Posted by & filed under Gardens, Native Plants, Round-Leaved Ragwort, Sustainable Landscaping, Uncategorized .

 

 

PLANT A PATCH 

 

Because of their commitment to an environmentally friendly and sustainable landscape, the staff at Embassy Landscape Group is proud to introduce The Plant A Patch series. These blogs are designed to introduce you to a variety of lessor known native plants that are of particular value to the landscape.  We hope that you will join us on Thursdays as we bring you some of our favorites.

 

 

 

Commonly referred to as Squaw**-weed or roundlead groundsel, this low maintenance native perennial is an excellent choice for those “hard to grow anything” places. Naturalizing quickly by underground runners and through self-seeding, it grows in full sun but thrives in shady locations. It prefers rich soil and an average amount of moisture, but will also tolerate average soil and dry conditions. Its bright yellow blooms, which stand on top of 12 to 18 inch stems,  give quite a show in the late spring and early summer. Once the blooms are done, cut off the stems and enjoy the semi-evergreen foliage. Each plant spreads 8 to 16 inches and is an attractive groundcover. It is deer and rabbit resistant and it attracts butterflies and moths. The northern metalmark (a critically imperiled species in Missouri) uses it as a larval food plant.

 

Northern Metalmark - Calephelis borealis,

Northern Metalmark – Calephelis borealis

 

 

** Please note that the term squaw in this usage is derived from the meaning “Native American woman” and was “historically tied to the names of plants that had medicinal uses for illnesses specific to women.”    (https://nature.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-round-leaved-groundsel-round-leaved-ragwort ) The leaves of the plant carry a low toxicity that can be harmful to the liver if ingested in huge quantities. It is not recommended for use around grazing livestock.

Posted by & filed under Best New Perennials, Landscaping, Outdoor Living, Patio Design, Pavers, Uncategorized, Urban Landscaping .

When I was growing up, having a patio at your home usually meant that there was a square (or sometimes rectangular) slab of grey concrete protruding off the house in the backyard. In our neighborhood, patios were not terribly common and I can remember the consternation when my father not only had one installed, but it was a white (more accurately, white-ish) half circle instead of one of the grey “regulation” shapes. My mother proudly planted precise rows of flowers around it every summer and every summer we pulled out our green metal lawn chairs and blissfully baked in the sun as we watched the street traffic drive by. (corner lot — no trees)  We had achieved the American dream!

 

 

Thankfully, there have been some changes since then. I have learned to plant my flowers in masses rather than lines, I no longer use the metal lawn chairs with the plastic webbing, I understand the risks of baking in the sun and traffic is not my favored view. What hasn’t changed however, is the pure joy I experience relaxing on my patio.

 

 

According to a 2016 study by National Association of Realtors, a well-landscaped patio area is one of the top three outdoor features that homeowners want. In economic terms, installing a high quality patio will recover 102% of the project cost. Dollar for dollar, that’s a higher return on investment than remodeling a kitchen or bathroom.

This patio?

Or this one?

 

As a “Joy Score,” which is the wonderful term that the National Association of Realtors has coined, installing a patio scores 9.6 out of a possible 10. Homeowners report that they have “an increased sense of enjoyment when they are home…and a feeling of “better function and livability.” According to these survey results, adding a new or reviving an existing patio can entirely change your attitude and your lifestyle. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits that adding or reviving a patio can give.

 

Pure joy!

Pure joy!

 

A patio can act as a transition between the indoors and the outdoors, extending living and entertaining space. It can be the place that invites family and friends to share time together taking in the sights and sounds and sweet scents of nature. Include a fire pit so you can roast marshmallows or make s’mores or just sit and watch the flames dance, sharing conversation and making lasting memories.

 

A patio can be your own private retreat from a stress-filled world. It can be small and intimate, the perfect place to gently rock in a hammock or lounge in a comfortable outdoor recliner while listening to the gentle trickle of a flowing stream or fountain nearby. Your patio can be your personal space fulfilling your personal needs.

 

 

A patio can add architectural interest to an otherwise plain space. It can become the focal point of the outdoors, adding style and drama to the existing area while providing valuable living space. An artfully designed and  landscaped patio can add depth to a small space and bring intimacy to an open vista.

 

 

My father’s plain concrete slab patio was a popular design trend at the time in large part because it was a readily available, affordable option. Today, we have a variety of materials from which to choose, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. I talked to Dan Nelson, Senior Designer at Embassy Landscape Group to get his opinion on five of the most popular ones on the market today.

 

CONCRETE     

 

  • Least expensive
  • Can be poured in almost any shape
  • Can be stamped or stained to add visual interest
  • Tends to settle and crack
  • May chip and discolor

 

BRICK    (EXTERIOR BRICK PAVERS)

 

  • Classic appearance
  • Can be mortared to a concrete base or dry laid
  • Retain color well
  • Strong and long-lasting
  • More expensive than concrete

 

MANUFACTURED PAVERS   

 

  • Excellent durability
  • Wide variety of colors, shapes and sizes
  • Can be mortared to a concrete base or dry laid
  • Wide variety of price and quality
  • Can have some maintenance issues

 

NATURAL STONE   

  • A natural material
  • Can have a classic or contemporary look
  • Can be mortared to a concrete base or dry laid
  • Can be labor intensive to install
  • Fairly expensive to install

 

EXTERIOR PORCELAIN TILE  (NO IMAGE AVAILABLE)

  • Contemporary look
  • Variety of shapes, styles and colors
  • Slip resistant surfaces
  • Can be mortared to a concrete base or dry laid
  • Currently an expensive option

 

 

DESIGN GALLERY

EMBASSY LANDSCAPE GROUP

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’re thinking about installing a new patio or renovating your existing one, give the designers at Embassy a call. They can help you design a space that it perfect for you and your lifestyle.

Posted by & filed under Color, Color; Designing with Color, Designing with Color, Garden Design, Gardens, Psychology of Color, Uncategorized .

