The Charmed Garden

From Planning to Planting, and from Harvest to Table.

Troubleshooting through Design

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Hello fellow garden lovers. Through my R & J Landscape Design Posts I will offer solutions to problem spots in your gardens, front and back yards.  Through a series of  before and after photos of designs created by R & J Landscape Design, I will show how with a well thought out design, you can have a low maintenance garden that can solve various issues, such as too much or not enough water, or too much sun or shade, or too much or not enough view of  your neighbor’s lovely or not so lovely gardens.

Throughout our yards we can have micro climates created by concrete patios, driveways, garages, our neighbor’s trees, etc. Often we find it hard to get anything we plant to thrive year after year in those areas. What we plant may last a season or two but that’s it and in frustration we may just pave it, store our garbage cans there, park the unused wheel barrow, or just put a bench on it. Well I’m here to tell you that with the right plant(s) and a clever curve or two, you can create a lovely garden in that trouble spot.

Let’s start with a typical small front yard.  The home has a lawn in front, a concrete driveway along the side, and a sidewalk leading up to the door from the driveway. The front of this home faces west, with driveway is on the south side of the home (the sunnies spot). The Northwest corner of the home gets the least amount of sun,  not only because it is the northwest side of the home, but also because that side of the home gets shade from the next door neighbor’s home, which is just a few yards away. The sidewalk off the driveway cuts through the lawn, leaving a small planting area between the home and the sidewalk. The owner, who is an avid gardener, likes a tidy organized garden with four season color. Although he enjoys gardening, it is not his desire to spend so much time in his garden that he can’t also enjoy his pool when he comes home from a long day at work. So, with this checklist in mind, we created a garden that basically requires only monthly maintenance with a little more effort in the spring and fall.

This is a photo of the home before the homeowner gave it a face lift a few years ago. In this photo you can see that the homeowner had, well lets’s be honest, a pretty boring basic front yard.

This is a series of photos of the “after,” which I must say is pretty dramatic, and just plain pretty.

The homeowner gave the home a face lift with new windows, new door, and new roof, softening the appearance. The light colored stone is a perfect back drop for the colorful bushes and plants. The design is curvilinear, creating sweeping drama which is an important piece of the design.  The curving edge of the garden provides visual interest even when the plants are not so lush and colorful, such as in the winter or spring. Each curve is perfectly measured and marked with paint so when

Each of the plants have been chosen for their adaptability to their particular spot in the garden. The dwarf blue stem are in the corner of the concrete created by the driveway and the sidewalk because it likes a hot home. The concrete creates this hot spot. Next to the house, along the sidewalk are Boxwoods, which are the flexible middle child in the plant kingdom. They like sun or shade and don’t mind a hot spot at all. They are very versatile.

We have dogwoods against the house under the two picture windows. They prefer part shade, which is just what they get where they are. They are really happy campers where they are. We have hardy red and orange Day Lillies in two spots at both ends of the dogwoods, giving a spot of color in late spring and early summer.  The rose bushes are hardy Knockout Roses. They are so low maintenance it’s not funny. Bug and black spot resistant, requiring trimming in early spring and late fall – unless you like ’em really big and bushy.

At the farthest end of this design is the homeowner’s pride and joy, a dwarf Japanese Maple, This is called a specimen plant because it is a lonely only in the garden, making it a star. This plant prefers shade. Generally I wouldn’t put this plant in this spot because its is a sun/part-shade area, but the homeowner really, really wanted it. He is an avid gardener, so he understood this baby would need a little more TLC than the rest of the new family members, and so far so good. 4 years on his baby is still happy. We transplanted some Sedum Autumn Joy from my garden under the the maple. We then mulched the lot and shazam! – a beautiful front yard with four season color. In the winter the Boxwoods are green and happy to finally be noticed. The dogwoods are redtwig so their bright crimson stems steal the show. In the spring the blue grass, tulips and daylillies provide color until the roses bloom and the dogwoods bud. For added interest, the dogwoods are variegated, meaning they are green and white. In the summer the roses are the star along with the Japanese maple. In the fall, the Sedum Autumn Joy turn a gorgeous rust color, complimenting the Maple.  The homeowner also has a planter on the front of the house, and two planters, one on each side of the front door. Those planters are filled with complementary colorful annuals.

Here are photos of the same garden in the winter. Here you can see the awesome red twig dogwoods, now the star of the show. What’s really cool here is no one else on the block has these beauties in their landscape, making his garden design truly unique.

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Author: Laurine M. Byrne

I received my certification as a Landscape Designer from Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois and I received my horticulture education through classes at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois and through the master gardener program at Univ of Illinois Extension. In my designs, I love mixing veggies and herbs with native perennials and flowering bushes as you can see from the pictures of my own yard. I love creating gardens for people who like to garden, not just installing traditional landscaping, but actually creating gardens that the homeowner connects to personally. I love that my clients who thought they couldn't grow anything now have green thumbs, because all it takes is the right plant in the right site. And I really love that my clients become my friends in the process of creating their gardens.

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