Category Archives: Garden Design

Planning Your Outdoor Space

Intentionally developing your outdoor space is an excellent way to improve the quality of your home and your life. But similar to renovating an interior area of your home, remaking your lawn and garden is not (always) without its challenges. Incomplete planning can end up exceeding your budget, or worse, leave you feeling unsatisfied with the end result. Our designers can work with you to help create an outdoor space that fits your budget and style, and here are a few things to get you started.

What kind of outdoor space do you want?

This may seem like a simple question, but with so many choices available in outdoor design, it’s worth really taking some time to envision what you hope your space becomes. Do you want an outdoor living room where you can relax with your friends and family? Or do you visualize an outdoor dining room and kitchen? Perhaps you’re less concerned with having space to entertain and drawn more to the idea of having a robust garden, featuring a wide assortment of plant life? Any of these options (or a combination thereof) can be achieved, but having a sense of how you want the space to function will drive how your space gets laid out.

What challenges are unique to your space?

Your outdoor area probably has positive qualities as well as problems to solve. Just like planning your kitchen or vacation, it is important to think through all of the considerations. Is your space limited in size, hence requires clever planning? Too much sun, shade, or wind? Do you have standing water after it rains? Are you in close proximity to your neighbors and therefore need to keep them in mind when you plan your design? It’s important to know what may be potential problems as you begin so, if needed, creative measures can be taken to solve them. For example, you’re not likely to want to place furniture in an area where it bakes in the sun all day. Or if your space is particularly windy, you’ll want plants that are resistant to the damage it can cause. Being mindful of your unique circumstances will ensure a smoother process.  

How much time and energy do you have for maintenance?

Just as the inside of your home needs routine care and maintenance, so too will your outdoor space. Are you someone who enjoys spending time caring for plants every weekend, or do you need more of a “hands-off” garden? Does the idea of having to winterize an outdoor kitchen stress you out? Are you comfortable with the thought of employing a fine gardening team keep your property looking great so all you have to do is enjoy? Having realistic expectations of your time and interest level can help guarantee that your yard and garden do not end up becoming an irritating presence in your life.

 

How much money do you want to spend?

Nobody likes to think about the expense that comes with home-improvement projects. In reality, though, projects cost money and most of us don’t know what to expect. Our designers can help demystify the costs of many well-loved outdoor features like a patio, walkway, lawn, etc. You may be surprised to learn how much it cost to install the outdoor kitchen you had hoped for, or, on the contrary, you may be surprised to find furniture that is quite affordable. We find that thinking about developing and installing functional and beautiful outdoor space is much like the investment you would make inside the house.  The costs can be similar. Make sure you know what your priorities are, as well as what you can do without (for the time being, at least), and adjust your budget accordingly.

Fortunately, when it comes to designing your outdoor space, there are plenty of ways to be flexible and creative. Feel free to call us when you’re ready to begin; we can’t wait to work with you!

 

Get Ready for Bulbs!

Bulbs Not PlantedFall is here, and fall is bulb time! We are planning bulb “overlays” for the garden, meaning that bulbs can be planted on top of and in between the other plants in your garden. Bulbs can bloom from March to May using crocus, grape hyacinths, various types of tulips, daffodils and alliums. Many of these bulbs will come back year after year except for highly bred tulips. When we design bulbs, we think about sequencing the blooming over time and color combinations. We can do something completely different color-wise from the other plants in your garden – bright colors, cool colors, monochromatic, etc.

With bulbs, it is not uncommon to plant a large number to make a decent statement, for example, 500 crocuses. It takes a lot of bulbs to really show up and not look sparse!CrocusesOur bulb orders can cost $300 to $500 to $700 plus labor. We take care to ensure that each bulb is planted with its growing eye up rather than just scattering them in a hole.

Tulips & Daffodils

 

If you’re interested in thinking about early spring color, please email Brian at brian@christiedustman.com by Tuesday, October 31st. We will need to know what you are comfortable spending and with that in mind, we can tell you what to plant where for the best impact!

 

Bring the Colors of Summer to Your Container Gardens

Get a jump on summer with abundant flowers in your containers!Summer Container closeup

Unlike the limited palette of early spring, the long summer season offers a huge array of bloom and foliage colors. Let us customize your containers to your color preference, style flair and property conditions.

We are scheduling summer container installations between May 29 through June 9. Let us know if we can make one for you! If you want to be included on our summer container schedule, please email Tim, Container Gardens Manager, by May 22nd.