 

This time of year — the few weeks before I can really start planting my flower gardens — I spend hours staring at bare ground in the yard. Most years, I gradually start to envision the finished product and I have a sense of what I want to achieve. This year I am seeing what seems to be endless beds of depressingly bare ground and I realize that I need some new inspiration. I just can’t decide what I want- nothing seems quite right for the space. Sometimes it helps to talk to an expert. I chose Sandy DeFoe, Art Director at Embassy Landscape Group.

 

 

Sandy feels that finding a color scheme you love is an important part of designing a unique, personal space. The scheme can come from a picture in a magazine, a fabric that you love or even a stranger’s garden that you drive by every day. Searching Pinterest is another great tool for exploring ideas. You can scroll through dozens — perhaps hundreds — of gorgeous garden photos. When you find color schemes you love, you can pin them to your own board for a convenient record of your possibilities until you find “the one.”  Then, if you love it, if it speaks to you, and if you think it works in your space, use it!  Make sure that you grab several pictures of your color scheme; they will come in handy as you plan and purchase.

 

 

During our conversation, Sandy reminded me that in garden design, you never really start with a completely blank slate. The canvas on which you are working, in this case your garden space, already has some color on it. The house is certainly a dominant color in the landscape; it almost acts as the background of the picture you are creating, so your colors need to harmonize with it. The colors and textures of the walkways, patios, decks or fences are  elements in the composition, as are benches or gazebos or any other structures that are visible. Each of these plays an important role in the finished product and needs to be considered in the design process.

 

 

 

Most of us also have quite a few shades of green in our surroundings. We have splashes of green from our lawns, the leaves of our trees and shrubs and perhaps some perennials or groundcovers. Since green is nature’s neutral, it adds a sense of peacefulness to the landscape. Any color you choose will work with green, but you do need to recognize its presence as you plan.

 

 

I know that once I have finally decided on my color scheme for the year,  I’m anxious to get started. Before heading off to the garden center to buy flats of flowers, there are a few things that need to be done to prepare.

 

 

First of all, take time to analyze your space. If it is a large area, do you want to visually pull it in to seem more intimate, or do you need to expand a small space? Masses of cool colors, the blues, purples and greens, will give the illusion of a larger space because they appear to fade into the distance. The vibrancy of masses of warm colors, the reds, oranges and yellows, draws your attention, making the blooms seem closer than they actually are and thus the space more intimate. You may need to tweak your ideas to accommodate size. Professional designers manipulate the illusion of space by using combinations of warm and cool colors. When viewed from a set point, for instance a patio, if you plant warm colors in the back and cool in the front, the space will seem to shrink. If you plant warm colors in front and the cool colors in the back, then it creates an illusion of more space.

 

 

Are there any unsightly areas that you need to camouflage? Plan a visual distraction. Draw the eye AWAY from the offending feature by planting a pop of color in different area. Many people make the mistake of planting something beautiful in front of the “ugly”with the hopes of hiding it. Unless the unattractive feature is completely hidden by the planting, the ruse doesn’t work. In fact, all that really does is draw the eye and engage the brain in a quest to figure out what is being hidden.

 

 

Next, take measurements of your space, sketch out your design and figure out how about many plants you will really need for each space. Having a plan for each space will help you avoid over planting or  under planting and may save a last minute trip back to the nursery for “just a couple more plants to fill the space.”  (I find that the last minute trips are my downfall; I always seem to fall in love with something new and usually not part of the plan. It drives my designer husband crazy!)

 

 

Finally, take a trip to your favorite paint store and gather some paint chips. Find the colors that match your house and trim colors, your hardscaping colors, fence and any of the other structures that will be visible in or from your garden. Having  them with you as you purchase plants allows you to check for color harmony. What may look gorgeous at the nursery could clash in your yard.

 


 

With your pictures, plans and paint chips in hand, it’s time to head to the garden center to select and purchase your plants. Remember that mass plantings give more impact; planting at least 5 to 7 of a variety can create a sweep of color that more closely resembles nature’s patterns. Also, be selective when choosing your plants. As tempting as it is to choose plants already in bloom for that burst of instant color, choosing ones that are more compact and have not yet set buds will pay off in the long run. Instead of using its energy to support a bloom, the energy will be used to establish a healthy root system which will result in more flowers to enjoy throughout the summer.

 

 

Talking through color theory for the garden has given me the inspiration I needed to see beyond today’s bare ground into tomorrow’s dazzling displays. I hope that we have given you some ideas for creating a unique personal space of your own. Enjoy the planning and be sure and let us know what works for you. We’re anxious to hear from you.

 

Posted by & filed under Benefits of Nature, Color, Color; Designing with Color, Designing with Color, Garden Design, Gardens, Uncategorized .

I can say, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that my outlook on life is directly tied to the amount of time I spend outdoors working or playing or just relaxing in my yard. I used to think it was time in the sunshine that made me feel better — Vitamin D, you know — but the sunshine has been missing the last few days and, after being outside, I still feel more alert mentally and much stronger physically than I have all winter long.

 

 

As we’ve talked before (see September 2017 blog series), researchers now know the benefits of spending time in nature. Just a few minutes a day have been proven to lower blood pressure, boost the immune system, reduce stress, improve mood and increase self-esteem.Time in nature is so beneficial that physicians are beginning to prescribe time outdoors instead of pills as part of the healing process. An added perk is that the time in nature doesn’t have to be a complicated process of traveling to a special destination for a designated time frame. Simply walking out the door and spending time in your own green space is therapeutic.

 

 

When this came up in a conversation I was having with a group of friends the other night, I got some unexpected push-back. A couple of people just shook their heads and said that time in their yards was not enjoyable AT ALL. The only time they spent in the yard was taking out the trash. After a little bit of pressing, one admitted that all she had to look at was a patch of “weed infested grass” and a “sorry tree.”. Another confessed that she faithfully planted her flower beds every summer and every summer she was totally disappointed in their outcomes.

 

 

Their responses got me thinking. To me, creating a personal retreat in my yard is not a complex or overwhelming task. It does seem to be almost insurmountable to others. The reality is that something as simple as inviting colors you love into your surroundings can be the beginning of establishing a unique space in which you take true joy. With a little help, anyone can be successful. Our next few blogs can be that help for you!

