Posted by & filed under Microbes, Microorganisms, Soil, Soil Health, Sustainability, Uncategorized .

My husband and I spend quite a few dinner times tossing around blog ideas. When I found out that we were scheduled to attend a soil conference, I couldn’t resist throwing out a few potential titles. I offered a few real gems like “Let’s Talk Dirty” and  “I’ve Got Dirt on You.”  By the third one he pulled his shoulders back and informed me that dirt was what I had under my fingernails but soil was what my beloved (his word, not mine!) garden needed to flourish.  At that point I figured out that soil was a pretty serious subject to him and I needed to contain myself. After attending the conference, I quickly figured out that he was right. There is literally a lot more to soil than meets the eye.

 

A 1935 dust storm in Texas.

A 1935 dust storm in Texas.

 

A Missouri family with a sick child and a broken truck stranded in California. Image by Dorthea Lange

A Missouri family with a sick child and a broken truck stranded in California. Image by Dorthea Lange

 

One of the first statements that caught my attention at the soil conference was made by the keynote speaker, Dr. Andrew Neal. He declared that soil and its health are the foundations of our economic base and must be viewed through the lens of sustainability. Initially that comment seemed overblown and designed to draw in his audience, but the more I listened and thought about it, the more I saw its truth. He reminded us that the Dust Bowl, the very picture of unhealthy soil, had touched every American life in one way or another. Remembering relatives’ stories, I believe that to be true.

 

Protecting the environment for our children and grandchildren is of utmost importance.

Protecting the environment for our children and grandchildren is of utmost importance.

 

In my reading since the conference, I have also learned that there are other critical  benefits that healthy soil ecosystems can provide. According the the Natural Resources Conservation Service of the United States Department of Agriculture, with healthy soil managed correctly, we can have  “clean air and water, bountiful crops and forests, productive grazing lands, diverse wildlife and beautiful landscapes.” In essence, if we take care of our soil properly, then we will have a world worth passing on to our children and grandchildren. That seems like an excellent goal to me.

 

The appearance of soil can be deceptive.

The appearance of soil can be deceptive.

 

I realized that in order to do my part and manage my soil correctly, I needed to understand some of the basics, such as how soil is formed and what its components are before I can develop a care plan that ensures sustainability . I’m sure somewhere in my years of schooling we were at least taught how soil is formed, but back then I never enjoyed science or math, so truth be told, I probably let it pass right through my brain. My years of gardening have taught me to look and feel “dirt” to know if it is good for planting, but I have never thought or cared about how it came to be or the details of what is in it.

 

 

The layers of soil can give its biography.

The layers of soil can give its biography.

 

 

According to the Soil Science Society of America, soil is made up of “unconsolidated solids,” which are minerals and organic matter, liquids and gases. It has layers, called horizons, and boundaries. The horizons give a profile or tell the history of the soil, and the boundaries show its location on the earth. The upper boundary is what exists between soil and the air and the lower is the hard rock below that has little to no biological activity. Soil can be present for just a few inches to 8 or more feet in depth.

 

Soil is not an inert material, but a dynamic system.

Soil is not an inert material, but a dynamic system.

 

Although it seems counterintuitive to me, the seemingly inert substance that originates from rock and that I can hold in my hand, is actually a dynamic, living entity. (In fact, over 90% of all of the world’s species, most too small to be seen by the naked eye, live underground in soil. As I said, there’s more than meets the eye!) Over time, the original parent material, which could have been bedrock or other smaller particles, is physically broken down by atmospheric conditions such as rain, wind and temperature extremes. The chemical makeup is changed as the mineral compounds in the rock dissolve in the rain or react to exposure to the air. Biological changes occur as living organisms find homes in the fragmenting rock.

 

Biological events help create soil.

Biological events help create soil.

 

Over a period of time, plant material from seeds dropped by birds and other wildlife, begins to sprout and take root (literally) in the disintegrating rock. As the seeds germinate, plants emerge. The root systems, besides continuing to penetrate the fragmenting rock, also take up some of the chemicals that the disintegrating rocks are releasing. These chemicals act as nutrients for the plants. At the same time the plants shed leaves and stems which decompose and add organic matter and more nutrients to the developing soil. The addition of organic matter allows the evolving soil to hold more moisture which in turn encourages more plant growth. It takes a balance of all of these interrelated processes to create what we think of as soil. Amazing, isn’t it?

 

All soil contains five key elements in varying degrees.

All soil contains five key elements in varying degrees.

 

All types of soils, whether from your landscaped yard or an untouched stretch of grassland, share a common characteristic. They all contain the same five key components of minerals, organic matter, water, air and microbes, but in varying amounts. The proportion of each helps to determine the overall health of the soil.

 

Minerals in the soil are necessary for plants to thrive.

Minerals in the soil are necessary for plants to thrive.

  • Minerals – many different minerals can be present; there are a few key ones necessary for soil health
    • Carbon – considered the building block of soil health; used by plants to convert the sun’s energy for growth
    • Calcium – shifts soil pH to alkaline from acid; part of cell walls in plants
    • Manganese – part of chlorophyll used in photosynthesis?
    • Nitrogen – contained in plant and animal proteins; essential for life
    • Potassium – helps control photosynthesis and water management in plants
    • Phosphorus – helps manage cell division, energy, sugars and necessary for  photosynthesis
  • Organic Matter – makes up to 5% of soil; produced from dead or decaying plants and animals; organic matter becomes humus after being broken down by microbes
  • Water  – becomes carrier for plant nutrients; required by microorganisms to break down organic matter
  • Air/Gases – 50% of soil volume is pore space filled with air/water/gases;
    • Gases =
      • Oxygen
      • Nitrogen
      • Carbon Dioxide
      • Water Vapor  

 

This microscopic view of a soil sample gives a sense of the extraordinary number of microbes in a small area.

This microscopic view of a soil sample gives a sense of the extraordinary number of microbes in a small area.

 

  • Soil Microorganisms – very small, single cell forms of life; may live in colonies;primarily decomposers but have other important tasks; billions of microbes are present
    • Bacteria – extremely small; 1 teaspoon of soil can have 1 billion bacteria; crucial to the final break down of organic matter; releases nutrients to the root zone of plants; some can be pathogenic
    • Fungi – live in the root zone; usually grow in strands or threads; help make nutrients available to plants and help in disease suppression
    • Actinomycetes – live in the root zone and can act as antibiotics for plants; some can be harmful
    • Protozoa – larger microbe that consumes bacteria and other protozoa; helps release excess nitrogen and nutrients that bacteria have consumed
    • Arthropods -;  better known as bugs; thousands of varieties aerate soil; shred organic material; control the population of other organisms in the soil
    • Nematodes – microscopic worms that live around or inside plants; some are harmful but others consume the pathogenic ones and release nitrogen to plants
    • Earthworms – major decomposer of organic material; over 7,000 species

 

 

For over 40 years I have been actively involved with horticulture and yet until recently I did not completely understand how strong the connections are between healthy soil and a vibrant world. What I have learned about what I used to call my “dirt” has given me an entirely new and exciting perspective on how to properly care for my environment. I hope you will join me next time as I dig further into soil.

window with garden view

Posted by & filed under Landscape Architect; landscape designer; design, Landscaping, Uncategorized .

