thyme
  • Thyme, once established, is a hardy, drought resistant ground cover.
  • Thyme prefers a prepared, raised bed in order to thrive.

We decided to build a raised rock-bordered garden. We started laying the rocks to form the enclosure for the bed:

mailbox 2

A row of rocks doesn’t look right. We can do better.

At this point, the job didn’t look quite right. We decided that we didn’t want just a row of rocks around a pile of dirt.

Nancy said, “I don’t know quite how to describe what I’m looking for.”
I smiled and said, “I think we want it to look like God dropped a handful of rocks and they fell in just the right places.”
“Yes, that’s it,” she agreed.

So, we took it all apart and started over. I had been looking at bags of cheap “topsoil” that were being sold in the box stores. Lowe’s had some on sale for a dollar a bag and when I examined it, I found it to be ground and mostly decomposed pine bark. If you add lime to this, it is a rather good growing medium. We looked around the property (which was blessed with stones) and carefully, one at the time, chose the stones to fit the concept. We added the “topsoil.”

mailbox 3

After working on the layout, we got the stones to look purposefully random.

The rock job was now totally different looking. The new design fulfilled the purpose of holding the soil together, and it looked a lot more natural. Nancy looked at it, smiled, and said, “And praise His Name, they all hit the ground without denting the mailbox.”  We spread a mulch of wood bark and started planting.

mailbox 4

This is going to look good. A topping of small pine bark will hold everything in place.

The mailbox garden fit right in with the natural front yard.

mailbox 5

The garden fits right in

We ran a few hundred feet of hose out to the road and watered the plants. The different kinds of thyme looked happy in their new home, and the fragrance was delightful.

mailbox 6

Different varieties of thyme will grow well and safely in this environment

A couple of weeks later, I stopped to check on the project. I found that all was well and the plants were growing as they should. The deer had turned up their noses and moved on to other treats.

 

mailbox 7

A couple of weeks later everything looks happy.

Thank you for visiting Johntheplantman’s blog. There are a lot of helpful articles on this site. WordPress has included a very efficient search engine which you will find at the top of the page. Give it a try—type in the main words for your gardening questions and see where it takes you.

Landscaping from the Inside Out is Like Putting a Picture on the Wall

A window picture

A window picture

In September I wrote an article titled, “Design a Landscape To Be Seen Through the Living Room Window.” My brother, Tom is a gifted artist and I have had paintings of his on my living room walls for years and years. I think it is fun now that, maybe, I can give him something for his wall. It’s not a picture but it is visible through the living room window.
Back in September, I had sprayed the weeds and set the plants out where they needed to be. Tom’s wife, Sheila, got a person to come and help with the labor a couple of weeks later. The window picture started changing rapidly:

The view changes

The view changes

The plants were installed and cypress chips were spread for an effective and attractive mulch. I like a shredded wood mulch on a hillside, too. It stays in place well and holds other things in place. The mulch also holds moisture well.
I like the way the color of the mulch turned this mountainside front yard into a river-like illusion.

hillside planted and mulched with cypress

hillside planted and mulched with cypress

I had also marked a lot of scrub trees that needed to be removed. I was happy to see a picture of the finished product. Sheila wanted white flowers and the “Emil Moliere” hydrangeas will make quite a show.

The wooded area has been cleaned up and mulched

The wooded area has been cleaned up and mulched

Interactions of Tom and Olive remind me of Christopher Robin and Pooh Bear. Olive remarked that things certainly did look different and that there would be no more worry about Tom having an accident while mowing that steep bank.

"Tom's gonna like this 'cause Ma likes it."

“Tom’s gonna like this ’cause Ma likes it.”

Sheila admires things from the street. All is well. Tom is grinning because of “happy wife, happy life,”

No mowing needed on this hillside.

No mowing needed on this hillside.

Thank you for visiting Johntheplantman

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?