 

 

A professional in using color in design, Sandy DeFoe, Embassy’s Art Director, shares with us her insights about color and the garden.  According to Sandy, a garden is all about color. Color is all around us and there is nothing in the garden that does not have color. It’s obvious that flowers, grass, trees and shrubs provide color in the landscape, but so does the house, the hardscape, the play equipment or any of the other elements that are present. As we’ll discuss next time, those colors need to be considered as part of the whole picture too.

 

 

 

When designing your garden, it is important to first decide what your goals for the space are and then to choose colors that you love that will match your goals. Will your garden be used as a quiet, reflective spot in the early mornings or a gathering place for friends and family in the evenings? Will it be a relaxing space or an exuberant one? Is attracting birds or butterflies important to you? Color, used in the right way in the garden, helps you to realize your dreams.

 

 

Colors that harmonize, whether they are pastel or bold, serene or lively, create a pleasing mood. On the other hand, colors that clash can be disquieting and create uninviting spaces. In order to make colors work well in the garden, it’s helpful to understand and use the basic principles of color theory.

 

 

Colors have relationships that are easily illustrated using a color wheel. As the name implies, a color wheel is a circle that gives a visual representation of the relationship of colors. Developed in 1666 by Sir Isaac Newton, even today it is an excellent tool for finding harmony among colors.

 

Isaac Newton

Isaac Newton

 

One way to appealingly combine colors is by using adjacent or analogous colors. Analogous colors are next to each other on the color wheel. For example, red, orange and yellow are analogous colors as are yellow, green and blue. Because analogous colors blend so well, contrast can sometimes be difficult to achieve and the result can be bland and boring rather than captivating.  (The brain tends to ignore or reject information that does not stimulate.) In garden planning, choosing one of the analogous colors to be predominant (usually the middle color on the color wheel) and allowing the others to be subordinate helps to create a peaceful, quiet setting that still intrigues the viewer.

 

 

If your garden goal is to have a vibrant, stimulating  and exciting space, then select blooms with complementary colors to fill your beds. Complementary colors are directly opposite of each other on the color wheel. Red and green, blue and orange, purple and yellow are all pairs of complementary colors. Placing complementary colors next to each other, causes each color to appear more intense and visually exciting. This is why a pot of bright red geraniums with dark green leaves tends to catch your attention, even at a distance. The brain is responding to the stimulation. However, just as the brain rejects under-stimulation, it also rejects over-stimulation. It’s important to avoid a disconcerting and chaotic effect in the garden. Planting in masses instead of small, random patches of color give a sense of unity to the garden plan.

 

 

 

 

A third common color scheme seen in the garden is a monochromatic theme. Monochromatic gardens focus on just one color.  Because there is only one color, these gardens direct the eye to the form and texture of the foliage as well as the blooms. If your garden is primarily viewed in the evenings, think about using  an all white garden. It will absolutely shimmer in the soft light of dusk.

 

 

Less common but no less beautiful, is the triadic color scheme. Using three colors that are evenly spaced on the color wheel, such as the three primary colors of red, blue and yellow or the secondary colors of violet, orange and green,.results in a dynamic bed that stimulates the senses. As in other designs, having one color dominate helps establish and maintain a sense of balance.

 

 

 

Finally, if used with care, the split complementary theme gives a sophisticated feel to the garden. To use the split complementary, choose a single color as the foundation or the base of the scheme. Using the color wheel, find its complement. The colors on either side of the complementary color are actually the ones used in the design. A split complementary gives the high contrast from complementary colors while also using the soft contrast of analogous ones.

 

 

 

 

As Sandy said, gardens are all about color. Color theory gives us paths to follow as we design our gardens, but we are certainly free to venture off the path on our own. The colors you choose for your gardens should be the ones that you love and the ones that will entice you to spend time outdoors.

 

Join us later in the week as we continue our exploration of color in the garden. See you then!

Posted by & filed under Color, Color; Designing with Color, Gardens, Psychology of Color, Uncategorized .

We have overcast, grey skies and snow again. The few, bright yellow daffodils that were blooming are completely bent over with their heads in the snow and the purple pansies I just planted are totally buried. I’m tired of the bleakness; I need color!

If you stop and think about it, the role that color plays in our lives is amazing. Color affect us in both subtle and obvious ways; it helps determine our mood and can invite us in or turn us away. It has a say in what we choose to eat, what we wear, what we buy and even what we plant in our gardens. Our reactions to color are foremost immediate and instinctive, but also culturally defined and based on our personal experiences. Our color choices are a window into who we are.

 

Culture helps define color choices. A bride in the United States wears white, while a Chinese bride wears red.

Culture helps define color choices. A bride in the United States wears white, while a Chinese bride wears red.

 

Colors can be divided into two groups — warm colors and cool colors. Warm colors are made from reds, oranges and yellows; they are vibrant and tend to jump out at you. Cool colors, the blues, greens, greys and light purples, are calming and  tend to recede into the distance. Warm colors are stimulating to the senses and liven up a space while cool colors relax you.

 

In the same vein, dark and light colors send subliminal messages too. Darker hues communicate strength, power and authority. They suggest elegance and richness. A lighter shade, even of the same color, creates a softer, gentler effect that will seem further away. Using light and dark shades together can be an effective way to create a sense of space and depth.

 

 

Although we can look at the effect that categories of color have on us, understanding the impact of  individual colors is also important to the design of our gardens. Sandy DeFoe, artistic director at Embassy Landscape Group, has studied the impact of color for years. She contends that color is “instant nonverbal communication” and that knowing how to use color effectively works to our advantage “by keeping things interesting and relevant.” 

 

Just as the color scheme of your living room tells your story and sets its tone, the color scheme of your garden helps to establish its mood and purpose.Will it be your place to quietly sit and recharge? Perhaps you see it as the area to gather happily with friends and family. Whatever your dream, understanding some of the basics of color psychology and the principles of designing with color can help you bring to life the visions you hold in your mind. Explore the following color messages today and join us next time as we explore combining color messages with design principles to create living works of art in your own yard.