Once the end of February is on the horizon, I feel like spring is tantalizingly within reach. It is also my signal to take my wintertime garden dreams and turn them into realistic plans that I can actually achieve. Through the years however, I have learned that I usually need help in designing and installing my major landscaping projects. Too many times I have either found that what I envisioned in my mind did not really translate well in my yard and I needed someone to help me fix it, or I was totally overwhelmed and out of my depth when I started planting and needed someone to install it. This year, since I am dealing with both renovating parts of an existing front landscape and creating an entirely new backyard environment, I decided to work with a professional.

For those who are also looking for landscaping guidance this spring, some legitimate and essential questions may arise: What kind of a firm do I need? Do I need a landscape designer or a landscape architect for my project? When should I call and begin the process?

 

The scope of the project can help determine whether to hire a landscape architect or a landscape designer.

The scope of the project can help determine whether to hire a landscape architect or a landscape designer.

 

The scope of the project helps to determine what type of firm is best suited for the job. Each group has its own strength and niche in the green industry, so making the right choice relieves stress and offers a more successful experience for the client. Both groups are directly concerned with planning, improving and managing the environment and both can undertake residential and commercial projects. Both work with softscapes, or natural materials such as plants and soils, and hardscapes such as stone patios and brick walkways.

 

Both landscape architects and landscape designers work with hardscape.

Both landscape architects and landscape designers work with hardscape.

 

In order to be a registered landscape architect, an individual must complete a broad spectrum degree program from an accredited school and pass required professional exams. Registered landscape architects can typically produce construction plans for technically challenging issues such as grading, drainage, retaining walls and paving. Additionally, they can design plantings and outdoor structures. They are often called upon to design large, public spaces such as parks and are involved in outdoor areas for planned communities.They tend to design for larger projects, but some do specialize in residential design.

 

Landscape designers have extensive horticultural knowledge.

Landscape designers have extensive horticultural knowledge.

 

Landscape designers are also trained professionals, many with degrees in environmental design, ecology, horticulture or related fields. They may also be non-licensed graduates of landscape architecture programs. Landscape designers provide innovative design solutions from a different perspective and typically are highly knowledgeable about plant material, especially those of their service area. Designers can assess a site, develop conceptual and master plans and often supervise installation of the project from start to finish. Landscape designers tend to focus on more detailed garden planting designs especially suited for residential sites.

Although we tend to think of spring and fall as the prime “landscaping season,” depending on  the weather, some projects can be worked on throughout the year. Often, projects are initiated in the winter months and completed later in the year. With spring fast approaching, calls for those first appointments will dramatically increase. Consider setting an appointment for a consultation now before the season really begins to peak. Depending on the type of project, an earlier start date can mean a quicker completion time.

 

Turn your landscape dreams into reality.

Turn your landscape dreams into reality.

 

If you are ready to turn your wintertime daydreams into your summertime lifestyle, then consider contacting Embassy Landscape Group for your landscaping projects. They are a full service company with experienced landscape designers and a registered landscape architect on staff prepared to handle just about any project from the design phase through installation. As an added benefit, Embassy Landscape Group can also provide estate level maintenance to guarantee that your investment is well-protected. Call or contact Embassy today to schedule your initial meeting.

 

Posted by & filed under Herbs, Uncategorized .

Over the past few years I have started using fresh herbs in the summertime instead of relying on store bought dried ones that never seemed to have quite the same flavor boost. It’s also been very satisfying to be able to step outside to my kitchen garden and clip a few sprigs from plants that I have grown and nurtured. Now that we are living in a new home with an almost totally barren yard, I don’t have a real herb garden established yet. The ones that I had in pots on the deck last summer definitely didn’t make it through the sub-zero temperatures we’ve periodically had here. It’s sad, but then again it’s an opportunity to experiment with something new.

 

Garden fresh herbs add both flavor and color to your dishes.

Garden fresh herbs add both flavor and color to your dishes.

 

Since I have become somewhat particular about which varieties of herbs I prefer, I have decided to become proactive and start the majority of my own plants from seed indoors. By ordering specific varieties and starting them myself, I can have exactly the ones I want instead of just taking what is available from the area suppliers. My plants will be ready to go outdoors when the temperatures are stable and I will also be able to keep a fresh crop of my favorite herbs growing all year long. Considering the cost of individual herb plants here, I will also save a bit of my gardening budget to spend on other plants. If you enjoy fresh herbs, you might consider growing your own.

 

 

Taking time to research herbs and their growing requirements will add to your gardening success.

Taking time to research herbs and their growing requirements will add to your gardening success.

 

Since many kitchen herbs are notoriously slow to germinate (sometimes up to three, four or more weeks even with perfect conditions), now is the time to begin some serious planning, ordering and sewing for summer herbs. First, create a list of your  “must have” and then your “could be fun” herbs. Decide if you will grow your herbs outdoors in a designated bed or a collection of pots or indoors as a windowsill garden. If you are like me, your list of must haves and could be fun choices will overtake your actual space. Herbs, like most plants, will survive if planted close together, but will thrive if given the proper breathing space and growing conditions.

 

Racks of herbs for sale in stores contain the most commonly used varieties.

Racks of herbs for sale in stores contain the most commonly used varieties.

 

Once you’ve made your decisions, then it’s time to purchase the seed. Since I have some specific varieties I like, my preference is to order my seed directly from the seed companies rather than off a standard rack in a store. I have had good luck with both Burpee and Park seed for years; there are also countless other companies available online.

 

Tabletop greenhouses can help control light and humidity.

Tabletop greenhouses can help control light and humidity.

 

Starting herb seeds indoors can be either uniquely rewarding or totally frustrating, depending on which herbs you choose and the environmental conditions that you create. If you haven’t germinated seed indoors before, it’s probably best to start with some of the easier herbs like basil, chives, cilantro, dill, parsley spearmint and peppermint. (Other varieties of mints such as chocolate or orange are not true to seed and therefore are better propagated from cuttings.) Using one of the tabletop greenhouses available for purchase at most garden centers and through some of the major seed companies can also help the beginner control the conditions.

 

Using plastic trays with cells allows you to grow multiple varieties in a small space.

Using plastic trays with cells allows you to grow multiple varieties in a small space.

 

For most herbs, sew the seeds into plastic flats with cells using a lightweight seed starting mix rather than potting mix or soil. The lightweight mix lets the tiny seedlings easily push through while the individual cells allows you to start multiple varieties of herbs in the same space. Transplanting into plantable containers (peat pots) or decorative pots when the seedlings mature is an easy process with little damage to the protected root system. Some herbs though, do not transplant well. It is usually best to sew parsley and cilantro directly into plantable containers or, if you are going to use them as potted herbs, the pots in which they will be grown. Slower germinating seeds can be soaked in water prior to planting in order to speed the germination process.

 

Wait until the first few true leaves appear to transplant.

Wait until the first few true leaves appear to transplant.

