Category Archives: Garden maintenance

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!


Water, water, water!

Contributed by Christie Dustman

Summer’s wonderful sunny weather is here in full force and we humans love it!   But our plants experience summer differently.  The Boston area is entering a drought ……… and this follows a winter and spring of low moisture.

While it occurs to many of us to water the Evergreens + perennialsperennials we have, few of us think about our shrubs and trees. Perennials and perhaps the temperamental Blue Mophead Hydrangeas wilt more easily, triggering our compassion.  More established shrubs and trees, on the other hand, are stalwart in the face of lack of water though at a more severe point may lose inner leaves or show fall colors out of season.  Much like we think to pack water for our kids, we may forget our adult water bottles at home.

True confession:  Every day when I get home, I pull out my hose and get to work on systematically watering my shrubs and trees. Dinner and the dog can wait.  I start in the back left corner and work around my garden 360 degrees.

I recommend deep watering for large shrubs (3’ tall+), evergreens (hedges too!), and trees Deepwater-tree-hose(smaller and large canopy trees) 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 ½ -1 hour per plant.  For a large shade tree, water on both sides of the trunk, so 2 hours total. The goal is for the water to seep into the ground and not run off.  Keep track with a kitchen timer so you don’t forget and leave the hose running.

I will be deep watering my larger plants once per week until the natural rainfall comes back – most likely into the fall – and encourage you to do the same. Check out the links below from our friends at the UMass Extension Landscape, Nursery & Urban Forestry and feel free to email me if you have specific questions!

Dry, Dry, Dry… Resources for Landscapers

Long-term Drought Effects on Trees and Shrubs

U.S. Drought Monitor: MA

Tales from another new gardener …

Contributed by Curtis Hawley

2016 3-23 Liz gardening

I had previously written about being new to the fine gardening scene and all the great teachers I’ve had along the way giving timely advice and demonstrating proper technique to accomplish standout results. Well, last season I had an opportunity to pay this knowledge forward working with a fellow new gardener, Liz. Liz has had the desire to beautify her property for the 3 years since moving there but wanted to avoid the uncertainty that comes with a new venture. Christie worked with Liz to understand her desired goals and came up with a design to channel these energies. That’s where I came in.

Liz and I set out on an early Saturday morning to do the first real groundbreaking on her new front garden beds. We were both excited. This was my first experience working one-on-one with a client implementing a new design and Liz finally got to start working on her garden that up until now had only been an idea. We dove right into our work. We transplanted Peonies and daylilies, defined/redefined bed edges, graded out beds and then began planting Hydrangeas and Persicaria.

We were making great progress! I was preparing the beds, barely able to keep a step ahead of Liz who quickly became a whiz at transplanting and proper planting techniques with the new plants being added to her garden. As we progressed nicely and the garden was beginning to take shape some of the axioms of my mentors came to mind: slow down and most importantly HAVE FUN! So I started pulling Liz back away from our work so we could actually look at what we were doing, visualizing the end result and even playing around with the original design a little bit (don’t tell Christie).

It was a great experience to see another new gardener full of ideas and pos2016 3-23 side beditive energy taking to gardening so enthusiastically. Our newest gardener was off to a great start and when I left she was already thinking of the placement of some nice beach rocks she had collected and how to add those to her garden. That’s when I knew my job was done and I could leave confident that another gardener was well on her way.

Starting my garden list again

2015-12-3 gloves -prunersContributed by Allan Robinson

Like many of you, last weekend I was completing one of the “final” final clean-ups of the year. I’m hedging to say “final” as this IS New England and for another few weeks leaves will accumulate beneath the Boxwood hedge along my front walk. As the garden winds down, I find myself ticking through my mental checklist, taking stock of my garden. The thought occurs to me – maybe I will be out at least one more time unless Mother Nature unleashes the first snowfall of the year soon – but I digress.

I began my mental list of autumnal tasks: leaves bagged and at the curb, mm-hmm; bulbs in the ground ready to pop in the spring, ok; spigots off, hoses and patio furniture in the basement – all present and accounted for.  Perennials cut back – I’ve even divided a few and transplanted them, ready to settle in for their long sleep.  The winter A-frames and other assorted structures are in place to protect the plants in case we have another monumental snow load like last year.  Holiday lights are on the tree and the ground is beginning to freeze.  I think I may be done, beyond those last pesky leaves.

Sadly another year of gardening is coming to a close.  I’ll continue to mark the calendar with the usual events like Christmas, New Years, MLK & Valentine’s Day until garden activities resume.  I will also follow many of the winter garden events such as my Hawthorne tree losing its berries, Hellebores blooming in late winter, Crocuses and Snowdrops poking their heads through the snow, and some of the surest signs of spring: Hostas, Daylilies and Peonies beginning to push their tiny tips through the ground around the beginning of April. I can’t wait!

Until then I’ll be planning for next year’s garden. Lining up more tasks and big ideas like I hatched during last year’s 106 inches of snow. More transplanting, new plants and bigger projects like a reconfigured deck and an artistic fence to frame a view. While I am sad to head back inside, I feel a sense of satisfaction and optimism for 2016. How about you?