Design a Landscape To Be Seen Through the Living Room Window

I like to “paint pictures” with plants and I enjoy the fact that there are four dimensions to these paintings—height, width, depth, and time. With time and plant growth the painting is constantly changing. It is very nice, too, to have a “picture frame”—in this case, the living room window.

The "before" picture. What can we do to turn the view into a pretty garden picture?

The “before” picture. What can we do to turn the view into a pretty garden picture?

My brother, Tom and his lovely wife, Sheila live in a hilltop home in Weaverville, N.C. just outside of Asheville. When I visited last May, Sheila asked me to think about how to plant the front yard and hill in a manner that would create a hillside garden which would look good from her comfy couch in the living room. The garden would also need to serve as a screen. Sheila was a bit picky, too. She asked for a collection of evergreens with something silver, and to have some white flowering plants incorporated into the planting. I collected plants all summer and Dekie and I loaded the truck and took them to the mountains on September 13. We timed the trip around the fact that my sweet mother would also be visiting.

When we got there we realized that there was yet another problem that we had to deal with. The original “landscapers” had installed what I often refer to as a “close the loan special” and had planted not one, but three cute little gold mop cypress plants at the front of the walkway. I guess they didn’t know or didn’t care that these plants grow into giant trees. It looked like this:

This gold mop cypress is a pretty plant but it is too close to the driveway and the walkway

This gold mop cypress is a pretty plant but it is too close to the driveway and the walkway

I told Tom and Sheila that they would have three choices, Take the trees out, put in a new walkway, or prune and maintain the trees in a nice tree form shape that would get the foliage up above the pedestrian traffic. They wisely chose pruning. Dekie was a wonderful helper. We determined that there were three main trunks in the planting and we began taking off the lower growth to expose them.

We begin the process by isolating 3 trunks and taking off the lower growth

We begin the process by isolating 3 trunks and taking off the lower growth

Since there had been three individual plants in the original planting we tried to maintain the center trunk from each of them. I stood back to check out the progress.

Checking the progress o the tree pruning.

Checking the progress of the tree pruning.

When we finished Mom came out to give her approval. I explained that at this point in the shaping of the plants, the important part was that the tops of the trees remain uncut. When they reach nine or ten feet high we will trim the tops and the foliage will begin to grow sideways and form a canopy.

The finished pruning job on the gold mops. They can grow taller before they need the tops cut

The finished pruning job on the gold mops. They can grow taller before they need the tops cut

It was time to start on the main part of the design. The first thing I do in such a situation is to use my handy paint gun and paint a line to show where the bed will go. After the line is painted I spray all of the weeds and grasses to kill them. Working with the orange line gives me a good reference for spraying and design.

I love to use my paint gun to draw out shrub bed borders.

I love to use my paint gun to draw out shrub bed borders.

Sheila and I discussed the overall concept of the bank planting as well as the fact that phase two would take out a chunk of the planting by the walk way and replace it with grass.

I love to wave my hands around as I paint verbal pictures in the air.

I love to wave my hands around as I paint verbal pictures in the air.

Then I began laying out the plants. I had chosen a palmatum Japanese maple, dwarf butterfly bushes (buzz series) with white flowers, white hydrangeas (Emily Moliere and white oak leaf), Black Prince cryptomeria, Foster hollies (for red Christmas berries), “plum yew” (cephalotaxus), and for a big splash of silver blue I added an Arizona cypress “Carolina Sapphire.” It’s going to take a few years but this is going to be one fine garden.

Since I am recovering from a bout of carpal tunnel syndrome in my right hand, Sheila made arrangements with someone to come in and install the plants later. My job was to lay them out and then it would be nap time. I got busy. Here is the layout from the side:

Plants set in place and ready for planting

Plants set in place and ready for planting

After the planting, the garden area will be mulched with shredded cypress mulch. The mulch will finish off the design and the view through the window will be delightful. Here’s how I left it:

checking the layout from the inside out.

checking the layout from the inside out.

Another view through the window showing the hydrangeas

Another view through the window showing the hydrangeas

You might also enjoy a previous article Landscaping from the Inside Out. Click here

Thank you for visiting John the Plant Man

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?