 

 

While your seeds are germinating, you want to keep the soil moist but not drenched and the tray warm. Bottom heat is especially effective. Keep the tray out of direct sunlight until the seeds have sprouted and begun to grow. When several pairs of true leaves emerge, then you can transplant them into plantable pots such as peat pots.

 

Strong light produces vigorous seedlings.

Strong light produces vigorous seedlings.

 

 

In order to flourish indoors, herbs need a strong light source. To develop vigorous, healthy plants, place the transplanted herbs in a west or south facing window that receives 6 to 8 hours of sun or under a grow light for up to 14 hours per day. Seedlings without adequate light will be weak and spindly and will not transplant well.

Temperature and humidity are the other important factors. Most herbs prefer indoor temperatures around 70 degrees F and moderate to high humidity. A tabletop greenhouse can help control humidity levels. Without one, a little higher humidity can be produced by placing pots on pebbles in a tray with water. Make sure that the pots do not actually sit in the water. As the water in the tray evaporates, the moisture level in air surrounding the plants will rise. An occasional light misting is also a good idea.

 

The hardening off process is an important step in growing your own herbs outdoors.

The hardening off process is an important step in growing your own herbs outdoors.

 

If your herbs will be outdoors either planted in a bed or growing in pots, they do need to be hardened off. To harden them, place them outside in a shaded area for a few hours, then bring them back inside. Repeat the process for a few days (3 or 4), but increase the time outdoors each day. The final day the plants should spend an entire day outside.  Then, follow the same routine but in a sunny location. After a week to ten days, the plants should be ready to remain outdoors.

 

 

With the weekend ahead and the weather here promising, it’s the perfect time to get outside for a few minutes and consider all of the options for including a kitchen herb garden in the overall design of the yard. An experienced designer, like those at Embassy Landscape Group will take your ideas and translate them into a space that will be both functional and beautiful. I know that you can rely on them to help your dreams grow. Give them a call today.

 

Posted by & filed under Gardens, Gifts for gardeners, Rose garden, roses, Uncategorized .

When we were first married, my husband would either send or bring me a beautiful bouquet of long stemmed red roses for Valentine’s Day. As much as I loved them, I always felt just a little guilty to have them. We didn’t have a whole lot of money back then,the flowers were expensive and I knew that they wouldn’t last long. Throughout the years, his gifts changed from roses to cards and chocolate.  I love chocolate, but this year I am strongly hinting that we go back to long stemmed roses. Instead of a bouquet though, I would love to have a rose garden installed right next to our bedroom window. Imagine waking each day to watch dew glistening on the rose petals and drifting off to sleep every night wrapped in the sweet, subtle fragrance of roses. Lovely.

 

Dew glistens on the petals of a pink rose in the soft light of an early summer morning.

Dew glistens on the petals of a pink rose in the soft light of an early summer morning.

 

Roses have the reputation of being temperamental plants, difficult, if not nearly impossible to grow. Many novice gardeners believe that roses are beyond their capabilities. Others insist that roses do not survive in colder climates or in dry, windy regions. Having successfully grown roses in the Flint Hills of Kansas and the rice belt of Arkansas, I am convinced that roses will thrive just about anywhere with the right care. The American Rose Society agrees with me.

 

Placement of your rose bed is critical to its success.

Placement of your rose bed is critical to its success.

 

Finding a prime location for your rose garden is the first step. In order to thrive, roses need a minimum of six to eight hours of sun each day, with morning sun being preferred over afternoon. They want to be away from large trees and shrubs that act as competition for water and soil nutrients. A lawn’s root system can also act as competition, so creating a designated bed rather than planting directly into a grassy patch is recommended. Avoid placing beds in wind-swept corridors, as rose foliage tends to dry out quickly. Plant near a convenient access to water; roses need regular watering. Finally, make sure that your rose garden is in a spot where you will be able to truly experience and enjoy it every day.

 

Well-drained soil rich in organic matter is necessary for a rose bed.

Well-drained soil rich in organic matter is necessary for a rose bed.

 

Once the perfect location is determined, then the beds should be prepared. Roses benefit from a rich, well-drained soil that is high in organic matter. Roses simply will not tolerate heavy clay soil or overly sandy soil. Tiling in 2 to 4 inches of organic matter such as aged manure, peat moss or compost can help correct poor soil. Soil testing, often available at garden centers or through the state extension service, can also give valuable information as to which nutrients the soil needs. It’s a good idea to work the ground in advance to allow the soil to settle before roses are planted. Air pockets in the soil can cause problems later. Beds can be worked any time throughout the year that the ground is not frozen, but if you squeeze a handful of soil and water runs out, then it is too wet to work.

 

Picking out the roses for your new bed is exciting.

Picking out the roses for your new bed is exciting.

 

Having completed the rather mundane preparatory work, it is time to begin the fun part — selecting the plants themselves. Roses are available in numerous sizes, varieties and grades and can be purchased as either bare root or in containers. Knowing just a bit about each helps you select what works best for you.

The grade of a rose refers to its size and strength. Garden centers usually sell only the top grades of 1 and 1 ½., which is one reason that they tend to be more expensive there. A bargain rose is often a number 2, which is actually a cull from the growing fields. Bargain roses are usually not true bargains, being more susceptible to diseases and insects. (My first venture into roses was what I thought was an amazing bargain. The wilting, sickly yellowing leaves should have been a clue, but I was young and naive and thought that all they needed was to be planted and loved. I bought 10 close-out roses for a dollar a piece at what today is known as a big box store. Looking back I realize that they were not only number 2 grade roses, but I’m sure that they had suffered badly throughout the spring selling season. I proudly planted them in holes that were probably too small, trimmed them, fed them and watched them die off one by one without ever blooming. It was several years before I tried roses again.)

 

Check the canes of bare root roses to make sure they are firm and healthy.

Check the canes of bare root roses to make sure they are firm and healthy.

 

Bare root roses are rose bushes that are still dormant and have no soil around the roots when sold. If possible, check that the canes are green and solid and that the root system is well-balanced and supple. Try to purchase bare root roses in the early spring before they have broken dormancy from warm, indoor conditions. Bare root plants that have remained indoors too long can become weak and may not survive the transition to the garden.

Container roses are available throughout the planting season. Look for vigorous plants in larger containers which work to accommodate root growth. Two gallon containers are the smallest size  in which number 1 roses should be potted. Both bare root and potted plants can be the beginning of a beautiful rose bed. Specific planting instructions for your area for both bare root and potted plants should be available at purchase. Your state extension service or the American Rose Society also have excellent planting guides online.

 

The American Rose Society provides information to help you select the best rose varieties for your environment.

The American Rose Society provides information to help you select the best rose varieties for your environment.

 

The American Rose Society recognizes over 150 Species of roses today. They range in size from tiny 12 inch miniatures to imposing 16 foot climbers. Some bloom as a single flowers on solid stem and others as clusters that almost seem to weep. Some are known for their strong fragrance while others have outstanding or unusual colors. Some are dramatic, stand alone specimens and others work best in masses. The incredible variety is what makes the rose in all of its forms one of our most treasured garden plants.

