Adventures of a Transplanted Gardener
After losing a tree in last year's hurricanes, these folks opted for a complete makeover. One advantage to having a landscaping company come in and install it is that it's done in two days. I'll give you some cautions and considerations if you’re thinking about installing your own instant landscape. The biggest problem is that landscaping is an ongoing process, not an event, but as a society we've been programmed into accepting instant landscapes like this as the ideal. People tend to forget that some plants will die and some will become way too exuberant, so and landscape is never "done." And instant landscapes like this are not inexpensive...
Before the new plants arrive, the yard was graded. Three truckloads of soil became a ridge installed along the road to provide for more interest and a little privacy. It's a clean slate for the new landscape. But drainage could be a problem in a gully-washer rainfall. I hope a French drain was installed at the front of house to channel the excess storm water to the lake behind the house.
The plants look pretty upon arrival
Because the landscape company is looking for instantaneous beauty, plants that look good at the time of installation are favored. This may leave some gaps in interest throughout the year. Ask the question about year-round displays. Another potential problem is that trees, shrubs, and perennials may be planted too close together for instant curb appeal. Ask about the eventual size and growing habits of each plant and plan for the future.
First, the landscape guys spray painted the outlines of the gardens and put the sod in place. They then moved the one existing sago (Cycas revoluta) to the top of the ridge. This location makes for a better anchor on that corner of the garden. The potted bedding plants were then set in their proposed planting sites. The owner was consulted before they were planted. I like the undulating pattern of the bed—much more interesting than a straight edge, but think about the mowing and maintenance. Mowing curving line on the sloping lawn next to the road will be a bit tricky. Don’t make it too hard to care for.
Here is the plant list:
· Liriope (Liriope
muscari `Variegata') Native to Asia - As discussed in my French
drain article, this hardy evergreen member of the lily family is
normally planted as a border.
· Indian hawthorn
(Raphiolepis indica) Native to Asia - Widely planted around here
and shaped into hedges or gumdrops. It does have berries that
the birds like.
Notice anything? Yep, nothing, except for the grass, is native. Several native species could have been chosen. I realize that the nursery business is difficult, especially with the probable guarantees made for everything to live a year. Safe, reliable, and abundant stock is the prudent business decision, but is is best for your needs?
It is up to us, as gardeners, to provide diversity
Here's something else to consider. These plants (and a few others) are so widely planted around here that the whole region is losing its diversity. As native habitat is lost because of development or due to invasive aliens, it it up to us, as gardeners, to provide greenways on our property and diversity in our gardens.
More on possible native plant choices in the next column.
(Update: This expensive landscaping job only lasted a year before it was entirely replaced again. They hauled the extra soil away, installed a pervious driveway and a drainage system--when the wet season arrived, the instant landscape design had directed all excess water into their house! Several years later, they installed yet another instant landscape. Instant landscaping is a false promise, because a landscape is never "finished," it's an ongoing project.)
Ginny Stibolt is a life-long gardener, a botanist, a naturalist, and a garden writer. You may contact her or read more of her articles posted on her website: www.greengardeningmatters.com.
Copyright Ginny Stibolt