A Second Try for a Deer Proof Hillside Planting.

The driveway to the Hubbard house that I wrote about last week is over a half a mile long and it meanders up a rather steep hill through a minimally well-kept wooded area. The drive is delightful but there is one hill, on the left, right around a bend, that really needed to look nice (that’s a polite way of calling it ugly). I have a funny story about that area, also. Here’s a picture (If you look hard you may be able to make out eight or ten clumps of daylilies, the rest is weeds):

The are waiting for their lunch. What will johnthepantman do?

The are waiting for their lunch. What will johnthepantman do?

Patsy and I had talked about this area about fifteen years ago and we decided that it would look nice planted in daylilies. I found a good source for bare-root daylily divisions of many varieties and we planted 700 of them. Now, in my book, planting 700 daylilies is making quite a statement. We were happy because we all knew that we had done something special. I will never forget what happened.

A couple of days after planting the daylilies the phone rang. It was Patsy. “Where are my plants?” she asked. I hurried up to the house in a panic to find, to my dismay, that the deer had eaten the daylilies, roots and all. There was nothing left but pine straw and deer poop. It reminded me of a quote from The Hobbit, “It does not do to leave a sleeping dragon out of your calculations.”

We have talked about planting the hill again off and on over the years but mostly we have ignored it. After thinking about it for a long time we decided to use a trailing “Blue Pacific” juniper and accent it with a planting of ‘prostate plum yew.’ I found an article about the plum yew that you may enjoy, “beloved conifer” (click here)

plum yew, (cephalotaxus) is a good choice for a garden where there is a deer population

plum yew, (cephalotaxus) is a good choice for a garden where there is a deer population

Before planting the project I studied the possibilities of irrigation. I knew that once these plants were grown in they would be hardy enough to get by on their own and I always try to work in a cost effective manner, so I decided to use micro misters. The drip irrigation pipe is inexpensive in 500 foot rolls and it took almost four of them to get from the water source to the end of the area where the planting would be. We kept digging to a minimum by only making a short run across a grassy area (which we buried) and then ran the rest of the pipe down the hill on the edge of the woods, fastening it with sod staples

drip irrigation line is cheap and efficient.

drip irrigation line is cheap and efficient.

In case you are interested in the mister irrigation system, I wrote an article about it, Click Here for “installing a micro-mister system for your flower beds”. Here is a picture of a misting nozzle in operation. I really like these.

A micro-mister spray head. inexpensive and efficient

A micro-mister spray head. inexpensive and efficient

I went to see my favorite grower and bought a hundred juniper and fifty of the plum yew.

blue pacific junipers and plum yew

blue pacific junipers and plum yew

A week before the planting I sprayed all of the weeds with glyphosphate. On a job like this I like to use some precision for the layout so I used a tape measure, a three foot spacing stick, and my wonderful paint gun to mark the proper planting spots. We decided to use three inverted triangles of the plum yew with the juniper as a border. It should grow out beautifully.

A marking paint gun is invaluable for laying out plantings.

A marking paint gun is invaluable for laying out plantings.

The plants were carefully installed on the hillside using Osmocote in the holes for a time-release fertilizer. We finished it off with 35 bales of pine straw and turned on the water. All was well. The plants were still there the next day.

Blue Pacific juniper and plum yew on a hillside is as close as one can come to deer proof.

Blue Pacific juniper and plum yew on a hillside is as close as one can come to deer proof.

Thank you for visiting John the Plant Man

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?

Use Decorative Chain to Support Vines and Climbing Roses on a Wall

I get a lot of compliments on this Carolina jasmine planting on the front of a garage. It takes a bit of time to grow the plant and the actual installation may appear to be difficult and expensive—but it’s not. Read on…

Swagged Carolina jasmine frames a garage door. Here's how to do it

Swagged Carolina jasmine frames a garage door. Here’s how to do it

The other day I was planting this year’s mandevilla vine in a pot by a pool for one of my clients. I do this every year and it is amazing to watch how quickly this sweet-smelling vine reaches the top of the pool house. And all it takes is a chain.