Summer Containers on patioSummer Containers in fountain

Falling for Containers

Contributed by Tim Wholey

Reflecting on this past summer, one word jumps out – RAIN – or more specifically, the lack of it.  It was one of the hottest and driest on record. We added “deep watering” to our garden maintenance regime this past summer and let many hoses trickle on plants at our clients’ homes during this severe drought. Even with hoses and an irrigation system, the lack of rain has been hard on gardens. The poor plants just looked hot and brown!

This brings me to my passion: outdoor containers. I love that containers are easy to water, require very little water overall – and it doesn’t take much time! Quite different than large gardens!

With our fall container season starting this week, I have to say that I’m looking forward to it this year more than ever. I’ve just started replacing summer blooms with flowers reflecting all the colors of the new season:  golds, yellows, reds, oranges and purples. It has been a welcome change for all of us.

Consider the ease and beauty burst of a container for this fall at your house – I’d love to work with you!

A Design for All Times

Contributed by Curtis Hawley

“I have all my life been considering distant effects and always sacrificing immediate success and applause to that of the future.”  Frederick Law Olmsted

A Clearing in the DistanceEarlier this year, I had the good fortune of running into a great read, A Clearing in the Distance: Frederick Law Olmsted and America in the Nineteenth Century by Witold Rybczynski. Being new to the horticultural field, I’ve been exposed to a lot of new and exciting things, and while working in and around Greater Boston, one can’t go too long without seeing the name Olmsted. A colleague enlightened me to the fact that Frederick Law Olmsted designed not only Boston’s Emerald Necklace, but also New York City’s Central Park. I immediately thought, “That’s quite an accomplishment!”, but what was more impressive is that those accomplishments turned out to be just a small part of quite a varied and accomplished career.

I think we all have a tendency to examine our own lives when we read about another’s life. Like me, I appreciated that Olmsted took his time early on in his career to feel out exactly what his passions and interests were. By taking his time, I mean he traveled the world, started a farm, explored the master gardens of Europe, authored nationwide publications and literature, was a strong voice against slavery and was the precursor to the American Red Cross during the Civil War, amongst other achievements.Emerald Necklace

For me, one of the biggest takeaways from his life and career was his propensity for long term planning. This skill exemplified his intelligence but much more so his immense generosity. To plan something so lasting as the Buffalo, New York Park System or The Biltmore Estate is a deliberate gift to future generations, one that he knowingly wouldn’t be able to fully appreciate in his own time. Imagine a painter or musician crafting a fresco or ballad but never being able to see it or listen to it? What vision indeed!

Visiting and working in our client’s gardens is a truly great opportunity and one that I genuinely enjoy. Installing new additions to a garden, pruning and shaping an ornamental tree, or even just editing a garden bed can have quite the long term impact on a garden. Seeing now that I have the ability to leave a more lasting impression than I might have initially realized only further enhances that experience.

What Inspires a Gardener?

Contributed by Christie Dustman

One of the hardest “titles” to call myself is an Artist.  I struggle to feel like what I do is creative enough, interesting enough, hard enough or just plain “artistic.” I hold artistry as the pinnacle of talents, along with diplomacy and social grace. Sometimes I say things like, “Oh, anyone could do this,” when speaking about my design work and encounter looks of disbelief.

I found myself on the other side of this experience two weeks ago when I led a group of 120 avid gardeners, members of the American Conifer Society, across Southwestern New Hampshire and Southeastern Vermont to tour four personal gardens. Each garden was unique; it was clear that each of the owners poured their personal inspiration and artistry into their beautiful properties, and each of them was so modest about what they had created.

It is this inability of the Artist to see their creations objectively that is so curious to me.  Perhaps when a garden grows out of love of plants, love of land, and love of combining the land, plants, stones, water and wood, that it feels more like a fulfillment of a deep need rather than an artistic endeavor. For each of these spectacular gardens, the gardeners who created them made them because they had to—they needed to—and they were so grateful to be appreciated by the wondrous eyes of us, the visitors. Perhaps we allowed them to see themselves as artists for a moment.

Enjoy these photos of the gardens…

Grout Hill Farm is a 300-acre property of farm land and gardens which owners Kris Fenderson & Alston Barrett have cultivated for forty-five years.

The barn at Grout Hill Farm

                         The Barn at Grout Hill Farm

Owned by Michael and Kathy Nerrie, the mission of Distant Hills Garden is to connect people to the natural world by opening their 58 acres of gardens, forest, fields and wetlands, including a floating ‘fens’ Cranberry Bog, to the public each month.

