Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Plants - Beings of Opportunity...An Analogy

Plants are all about opportunity, nothing less. They love life.

They learn to live among one another as much as they may be competing for the same turf.

Some may win - some may lose. However; all their families, their species and offspring live on and on.

They strive, flourish and some may go to all extremes to reproduce - somehow they find and love life.

Most will endure all the ill-willed beings, pests and diseases, only to become as productive, beautiful and prolific as can be - they love life in spite of all else. Self and family come first, politely among all the others.

Bounded to earth by root and immobile, most create naturally balanced defenses, while also being social members of their given landscape. Some, overwhelmed by certain adversaries, may create painful or toxic protections, when due - justifiable.

Whether we place these friends of nature in the perfect location on our property or if we observe and experience them in the wild...

...They want to live, strive, reproduce, continue the all its glory.

I dare say plants are predictable, as much as I may claim or deny knowing much of any of this. Yet, I must say they are among our best friends.

Nonetheless, plants don't speak. (They do communicate chemically, though. You'd be surprised.) They'd all probably die in remorse if they realized how we, those who can speak, truly don't, not much, sincerely or with heart and conviction, with no political or false pretenses. They would be less fearful.

Stand your ground, support your family and those in your garden, but do listen to those voices in the breeze.

But, never abandon the garden you cultivated, enjoy and cherish, unless you are willing to lose that that part of earth, which is you.

Copyright © Doug Ingbretsen 2020

Saturday, June 27, 2020

From Fortress to Refreshing

We've all seen or experienced this: Some developer, contractor, previous owner or perhaps a landscape architect though it a wonderful idea to plant trees or tree-like shrubs along your home's foundation. Many of these were destine to obscure the beauty of your home and perhaps reach beyond its eaves. You may have needed to hack away at such plants to maintain their height, creating an unhealthy mess.

Most home structures are attractive, or can be, but not if hidden by monstrosities or those bound to be one day.

Left - Before
Plants and plant beds are meant to accentuate the home, not obliterate it, and to lend themselves toward the overall landscape or serve as focal points or vignettes.

After removing roughly fourteen azaleas, we began placing plants based on a plan previously provided to the customer and then began remarking the new borders.

We removed as much unwanted ground-growth as feasible, did a rough grade of the area and then began installing the plants with two Red Dragon Japanese Maples as the center pieces, while other plants welcome the owners and their guests to the front entry - Pink Muhly, Sunshine Ligustrum and groupings of Silver Carpet Lamb's Ears.

Both beds also include a Kaleidoscope Abelia and Crimson Fire Loropetalum, while the further side of the right bed also has a Purple Pixie Loropetalum and Golden Mop False Cypress.

We completed the project by performing a final grade, re-establishing the borders for better mulch retention and ease-of-maintenance, and then added pine bark nuggets.

Right - Before
Brown metal edging (I only use when necessary.) was used to separate the right bed pine bark from the pine straw on the far end. This will aid in the two beds we created in standing apart from the other foundation beds, adding to the focal point, which leads to the front entry.

The beds may look sparse for now, but plants were placed to account for future growth and will look even better over time.

Eventually, the mulch will be removed nearest the Lamb's Ears for it to become a true ground cover.

I can't wait for all these plants to mature, especially the Red Dragon Japanese Maples so I can get my hands on these two to prune them.

Oh, we also installed three 45-gallon Natchez Crepe Myrtles throughout the front yard and a single 15-gallon Bloodgood Japanese Maple.

The owner is definitely a plant person and doesn't mind playing in the dirt. She has some gorgeous plants (not to mention the fruit producers) cleverly placed throughout the property, but she admits some changes and additions need to occur. We will happily be working on this with her in the future.

In the meantime, I am developing a pruning program to address and care for some of the other shrubs and trees.

She also asked me to work with her general landscape service when and where needed. No problem.

It was a joy meeting, working with and for this family - sharp, fun-loving.

Let your home breathe. It may help you in many ways, as well.