Mandevilla in a decorative pot ready to grow up a chain

Mandevilla in a decorative pot ready to grow up a chain

I have been doing some work for Cathy, who is a true plant freak and she asked me what the best way would be to grow Lady Banks and other climbing roses up the brick columns on the side of her garage. The answer was simple—use a decorative chain. Here’s how you do it:

Just what you need--a roll of decorative chain and a wall anchor kit.

Just what you need–a roll of decorative chain and a wall anchor kit.

The roll of chain and the wall anchor kit came from my friendly Ace Hardware store. I use the wall anchors a lot, both outside and inside. The anchors are most useful for hanging pictures on inside drywall. The kit comes with a masonry bit for drilling holes in brick mortar joints. We start the job by drilling holes for the mounting screws.

Drill a hole just the right size for the wall anchor

Drill a hole just the right size for the wall anchor

The little thingie shown below is a wall anchor which is inserted into the hole in the mortar joint. You must be sure to use the right sized drill bit.

The wall anchor expands to hold the screw firmly in place

The wall anchor expands to hold the screw firmly in place

In the picture below, the screw comes with the wall anchor kit and I also bought “fender washers” that are made with the right sized hole for the screw. I have no idea why they are called fender washers. I guess it’s just because that’s their name. The other item in the picture is a driver to put on my DeWalt drill in order to make the screwing easier.

Fender washers will hold the chain in place

Fender washers will hold the chain in place

When we mount the chain, the washer holds things together as in the picture below

To steal a phrase from David Allen Coe--"It goes like this here..."

To steal a phrase from David Allen Coe–“It goes like this here…”

In this installation we will hook the chain to three columns. We leave a small sag in the chain as we hook it to each column. The chain will hang down to the plants on the right and left columns and we will add the center chain last.

The next step is to secure the chain to the wall

The next step is to secure the chain to the wall

I was careful to measure and purchase enough chain so that when I got to the right side there would be enough left over to hang down from the center. You don’t have to cut this type of chain; it comes apart easily with a couple of pairs of pliers.

Opening a chain link with two pairs of pliers.

Opening a chain link with two pairs of pliers.

The final piece of chain is added to trail down the center column.

Add a piece of chain to the center column

Add a piece of chain to the center column

For fastening the plants I like to use a Velcro-backed plant tie material. It is easy to use and I can cut it to size with cheap scissors.

I really like using the velcro backed plant tie material

I really like using the velcro backed plant tie material

We tie the plant to the chain and everything is set to go. All this project will take now is a bit of tying and pruning.

Some plants will twine up the chain on their own. Others need to be tied.

Some plants will twine up the chain on their own. Others need to be tied.

If you enjoyed this article, you may wish to visit one of my articles on “Garden Accents.” It’s well worth the looking into.

 

Thanks for visiting Johntheplantman. Tell your friends about it.

 

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?

Building Joel’s Raised Herb Garden

If you follow my articles, you will remember Joel, who is one of the most dedicated hobby gardeners I ever met. But he didn’t have an herb garden. Joel wanted an herb garden—and since he is a good man and treats people well we set out to fulfill his wishes before Christmas.  Here is the starting location after we removed several large rosemary bushes.

Joel has been saving this site for an herb garden but we had to figure out what an herb garden would look like

Joel has been saving this site for an herb garden but we had to figure out what an herb garden would look like

The picture below shows a 12 x 20 foot piece of nursery ground cover fabric. It is a little different from the landscape fabric found in box stores and it is a bit more hard to find. You could use one product or the other.  I like the nursery fabric because it gives me an instant square and straight lines to follow. I laid out the fabric and set out a few landscape timbers so that I could get a mental image of the overall design for the finished product.

We start the herb garden project with a large piece of nursery ground covering and a whole lot of pondering.

We start the herb garden project with a large piece of nursery ground covering and a whole lot of pondering.