Water feature at Distant Hills Farm

                   Water feature at Distant Hills Farm

Inspired Garden, the private garden of Marc Hudson, garden designer and owner of a specialty nursery by the same name, was started by his father. The newer areas of the garden boast richly planted garden beds, a waterfall and a parterre garden.

Inspired Garden

                    Marc Hudson’s “Inspired Garden”

Woodland Farms, Susan and Rick Richter’s gardens-in-progress have been evolving for ten years around an oak-and-stone dwelling built to suggest a medieval Anglo-Norman house on 300 acres in Vermont. Exquisitely detailed gardens, buildings and stone complete the design of this small manor farm.

Woodland Farms

             Stone work by Dan Snow at Woodland Farms

Are You Being Bugged?!

Contributed by Tim Wholey

9-25-15 pesticide-free-zone-ladybugWhen you see something amiss with your plants and vegetables, like uninvited guests dining on them, do you cringe at the thought of reaching for that chemical pesticide you keep in your garage? Do visions of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring come to mind? You certainly don’t want to expose your family and pets to anything that could harm them or make them ill. While you don’t want to harm beneficial insects like honeybees, you don’t want to see all your beautiful results, money and hard work being devoured either.

What to do? Don’t fret, there are safe organic remedies that you can easily make yourself, often with ingredients you already have around the house. And you will save some money too!

Various remedies make use of natural odors, bad taste, stickiness, texture & even heat to ward off pests. They call for such common household ingredients as onions, garlic cloves, jalapeno peppers, cooking oil & baking soda, just to name a few. Growing certain flowers and herbs, such as Chrysanthemums, garlic bulbs & Marigolds, and planting them among your vegetables can also be an effective means to ward off certain insects.

To apply any solution, understand the problem first. For instance, is the problem related to insect infestation, fungi, mildew or some other problem? I have selected just a few websites that can help you select the right remedy and walk you through a few simple steps to get you on your way to safer, non-toxic pest control in your garden.9-24-15 Spray_bottle

Please share your results with us if you try or have tried any of these solutions!

http://eartheasy.com/grow_nat_pest_cntrl.htm#c

http://homeguides.sfgate.com/homemade-organic-pesticide-vegetables-45069.html

http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/homemade-pesticides-zmaz80mazraw.aspx?PageId=2#ArticleContent

http://tipnut.com/natural-pesticides/

http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/organic-pesticides/

http://www.homegrown.org/forum/topics/homemade-organic-pesticide-sprays-101

The ornamental grass isn’t always greener …

2015-7-8 Strictus grass

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Strictus’ – Porcupine grass

Contributed by Allan Robinson

What color is your grass?  Many idolize the rich emerald green of a lawn. I must confess that after I’ve planted a small patch of lawn in my reconfigured backyard, I have green lawn envy too.

But what about ornamental grasses that come in a wide range of colors, shapes, textures and sizes? The category of “ornamental grasses” encompass a larger range of species, including Bamboo, which is technically a grass, and Carex, which is a sedge and not a true grass. We tend to lump all plants that appear to grow like our beloved Lawn grass, regardless of its actual genus, into the ornamental grass family. Grasses provide a foil for the flowering lovelies of the season but also give seasonal variation including texture, showy flowers, fall color and winter structure and interest.

2015-7-8 hakonechloa 2

Hakonechloa macra

When it comes to ornamental grasses and color, do you have a color preference?  There are the cool blues which can vary from silver-blue to blue-green.  Think about those cute little tufted mounds of blue fescue or blue oat grass – I’ll admit it, I’ve seen it used well and not so well.  Also yellow, green and variegated are worth considering too.  Two of my favorites, which both thrive in partial sun to shady conditions are Hakonechloa macra (Japanese forest grass) available in green and yellow with bright green variegation, mounds beautifully on a slope or the edge of a path; and Carex morrowii ‘Ice Dance’  which has green leaves edged in creamy white.  This Carex stands up to winter  – just give it a serious haircut in spring before the new growth to keep it looking great for the rest of the year.  For sunny locations consider Miscanthus sinensis ‘Strictus’ also known as Porcupine grass because of its yellow horizontal banding and stiff upright appearance.  It’s a real conversation piece.

2015-7-8 Miscanthus purpurescens

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Purpurescens’

2015-7-8 Panicum virg Ruby Ribbons

Panicum virgatum ‘Ruby Ribbons’

To introduce red, there is Miscanthus ‘Purpurescens’ with its green foliage developing a red color in autumn as well as Panicum virgatum ‘Ruby Ribbons’ with hues of deep red and red seed heads in mid-to-late summer.  Purple can be found in the tinged blades of Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’ that deepen in color during the season.