 

COLOR MESSAGES

 

 

RED:  Exciting, Courageous, Dramatic

Red is a powerful color.  It is vibrant and attention grabbing, a color that immediately draws the eye toward it. .Darkening red by adding black creates rich shades of maroon that communicate opulence and refinement.

 

 

 

PINK:  Lively, Sweet, Safe

Although true pink is a softly feminine color that has feelings of tenderness and nurturing tied to it, pink can also be seen as overly optimistic and unrealistic (as in seeing the world rose-colored glasses) Shades of hot pink are high energy, youthful and even a bit wild. Darkening shades toward magenta are thought of as dramatic.

 

 

 

 

ORANGE:  Vital, Friendly, Outgoing

Orange is another highly visible color. It is considered a “friendly and outgoing” color, and sends a message of encouragement. Children seem to like the color orange, The color orange is typically more popular in the fall as it calls to mind the vibrant colors of fall foliage. The more muted shades, like apricot and peach speak of sophistication and approach-ability.

 

 

 

 

YELLOW:  Warm, Energetic, Optimistic

The color of sunlight and warmth, yellow is a cheerful color. It projects success and confidence and a youthful outlook on life. Since the eye sees yellow first, it draws attention quickly. Yellow is associated with clear thinking and happiness.

 

 

 

 

GREEN:  Healthy, Abundant, Natural

Unsurprisingly, green is the color that communicates growth, renewal and life. It brings to mind a peaceful, serene environment and is considered refreshing. Green is nature’s neutral because it complements any color.

 

 

 

 

BLUE:  Tranquil, Loyal, Responsible

Blue is another peaceful, soothing color. Soft shades of blue remind us of the calming effect of the sea and the sky. Darker hues inspires confidence and trust. Blue dulls the appetite, which makes sense, since there are not many naturally occurring blue foods.

 

 

 

PURPLE:  Royal, Spiritual, Luxury

For centuries, purple has been the color of royalty and wealth stemming from the fact that purple dye was rare and expensive. Violet often evokes a spiritual feeling and a sensitive, compassionate nature. Purples are associated with self-awareness.

 

 

 

 

BROWN:  Solid, Earthy, Reliable

Brown, on its own, can be perceived as dull and unsophisticated, but combining brown with other colors, it can be seen as confident and elegant. Brown is the color of stability, firmness and durability. It is also a color that is associated with a wholesome, organic life.

 

 

 

 

BLACK:  Mysterious, Formal, Sophisticated

Powerful and controlling, black is a mysterious color. Actually a lack of color (when considered in terms of light, not pigment), black conveys a lack of hope; it portends evil, while still being elegant and dramatic. Black provides strong contrast so is often used to emphasize other colors.

 

 

 

 

 

WHITE:  Pure, Innocent, Simple

If black is the lack of color and lack of hope, then white is the opposite. [ It is the combination of all colors when considered in terms of light, not pigment], White symbolizes innocence, purity and a completeness. It is the embodiment of hope. Like black, white offers contrast but in a  warmer, soothing way.

 

 

 

 

GREY:  Conservative, Detached, Dependable

A very practical color, grey serves as a neutral color in nature.  It is not an attention- seeker, but does emanate reliability. Grey symbolizes unemotional compromise.

 

 

Posted by & filed under Daylilies, Designing with Daylilies, Gardens, Hemerocallis, Uncategorized .

My earliest introduction to daylilies was in my grandmother’s garden when I was a small child. I remember being entranced by the bright yellow blooms one day and devastated the next when half of them were lying on the ground, dead. Somehow, in my mind, it was my fault that they were dead; I should never have played with them. I think I must have carried that guilt around with me for years because I was never that fond of daylilies.

 

 

In the late 70s and 80s my husband and I owned and operated a nursery/garden center in northern Missouri. I ran the garden center and greenhouses where we grew hundreds of herbs and perennials along with our annuals.(Perennials had not become popular yet. They were really a hard sell back then!) One of the plant varieties that we were advised to grow was Hemerocallis, or daylilies. I was not thrilled with the advice, but after working with them for several seasons and seeing how they performed in the field and in my own garden, I began to develop a  fondness for daylilies that has since blossomed into true love. In my mind, daylilies are an almost perfect plant.

 

 

The name itself, Hemerocallis or hēmera which means ‘day’  in Greek and kallos  which means ‘beauty,’ perfectly describes the flower. As I learned in my childhood, each beautiful flower lasts only one brief day. Each plant though, produces many stalks each with many buds opening over many, many days. Some of the newer varieties even will bloom several times throughout the season while other varieties will hold their blooms for several days. Most bloom during the day, but some bloom at night.

 

 

Many people mistakenly assume that daylilies are native plants since they grow so profusely along the roadsides throughout the country. Daylilies, which are not really lilies, are actually native to Asia. Some believe that they were introduced in Europe as early as the 1500s and came to the New World in the 1600s. They quickly became prized garden flowers due to their ability to survive and thrive just about anywhere, under any conditions and without much care. Those same characteristics are valued today.

 

 

Daylilies are truly tough plants. They tolerate a variety of soil and light conditions.(Mine are flourishing even in my rocky, quarry soil!) They withstand drought conditions, rarely succumb to insects or diseases and are hardy in a huge range of climate zones. Depending on the cultivar, daylilies can be planted in zones 3 – 9 and I have recently seen one listed for zone 10.  Their blooms, ranging in size from under 3 inches to over 4 ½ inches in diameter, are even considered edible — especially by deer

 

 

Daylilies grow in clumps with root systems that are either fibrous or tuberous. The crown is the area between the leaves and the roots. It produces both the “fans” and the scapes from the upper side. Fans are the flat leaf clusters which are shaped like a fan, and the scapes are the stalks from which bud-bearing branches and leaf-like bracts emerge. Flower scapes can be as short as 6 inches or as tall as 3 feet or more.

 

 

Many varieties of daylilies die back completely in the winter. New foliage emerges from resting buds in the crown in the spring. These are known as deciduous daylilies. Other types, called evergreen daylilies, retain their leaves, remain green and may even grow new foliage throughout the winter months if the temperatures are mild. Strangely enough, cold-hardiness is not tied to the retention or loss of foliage. Daylilies that retain their foliage can be extremely hardy or extremely tender. If in doubt, it’s usually best to choose varieties that have been proven successful in the area.