Some year-round color variance doesn't hurt, either.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Ploetry - In Summer, Falls Upon Us

A Winter of wetness

Temperatures of warmth

Pansies became perennials

Blooms not often, soon found

A Spring we've never had since

We last remembered, some other Spring

Perhaps, since childhood...that Spring

Then Fall comes upon us in near-Summer

It Falls upon us, so welcome.

Mornings deserve jackets, sweaters, and coffee means so much more

So rare, so much to comfortable

A few days of Autumn delight

The heat and humidity will return

Yet, this especially rare occurrence

Falls upon welcoming skin and spirits

Copyright © Doug Ingbretsen, 2020

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Crepe Myrtle, Corner Pocket

Corner Pocket - After
This customer contacted me saying she needed much work done with her property, and she did. It, I, won't stop here.

She is a lover of plants and landscape, and for reasons beyond her control, things had gotten out of control.

We visited her and her property. There is a variety of interesting plant life here, much out of control or overwhelmed by other plants obscuring the specimen plants they once were.

Corner Pocket - After
The one thing she repeated throughout this process was, "Are you going to show up?" I always address any property and find what I can do and, if need be, refer the customer to those who have the skills and resources to do what I can't. But, I can't imagine any situation I have not addressed. Obviously she contacted several so-called landscapers (mowers, trimmers and blowers) whom (plenty, to go around) choose not to address true plant and restoration issues - the tough stuff. Many (most), simply don't know how the plant world works.

By scale, this was a minor portion of the property, but a major beginning of change (restoration). This follows with our Every Little Step We Take philosophy we apply to many properties, whereas we address the priorities or necessities of the customer, one step at a time.

Soon, we hope to be addressing the area just rear of this project, along the foundation of the home - it is much more of a mess, but, perhaps, not for long.

Corner Pocket - Before
This project involved removing as much plant life as possible, by root; salvaging some plants the customer wanted to transplant. We also re-established the borders to better retain mulch and for ease-of-maintenance.

I spent much time pruning the crepe myrtle for health reasons and aesthetics, as well. She truly has an interesting branch structure which will be even more stunning as I made some critical cuts on the awkward wax myrtle shading and encroaching her back side. Further pruning of the ailing wax myrtle is next.

Ugly, neglected and mismanaged elements of a landscape can become very attractive and appealing with some well-focused attention.

Corner Pocket - Before
This wasn't a restoration and planting project for us this time as the customer loves playing in the dirt. We were simply held to the restoration. That's quite okay. Within a week the customer had already begun replanting a few plants we withheld and planting a few she had found on her own. It will be beautiful in no time.

We will be back for round two and those rounds thereafter should she choose us to do so. We are an odd sort, but we love to see those little tragedies become wonderful vignettes and overall landscapes become the owner's pride, and appreciation.

In many ways, this property may be what it once was, or more so, over time and with some well-thought effort.

Minor well-thought changes make a huge difference.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Every Little Step We Take...Literally

We installed this paver walkway on the property which prompted my first article about Every Little Step We Take, a property for which I am on every week or every other, doing something. See Bend it Like Beckham - A Fun Sod Job.

And, I could write about so many other projects on this property (placing new plants, transplanting old ones and reworking beds, and pruning), but not to bore you.

There still is so much to do here on this property, but after we installed the centipede sod once and then added on more we realized we still had all these mulched areas, which now have a good balance with the plants beds (we will be redesigning these). But, we needed to protect the newly sodded areas from foot traffic, and the path to the workshop is virtually a highway, daily.

I love flagstone, its natural look and it has its place - I have done a few of these projects. Yet, this area needed a sure-footed path for on-foot travel or for a wheel barrow or cart.

Eventually the grass will marry up with the edge of the path and some simple edging will make this walkway crisp and pop in the lawn.

I have used concrete pavers on occasion and actually installed some for a walkway, on my property, which spans from an existing walkway of well-laid brick to a rail-less patio tucked under a Yoshino Cherry. I actually broke out a little trigonometry to determine the angle between each paver to have the appropriate curve over the distance. Oh, it worked, Mrs. Mayer.