With over 150 recognized species, it would be impossible to offer a description of all of them. With Valentine’s Day in mind, I have picked what I feel are the three most commonly known and available rose types. I have grown varieties from each of these classes and have loved them all.

 

 

Hybrid Tea

 

 

The Hybrid Tea is characterized by its single, large pointed bloom on a long, sturdy stem. The bushes range in height from three to six feet and the blooms can be as much as 5 inches in diameter. They are perfect for cutting and can be stunning as a single bloom or within a bouquet. Hybrid Tea roses do require a bit of coddling in the garden, but are worth the effort.

 

Grandiflora 

Image result for queen elizabeth grandiflora rose

 

Grandiflora roses live up to their name in terms of both their height and blooms. Most grandiflora bushes range from six to eight feet tall, although I have seen varieties reach nearly ten feet tall. They bloom as both a single flower and in clusters of five to seven blooms. Excellent to cut for bouquets, grandiflora blooms are quite long-lasting. They are especially striking in masses and are much less particular than Hybrid Teas.

 

Florabunda

 

Image result for floribunda roses

 

 

Next to the Hybrid Tea rose, the florabunda is probably the most well-recognized and well-loved garden rose. Its ability to produce an abundance of clustered flowers on a stocky three to four foot bush make it a perfect choice for a small space. Floribunda roses are typically very hardy and disease resistant, making them the perfect choice for the novice rose grower.

 

Your own rose garden can provide you with bouquets to fill every room of your home.

Your own rose garden can provide you with bouquets to fill every room of your home.

 

Americans are projected to spend over 2 billion dollars on flowers for Valentine’s Day in 2018. The vast majority of those will be long-stemmed red roses, which in the  language of flowers, symbolizes true love. My suggestion is to give your true love not just one bouquet of red roses on Valentine’s Day, but a garden full of rose bouquets for years to come.

 

 

Posted by & filed under deer, Gardens, Landscaping, Native Plants, Nuisance animals, Uncategorized, Urban Landscaping, White tailed Deer .

When we lived at the lake, I was used to dealing with wildlife, especially deer. We had a home situated in the middle of their natural habitat so it only seemed fair that they shared in my garden bounty. (Of course the fact that my neighbor consistently set out salt licks didn’t help the situation much ) Here, we live in the middle of town —in fact, we are just a few blocks from our thriving downtown— and we are on the way to a popular walking and biking path. Since there is a constant stream of people and dogs, I assumed that critters would be the least of my worries; I was actually more concerned about trash and vandalism.

 

Day lilies are a deer's favorite food.

Day lilies are a deer’s favorite food.

 

My neighbors, a sweet retired couple, warned me about the deer when they saw me planting my hostas and daylily beds, but I was sure that they were exaggerating the problem. I honestly thought that planting near the front of the house and  next to the back deck would repel deer and other nuisance animals. When I explained why my gardens would be fine, they just gently smiled at me and kept hanging their snow fencing around everything.

 

Urban deer become very comfortable in their environment.

Urban deer become very comfortable in their environment.

 

Imagine my surprise (and total embarrassment) when I glanced out the kitchen window just a few days later and saw a deer not two feet from my front door contentedly munching away on my hostas. With a sick feeling in my stomach, I rushed to the back door and found every one of my hybrid daylilies had been stripped bare of all of their blooms. That green snow fence next door suddenly looked really attractive, and I understood the meaning behind those smiles.

 

Snow fencing can be used to deter deer.

Snow fencing can be used to deter deer.

 

Green snow fencing became a standard feature in my yard; I figured out how to cover almost everything with it. I have to admit that it was a little difficult to see any blooms through the fencing, weeding was nearly impossible and picking tomatoes was a true challenge, but at least I knew that my plants were safe from deer. I felt vindicated but not certainly victorious.

This summer I’m hoping to improve both my garden’s appearance ( no green snow fencing anywhere)  and its success rate (actually seeing my plants in bloom) by starting out with a workable plan to keep the wildlife under control. I feel like I am better prepared to deal with my groundhog (see last Tuesday’s blog),but now I need to focus on learning more about other animals, especially deer.

 

In Missouri alone there were over 4,000 vehicular accidents involving deer.

In Missouri alone there were over 4,000 vehicular accidents involving deer.

 

The Missouri Extension Services most recent publication puts our white tailed deer population at about 1.4 million across the state, with the majority living in the central to northern part of the state. Because of a lack of natural predators and an abundance of food sources, white tailed deer have adapted well to city life and their numbers are increasing exponentially. With the increase in numbers comes an increase in the number of deer-related problems such as vehicle related accidents and damage to the landscape. According to the latest data released by the Missouri Department of Insurance, there were almost 4,000 deer related vehicle accidents in 2016. The number of accidents is expected to increase.

White tailed deer, like groundhogs, live in wooded areas that are close to open grazing areas.They are browsing animals and in the wild, feed on the leaves and twigs of woody plants, weeds, some types of grasses, nuts and fruits. Depending on the time of year, deer eat from 4 to 7 times a day and consume an average of about 7 pounds of food per day.

 

A well landscaped yard can become a deer buffet.

A well landscaped yard can become a deer buffet.

 

White-tailed deer in urban areas, while still eating up to 7 pounds of food per day, have developed a much more refined appetite than their rural relatives. Although they will still eat leaves, twigs and grasses, urban deer seem to prefer to feast on tender, succulent ornamental plants. A well-landscaped yard can become a deer’s favorite buffet restaurant. Once a deer identifies a safe, well-stocked feeding area, it will return there to dine over and over again. In fact, if undeterred, a whitetail deer will not just eat the flowering plants, but can also damage trees and shrubs and quickly destroy a landscape.

 

Fencing can be an effective way to keep deer from grazing in your yard.

Fencing can be an effective way to keep deer from grazing in your yard.

 

Deterring deer is not an easy task; the options for control are limited. For a smaller area, fencing is one of the most effective, but expensive options. The fence needs to stand at least 6 foot tall since deer are jumpers. (Eight feet is even better.) Either wood  privacy fencing or wire mesh fencing can block deer. Adding an electrified line at the top of a wire fence gives another level of protection against deer but can be dangerous for children and other beneficial animals. Check city codes before installing electric fences.

Repellents, both commercial and natural, are another commonly attempted solution to the deer problem. Repellants tend to have either foul odors or foul tastes that are meant to drive away the deer. Unfortunately, the results are mixed and often dependent on the weather.and the taste buds of each individual animal. Some repellents are washed away by rain and snow and need frequent re-applications. Others need moisture to be activated. Hungry deer may ignore the repellant completely in order to feed on a favorite meal. At the lake, I used milorganite to keep deer from my street-side daylily beds, not realizing the stench I was creating. Shortly after I spread it along the fence line here,  the neighbors asked if I noticed a strange smell lately.  They were concerned about a sewer problem. I have to admit that I didn’t admit I was the cause, but I did stop using milorganite.

 

 

Movement can startle deer, but they will become accustomed to it.

Movement can startle deer, but they will become accustomed to it.

