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Entries in grasses (3)

Friday
Apr172015

Landscape Design Principles and Elements of Composition: Texture

Feathery plumes of Dwarf Fountain Grass alongside Bluestone Stepping Stones and crushed Long Island gravel.This is the second in a series of articles on Landscape Design Principles and Elements of Composition (click here for the first entry on Color). Today we want to talk about texture in the landscape. There are many ways to achieve different textures with plants, but utilizing natural materials in a garden such as bark and foliage can work well in combination with other elements like gravel, stone, and wood that contribute to a garden’s sensory experience.

Groundcovers, especially between stepping stones, can lend to a variety of ground plane textures. Imagine the feel of soft, cool grass or gatherings of moss under bare feet on a spring morning. Soft, fuzzy perennial Lamb’s Ear in the garden is wonderful to rub between your fingers, as are the leaves of a sage plant. Showy grasses like Hakonechloa or Dwarf Fountain Grass blades are anything but sharp. Get up close and touch the ethereally light, delicate plumes on an ornamental grass when it flowers in the late summer. A mass in the distance is a beautiful visual but there’s nothing like sitting amongst them. Enjoy the grasses from the weathered wood of a favorite garden bench, or planted with a piece of bleached driftwood as a sculptural element to contrast the wispy blades.

Textural contrast of ferns and a Weeping White Pine.We can’t talk about foliage textures without mentioning ferns. There are so many varieties hardy in our area, all of them a textural delight to use in the garden. The fronds of a fern are what we notice first, but get up close and see the curled up fiddleheads (before the frond opens). Even the underside of the fern has something to offer with the clusters of sporangia, usually a contrasting red or brown, especially showy on the evergreen Christmas Fern.

Spiky variegated Agave nestled softly among Scaevola, Lantana and Alyssum.On the opposite side of soft vegetation are the bristly, sharp plants like Agave and Prickly Pear Cactus. Agave is mainly used as an annual or indoor plant here but Yucca is another spiky plant that you can use in the garden and there are many varieties hardy to Long Island.  Prickly Pear Cactus is considered hardy but may take a hit in harsh winters. It is best to plant them in a protected, well-drained area if you want them outside. The needles of many conifers also fall into the sharp category such as Blue Spruce. Not only is the color striking but the coarse surface makes these evergreens stand out from softer White Pine and the many textures of arborvitae.

The coppery, exfoliating trunk of a Paperbark Maple at Planting Fields Arboretum.Exfoliating bark on a Crape Myrtle, Paperbark Maple or River Birch adds almost an architectural texture during all seasons. Though they may look very rough to some, they can all seem quite wispy at times. A Japanese Dogwood, Hinoki Cypress or Alaskan Cedar on the other hand, offers a very firm exfoliating bark - not ones you’d want to touch. They are definitely a stronger visual presence in the garden. Then you have the smooth gray bark of a stately Beech tree that resembles a column holding up a canopy.

A garden needs rough and rigid objects to balance the smooth and soft offerings. The obvious rigidity in a landscape is the paved surfaces, but we will go beyond that. Stone walls are classic in a garden as are brick and stone paving. These materials also last a long time in the garden, weathering over the years. Weathering can add to the character of the stone and brick and lend a softer feeling to the aged hardscape. Cast stone and terra cotta planters are another way to bring solid forms into the landscape. Whether a rounded shape or squared off trough, planters provide a solid visual anchor for specialty plantings like summer annuals or winter displays.

Visually and physically speaking, textures in the garden are one of the greatest ways we experience outdoor space. Another major influence is lighting and its counterpart shadows. With the right lighting scheme, not only can a property be used day or night, it can also enhance the beauty of both man and Mother Nature’s architecture. Stay tuned for our next piece on light and shadow in the garden!

 

Written by Ashley Palko Haugsjaa

Monday
Nov112013

Dear Deer, Please Stay Away From My Garden

These WERE hostas until the deer ate all of the leaves!

Deer ate all of the leaves off of these sedums. Deer may remind you of an iconic childhood cartoon, Bambi, but a real life herd will see your garden as a feast of delicious plants and flowers. If your beautiful garden is decimated by a herd of white tailed deer, you might jump on the computer and research how to deer proof your landscape. The number one thing to realize is that there is no such thing as a deer proof landscape. If deer are hungry enough they will eat anything but they prefer narrow leaf evergreens and fleshy, water filled plants like Hostas, Daylilies and Hydrangeas. Deer don’t usually eat thorny shrubs like roses or barberry, but they are known to nibble the new growth because it’s still soft and palatable. Deer routinely browse vegetation 5-6 feet off of the ground and are mostly nocturnal feeders. Bucks can weigh 250-300 pounds and consume about 4-10 pounds of food, per day, on their vegetarian diet. They typically have their offspring in May-August so you can expect the population to rise in the summer. In the winter deer become desperate for food and they will turn to plants they typically leave alone earlier in the year. The only options for defense are planting strategies, installation of fencing (8’ minimum suggested), and commercial deer repellents (taste and odor based).