I surmised that a well-designed, raised herb garden would be easily tended from all sides and that the gardener would not have to step inside the beds. I settled for a U shape design, two timbers high. I’ve been working with landscape timbers for years and I learned that cutting pieces with a 22 ½ degree setting on a good miter saw is a good way to add class and character to the project. A pick up truck tailgate makes a rather good saw horse.

A miter saw makes precision cuts an easy process.

A miter saw makes precision cuts an easy process.

I lay out the overall design for the timber work,  experimenting with different cuts. When I get the basic lay out right, I can use each piece for a pattern and quickly cut all of the pieces I need without having to measure over and over.

Moving things around to get "just the right shape" for the raised beds

Moving things around to get “just the right shape” for the raised beds

Down here in Georgia they don’t call the tool I am using a “drill” or a “screw-driver”, they call it a “De Walt.” In sort of the same way, people will refer to a Pepsi Cola as a “Coke”—as in, “If you ain’t got a real coke, a Pepsi coke will be ok.” But back to the project: there are several kinds of self-threading screws that may be used for a timber project. Special screws are made for treated lumber and you should be sure that you get the right kind.

Three and a half inch deck screws are used to fit and fasten the pieces

Three and a half inch deck screws are used to fit and fasten the pieces

After the timbers are in place and screwed together, I like to go around the project and tap a piece here or move a piece there to make sure that all is lined up properly. After small adjustments we use screws to fasten the top to the bottom. Note the white pipe at the left rear of the project. This is for drainage at the lowest level. We don’t want any puddles, do we?

Adjusting and getting everything just right before adding the compost

Adjusting and getting everything just right before adding the compost

And here is the finished garden. We used my magic compost mix to fill the beds and then raked in cypress mulch for the walkway and edges.  Joel can do a much better job of planting and maintaining it than I can so I’ll leave that to him.

The completed bed for the herb garden with compost and cypress mulch. Ready to plant

The completed bed for the herb garden with compost and cypress mulch. Ready to plant

Thanks for visiting John the Plant Man. Remember the next time you want a good read you need to try “REQUIEM FOR A REDNECK”, a kindle ebook from Amazon that features John the Plant Man with his Georgia mountain friends. It’s quite the adventure. Check it out, buy a copy, and tell ALL your friends about it.

D’Ann’s Garden—Raised beds with brick borders to grow perennials

My friend D’Ann loves gardening. She is good at it too, and she doesn’t mind getting a little dirt under her fingernails. I had built some raised beds for her back yard a few years ago and was impressed with the way in which she planted them and kept them up. Her front yard needed help, though.

Before--D'Ann wanted a rose and perennial flower bed but the project needed definition

Before–D’Ann wanted a rose and perennial flower bed but the project needed definition

When D’Ann asked me to build some distinctive yet workable planting beds in her front yard I knew that I would have to be rather particular and produce something that looked right and that would give her a base for growing some healthy and vigorous perennials. I started a drawing and things just didn’t work out that way, so we removed and saved the collection of plants and I took a roll of twine, some stakes, and my paint gun to do a careful layout. ( I love using orange marking paint on a layout)

It pays to take the time to lay out the job with string, stakes, and marking paint

It pays to take the time to lay out the job with string, stakes, and marking paint

I think raised compost beds with brick borders are really classy but the big thing about these beds is that they really work. I also like the look and workability of brick borders and pea gravel pathways so that’s where I was going. (By the way, if you go to buy bricks for something like this, ask for ‘pavers’ because they don’t have holes in them). I had spent a lot of time getting the twine in just the right place and that helped the job to get off to a good start.

Bricks laid carefully for garden border

Bricks laid carefully for garden border

Mike Hutchins produces certified compost up in Menlo, Georgia and he brings it to me in ten cubic yard loads. I stockpile it at my stockpiling place and then haul it to the job with a pickup truck. Sometimes we can dump a load on the job but in an uptown city yard like this one I don’t want the clean up job that would go with that. We wheelbarrow the compost into the beds and rake it out carefully. When the job is finished the compost and pea gravel will team up to hold the bricks firmly in place.