 

Deer startle easily, so scare tactics can, to a certain extent, work to chase them away. Dogs are particularly effective, but even they can’t be on “deer duty” 24 hours a day. Spinners and scare crows have limited effectiveness because deer soon learn that they really aren’t dangerous. I tried hanging cds from tree branches because I thought that the reflected light and movement would discourage them. It didn’t faze the deer a bit and I had people commenting on my unique statuary.

 

Changing the landscape by planting deer-resistant plants and avoiding their favorite ones is the fourth option. No plant is completely deer-resistant; hungry deer will eat whatever is available in order to survive, but certain plants seem to be universally enjoyed by white tails. Hostas, daylilies, impatience and tulips are at the top of the preferred list. Similar to woodchucks, deer tend to avoid plants with strong taste, for example some herbs, and rough leaf textures. Many of the native plants are also ignored by most urban deer. I’ve included a list of suggested ornamental and natives at the end of this post as a starting point for your planning. I have planted all of them in various Midwestern gardens and have not lost any of them to deer. My suggestion would be to experiment with them to see which ones work in your yard.

 

Watching deer out the window can be fun, until they devour your garden.

Watching deer out the window can be fun, until they devour your garden.

 

I know that seeing a herd of deer, especially a doe with her fawns, in the middle of the city can seem magical. That delight can quickly become a disaster though, when that same doe and her fawns begin destroying your yard on a daily basis. My advice? Develop and implement a deer-proofing plan now.

 

 

 

Suggested Native and Ornamental Plants for Deer ResistanceI

Perennials

 

  • Purple Coneflowers
  • Yarrow
  • Iris
  • Salvia
  • Columbine
  • Sedums
  • Butterfly Weed
  • Coreopsis

 

Annuals

 

  • French Marigolds
  • Snapdragons
  • Zinnias

 

Herbs

 

  • Basils
  • Dill
  • Lemon Balm
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme

 

Bulbs

 

  • Crocus
  • Daffodils
  • Grape Hyacinth

 

Shrubs

  • Butterfly Bush
  • Forsythia
  • Lilac
  • Russian Olive
  • Boxwood
  • Beauty Bush

 

Posted by & filed under Gardens, Groundhogs, Nuisance animals, Uncategorized, Urban Landscaping .

Last Friday was Groundhog Day. Normally, that particular day doesn’t even register with me until I hear a news reporter talk about Punxsutawney Phil and his shadow (or lack of). This year is different. This year just hearing the word groundhog sets my blood boiling.

For the past 25 years I have been unable to plant my vegetable and flower gardens until it was almost too late. Any current or former school teacher understands. A good chunk of the beginning of summer vacation is dedicated to end of the year meetings, closing out classrooms and perhaps taking re-certification workshops.

This past summer was the first time in all those years that I had been able to construct my raised beds, fill them with a rich soil mix and plant them in time for early crops. I’d almost forgotten how incredible results can be when planting is done at the right time of year. My vegetables, especially my broccoli and spinach crops, were beautiful and I couldn’t wait to harvest them. I wanted them to be at their very peak when I picked them, so I decided to wait a day or two.

 

 

Rich soil, adequate water and perfect weather combine for a bumper crop.

Rich soil, adequate water and perfect weather combine for a bumper crop.

 

Unfortunately I have a neighborhood groundhog who is also a vegetable connoisseur. He (or she- I really don’t know the gender) was also waiting to sample my vegetables. Unfortunately he got there first and he did not share any of them with me. In one fell swoop, he cleaned out my entire cool weather garden. Then, to add insult to injury, he tormented me all season long by thwarting everything I tried to keep him out of my summer garden, and he invited every foraging animal in the area to join him.  

I am definitely an advocate for nurturing urban wildlife and for maintaining a healthy environment, but I am also highly protective of my vegetables and flowers. To that end, I decided to do some research this winter to learn what can be done to control, or better yet to conquer, the urban wildlife species that become gardening nuisances.

 

A groundhog can quickly devour a vegetable garden.

A groundhog can quickly devour a vegetable garden.

 

Since the groundhog was my primary adversary, I decided to start my investigation there. Groundhogs, or woodchucks as they are also called, are members of the rodent family and are related to squirrels. Full-grown, these greyish-brown rodents can weigh up to 13 pounds and range in length from 17 to 24 inches. They have short, powerful legs especially designed and equipped for digging. Each front paw has four sharp claws while each back has five. 

These solitary, burrowing animals can be found throughout the United States and into Canada. They prefer to live underground in wooded areas that have quick access to open areas. (Think wooded area next to a grassy yard with planting beds full of luscious greens .) A groundhog’s tunnel system is usually quite extensive, often 25 to 30 feet in length and 5 to 6 feet deep. It usually has at least two entrances. The main one is often easy to locate as it has a mound of dirt sitting next to a 10 or 12 inch hole.The other openings tend to be more difficult to find because they don’t have dirt mounds above ground since they are dug from inside the tunnel.  

 

The main entrance to the animal's burrow has a mound of dirt surrounding it.

The main entrance to the animal’s burrow has a mound of dirt surrounding it.

 

Groundhogs, or woodchucks, are herbivores, eating over a pound and a half of leafy vegetation each day during the summer. (Think how many leaves it takes to make a pound) Towards the end of summer, as they are preparing for hibernation, they ravenously consume even more on a daily basis. They tend to remain close to their tunnel system, usually foraging within 20 to 30 yards of an entrance.

 

Woodchucks have voracious appetites.

Woodchucks have voracious appetites.

 

All of this combined make woodchucks a formidable garden foe. Bluntly, they are hard to stop! Since they are far from endangered, each female producing an average of four young each season and the vast majority of them surviving, the state of Missouri actually has a hunting season for groundhogs. (The conservation website even touted eating them; I haven’t tried that.) Since shooting animals isn’t recommended for those of us living in cities, we have to find other ways to combat them. If your goal is to eradicate them completely from an area (and good luck with that), then trapping them, fumigating their burrows or poisoning them with poison peanuts are the top choices. I can’t personally speak to any of these methods; we live on the side of a cliff and I can’t safely search for the tunnels.

If you use a live trap, it needs to be set about five feet from the main opening to the burrow and baited with tender greens. Make sure the trap’s door faces the opening and try disguising it with rocks and brush. Before releasing a woodchuck in a different location, check with city ordinances. Our town forbids releasing them in any public area and has a stiff fine if you get caught doing so.

 

Live traps can be used to humanely trap and relocate nuisance animals.

Live traps can be used to humanely trap and relocate nuisance animals.

 

Fumigating with smoke bombs, although a commonly used method, requires planning and preparation and a great deal of caution. It’s best to use a carbon dioxide smoke bomb in early spring for two reasons. One, the ground is usually still moist from winter and will clump together, holding the smoke in the tunnel more effectively. Two,woodchucks have not yet reproduced.

 

Using gas cartridges to fumigate a groundhog's tunnel system can be hazardous. Use caution.

Using gas cartridges to fumigate a groundhog’s tunnel system can be hazardous. Use caution.