These pavers were laid with no cement products or polymer sands. I prefer using paver sand after much attention is paid to preparing the area and grading just below or near ground level. Additional sanding and wetting may be needed a few days or a week after, but the result is much more natural and takes hold quite well. Using a thick-mil plastic underneath (unless soil drainage issues are expected) works well at keeping weeds at bay. Eventually, nearby grasses will work their way between the pavers - adds an even more natural look. Mine has been in-ground for about seven years and I haven't had to adjust a single paver.

Man-made concrete products are usually more porous than natural stone and may require more to keep clean, but once they age, they can have their own at-home, natural appeal.

I can't wait for this latest walkway to suffer a few rains and some pitch from nearby trees to gain its worn patina. 

Just another little step.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

The Vitex Tree - Wouldn't You Like to be a Pepper Too?

These are beautiful trees: vitex, Vitex Agnus-Castus (not cactus - no relation) and commonly - chaste tree. And, if you don't get excited about their wonderful flowers, at least you will appreciate their sculpted foliage and interesting branch structure.

I have pruned a few of these, mostly during the spring. They are unique in a way in regard to how they branch upward and outward, in the right locale - most of mine have been.

I have read and heard vitex are invasive via the fruit, therefore, the seeds they produce. But, I am not certain what conditions promote this. I have pruned several vitex and haven't seen any number of seedlings worth mentioning, or any. They will put out suckers and water sprouts if stressed, particularly if pruned hard, but that's a totally different issue and easy to address.

Last November I was pruning two vitex for a customer who has a wonderful selection of plants, beds and vignettes on his property.  It is a continual plat of plant opportunities.

The weather was cloudy and warm. I rarely wear a hat and when I do it is to keep sweat off my brow, occasionally block the sun or if I am doing overhead work.

While pruning these vitex, I did not. But, they had not been addressed since early last fall. They had plenty of fruit, seeds of four, still waiting to fall. And, some of the pruning was quite aggressive.

These fruits/seeds rained down upon my head when I was making lower cuts. Eventually, I put on a ball cap, but I didn't completely rid my hair of the prior downfall before doing so.

This wasn't one of those sweaty, messy days so I didn't change clothes and remained somewhat casual for dinner with some friends. At some point I slightly adjusted my ball cap and something hit the table which didn't exactly sound like a pepper corn, but not far off.

Everyone noticed this and I pulled a Yule Gibbons and took hold of this morsel and had a taste. Gross, huh? It was peppery, but mild and pleasant. The vitex fruit is used as a pepper, by some.

I love pepper, the spice, and have tasted many and used as many when cooking. I also enjoy all the other herb peppers such as jalapeno, habanero, etc.

The vitex is a beautiful tree for most any landscape and I don't know that you may choose one for its peppery fruit, but hey, why not?

Saturday, May 2, 2020

An Early Morning Flyover

I had just stepped out on the side patio a little after 7 a.m. with a cup of coffee when all I heard was very rapid wing flapping.

I looked up and away and saw this Canadian goose coming in hot, very hot.

Flying just high enough to avoid any obstructions, it barely cleared a crepe myrtle and all I saw was its underside as it passed directly over me, very low.

He or she was not gliding or doing that graceful wing undulation when geese are cruising around or migrating. This was an all-out F-14 ('Goose' of Top Gun) attack profile. There was no honking or hissing, but rather this very fast tempo growl.

There were maybe two seconds from sight to sight-unseen as it cleared the front to back yard and disappeared in a slight opening in the woods that lead to the pond on Dalloz. From the sound of it, there was a commotion down on the pond.

I hope nothing serious occurred at the pond, but there was definitely some serious urgency in this flyover. I've seen geese and swans angry as can be on water or afoot, but nothing like this.

I'd like to feel I was somewhat privileged to have been at such a place at the right time to experience something I probably will never again, but I feel the cause may have been one of danger.