A raised compost flower bed provides for the best plants ever.

A raised compost flower bed provides for the best plants ever.

To get ready for the gravel walkways, I used a flat shovel to turn the existing walkway into an efficient border.

Using a flat shovel to create a border. The proper tools make a difference

Using a flat shovel to create a border. The proper tools make a difference

We raked out the compost, spread pine straw for mulch, and raked all of the trash out of the walkway beds before moving in the pea gravel. This was a job performed carefully with a wheelbarrow and a rake.

Pea gravel makes a wonderful pathway and it never gets muddy.

Pea gravel makes a wonderful pathway and it never gets muddy.

Here’s a picture of the finished beds ready to plant.

This garden should add joy and beauty to a distinctive home.

This garden should add joy and beauty to a distinctive home.

As the planting proceeds the plan is to put climbing roses on portions of he fence and to use such perennials as lantanas, daisies, yarrow, and others for accents. Lots of bulbs, from daffodils to amaryllis and a few paint strokes of annual flowers will keep things interesting. And remember, there will be no grass to cut in this front yard.

Thanks for visiting John the Plant Man. Remember the next time you want a good read you need to try “REQUIEM FOR A REDNECK”, a kindle ebook from Amazon that features John the plant man with his Georgia mountain friends. It’s quite the adventure.

A Small, Private Back Yard With Tea Olive and Roses

I often refer to landscaping as a four-dimensional art form. When questioned about this observation, I reply that “the fourth dimension of the art form is time. The landscape planting is an ever-changing entity.” For this reason I never know what I will see when I walk into a yard several years after its installation. The site may meet my expectations, exceed them, or in a few cases it may be a dismal failure.

Helen and Jack Runninger had invited Dekie and me over for a Friday night pizza dinner. Our delightful friend Ginger Grant was also invited. I was looking forward to seeing our friends as well as being curious about the fate of the privacy back yard that I had put together four or five years earlier. I was pleasantly surprised. The garden truly exceeded my expectations.

A privacy wall with tea olive, Knockout roses, and lantana.

A privacy wall with tea olive, Knockout roses, and lantana.

Jack and Helen got married later in life—much later. They sensibly downsized their living accommodations by moving to a very nice retirement community with one level floor plans and small yards. If I recall correctly, Jack was head over heels in love and gave Helen a johntheplantman back yard as a housewarming gift. I started by laying a slate patio with stone that had been donated by one of Helen’s friends.

The yard started with this grey slate patio

The yard started with this grey slate patio

When the patio was finished we pulled up chairs, looked around, and discussed the rest of the back yard planting. There was no privacy. To the left was a very nice yard with flower beds but no real privacy. To the right we could see yard after yard after yard. The ugly part, though, was the rear border of Jack and Helen’s yard. There was a hill-or a large terrace- that went down into the yard behind them and the house at the bottom of the hill was situated so that from the Runninger’s new patio, all one could see was an ugly roof. I thought long and hard about the design. It had to be beautiful, effective, and low maintenance.

I had to put in some complicated drainage and then a raised bed with some good compost. I planted tea olives on the back property line for a high evergreen screen. (The tea olives were about three feet high when I planted them.) I put Knockout roses to the front of the tea olives and prepared a raised flower bed in front of the roses. The first year of the flower bed we had pansies but the deer and rabbits brought their own salad dressing to that feast. The following summer we planted lantana and Helen said that the lantana come back reliably year after year.

This is funny. I told the ladies that I was going to take pictures of the garden for a blog article. They asked me what I wanted them to do and I said, “act like you’re talking about something in the garden. Maybe one of you should point at a feature.” This is the wonderful picture:

Dekie, Helen, and Ginger discuss remarkable parts of the garden

Dekie, Helen, and Ginger discuss remarkable parts of the garden

I used Cleyera japonica for the side yards with a few nandinas thrown in for texture, color, and winter berries. I liked the way the cleyera had grown in.