 

So you see, the grass isn’t always greener, sometimes it’s the color of the rainbow.

Let us help you find your color.

On the Menu: Top Five Plants for Our Pollinator Friends

Contributed by Jim Lynn

Flowers are finally blooming full force out in the gardens! The early ephemeral plants and bulbs have passed by to make way for the great showy blooms of late spring and early summer. With growing interest in the health of pollinating insects like Honeybees and the Monarch Butterfly, as gardeners we need to be planting the right flowers for our fluttering friends. Here is my Top 5 List of Plants for Pollinators.

2015-6-17 Blue anise hyssopBlue Fortune Anise Hyssop – Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’  This showy perennial blooms from early/mid-July all the way to the beginning of October! With an attractive Anise aroma and tall purple spike flowers, this interactive plant for the landscape has foliage that attracts pollinators of all kinds. If you are lucky enough, you might also find Mantis hanging out in the plant looking for a snack of its own. This perennial will self-seed heavily if the flower spikes are not removed after blooms have passed.

2015-6-17 Asclepias tuberosaButterfly Flower – Asclepias tuberosa  With a name like Butterfly Flower this type of Milkweed MUST make the list! Asclepias are known to be an important part of the life cycle for the Monarch Butterfly. Sometimes referred to as the caviar of butterflies, caterpillars of the Monarch need this as a host plant to make the transition from caterpillar to butterfly. Visit The Xerces Society to find out more information on the importance of this plant and helping our pollinator friends. When planting, be sure to find a variety native to your region since the butterflies that visit your gardens will be dependent upon the local varieties.

2015-6-17 Echinacea purpureaPurple Cone Flower – Echinacea purpurea  This wonderful prairie wildflower is great for massing or in meadow plantings and can tolerate drought. It produces large showy flowers that are sturdy and long lasting. Seed heads provide a great landing pad for pollinators and provide winter interest if not cut back. Echinacea is also a valuable herb, much sought after for boosting the immune system. Due to advancements in plant breeding, Echinacea is available in a wide range of colors besides purple.

2015-6-17 MonardaBee Balm / Bergamot – Monarda didyma  Bee-Balms are treasured garden herbs, nectar providers, and showy ornamentals. Monarda will draw attention with its bright spider-like flowers and can form impressive massings. This plant does best with constant moisture and ample space. Deadhead for extended bloom. ‘Jacob Cline’ is a mildew resistant variety and has handsome foliage.

2015-6-17 BaptisiaFalse Indigo – Baptisia australis  Perennial Plant of the Year for 2010! This perennial is a bushy, long-lived plant for the back of a border. It has gray-green foliage, lovely pea-like flowers and likes to stay in one spot. Pods give long season of interest and attract many of the native bees. This drought tolerant plant is not just good for the pollinators but also for water conservation. Once established this plant requires minimal additional watering.

If you’re looking for more ideas for attracting pollinators to your garden, just ask us! We’re always available to help.

On the Rocks

2015-6-3 rock + evergreenContributed by Allan Robinson

For many of us, when we think of the contents of a garden we often think of plants – our favorite perennials, trees or shrubs.  Perhaps an arbor, wall, bench or chair, maybe even a hammock.  Some of us may think of sculptural elements like water, art, gazing balls or a bird bath.  But let’s look at another element that humans have been working with and around since time began:  rock.

From an early perspective, rocks were the byproduct of gardening, moved to the side of the field for easier cultivation.  Think of those iconic fieldstone walls running through the New England woods.  We’ve all come across plenty of rocks, perhaps more than we care to think about.  Just how many times has our planting progress been thwarted by that all too familiar jarring feeling and corresponding metal-on-stone audible clank?  Many of us would be happy to never see another stone in our gardens again!  But I suggest taking another look at stone.

Rocks can be used as sculptural elements in the garden to satisfy a need for form, function or both.  Smaller stones can provide a path to, or edge along, our favorite perennial bed.  Larger rocks can be an enduring four season focal point or act as a seat to catch a moment’s rest.  A jagged rock protruding from the earth creates a sense of drama whereas a rounded stone nestled among ground covers can be soothing and look natural.  Rocks can be the backdrop to show off one of our favorite plants.  Rocks with crags or a depression can collect water and attract wildlife.  And if your “thumb” errs on the brown side rather than green, you’ll never have to worry about watering, killing or overwintering rocks.

Let us help you look at rocks in a positive light!