 

Before using the bombs, side entrances to the burrow need to be blocked. The front entrance will need to be quickly blocked once the lit cartridge is inserted so having a chunk of sod cut to size right can be helpful. Watch the tunnel to see if smoke rises from the ground. If it does, then you will need seal the cracks before re-inserting a cartridge. If the tunnel never reopens at any spot, then you know that you were successful and the groundhog is dead.  If it does open, the woodchuck has evaded your efforts,

Poison peanuts are sold as a method to control woodchucks, but are not usually effective since groundhogs are herbivores. The peanuts can also be lethal for birds and other wildlife as well as children. Poison Peanuts have 3 generations of kill, meaning that any animal that eats the dead woodchuck may be killed, and if another animal eats the carcass, it may also die. If you do use poison peanuts, they need to be securely inserted deep inside the tunnel system. Even so the wood groundhog can die close to the surface or outside the burrow in easy access of other animals. As an advocate for a safe environment, I just can’t recommend using poison peanuts.

 

Properly installed woodchuck fencing can protect your garden.

Properly installed woodchuck fencing can protect your garden.

 

 

If eliminating groundhogs completely seems unlikely, as in my case, then controlling them becomes the next option. Fencing a small area can be extremely effective if and only if it is done correctly. A wire mesh fence standing at least two feet high above ground with no more than 2 inch x 4 inch openings is a good choice. (Woodchucks can squeeze through very small openings for the right meal.) Bury the fence at least a foot deep to block their digging and bend the top to a 90 degree angle to block their climbing. If you can, add an electric line around the top.

 

Protective fencing can be ornamental.

Protective fencing can be quite ornamental.

 

As a final line of defense against these pesky critters, consider planting species that are groundhog “resistant.”  Groundhogs tend to avoid plants with strong scents and those with spiny foliage. Although a hungry woodchuck will dine on these plants too, they won’t be their first choice. I finally saved a few of my summer vegetables by inserting rows (and pots) of some these herbs and flowers among my vegetable plants and surrounding the area with an iris bed.This list is by no means exhaustive, but most are quite compatible with a vegetable garden.

Herbs

  • Catmint
  • Chives
  • Lavender*
  • Lemon Balm
  • Thyme

Flowers

  • Coneflowers
  • Snapdragons
  • Dianthus
  • Yarrow*
  • Nicotiana
  • Iris
  • Astilbe
  • Daffodils

*prefers a drier soil

Inter-planting groundhog resistant plants with vegetable can help protect your garden.

Inter-planting groundhog resistant plants with vegetable can help protect your garden.

 

Outsmarting my woodchuck may be an ongoing task, but at least I am armed this year with more information and a new plan. I’ll let you know later this summer how the battle goes. Meanwhile, next time join me for tips on controlling some of those other urban wildlife nuisances.

Posted by & filed under design process, landscape management, Landscaping, Uncategorized .

In my last blog, I mentioned that one of my favorite winter activities is thinking about the upcoming spring. More specifically it is dreaming about all the amazing things I will do to completely change the look of my yard. I have visions of creating a landscaping masterpiece that contains every element I have ever dreamed of — and all on a postage- sized lot for minimal cost! On the days when reality hits, (usually in the form of my husband) I realize that I need a plan and a process, both of which can be obtained by using the services of an established and reputable design/build firm.

As we discussed last time (January 31,2018 posting), the process begins with an initial meeting to determine the size and scope of the project, to understand the client’s vision and to complete a site analysis. The result of this first session is what is called a conceptual plan, which is a plan illustrating the big ideas such as planting groups or hardscape features without necessarily including all of the specific construction details. A preliminary budget will is presented with the plan to help in the planning process. 

 

Conceptual Plan by Dan Nelson, Embassy Landscape Group

Conceptual Plan by Dan Nelson, Embassy Landscape Group

 

 

When the design team has completed the concept drawing, the designer will set up a second appointment to review the plan. As in the first meeting, the designer will closely listen to make sure that all of the customer’s expectations are being met. Client satisfaction is of prime importance to the entire team.

Once the plan has been reviewed as a whole, then the designer will walk through each section separately, giving recommendations for plant and hardscaping materials.  Always keeping the homeowner’s dreams at the forefront, Embassy designers pull from their years of experience and thorough plant knowledge to suggest varieties that will enhance the design, flourish in the site and improve the environment.

 

Construction of a dry stream bed helps control water runoff.

Construction of a dry stream bed helps control water runoff.

 

For years, industry designers have used still images in their presentations. Embassy’s designers have moved a step forward to keep pace with the changing world. In addition to their library of professional images, they also use 3D animation to show clients exactly what the design will look like on their own home. This tool absolutely transforms the experience, bringing the paper plan to life. And for those who have difficulties translating from paper to reality (I know that I certainly do!), it adds yet another level of confidence to the decision-making process.The example below give a sense of the dramatic detail that can achieved with the use of CAD drawings and 3D animation.

 

 

 

In any creative process, new ideas can be sparked from reflection and discussion. Landscaping is no exception. It is not unusual for either the client or the designer to suddenly see exciting new options while reviewing the conceptual drawing. An experienced designer, like those at Embassy, incorporates those Eureka moments into the plan to create an even more impressive landscape.

Although a preliminary budget was discussed in the initial meeting, once the conceptual drawing, including any revision, is completed and a plant and materials list is compiled, then the design team can prepare a more precise estimate. Job costs can still be adjusted however, based on specific plant sizes and actual construction materials chosen, giving clients options to stay within their budget guidelines.

 

 

Example of a plant list

Example of a plant list

 

With the plan approved, the budget set, a contract signed and a downpayment rendered, the job is added to the installation schedule. A project manager, who is responsible for overseeing the crew and acting as a liaison between the client and the designer and a crew with the necessary installation skills, are assigned to the project.

An on-sight, pre-construction meeting with the designer, the project manager, the crew lead and the homeowner is then scheduled before any work begins. The team reviews the project plans together so that everyone is on the same page and there are no misunderstandings. Embassy staff believes that clear communication is critical to success.

Depending on the scope of the work, construction plans highlighting each particular phase may be required as the work progresses. In the example below, plans were needed for multiple phases of construction.

 

Construction plans from right to left: hard scape; driveway edge details; drainage; color planting

Construction plans from right to left: hard scape; driveway edge details; drainage; color planting

 

 

Throughout the installation, Embassy designers make periodic stops at the job site to evaluate the work. Occasionally they may suggest field changes to improve the quality of the design, but any design changes must first be approved by the client.

 

Crews are happy to make job changes that enhance the design.

Crews are happy to make job changes that enhance the design.

 

When the job is completed, the designer will schedule a final walk-through with the homeowner to make sure that every aspect of the work has been done to the client’s satisfaction. At this meeting, basic maintenance and warranty instructions are provided, any operating manuals are turned over and the final invoice is presented for payment. Each of these final details is important to the overall success of the project. Most importantly though, a dream is fulfilled.

 

 

Following Embassy Landscape Group’s design process can make your dreams come true too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by & filed under Commercial Landscaping, design process, Landscaping, Uncategorized, Urban Landscaping .