Cleyera as a screen. It's hard to believe there's another house 10 feet behind this.

Cleyera as a screen. It’s hard to believe there’s another house 10 feet behind this.

Back to the present, we ate dinner on the patio and everyone remarked about the lack of mosquitoes. Helen said that she thought it was because of the birds—especially the hummingbirds. It seems that the colors and fragrances of the garden attract the birds. The tea olives bloom two or three times a year and provide a true olfactory treat.

 A bird bath for accent and utility in a private back yard

A bird bath for accent and utility in a private back yard

While we talked about birds a beautiful yellow goldfinch visited the feeder. It’s in the picture. I promise. Look really close

yellow bird in a private back yard

yellow bird in a private back yard

And that’s the story of the Runninger’s private back yard. Sweet Helen just raves over it.

Helen Runninger raves about her back yard.

Helen Runninger raves on and on about her beautiful back yard.

****************

Thanks for visiting John the Plant Man. Here are a few  related posts:

Summertime care for Knockout roses:  Click Here

A privacy screen with Arizona Cypress and Knock out Rose:  Click Here

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?

A FrontYardGarden Creation

I call it an “IslandGarden.” It is a most intense planting at the end of a cul-de-sac. The planting is bordered by the road on the front side, circled by curved steps and a driveway, and terraced with the best application of manufactured rock I have ever seen. I have watched this garden grow since it was planted about twelve years ago, enjoying the subtle changes made by the owners, Jos and Mary de Wit of Kingsport, Tennessee.

The garden starts in a cul-de-sac on the uphill side

The garden starts in a cul-de-sac on the uphill side

The landscape design was difficult to start with as the lot has a steady downhill fall from the edge of the cul-de-sac to the lake behind the house. A set of curved steps suggests a waterfall leading from the road to the front door and the retaining wall bordering the island becomes a mountain side. The featured plant in the island is a beautiful Eastern Redbud which Jos has been carefully shaping for years.

A "river bed" of steps leads down through the garden to the drive way.

A “river bed” of steps leads down through the garden to the drive way.

The planting of the island is a combination of wild and formal. The planting is varied and undulating. From the drive one notices Japanese maples, dwarf Norway Spruce, iris, and several perennial plantings.

A careful planting of different textures and sizes suggests a river bank

A careful planting of different textures and sizes suggests a river bank

The de Wits obviously treat this island like a Japanese bonsai garden. Every planting has been meticulously trimmed and groomed.  The following picture is a detail of the front of the garden from the road side. I admired the alstromeria (the pretty blooms in the center) and Mary said, “We planted them last year and enjoyed them. We didn’t know they would come back again. What a pleasant surprise.” I like the way the garden uses dwarf dianthus for a ground cover.

The plants add interest and a peaceful feeling that makes one pause and reflect.

The plants add interest and a peaceful feeling that makes one pause and reflect.

Jos has a time consuming job and he insists on spending a portion of his free time fishing. Whatever time is left over is spent in the garden, grooming and cleaning. I enjoy talking with him about his efforts. He always tells me that he doesn’t have much time for the garden but it looks to me like he’s being a bit over modest.

Jos modestly explains how things happen to "just look good"--not mentioning his work and care

Jos modestly explains how things happen to “just look good”–not mentioning his work and care

Of course, if you keep up with my writings, you will know that one of the things I appreciate most is the view of the landscape from the house. I love it when there is an ever changing picture on the wall that comes from nature shining through a window. Here’s the view from the breakfast room of the de Wit house.

A rear window creates an ever-changing picture on the wall using nature for the subject.

A rear window creates an ever-changing picture on the wall using nature for the subject.

I walked out on the deck to get a shot of the back yard.

A view of Fort Patrick Henry Lake. I love the way this yard morphs from the miniscule to the Grande.

A view of Fort Patrick Henry Lake. I love the way this yard morphs from the miniscule to the Grande.