 

 

Bloom time for daylily cultivars can range from early spring to very late in the fall. By choosing cultivars that have a variety of bloom times or ones that are rebloomers, daylily beds can be in full flower the entire season.

 

 

With over 84,000 cultivars available today, daylilies can be found in colors ranging from a delicate, cream shade of white to a rich, dynamic purple. They are found as solid colors, blends of colors, multicolored, dusted with color, banded by color or with eyes. The blooms may be single or double or spider (length to width ratio of 4:1) in form. They can be flat or circular or triangular or star-shaped, to name just a few. The petals can be smooth, or ribbed or even resemble a delicate crepe fabric.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The almost perfect perennial is also almost perfect as a landscape element. Daylilies can be interspersed as accent plants in foundation plantings and mixed borders or massed in beds to serve as a focal point. Massed daylilies are effective ground covers, suppressing weeds, preventing soil erosion and covering hillsides too steep to mow. Daylilies work well as edging on pathways to gently remind walkers to stay on the path and smaller varieties do well in containers.

 

 

Early spring bulbs that naturalize, such as daffodils, grape hyacinths and crocus, are great companion plants for daylilies. When the bulbs’ leaves begins to fade, the new, fresh leaves of the daylilies distract the eyes and serve as an attractive cover to the dying foliage. Since tulips and hyacinths need to be dug and replaced every few years, they are not usually recommended as companion plants.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above designs by Embassy Landscape Group

 

 

With over 84,000 cultivars on the market today, choosing the right ones can be difficult. The designers at Embassy Landscape Group consider the following to be the “Best of the Best” for 2018. As you begin your spring planning, think about adding some of these varieties to your garden. We know you’ll pleased with the results.

 

 

 

 

Posted by & filed under Grounds Maintenance, landscape management, Landscaping, Native Plants, Rain Garden Plants, Rain Gardens, Rainscaping, Uncategorized, Water Management .

It has been pouring here, off and on, for the last week. We seem to have a river running down the middle of the street and matching tributaries by each curb. I’m sure that the sewer system is struggling to keep up with the onslaught. Having seen the applicator trucks throughout the neighborhood the last few weeks, I am also sure that the sewer system is being inundated with toxic chemicals and eroded soil. This problem could easily be changed. Simply by rainscaping, or making water-focused adjustments to the landscaping, the amount of stormwater runoff could be significantly decreased, leading to a healthier water cycle.

 

 

According to a description provided by the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District through their Project Clear, rainscaping is using a variety of “simple techniques to manage and filter water where it falls – the way nature intended.”  Incorporating rainscaping into the landscape provides incredible benefits for the homeowner and for the community. It helps reduce and/ or eliminate potentially harmful stormwater runoff solves drainage issues, conserves existing soil, reduces outdoor water consumption, lessens air pollution, creates wildlife habitat that promotes biodiversity and cuts down on the number of mosquitoes breeding in the area.

 

 

With such an extensive list of important benefits, one would think that introducing rainscaping into the existing landscape would be a complex and complicated project, requiring major renovations to the current design. Fortunately, that isn’t the case; a survey of the existing yard can identify which areas are potential places to introduce one or more of the rainscaping elements. The Missouri Botanical Garden’s website has an excellent flowchart that guides homeowners through the process of deciding where to begin implementing rainscaping options. The website also has a wealth of related information. (http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/sustainability/sustainability/sustainable-living/at-home/rainscaping-guide.aspx)

 

 

Just as there are many benefits to rainscaping, there are also multiple techniques that can be utilized, including: installing rain gardens, reducing turf areas, amending soil, bioswales, planting buffer zones, using permeable pavements and rain barrels. Adding trees and other woodland features are also an important part of rainscaping. Each individual change, no matter how large or small, begins to immediately improve water quality and management.

 

 

Creating a detailed site map or survey of the property, especially one which includes the topography and centers on water management, is an excellent tool to determine exactly what problems exist. Looking at an overall picture instead of focusing simply on one problem at a time, often highlights ways to coordinate solutions more effectively. Utilizing the services of professional designers to survey and plan can also identify hidden problems that you may not immediately recognize.

 

 

Of all of the rainscaping alternatives, rain gardens are one of the most versatile. They not only allow water runoff to naturally evaporate into the air and percolate into the ground, but they also are attractive wildlife habitats. Since they feature native plants that are adapted to local climate conditions, they are easy to maintain, usually requiring virtually no watering or chemical applications of fertilizers or pesticides. Finally, a well designed rain garden can be a beautiful addition to your yard. Their reliance on native plants gives a sense of place and connection to those who view it, and as an added bonus,they add winter interest to the landscape, giving natural beauty to a normally stark time of year.  

 

Image result for rain

 

Rain gardens are  good choices for low spots that typically hold standing water. They should be located at least 10 feet away and downhill from any buildings to avoid moisture problems in basements or to foundations. Placing rain gardens in full or partial sun is usually recommended, but they can also be designed for shaded areas. Since residential runoff can come from roofs, driveways, sidewalks and even mowed turf, it’s important to consider those square footages as you determine the size of your bed. The size of the garden should be about 20% to 30% of the area of the runoff, so if you have 400 square feet in the drainage area, then your garden should be between 80 and 120 square feet. If your space does not accommodate the optimal size garden, consider creating a series of smaller rain gardens connected by open, planted channels called bioswales.

 

Once the location and size have been determined, kill out any grass or weeds in the garden’s location. Although you can use a chemical product to remove vegetation, a more organic way that the area can be cleared is by laying black plastic over the area for a few days.

 

Image result for call before you dig signs

 

Once the area is stripped of vegetation, then experts advise the soil be tested for its ability to efficiently drain. Dig a hole that is about 12 inches deep.( If you have underground utilities, PLEASE call for locate service BEFORE you dig!)  Fill the hole with water and let the water drain. Once the hole has completely drained, then fill it with water again. The second time, the water should drain at a rate of at least ½ inch per hour. If it drains at a slower rate, then you will need to improve the soil by amending it after you have dug the bed but before you begin planting.

