Monthly Archives: September 2014

A Downside to Sunny Skies?

Dogwood Drought_Stress1921We love this lovely sunny weather –blue skies and crisp air. However, for each day it is sunny, your plants go another day without water. The Boston area hasn’t had more than an inch or two of appreciable rainfall in the past two and a half months, when we usually get 6 – 8 inches. We’re in a dry spell which can spell disaster for your plants going into the winter. Even those of you with irrigation systems will have plants that are in distress since irrigation systems rarely offer enough water volume to the larger plants in your landscape.

ROOT DEVELOPMENT: Fall is the time when perennials, shrubs and trees hunker down and stop growing above the ground: leaves fall off, stems dry, needles shed. All seems quiet and dormant. But if we could look under the ground, we would see an active bevy of root development happening. Soil temperatures are still warm, and plants produce more new roots in the fall than in the spring until the ground truly freezes. This is why planting in the fall is so successful: we take advantage of a plant’s natural inclination to develop new roots. A strong root system helps plants be ready to start growing right away in the spring.

HYDRATION: Even though plants stop producing growth above ground, their leaves continue to transpire water. Picture your rhododendrons and boxwoods that keep their evergreen leaves into the winter. They are still losing water molecules from their leaves each day without being able to bring in new water from the soil. This leads to leaf desiccation over the fall and winter. The leaves turn yellow and dry up. In addition, water stress can prematurely cause fall coloration.

GARDEN INSPECTION: Our advice is to go out and look at your plants – do you see any drooping leaves, yellowing, brown curled edges, or wilting? These are signs that your plant is stressed with the lack of water. I encourage you to also look at your larger shrubs and trees.

DEEP WATERING: We recommend deep watering to get moisture down into the top 18” of soil where the majority of water-absorbing roots are found. The ideal method is the slow-soak method – put your hose at the base of the plant and turn on a low trickle from your hose for 1 hour per plant. Keep track with a kitchen timer so you don’t forget and leave the hose running. If you are fortunate enough to have a sprinkler system, use it! An adequate amount of water would be 1-2” of water every 4-7 days, if we continue to have little or no rainfall.

Prioritize your newer plants since they are still establishing deep root systems and depend on surface water for survival. But with this drought, also deep water any tree with a trunk 2-5” wide and larger, older shrubs.

Deepwater tree - hoseYour plants are counting on you! Give them that long, satisfying drink of water frequently and they’ll more than repay you with beauty and vigor in the Spring.

Not Your Average Screening Solution

9-18-14 screening solution 1This past spring we were asked to design the impossible:  create a visual screen along the property line that was tall, narrow, wouldn’t block the sun and wasn’t a fence.  Hmmmm …    A row of tall evergreens or a tree was nixed due to the added shade and depth of planting bed it would occupy.  What else could do the job?

In short order Christie had the idea to create a series of sculptural  lattice “trees” that would obfuscate the view into the neighbor’s property and be used to showcase the client’s clematis vines.  What seemed like a straight forward idea quickly grew in complexity when Allan Robinson had to make the idea structurally sound.  The lattice panels were reinforced with stainless steel rods to allow us to hang them unconventionally, on one side;  red cedar fence posts had to be sourced so the lattice panels and posts would weather evenly; and an experienced cabinet maker developed a custom jig to mount the panels to the posts.  Working long hours and into the dusk, we conscripted extended family members and hustled to beat the clock, as the garden was to be featured in a National Garden Tour in two days’ time.

Sometimes an idea is just too good to pass up.  By collaborating with the homeowners, who had a strong sense of what they wanted; with multiple vendors (including and with multiple designers in our office, we were able to leverage the strength of many talented individuals and accomplish something unique and wonderful.

What problem do you need solved?  Let us collaborate with you.

9-18-14 screening solution 2

A Room with a View

9-4-14 room blog pixIt’s not just a phrase limited to travel destinations or books anymore. And why should it be? We all have indoor windows that seize our attention – like over the kitchen sink or across the dining table. With thoughtful design and intentional plant selection, your view from these indoor windows to the outside can be pleasing and relaxing year round. Maybe without a beach though…

When planning a landscape, it is easy to get overly focused on that front foundation planting or other areas where the public/guests can also see it. What will be planted on either side of the front door, for instance.   But most of us see this view only once or twice per day compared to the inside views that might engage us for an hour or more every day. We call these more compelling views the “primary” view: what you will be looking at most frequently. It might surprise you to figure out where it is at your home. It may also surprise you to see that there isn’t much to look at as of yet since it doesn’t demand public attention.

A primary view could also be a seasonal view from a patio or a deck. In this case, it is still a primary view, holding your attention for a longer length of time, but not a year round focal point. Many people are creating outdoor rooms with furniture and other accoutrements that are snow-filled in winter.   In this situation, your plant selection gracing these views should match the season(s) when you are outside. Maybe a lovely January composition is not going to be appreciated from your lounge chair on the deck.

Once you identify your primary views, put some time and effort into making them special. We are always here to help you create your “Room with a View”.