Before leaving, I watched Jos take pictures of Mary using the garden as a background. Mary is going to give me a hard time about the corner of the garbage can showing in the picture but I think it adds a touch of humor.

The garden makes a good back drop for picture making.

The garden makes a good back drop for picture making.

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?

Prepare for weed management—A rustic perennial bed in the country

When setting out to manage flower bed weeds in a rural area, one must always think ahead. Lots of surrounding pasture land makes for lots of weeds and weed seeds. Here in the southeast U.S. (Rome, Georgia) I think the most difficult weed is Bermuda grass which creeps on underground stems and cannot be controlled by pulling.  I always say, “the more you pull the more you get.”

It was not stated in any exact words but I was hired by one of my clients to make sense of a large yard for a wonderful couple who dearly love growing all kinds of plants. I have been working on the project one or two days a week for almost a year now.  Things are beginning to work out.

One of the projects I was asked to deal with was a large bed with over a thousand day lily and iris plants that were totally hidden by weeds and would not perform. Last year it looked something like this:

Day lilies planted without regard to weed control perform poorly.

Day lilies planted without regard to weed control perform poorly.

I watched the bed and thought about it. Every time I went to the farm I walked up and down the bed thinking about it. As the year progressed into winter most of the weeds and day lilies died back for a spell.

The first part of February I said, “It is time.” The weeds were dead and the day lilies were poking their heads out of the soil enough for us to find them. It took some time but we dug up a lot of the day lily and iris plants carefully removing all of the weeds and dirt from the roots. I had a truck load of my favorite compost delivered by Mike the dirt man. Over the years I have gathered a small mountain of flower pots—well, at least a foot hill worth of them—so we took a truck load of pots and used the compost to plant the carefully cleaned iris and day lilies.

We laid the plants out on black plastic and I spread a granular pre-emergent herbicide to stop seeds from germinating. The pots looked like this in May:

day lily and iris plants cleaned and ready to plant in the garden

day lily and iris plants cleaned and ready to plant in the garden

The vegetable garden on the property is rather large and has a fence all the way around it. I decided to install a part of the new flower bed along the fence. This would give us a background for the flower bed and would also end the necessity for weed-eating the garden border. I marked the flower bed with my paint gun, put down a pre-emergent, and started spraying.

The weeds were about gone in April but the Bermuda grass was just beginning to grow. I knew better than to plant the garden until I had dealt with that problem. Bermuda grass loves heat and the season was slow to heat up. It was probably about the middle of June before I was satisfied that I had the dreaded Bermuda grass under control. The weed-free dirt looked like this:

The weeds and especially the Bermuda grass are under control and the bed is ready to be planted.

The weeds and especially the Bermuda grass are under control and the bed is ready to be planted.

As far as the dirt in this garden is concerned, I believe that it is alluvial topsoil deposited a million years ago by the CoosaRiver and it is very nice to dig and plant in. In March we installed a very simple irrigation system along the fence line.

I decided that since the plants were potted in compost, all I had to do was add some time release fertilizer as we planted. I laid the plants out carefully so that they were spaced just right.

The plants are arranged carefully and ready to be planted exactly where they sit.

The plants are arranged carefully and ready to be planted exactly where they sit.

After a few hours of cheerful work, the plants were in the ground. All we have to do now is pick up the pots and mulch the bed with wood chips which I will hopefully obtain from my tree surgeon friend. I will then have to keep the border of the bed sprayed to keep the Bermuda grass from creeping in and check regularly for new weeds, getting them out before they get a good start.

 

iris and day lilies planted in a weed-free flower bed.

iris and day lilies planted in a weed-free flower bed.

I think next year we will intersperse a planting of oriental lilies in the bed. That will be nice.

Another project on this same property is the “country formal” cutting garden that is designed for easy maintenance—especially weed control. To see it, click on Country formal cutting garden

An update on the “country formal” cutting garden is here

Planting tulips in the “country formal” garden click here

Thanks for visiting johntheplantman.

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?

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