 

 

To amend soil that does not drain properly, remove the soil to twice the actual depth of the garden. If your garden will be 6” deep, then dig down 12”. Fill the bottom half with a mixture of sand, topsoil and humas. The sand should be about 50% of the mixture and the topsoil and humas each 25%. If the soil is heavy clay, make sure that you add both the topsoil and humas at the same time you add the sand. Sand alone in heavy clay will result in a concrete-like substance that will not absorb water.

 

Image result for rain garden

 

A well-designed rain garden has several zones that help it to efficiently and effectively handle stormwater runoff. The lowest point of the garden, where the water collects and stands until it drains is called the Settling Basin. It is a level area, usually about 6 – 8” deep and will remain the wettest after a rain. Plants and soil here act as filters to help naturally clean the water.

 

 

The area around the basin is the transition zone. It encompasses the upper and lower slopes of the depression as well as the bioswale and has the purpose of moving water towards the basin. Because it is a sloped surface, the transition zone will dry out more quickly than basin.

 

 

If the rain garden is installed on a slope, it will need a berm on the downhill side to capture draining water and hold it in the basin. Soil from the garden’s excavation can be used for the berm, or other natural materials can be used for aesthetic purposes. Berms often have small notches cut into them to act as overflow outlets in case of extremely high water after a heavy storm. The spillway should direct the excess water towards the traditional sewer system.

 

 

Rain gardens are typically designed using native plant materials. Although natives are less likely to need the pampering that ornamentals do, it is still important to select the right plant for the right area. For example, plant material in the basin area  must be able to tolerate occasional “wet feet,” while slope plants may need to tolerate somewhat drier conditions. The Missouri Botanical Garden’s website has a thorough listing of rain garden plants appropriate for both wet and dry area. After planting, mulch the bed with untreated hardwood mulch to protect the soil from eroding.Newly planted beds will need to be regularly watered until they become established. Once they begin growing, regular watering isn’t necessary unless there is a dry spell.

 

 

On average, here in Missouri we receive between 36 and 46 inches of rainfall per year. According to Penn State Extension Service, “1 inch of rain on a 1000 square foot roof yields 623 gallons of water.”  36 inches of rain on that same roof would yield 22,428 gallons of runoff or the equivalent of about 224 full bathtubs! That is an enormous amount of stormwater runoff pouring onto our lawns, driveways and sidewalks.  A rain garden can absorb as much as 30% more water than the same size lawn area. Given these numbers, it seems to me that rain gardens are just the right thing to do.

 

 

The design staff at Embassy Landscape Group are experts at designing and installing rain gardens that are both beautiful and fully functional. Give them a call today; let them give you the perfect rain garden for your property. You’ll be glad that you did — and so will the planet!

Posted by & filed under Landscaping, Rain Garden Plants, Rain Gardens, Rainscaping, Uncategorized, Water Management .

For the last few weeks we have had almost nonstop grey, rainy days. It’s been unpleasant weather (although nothing to compare to what both coasts have experienced!), but it has also had its benefits. We definitely needed the moisture; much of the state has been just one small step away from drought conditions for a while. The new drought map came out yesterday and showed a marked improvement for the state.

 

 

The second benefit has been much more personal. As a result of all of this wet weather, I have learned some important facts about my yard. My home sits on the top of an old quarry which means my backyard slopes downward and then drops off.  When I say it drops off, I mean that literally. It drops off and down about 50 feet. No drainage issues there! (Lots of rocks, but no standing water.) The front yard appears to be an entirely different story. It seems that we have a rain induced bog directly in front of the main entry to the house.

Stormwater runoff is a major factor in the problems we face with our water systems. The runoff can cause erosion and can push pollutants into our sewer systems. If I  rainscape my yard (plan and institute my design with water management principles),  I can not only manage my own stormwater problems, but I can also contribute to cleaner water for my community.

 

Protecting our waterways is critical to our well-being.

Protecting our waterways is critical to our well-being.

 

One of the major elements in rainscaping is the addition of rain gardens specifically designed to capture stormwater runoff and allow it to be absorbed into the ground or to evaporate into the atmosphere. Although a rain garden looks like a typical planting bed, it does have an important difference. A rain garden is purposely constructed in a shallow, depression with sloping sides and a slight downward incline so that it will hold water just long enough for the water to be absorbed into the ground.

 

Not just functional, rain gardens can be a beautiful addition to your landscaping.

Not just functional, rain gardens can be a beautiful addition to your landscaping.

 

Plants in a rain garden must be able to tolerate a range of conditions from periods of standing water to extended drought. The following perennial plants, suitable for rain gardens, are from our 2018 Best of the Best List. There are countless other varieties that are also excellent choices. On Tuesday, Embassy designers will share more of their favorites as we explore rain gardens and rainscaping in detail.

 

THE BEST OF THE BEST

PERENNIAL RAIN GARDEN PLANTS

 

 

Amsonia is a spring blooming plant that maintains an attractive appearance all summer. It has a mounded habit which can reach almost four feet when fully mature. Both heat and humidity tolerant, it is a perfect slope plant. Requires little maintenance and is deer resistant.  Hardy zones 4 – 9.

 

 

 

 

The New England Aster and its cultivars are excellent choices for rain garden basin flowers. The “Kickin” series maintains a short, bushy mounded shape that does not require any trimming. The series has a variety of colors, but all do require full sun and fairly fertile soil to perform at their best.  They begin to bloom in late summer and are at their peak in the early fall. They are hardy in zones 5 – 9.

 

 

 

 

Baptisia can add structure to a rain garden design with its full, bushy appearance.  Another low maintenance, deer resistant suggestion for the sloped area, Baptisia blooms on 24 inch flower spikes in the late spring and early summer.  Hardy in zones 4 – 9.

 

 

 

 

 

The familiar and will-loved Black-eyed Susan will do well on the slopes of a rain garden. It begins blooming in midsummer and continues producing its gold blooms well into the fall. Rudbeckia is especially suited to mass plantings, standing at about 2 to 3 feet tall. The seed heads are especially attractive to songbirds. Hardy in zones 4 – 10.