If you are like me, you are heading into a very dangerous gardening time. After a few weeks of grey skies, cold temperatures and intermittent snowfall, I am entering the “renovate the entire yard to create an outdoor masterpiece” phase. For the next few weeks, I will stand by my windows and visualize stone patios where my family and friends will relax, outdoor kitchens in which I will prepare scrumptious meals, water features that will soothe the soul on chaotic days and planting beds with riotous bursts of color and fragrance. Perhaps I will have a pergola with Royal Purple wisteria blooms trailing down next to the grandchildren’s nature based play space. And of course, I must have a raised bed vegetable garden bursting with organically grown produce. Every element I have ever seen and admired will suddenly finds a place in my yard and they will all fit together in perfect harmony.

 

Anything is possible in my daydreams.

Anything is possible in my daydreams.

 

And then reality in the form of my husband’s rational approach to life will hit. He will point out, very bluntly in my opinion, that we have a very small yard and a limited budget and  that success comes from developing and following a plan not a daydream. As much as I hate to admit it, he is right. Although my wintertime dreams do have a critical place in the creation of our perfect outdoor living area, they are not the only element. In order to change my daydreams into a pleasing reality, I will need to understand and to follow the design process through each stage.

Through the years, the staff at Embassy Landscape Group has developed a design/ build process that carefully guides clients through the development and installation phases of their landscape project. Working closely with Embassy designers ensures that the finished product is an accurate interpretation and refinement of the customer’s original ideas and has remained within the budget guidelines.

 

Gathering ideas ahead of time is an important step in the design process.

Gathering ideas ahead of time is an important step in the design process.

 

Prior to the initial meeting, spend time thinking about your goals, priorities and budget for the project. Putting together an idea book book beforehand can help the designer understand your taste and therefore design more effectively for you. Through the years, I have done everything from tearing pictures from magazines to taking photos of stranger’s yards in order to capture my ideas. Sites like pinterest or houzz can be useful for storing and arranging images as well as finding new ideas.

 

Sharing ideas is part of the initial meeting.

Sharing ideas is part of the initial meeting.

 

The first meeting with the designer will primarily be an information gathering session with the goal of creating a conceptual plan. Embassy’s designers will want to identify the scope of the work. Is the project goal to solve an existing problem, for example to screen unsightly views? Is it to create a private retreat in which to decompress after a hectic day or is it a gathering place for friends and family? Is it to renovate an existing area or to install an entirely new yard? Is the work to be completed in one season, or is it going to be completed over time?

Once the scope of the work has been outlined, then the budget range needs to be determined. Knowing a realistic budget helps a professional designer develop a cost-efficient  plan that still meets the customer’s goals. The design fees and payment schedule will also be discussed at the initial meeting.

The designers from Embassy take pride in actively listening and responding to their customer’s needs and wants. They ask a variety of questions to learn more about the client’s tastes and how the space will be used. They also present their portfolios at the initial meeting so the client can see a range of the designer’s previous work before making a final decision. Embassy designers feel that these discussion times are critical to the success of the project because of the personal connections they help establish. I have often heard the designers refer to their clients as “friends” by the time the project is completed.

 

Site analysis is critical to the development of a successful design.

Site analysis is critical to the development of a successful design.

 

Another goal of the initial appointment is to study the site. Professional designers may take photos or sketch out a site plan with exact measurements. They will note existing structures and placement of utilities as well as any natural features that will play into the design. Soil type and drainage issues will also be considered as will sun angles. Careful consideration of these elements help designers create a design that is both beautiful and functional.

 

Using the information from the initial meeting, designers work to create a conceptual plan,

Using the information from the initial meeting, designer Dan Nelson works to create a conceptual plan,

 

With all of the information in hand, Embassy staff will then work to create a customized conceptual plan that reflects the unique character of the customer and the site and stays within the agreed upon budget. Next time we will take a look at what happens as the conceptual plan is turned into a working design ready for installation.

 

Posted by & filed under Commercial Landscaping, Gardens, Grounds Maintenance, landscape management, Landscaping, Native Plants, Sustainable Landscaping, Uncategorized .

Growing up in the middle of a large Midwestern city, my connection with nature was little more than a few minutes in our highly manicured yard, an occasional visit to a city park or a stroll through our botanical garden for the Christmas display. My family simply did not see the need to spend much time in the natural world. When I met and married my husband, that all began to change. His passion for and commitment to the environment became a shared value, but for a long time I was still tied to the belief that landscaping needed to be symmetrical and formal to be attractive. Sustainable planting was, to me, synonymous with overgrown, under- maintained weed patches. Over the past few years as I have seen well-designed native plantings, my beliefs and my yards have changed.

The following four projects, all award-winning designs by Embassy Landscape Group, are some of my favorite examples of the range that sustainable landscapes can take. Two are residential designs and two are commercial properties; all four feature native plant material and are not only low maintenance, but also help contribute to the health of our fragile environment. Each has its own singular beauty. I hope that you enjoy them as much as I do.

If you would like more information on creating a sustainable landscape on your property, please contact the experts at Embassy Landscape Group.

Residential Design

 

Traditional Neighborhood Residence

 

This traditional home is located in an upscale community in Kansas City, Missouri. While renovating the existing landscape, one of the owners’ top priorities was easy maintenance.

 

 

 

The shaded stone patio looks out onto a colorful, but low maintenance garden.

The shaded stone patio looks out onto a colorful, but low maintenance garden comprised of native plants and natural materials and includes a unique water feature.

 

 

 

Catmint and coneflowers surround the stone water feature. The gentle sound of the bubbling boulder gives tranquility to the scene.

Catmint and coneflowers surround the stone water feature. The gentle sound of the bubbling boulder gives tranquility to the scene.

 

 

Contemporary Lakeside Home

 

This contemporary lakeside home was built atop a hill overlooking a large lake. During construction, excavators left tons of limestone rock on the crest of the hill. Rather than face the expense of removing it from the site, Embassy designer Dan Nelson found a way to utilize it in the design. The stone was used to cover the slope and a native prairie mix was sown on the poor soil on the hillside.

This contemporary lakeside home was built atop a hill overlooking a large lake. During construction, excavators left tons of limestone rock on the crest of the hill. Rather than face the expense of removing it from the site, Embassy designer Dan Nelson found a way to utilize it in the design. The stone was used to cover the slope and a native prairie mix was sown on the poor soil on the hillside.

 

Native plants thrive on the hot, sunny hillside with minimal maintenance. As a further benefit, the stone provides a pathway for rooftop water flow to reach the lake without creating erosion issues or lake contamination. Since natives rarely need chemical applications, there is little chance of water pollution from run-off.

Native plants thrive on the hot, sunny hillside with minimal maintenance. As a further benefit, the stone provides a pathway for rooftop water flow to reach the lake without creating erosion issues or lake contamination. Since native plants rarely need chemical applications, there is little chance of water pollution from run-off.

 

The finished hillside retreat is a relaxing oasis in the midst of native beauty. The rusty corten steel fire pit, although contemporary in design, is in perfect harmony with its surroundings.

The finished hillside retreat is a relaxing oasis in the midst of native beauty. The rusty corten steel fire pit, although contemporary in design, is in perfect harmony with its surroundings.

