Archive for March 2013

Landscape Design Focus: Low Maintenance

Busy, busy, busy.  We're all looking for ways to make out lives fulfilling while, at the same time, juggling work and family responsibilities, exercise, travel, and social activities.  How can a homeowner — even one who enjoys a bit of puttering around outdoors — create a landscape that is beautiful, eco-friendly, and engaging?

Here are 5 key ideas for designing low maintenance landscapes:

Reduce your lawn area to a size that can be mowed in 20 minutes or less.  Mowing a lawn that size is a quick bit of exercise rather than a weekend-draining chore. Other maintenance chores like watering, fertilizing and weeding — and the related expenses — will also be reduced. Once you've determined the size and shape of your 20 minute lawn, edge it with roll top steel set into the ground with only the top 1/2" protruding above the soil (the reason to use edging is to keep the grass roots out of the planting bed, not keep the mulch in it). Dedicate the rest of your yard to planting beds, native lawn to leave "rough", or hardscapes like paths, patios, decks, etc.

My back lawn takes 10 minutes to mow, the front about 8.
The anti-lawn.  Fescue grass in it's natural state.

Focus on woody plants.  Fill your planting beds with trees and shrubs, both evergreen and deciduous. These plants will give you structure and texture year-round, and require almost zero maintenance when the "right plant, right place" principal is followed.  Select from regional favorites with a good track record for hardiness. Choose an assortment to include colorful foliage, flowers, interesting bark, and small berry-like fruits. Avoid fast growing, weak wooded, messy species or those that can become invasive via root suckers or seedlings.   To lighten things up and add movement to the garden include ornamental grasses.  Most need a quick chop down to the ground once a year, and that's it.  If you want to include perennial flowers, keep them grouped together in areas of high visibility — near an entryway or patio, for example. Keep annuals and veggies in containers, exclusively. Here are some of my favorite, go-to plants.
A good assortment of shrubs, trees and a few perennials provide low care, multi-season interest to this sunny, corner property.
Different scale, different design style, same low maintenance concept.
Use weed barrier fabric and an inorganic mulch.  The monotony and glare of an entire landscape swathed in rock is not a pretty sight; it can also create a heat sink by absorbing the sun's warmth and radiating it long into the night (not what you want in the middle of summer, for sure!).  So I give this recommendation with the caveat that the landscape plantings are designed to cover at least 90% of it once they mature.  Keep these rock beds clean with a monthly rake/blow/vacuum to keep them free of debris and weed seeds.  The alternative, which can be very effective once established, is to plant perennial groundcovers to serve as a living mulch.
A clever design makes the most of an awkward space.  The unobtrusive texture of small scale pea gravel keeps the focus on the plants.
Buffalo grass as a groundcover / living mulch.   It's watered once a month in the summer and mowed once a year in early spring.
Use an automated irrigation system.  An investment, yes. But a truly effective way to save water and reduce hands-on time in the yard. Update your system to include a programmable clock for different types of sprinklers/plants/hydrozones (water delivery systems like pop-up spray heads for turf and low volume drip for shrubs), soil moisture sensors, and a rain shut off valve. Monitor your system on a regular basis to make sure that everything is running smoothly.

Use low maintenance hardscape materials.  Look for products that will age gracefully without the need to paint, spray, or power-wash.  Everything from fences, decks, and trellises to pathways, patios, and furnishings can be selected with low care as a priority. Natural stone, cedar, redwood,  and steel are just a few options.
This stylish metal gate by artist Dennis West will continue to age beautifully.
No maintenance necessary — this cedar trellis will age to a soft gray.  
Whether you're starting to build a new landscape from scratch or just tweaking an established garden, I hope these ideas will help stimulate your landscape plans for the coming season.  Thanks for visiting!

Comments Off

Landscape Design Focus: Modern

Last summer, when I attended the annual Wheat Ridge Garden Tour, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to explore a beautifully designed and built modernist landscape.  The site is challenging; a sloping corner lot with a "built-over/walk-out" garage.  The 1950's era home features classic mid-mod geometry and deep roof overhangs.   In a nod to our region, pink flagstone was used as a decorative accent on the facade.

The homeowners worked with Los Angeles based landscape architect, Charles Elliott, and Kevin Bound of the local landscape design-build firm, Artscapes, to get a simple, elegant, low maintenance design and high quality installation.

Slopes were terraced with flagstone retaining walls and filled with colorful plantings, making access to both the front entry and the backyard most welcoming:

The backyard features multiple play areas for the family's young children.
A concrete "sport court" (in the foreground), a play structure with soft landing (upper right), and just enough level lawn area means lots of play space for everyone.
Distinctive dining and lounging areas are joined by a "soft" patio.
A platform deck floats over the sloping grade and minimizes damage to tree roots.
Use a bunch grass (like turf-type tall fescue) for this type of planting rather than a sod forming grass (like Kentucky bluegrass) for lower maintenance (less trimming).
The original flagstone patio features vintage furniture, too!
The use of the cast concrete squares throughout the landscape is a nice unifying element — and a much more economical choice than cut flagstone.  They serve as a practical surface for stepping stones, and a decorative accent in larger areas of gravel mulch.

The limited plant palette and row plantings enhance the geometry of the house and make for lower maintenance, too.
Purple-blue is the key color for the entry garden, filled with xeric lavender, bluemist spirea, grasses, and mugo pine.
For those of you considering a minimalist, modern style, remember these key concepts:
  • proper scale
  • very limited palette of hardscape materials, harmonious to home
  • geometric shapes for planting beds and hard surface areas
  • limited palette of plant material
Thanks to the Mead family for sharing their beautiful, distinctive landscape with us!

Comments Off
garden share bristol. Powered by Blogger.