Spreading Boxwood (along fence on left)Installing deer resistant landscape plants is the best way to manage browsing damage on your property. Deer are very particular when it comes to what plants they like to eat and implementing a specific planting strategy can direct them elsewhere in search of food. Deer tend to stay away from trees such as American Holly, Birch, Corkscrew Willow, Pitch Pine and Red Pine. Some deer resistant shrubs include Boxwood, Caryopteris, Japanese Plum Yew, Microbiota, Heather, and Osmanthus. You can bring color to your garden without sacrificing flowers to hungry deer. Deer find perennials such as Ligularia, Bleeding Hearts, Catmint, Astilbe and Russian Sage unappetizing. Ornamental grasses are usually left alone because deer don’t like the texture. Some good specimens for your deer resistant garden are Big/Little Blue Stem, Hakonechloa, and Fountain Grass.

Hakonechloa and Ligularia (Photo by Sue Sotera)

Deer fencing can be expensive but is probably the only option for large tracts of land. The fence must be installed with proper footings and should be cleared of debris around the immediate area. This prevents the deer from jumping over and digging underneath the fence. It is recommended that the fence be at least 8 feet high, which could be considered unsightly in some settings.

Commercial deer repellents are plentiful and selecting an adequate product can be confusing because of all the different ingredients and mixtures. An untreated garden can become a buffet for this woodland pest. Deer are deterred by strong fragrances and what they consider to be foul tastes. Repellents can be costly and should be applied directly to the plants every few weeks to ensure effectiveness. Some irrigation companies even offer an inline system that will distribute a repellent during watering. It is important to know what smells and tastes deer hate most to get the most bang for your buck. Look for natural repellents with ingredients that include putrid eggs, fish oil, garlic, hot pepper or some combination thereof. Bitrex is the common name for Denatonium Benzoate which is the most bitter chemical compound known to exist and is mixed with these commercial repellents. You can shop online for a brand that fits your budget, but you might need to try several to find out what works best for the deer on your property. 

With an arsenal packed full of planting strategies, deer fencing and deer repellents, your landscape may stand a chance against deer browsing and cause them to look elsewhere for their sustenance. 

 

Written by Nick Onesto

Tuesday
Jan082013

Winter Interest  


During winter, the garden takes on a different character with the play of light and shadow. It is also a time when the unique features of certain plants are highlighted. Witch-hazel, to the left, is a small tree that blooms in February. It's a wonderful native specimen to showcase during a time when there are few things in flower. Camellias also flower during the winter, but be careful to protect their broad evergreen leaves with an anti-transpirant to reduce wind burn. These do best in a more sheltered area such as behind a windbreak or near a building.

In addition to flowers, there are countless
varieties of trees and shrubs with interesting forms, bark, berries, cones and evergreen color to animate the winter landscape. Berries provide food for birds during the winter as well as color for your garden. A mature Japanese Dogwood or Crape Myrtle (at right) both have multicolored, exfoliating bark that stand out in any landscape. The reddish color of the Crape Myrtle's bark is a striking contrast in a winter landscape. A Montgomery Spruce has beautiful blue needles all year (shown in bottom picture with the granite wall).

Grasses, whether evergreen or perennial, can give you good groundcover all year long. Green liriope doesn't get a haircut until Mid-March. Acorus only needs a light raking. Dwarf fountain grass plumes usually last though early winter if there hasn't been a heavy snowfall. Grasses like this should be cut down as soon as they start looking messy, but don't cut them down based on color. The brown plumes add a feathery, light look to your landscape and contrast well with blue skies and white snow.

Hardscape elements, such as paving, boulders and walls, stand out. Structural elements such as sculptures, pergolas and gazebos enliven an outdoor space all year but in winter they can take center stage. A patio heater or fire pit can make an outdoor space usable on mild winter days. Warm drinks like cocoa, tea and coffee can extend your stay outdoors but remember to dress warmly and to extinguish the fire before returning inside. Just because it's cold outside doesn't mean you can't have fun. An arboretum like Planting Fields in Oyster Bay is a great place to explore year round and there aren't as many people in the winter so you can relax more and take your time to enjoy everything. They have numerous trails through the woods on the grounds but they also have greenhouses to explore if it is too nippy outside.

Exterior lighting schemes can highlight unique landscape elements like the Westchester granite wall to the right. The light picks up the bits of mica in the stone and makes it glitter. During the summer, plants might cover most of this wall, but in the winter when the perennials die back it has a chance to shine. Winter is a time to showcase textures and elements not seen in the summer months when brilliantly colored flowers take center stage.