 

 

Commercial Design

 

Comet Industries

 

When Comet Industries, a railroad supply company, purchased a former bank building, the owners requested a naturalistic landscape that would define their mission and set them apart from the surrounding offices and buildings. Using materials that would mimic what is found along the railroad lines of the Great Plains, designer Dan Nelson created a unique landscape suitable for the difficult conditions adherent in a parking lot.

 

Using native plants such as asters, prairie drop seed and sumac give interesting fall alternatives to the more commonly used chrysanthemum. Native species also tend to be more reliable and require less routine care,

 

The limestone post rocks are harvested from Kansas prairie and add a sculptured element to the design. The Little Bluestem and native prairie wildflowers serve to soften the view of the parking lot, adding beauty for employees and well as passers-by.

 

 

The National – A Golf Community

Dan Nelson, Senior Designer at Embassy consulting with a landscape architectural firm, created a signature landscape which captured the golf community’s commitment to preserving the natural environment while still maintaining the exacting standards of a world-class golf course. The next four images, shot at various points on the property, show a few of the outstanding results of their collaboration.

Plant materials native to tallgrass prairies and woodlands of Missouri and Kansas were incorporated throughout the design, providing seasonal interest, color and pollinator habitat. Rocky outcroppings and exposed stone, typical for the region, were included to enhance the design.

In an effort to reduce water run-off from golf course turf to the adjoining highway, both a dry stream bed and a rain garden were installed.

 

Rocky outcropping reminiscent of the region.

Rocky outcropping reminiscent of the region.

 

 

Beds of native plants in full bloom bring a sense of Place to the surrounding neighborhoods.

Beds of native plants in full bloom bring a sense of Place to the surrounding neighborhoods.

 

 

Rain gardens help control excess water run off.

Rain gardens help control excess water run off.

 

 

The soft movement of the grasses add to the peace of the setting.

The soft movement of the grasses add to the peace of the setting.

 

 

Posted by & filed under Commercial Landscaping, Grounds Maintenance, landscape management, Landscaping, Sustainable Landscaping, Uncategorized, Urban Landscaping .

At a recent presentation to a group of homes association property managers, my colleagues were asked why they were suggesting that changes be made in the landscapes resulting in sustainable landscaping for their properties. The potential clients questioned their logic, seeing the suggested changes as a path to planned obsolescence for Embassy; it seemed like a counterproductive proposal to them. Exactly the opening for which they were looking, Embassy’s staff used the opportunity to educate the group about the critical need for sustainable practices in today’s landscaping and grounds maintenance. Embassy designers explained how adopting environmentally sound practices would benefit their residents as well as their bottom line.

 

Sustainability is certainly a buzzword right now. We hear about everything from using sustainable building practices, creating sustainable communities and developing sustainable economies to using sustainable packaging and living entirely sustainable lifestyles. I have even skimmed a recent article on achieving maximum yields with sustainable agriculture. (Rather dry; I wouldn’t recommend it for light reading.) Granted, there are some who are touting sustainability strictly as a marketing tool to tap into current trends for their own profitability, but overall the goals of the movement are truly meant to protect our fragile planet and to meet the needs of future generations.

 

Our children and grandchildren deserve a healthy, vibrant planet.

Our children and grandchildren deserve a healthy, vibrant planet.

 

The concept of sustainability is both simple and complex. At the most basic level, sustainability is just making sure that everything we do allows our children and grandchildren and generations beyond to inherit a healthy, vibrant world in which to live and to thrive. A sustainable lifestyle assumes that choices made “meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” (UN World Commission on Environment and Development)

 

Resources are finite and must be protected.

Resources are finite and must be protected.

 

In reality though, attaining sustainability is a much more complicated process. It begins with a series of presumptions. It holds that resources are finite, that they must be used judiciously, that priorities for their consumption must first be determined and that the consequences of their use now must be seriously considered. These critical premises are what then guide the direction that sustainability practices take for both the community and the individual.

 

Introducing sustainable landscaping into urban areas results in healthier communities.

Introducing sustainable landscaping into urban areas results in healthier communities.

 

Evaluated against theses presumptions, the idea of creating sustainable landscapes makes perfect sense. According to the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), a sustainable landscape is one that is “responsive to the environment, regenerative and can actively contribute to the development of a healthy community.”  In other words, a sustainable landscape is well suited to its particular environment and thrives over time in the range of conditions typical to the area without needing additional resources or special care.

 

Native plants require fewer chemical applications, helping to protect our water system.

Native plants require fewer chemical applications, helping to protect our water system.

 

Further, sustainable landscapes actually promote healthier communities, individuals and ecosystems. Because sustainable landscapes primarily use native plants and natural materials placed in appropriate settings, once established they require less water than introduced species. Native plants tend to be healthier, being more disease and insect resistant than ornamentals, reducing the need for fertilizers, pesticides and other chemicals. Fewer chemical applications mean less run-off into our water supplies and thus cleaner water .

 

Gas-powered tools contribute to air pollution.

Gas-powered tools contribute to air pollution.

 

EPA studies show that gas-powered garden tools contribute to the 242 million plus pounds of pollutants released into the air each year. Since sustainable landscapes require minimal maintenance (such as mowing and trimming), they help improve air quality. Leaves of native plants used in sustainable landscapes also grab carbon from the air and accumulate it in their leaves.

 

Native plantings can help revive and restore delicate ecosystems.

Native plantings can help revive and restore delicate ecosystems.

 

The latest census data reports that 81% of the 323 million people living in the United States now live in urban areas. This urbanization has resulted in a disruption of delicate ecosystems. Not only have familiar creatures such as birds and butterflies lost habitat, but even microscopic soil microorganisms, necessary for decomposing organic matter and helping to supply nitrogen to plants as well as detoxifying harmful chemicals (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education), have suffered. By including sustainable landscapes filled with native plants throughout the community, ecosystems can be revived and rebuilt, protecting the diversity of native wildlife.

 

Which lifestyle would you prefer?

Which lifestyle would you prefer?

 

Choosing to install a sustainable landscape instead of the more traditional expanse of turf and beds of ornamentals, gives sizable economic benefits. Once established, the cost of maintaining a sustainable landscape is minimal when compared to upkeep on a traditional yard. Figures provided by ASLA show that over the long-term, non-native turf and beds cost over $20,000 per acre while native landscaping of the same square footage costs about $3000.

 

Create a sense of place by using native plants in your landscape.

Create a sense of place by using native plants in your landscape.

 

Finally, being surrounded by the native plants in a sustainable landscape, helps to grow a sense of our connection to our natural environment. When I was teaching geography, we called this a sense of Place. It is the sights, the sounds, the smells, the textures that  make an area unique and that make it home to us. My initial response to the idea of converting my beloved formal landscape to a native filled sustainable one was, to be totally honest, was horror. I imagined unbridled chaos – a weedy mess. What I found I actually had was a sense of constancy and peace.

 

I’d like to invite you to join me next time for a virtual tour of a few of the highlights of Embassy Landscape Group’s sustainable landscape design projects.  Most are award-winning; all are amazing. See what Embassy designers can do for you.