Welcome to R & J Landscape Design!
This part of The Charmed Garden blog will show you before and after photos with advice on troubleshooting using design techniques combined with some basic horticulture information.
Budget Friendly Re-Design
I truly believe anyone can have a beautiful, low maintenance, garden with a personal, unique design. This garden design was done for a couple in Oak Park, Illinois. The wife is recently retired, and the husband has a few more years before joining her. They enjoy gardening, but not to an obsession (like yours truly). This is an older home that has been lovingly taken care of and completely remodeled over the years. The interior is beautiful simplicity with natural colors and materials throughout. The front of the home has an enclosed porch, also newly remodeled. The back of the house has an add-on screened in porch with a unique layout, giving it the feel of an outdoor room. Both porches are used every day, so a colorful view was high on the list.
Here is the home BEFORE
A closer look at the details.
And here is the AFTER – – A new colorful curvilinear design
I designed their garden with the following criteria in mind: 1) the couple’s design style, matching the interior style with the exterior; 2) four season color from low maintenance plants; 3) keeping budget in mind, I used some of the perennials already in the garden and cleaned up and rebuilt the existing wall; and 4) extended the garden bed giving them more garden to enjoy and giving the garden a style uniquely different from it’s neighbors.
The plants that give this garden its “bones” are the three variegated Ivory Halo Dogwoods in the center, which have red branches for winter color. At far end there is a dwarf Hydrangea Tree which blooms mid-summer, and next to the stairs there is a medium-sized rhododendron for spring color. These bushes were chosen with the home owners. The same for the perennials.
How can you adapt this to your own home? Well, first notice that this is not a large front yard. Any size yard can be transformed into the garden that suits your style, your budget, and the needs of the site. To make things easier and cheaper, work with what you already have. We used the somewhat curvilinear design already in place and the flag stones.
Use the design principle of grouping plants in 3’s, 5’s, 7’s, and so on. Here are 3 Sedum Autumn Joy grouped with a set of 2 Little Blue Stem and 1 miniature Sedum. All of these plants require little water, adapt quickly to their new home, are resilient to the snow being piled on them in the winter, and are happy in sun or part-shade.
Highlight the curves in your design by planting your annuals or smaller perennials in mass along the inside of the edging. Use the same color and the design will pop!
Sketch out your plan, layout the pattern of your plants and give it a go.
Hardy Design for Rough and Rugged Soil
This is a home near Vienna, Virginia. The photo is taken just after the installation was complete. My sister’s friend sent to me her plat of survey and photos, from which I was able to obtain enough information to prepare her design.
This is a curvilinear design
The curvilinear design is continued on the other side of the driveway. Continuity of the curvilinear pattern across the front of the home to the other side of the garage gives this design fluidity and makes it unique to the neighborhood. Also gives us more space to add height and color to a that’s otherwise just a long strip of lawn.
When I got to the site and we all started to dig in, we quickly realized we had to adjust. I mean it took a pick ax to break the ground to remove the grass. In addition, the roots of two trees in the front yard ran through the top of the grass instead of under it. I think this was also because of the condition of the soil.
If it was this hard for us to dig, then it would be even harder for the roots of the plants to break through and thrive. Imagine roots trying to move through a clay pot. Not only would the roots go no where, but the water would not drain either. Eventually the plant would die. Clay is rich in minerals, but the plants can’t access it because of how hard the soil is.
What we did was raise the beds by adding a ton of peat moss and garden soil to the beds. Over time the peat moss will break up the clay soil and until then, will provide drainage for the plants. We also put in natives that will thrive in sun part shade. Natives adapt quickly to their new home and generally require less water after they are established.
When designing your planting plan, be sure your bushes and perennials provide four season color. We have box woods, which are evergreen, and bushes that flower in early spring and mid summer. The grasses provide late summer and early fall color. We also included “specimen” plants, a lilac tree (dwarf tree with a lilac bush grafted to it) near the front door, and a lilac bush on the other side of the driveway. There are also azaleas, which thrive in Virginia, and we transplanted various perennials that the homeowner already had on site.
Here are a couple of “before” photos of the house sent to me by the client, which I used to create her design. Also is a photo of her plat of survey and of the plan, with a close up of the front yard.
Although we only installed the front yard design, our friend’s plan is to landscape all of her property. The back yard has water problems, and it’s just huge, as you can see. It’s too much to mow for her. But, due to the cost, she has plans to install it over time. It is always costly to install new landscape. Surprisingly soil and mulch can cost more than labor sometimes. So, it makes a lot of sense to have a long-term plan drawn up so that your gardens connect seamlessly and you have a clear idea of the costs.
Well there it is fellow garden lovers! The first before and after post. I hope it finds it’s way to a garden in need. Feel free to send any questions my way.