Monthly Archives: March 2014

When Did I First Feel Successful

Landscape Design by Christie Dustman & Comapny, Inc.Recently I was asked to be on a Career Day panel.  One of the questions posed to the business owners was the title of this blog – When did I first feel successful?   Sure I have successes to point at – being featured in The Boston Globe, winning design awards, etc.  But one day long ago stands out in my mind as a real game changer:  the day my Clients dug up their front yard to install my planting plan.

I was new in business and my drawn plans were largely theoretical.  This was going to be one of the first to be implemented.  It was nothing less than shocking to witness perfectly sane people digging up their lawn because I asked them to.   I felt a mix of terror and exhilaration that day.

What happens when rubber hits the road?   Would my ideas look as good in real life as they did on paper?  Maybe the paper ideas were worthless and I was fooling them and myself.  It was a crisis of confidence.  I am happy to report that the new plants and beds looked pretty good – still do, ‘til this day.

This memory reminds me that I am entrusted in such a stunning way by my clients.  In the end, I was personally successful that day, but more so, it was the success of our mutual trust that triumphed.  My ideas are just that, ideas on paper until someone believes in me and my vision and in the potential for a wonderful new reality:  a garden.  Together we are successful garden makers.

Christie Dustman

Ready …. Set …. Tools!

prunersAfter a long winter of making promises to yourself (quietly in your head) that this will be THE YEAR that you will keep your garden in good shape – all season long – you may still be heading uphill.   Have you given any thought to choosing your tools?

Maintaining those garden beds and flower pots are going to take more than just a determined mind and willing hands. You’re going to need some top notch tools in order to keep your flowers blooming, shrubs in shape, and your body from aching all the way into next winter.

We could easily list many tools that we use professionally, but let us recommend a few must-haves:

1.         Pruners – Find a sturdy pair of bypass pruners with a comfortable handle. Bypass pruners produce a nice clean cut because their blades “pass by” each other, like scissors.  The tissues are cut crisply without ripping or crushing.  The older style of pruner, the anvil type, smashes the stem to divide it, and then the plant uses extra energy to heal the injury.  Most garden centers now carry ARS, Corona, or Felco equipment; these will stand the test of time and get the job done as long as you keep them properly maintained. Sharpen and oil your pruners regularly to keep them from premature failure and to reduce physical stress on your hands. Use of rubbing alcohol on the cutting surface will help remove any gunk buildup and get rid of any diseases that can be transferred from one plant to another.

2.         Adjustable Leaf Rake – Used for gathering leaves and spreading mulch around the garden beds. Larger leaf rakes have their purpose in the fall, but cannot easily get in between plants. Adjustable rakes are lightweight and can tailor in width for those hard to get into spaces.

3.         Shovel – We all know this primitive agriculture tool, the workhorse of non-motorized landscaping tools.  While a big heavy steel shovel has its purpose (get one with a step at the top of the blade), we are reaching for these two smaller and more refined shovels.  The WWM Sampson T-Spade is excellent for planting perennials or bulbs, weeding or transplanting.  It has a shorter handle so you can use while on your knees and you can get excellent leverage.  And the Spear Head Spade has the teeth and pointed tip needed to get into any soil with ease.

two shovels


WWM Sampson Spade, Ball or T-handle,

Spear Head Spade with Fiberglass D-grip Handle,

Start the year out right – buy yourself a new tool.  You deserve it after this long winter.  And remember, if needed, Christie Dustman & Company is always available to help out with a thorough Spring clean-up and ongoing maintenance.

Put your money where your ‘garden focal point’ is

blog 2 pix goodnough after 5The saying goes, put your money where your mouth is.  For the garden, it might be more appropriate to say: “Put your money where your garden focal point is”.

A FOCAL POINT in the garden is, by definition, “the point at which all elements converge” (   Simply said, the focal point is where your eye is naturally directed and settles for a view.  A focal point earns its prominence by being the specific site that you look at most from the kitchen table, family room or back door, for example.  You don’t have to work hard to find the focal point location–there it is, all the time.

For me, the garden focal point is the mouth piece of any garden or landscape.  It is the part of the garden that “talks” to you – perhaps beckons you to come outside, gives you a spot to sit psychically outside or provides seasonal drama. It concentrates compelling elements in one spot, like the crescendo of a piece of music.

What I have noticed is that not all designers figure out where the logical focal point is before doing a design plan.  And this leads to spending a lot of money for something that no one sees easily.  Nice and fancy, but expensive with little in the way of impact. That is why I place such a premium on finding and developing the focal point area and where I advise my clients to spend their money.  Let me quote another idiom:  Get more bang for your buck with a well located and designed focal point.

Christie Dustman

Sweet Sixteen and Blogging

Photo from the Hamden Court Flower Show, London, photo C. Dustman

Photo from the Hamden Court Flower Show, London, photo C. Dustman

It is SWEET SIXTEEN at Christie Dustman & Company this year. And like most 16 year olds, we are starting to Facebook, Blog and Tweet. Our new adventure into social media is our way to connect with you in an immediate and relevant way. Seasonal advice, interesting musings on plants, and photos of our work from the crew in the field. Hopefully we won’t bore you about what we are having at Starbucks!

Blogging and Facebook appeal to me since I have little conversations in my head a lot and I like the written word. Ideas, critiques and amazement thought bubbles (good and bad) pop in my mind all day so why not pass some of that along to you? Let’s share it together.

We are also on Pinterest and Houzz to showcase and trade awesome photos. Landscapes and gardens are so visually focused that sharing some of our favorite photos and seeing what else is out there is very appealing. Have you checked out either of these sites? It reminds me that the human mind is endless in imagination and creativity.

Christie Dustman