Monday, February 11, 2013

A few containers from 2012...

I loved these containers in particular. A couple came together through the season in a bountiful way that even surprised me.

I like shade containers.  You can really go nuts with gorgeous leaves, and they tend to just get more and more lush as the season progresses, rather than getting leggy or fried, like sun containers sometimes can.
                                                 This one really surpassed all expectations.

                                                  This was a late summer/early fall replant.
         This pot lasted weeks, from September well into November, with only a couple minor tweaks.
So did this one.  Celosia is amazing!  It bloomed more than 6 weeks, and the dried blooms looked beautiful several weeks more.

Fall container planting starts.  I was sorry to pull out that lush fern planting, but this came out nicely.  I included the baby mugo pines as my "base."  You'll see below that they and the birch branches are left in place for the winter pots.

                     I love these African Knobs.  No one seems to know what their Latin name is.

I always use live plants for my winter containers.  For one thing, those Christmas containers with evergreen boughs just look very cliche to me.  When did holiday pots get stuck in a Currier and Ives postcard?  It's the 21st century.  And those boughs look like the rest of us do by the first of the year; dehydrated, hungover, frozen, tired.  Live plants, on the other hand,  look fantastic until April.  I often just take out the accent twigs and put in a small something blooming in April, like pansies, to tide the client over until there's more plant material available.  Above is a little blue juniper.
                        This container has evergreen bearberry (not barberry, which is not evergreen).

And I had to include my Halloween pumpkin.  Looks like a punk bookie, no?  I used miscanthus for hair.  The next day it was all dried out, so it had "curls."

Now the plants show up...

All paths are based with compacted gravel at this point.  We are setting the flagstone in areas that will get more traffic, or that I want to be visually accented.

Plant materials include 'Smaragd' arborvitae (less likely to split with winter snowloads with their strong central leaders), amur maple (great as a small understory tree, with brilliant red and orange fall color), magnolia virginiana (lovely pale yellow flowers, back there in the corner behind Manuel) and lots of grasses and different sedums.  Everything is drought tolerant and easy to maintain.
The paths still do not have the final layer of bluestone screenings, because we don't want to mess them up with the work of planting.

I do not miss that horrendous yew.  These arborvitae still create privacy with a staggered "wall," without eating up all that good real estate.
Perennials along the west side include helianthus, eupatorium 'Gateway,' perovskia, amsonia hubrichtii, and leucanthemum 'Becky.'

You can see the completed firepit.  Functional without screaming "FIRE PIT," it just melts into the naturalistic landscape.  And bluestone screenings are being laid down and tamped.  Also note all the different varieties of sedum planted around the firepit area.  They can take the heat.

When mulched, the whole landscape feels soft and woodsy.  Perennials in this shadier part of the garden include hostas 'Elegans,' 'Jimmy Crack Corn' and 'June,' lobelia siphilitica, lobelia 'Monet Moment,' (I will miss this plant!  It's been discontinued by Monrovia in favor of the "next big thing), alchemilla mollis, and ostrich ferns.

Meanwhile, as they finish the back, I spruce up the front.  Things had gotten a little out of control.  Now we can just sit back and wait for those October Skies asters to go bananas.
If you have a professional landscape installed and care for it yourself or have a third party care for it regularly, consider having the designer back now and again to regroup.  Especially if your designer is a little OCD, like me :)

This is not the best shot, as it's out the window, through a screen, with a phone.  BUT, now you can see the whole layout, with the flagstones at strategic locations.  You can see how the flow between deck and ground level works.
The hemlocks will eventually grow quite large, creating a real sense of privacy, enclosure and tranquility.  


Here are the after shots of the yard previously eaten by deck...
At this point, we have removed the hideous deck, and found not one but TWO concrete patios buried, one on top of the other.  This is an excellent example of how a project can incur unexpected costs.  Concrete is expensive to dump - - it's done by weight.
The new smaller deck is mostly finished.  There are two levels, bringing people down to the ground level gradually.  Such soft transitions help to ground a deck in the space, and create an integrated whole.  This yard suddenly seems so expansive!

There will be meandering paths through the landscape composed of bluestone screenings on top of a gravel base.  One path, along the west side of the property, however, will be large bluestone stepping stones, set fairly closely together.  This is a path that will be utilized year round for alley access (garbage, etc.), so it has to be level and able to be shoveled in winter.

Here are stones that we will use to create a naturalistic fire pit.  A fire pit doesn't have to be perfectly round. It just has to be able to hold some wood safely.  We line this one with lava rock.

The patio is also constructed of bluestone screenings, and is circular (I do love my circles).  At the beginning of each branch of the path network, there are bluestone stepping stones.  I want it to feel as if the circle is being held in place in  space, almost like with brackets of the stones, when viewed from above.

Also this fall...

So, a number of years ago, my husband and I were eating at a local restaurant with very tight seating, and we struck up a conversation with this really nice and fun couple at the next table.  Eventually they asked what I did, and they told me they had recently had a consultation and estimate (HUGE!) from another designer to remove the back deck and revamp the back yard.  The cost and scope kind of scared them off the whole project.  I said I had a feeling I could do better, and they ended up hiring Calafia, but we did the front, creating the landscape of the white "castle" you see on my website.  Never did get to the back, until this last fall.  
Here you see the path along the side of the house, leading into the back yard.  Below that, the monstrosity that was the old deck.  Honestly, it wasn't safe to walk on, and looked like a yacht had been beached in the yard.  And see that gorgeous, HUGE old elm?  Poor thing was surrounded by the enemy, and really struggling.

                       And one look at this old yew and I was salivating...  Where is my chain saw?
The clients love their front yard, with its controlled wildness, and wanted something similarly naturalistic, with a smaller deck of some kind.
One thing I don't like about a lot of decks is the way they can cut one off from the landscape.  It kind of makes you feel like you're in a playpen, and all the real action is "out there" somewhere.  And this one in particular made the yard feel really claustrophobic.  Plus it was red.  Why on earth...(the clients had inherited it when they bought the house).

NEXT POST will show the afters...

Perusing the work of late summer and fall...

So some cook things happened the second half of the season.  In Park Ridge, we enclosed a porch to make it a three-season room, adding a new, larger stone patio with lighting, a gas line for the grill, and new plantings.  Below, you see the entry to the garden along the side of the house, and a view of the house from the back yard.

Below you can see the newly enclosed porch.  We actually raised the floor, so that the porch was at the same level as the rest of the first floor.  The step down now happens outside the back door rather than inside the porch.  
The new patio is a beautiful stone called Provence, with rust and mossy green tones, perfect for the house.  It is not often I have such adventurous clients, so this was fun!  
We did reuse some of the old boxwood.  Now it creates a partially enclosing curve on the east side of the patio, giving a seat wall feeling without the expense of the masonry (warning, don't sit on it though, heh heh).

 This is the entry to the garden now.  Much more welcoming, with the sturdy lattice fence supporting honeysuckle vines as well as concealing the neighbor's chain link.
 A little water in the garden makes a beautiful difference, creating light and reflection.  The magnolia is one of the Little Girl hybrids called Jane.  Nice and small.

 I have to add that my dog is cute.  And she does love a car ride.