 

 

 

 

 

The versatile Hibiscus will thrive as either a basin or a slope plant.  With its 4 foot height, it makes an excellent backdrop or center focal point. It prefers full sun, but will tolerate some shade and is not fussy about soil type. It begins blooming in midsummer and will continue to bloom into the early fall months. Besides being deer resistant, hummingbirds LOVE Hibiscus. The newer varieties are much more resistant to powdery mildew than the original ones. Hardy in zones 4 – 9.

 

 

 

 

My first experience with Monarda many years ago was not a happy one. It took over my garden and spread powdery mildew throughout. I swore I would never battle it again. I am so glad that I was convinced to change my mind. Today’s Monarda varieties are a far cry from the old ones. Bee Balm typically begins blooming in late spring and continues into the middle of summer. It is less invasive, more disease resistant and will flourish in both full sun and partial shade. Monarda works well on the slopes of the rain garden and is resistant to deer. Butterflies and hummingbirds are attracted to it, and bees relish it! Monarda is another deer resistant plant.  It is hardy in zones 4 – 8.

 

 

 

 

Another variety that has seen improvement is the garden phlox. Taller varieties can reach almost 3 feet in height, so they are another choice for a backdrop or a focal point. These long blooming perennials begin blooming in midsummer and will continue to bloom well into late summer, often with a second flush of flowers. Phlox do require full sun and prefer the slopes of a rain garden. They are hardy in zones 4 – 8.

 

 

 

 

 

Another beloved perennial, Purple Coneflower begins producing huge, daisy-like blooms in midsummer and continues through the fall. These deer resistant plants will thrive in part to full sun and do well on the slopes of a rain garden. Newer varieties of Purple Coneflowers are slow growing plants that will not take over the garden. They typically stand about 2 feet tall with a spread of about 18 inches and are beautiful in mass plantings. They are hardy in zones 3 – 8.

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of my personal favorites, Swamp Milkweed is a reliable performer in the basin of a rain garden. Its rose colored blossoms, which begin in midsummer, have a gentle, vanilla fragrance, and can be used for cut flowers. Swamp Milkweed blooms are irresistible to hummingbirds, bees and butterflies. Its single drawback is its height; Swamp milkweed can reach 5 feet in height. It needs full sun and is hardy in zones 3 – 9.

 

 

PERENNIAL GRASSES

 

 

It has taken me several years to become a fan of grasses in the landscape. Once I began to appreciate their architectural beauty, I can’t imagine any design without them. Grasses are uniquely suited to rain gardens not only because of their ability to adapt to a variety of condition, but also because of their year-round beauty. Grasses add interest to the garden in even the bleakest times of the year. If you have not introduced them to your landscape, I urge you to give some a try this year. The three categories presented here are a good place to start.

 

 

 

Little Bluestem is a native prairie grass that performs well in rocky or clay soil on the slopes and edges of the rain garden. Its slender, green leaves typically stand about two feet tall with a tinge of blue at the base. It has purplish-brown flowers in late summer, usually August, followed by fluffy, white or tan seed heads which remain through the winter. Beautiful in mass plantings, it is hardy in zones 3 – 9.

 

 

 

 

The Common Rush is one of the best performers for the basin area of a rain garden as it prefers very moist soil and will grow in standing water. Soft Rush does best in full sun but will tolerate partial sun. It has a tendency to spread, both by seed and by rhizomes. Rush is a trouble free perennial that reaches between 2 and 4 feet at maturity. It is hardy in zones 4 – 9.

 

 

 

 

Switch Grass adds a unique element to the rain garden as it produces a light, peaceful sound when moves in the breeze. Switch Grass is a sturdy, basin grass that can reach to 6 feet in height, although it is more commonly seen between 3 and 4 feet. It spreads primarily by rhizomes, but will self-seed. It has a sturdy, columnar form but may become weak or rangy if grown in soil that is overly rich. The clumped foliage has  flowers in midsummer that form a pink-tinged veil above the foliage. Hardy in zones 5 – 9.

 

 

 

hardiness zone map

Posted by & filed under Butterfly Gardens, Gardens, Landscaping, Native Plants, Uncategorized .

To those of us who thrive on nature, there are few experiences that can rival that of watching a butterfly as it gracefully lands on a flower to gather nectar and then delicately spreads open its wings to bask in the sunlight. Its iridescent colors sparkle in the light and invites feelings of peacefulness and joy that carry us through the day.

Butterflies, as charming as they are, hold a much more significant role in our world. Besides being important pollinators, butterflies are accurate visual indicators of the overall health of the environment. They are extremely susceptible to an altered environment, whether it is a change in habitat or exposure to toxins in pesticides and other chemicals. An abundance of a variety of butterflies suggests a healthy ecosystem, while the absence of butterflies marks a declining community.

 

Butterfly Bush is an important nectar plant.

Butterfly Bush is an important nectar plant.

 

Across the contiguous United States, there are currently about 575 species of butterflies. (Worldwide = 20,000)  Our state of Missouri, with its diverse natural features, is home to at least 198 different species of butterflies. Kansas is thought to have 182 and Illinois 140. Unfortunately, the numbers of many of these species are declining. Since 1950 five different species of butterflies are thought to have gone extinct while today about 40 species, especially the beloved monarch, are considered at risk of extinction soon.

 

Monarch butterflies are at risk of extinction.

Monarch butterflies are at risk of extinction.

 

 

Because of the ever increasing demands on our land by human population, our natural vegetation is disappearing at a rapid pace. Buildings and parking lots replace forests and introduced ornamentals and seas of turf replace prairies. Without their natural habitats, many butterflies, along with other pollinators, move on in search of their necessary native plants.

 

The face of our environment is changing dramatically.

The face of our environment is changing dramatically.

 

As non-native ornamentals are introduced in large quantities to our landscaping, the need for more care increases. Introduced plants, not adapted to the soil conditions and climate, tend to have less resistance to our insects and diseases and thus usually need more applications of chemical fertilizers and pesticides to survive. The toxins in these products are lethal to butterflies as well as many other important pollinators .

 

Butterflies are extremely sensitive to toxins.

Butterflies are extremely sensitive to toxins.

 

Establishing butterfly gardens filled with native plants, especially in our highly populated cities, is an important piece of  the butterfly conservation effort. This spring would be an excellent time to add a butterfly garden to your yard. By understanding the life cycle of a butterfly and then following a few important guidelines, you can reap a fascinating and beautiful reward.

 

Butterfly on Monarda

Butterfly on Monarda

 

The life cycle of a butterfly consists of four distinct stages. Female butterflies lay between 100 and 300 tiny eggs on the underside of the leaves or branches of larval host plants. Within four to ten days, the eggs hatch and tiny caterpillars, called larvae, appear. These voracious larvae do nothing but eat and sleep on their host plants until they become full grown. (I have seen them devour a huge host plant in a matter of hours and then move on to the next!) The larvae then attach themselves to something firm – a branch, a plant or even an object in the garden – and form their cocoon, or pupal case. After about ten to fourteen days inside the cocoon, the caterpillar turns into a butterfly and the cycle begins with the new generation. (Butterflies tend to emerge from their pupal cases early in the morning. With careful observation of the stages, you may be able to watch the absolutely mesmerizing process.)

 

Stages of the butterfly's life cycle.

Stages of the butterfly’s life cycle.

 

Choose a sunny yet protected spot for your butterfly garden. Butterflies, are cold blooded and need the sun’s warmth for energy. Although some protection from direct wind helps conserve their energy and makes flight much easier for them, butterflies don’t seem to be attracted to areas completely surrounded by windbreaks. The Missouri Botanical Garden recommends planting a tiered “windscreen of nectar producing shrubs like lilacs, mock orange, butterfly bush or viburnums” along the edges of a sunny, open space.

 

A sunny, open area with cover nearby is an ideal setting for a butterfly garden.

A sunny, open area with cover nearby is an ideal setting for a butterfly garden.

 

Like all species, butterflies need water to survive. Although adding a stream or pond to your butterfly garden helps to create the perfect environment (for both you and the butterfly), neither is necessary. Including small puddles throughout the garden can accomplish the same thing. We have used flat rocks with depressions, bird baths with cobblestones and even buried the saucers of clay pots in our gardens to provide water. Butterflies have used them all.

 

Butterflies drinking at lake's edge.

Butterflies drinking at lake’s edge.

 

Before you begin planting your garden,there is one more additional step that needs to be completed. Conservationists recommend that you research which varieties of butterflies are common to your area and what combination of native plants, especially larval plants, they need to thrive throughout their lives. Typically, garden centers, extension services and local botanical gardens supply this information both online and in print. Knowing which species are prevalent in your area and which plants they prefer increases the likelihood that your garden will attract and support butterflies.

 

Butterflies on Joe Pye Weed

Butterflies on Joe Pye Weed

 

Once you have completed your research, have your space established and prepared the bed for planting, then it is time to select appropriate plant varieties that support the entire lifecycle of your butterflies and provide you with a pleasing design. Many of the larval plants, absolutely essential for supporting butterfly populations and used as shelter at night or during inclement weather, are unfortunately often tall and weedy looking. Reserving a nearby but separate space for them can be more visually pleasing. Cutting these plants back occasionally pushes new growth and succulent food for larvae as they hatch throughout the season.

 

Common spicebush is a native Missouri larval food plant.

Common spicebush is a native Missouri larval food plant.

 

Butterflies see color and are attracted to large clumps of brightly colored flowers, especially reds, oranges and yellows.. Flowers with broad, flat petals (purple coneflower) or multiple flower heads (butterfly weed)  give the butterflies a place to rest while they search for their food source, nectar. Avoid planting flowers with rounded, mum-like tops; the form makes it difficult and sometimes impossible, for butterflies to reach the hidden nectar. Choose varieties of nectar producing flowers with bloom times that range from early spring into the late fall so that butterflies will continue to visit your garden all season. I’ve included a short list  of some of the “must-haves” at the end of the blog. 

 

Asters are an excellent fall blooming nectar plant.

Asters are an excellent fall blooming nectar plant.

 

Mixing large clumps of diverse annuals and native perennials not only guarantees an inviting variety of nectar sources, but also helps control insect pests and diseases. Since chemicals are so toxic to fragile butterflies, use only natural control methods. Remove insect pests with streams of water, pick them off by hand or use a gentle, organic insecticidal soap. Trim and remove any diseased foliage. Try planting marigolds, herbs such as mints or other plants that naturally repel unwanted insects in and around your garden. Finally, learn to love,or at least tolerate, a few chewed leaves.

 

Asters are an excellent fall blooming nectar plant.

Butterfly larvae spend their days eating and resting.

 

Changing the downward spiral of a species sounds like an overwhelming task best left to experts in the field. The reality is that each of us can be part of the solution simply by including native beauty in your landscape. For help in designing and installing your own butterfly garden, contact the experienced design staff at Embassy Landscape Group.  They are there to help.

 

Design by Embassy Landscape Group

 

Design by Embassy Landscape Group

 

Design by Embassy Landscape Group

 

 

PERENNIAL NECTAR PLANTS FOR THE BUTTERFLY GARDEN

(COMMON NAME)

  1. Aster
  2. Black-eyed Susan
  3. Butterfly Bush
  4. Butterfly Weed
  5. Button Bush
  6. Cardinal Flower
  7. Coreopsis
  8. Joe-Pye Weed
  9. Liatris
  10. Monarda
  11. Ninebark (shrub)
  12. Pincushion Flower
  13. Phlox
  14. Purple Coneflower
  15. Rose Verbena
  16. Swamp Milkweed

 

 

 

 

LARVAL FOOD PLANTS

(COMMON NAME)

  1. Birch Tree
  2. Dogwood Tree
  3. Hackberry Tree
  4. Oak Tree
  5. Spicebush
  6. Dill
  7. Parsley
  8. Bronze Fennel
  9. Clover
  10. Violets