Establishing a Late Summer Border Garden

Although not commonly recommended as the best season to plant, establishing a border garden in late summer can be an advantageous time.  While enjoying the outside environment, we have occasion to assess our property. 

In the photos, you can see our client noticed he was looking at a stark fence instead of a border of interest.  Rather than the customary wall of upright evergreens, which is uninteresting, we chose to utilize color and texture by establishing flowering shrubs, trees, and ornamental grasses.

Included in our design was the use of three Tuscarora Crape Myrtles, which bloom from July through September.  Accompanying them are Hydrangea paniculate ‘Phantom’, Hibiscus syriacus (Rose of Sharon), Clethra alnifolia ‘Ruby Spice’ (Summersweet), and Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’ (Switchgrass).  All of these plants possess a long season of floral interest. 
Summersweet is a native flowering shrub found throughout New Jersey.  Of particular interest is its beautiful flower, which attracts hummingbirds.  Switchgrass is a native prairie grass common throughout the Northeast.  The variety ‘Shenandoah’ has burgundy red foliage.  It is best to not cut back ornamental grasses until spring so the foliage can provide winter interest.  
So, in these last days of summer, enjoy assessing your own yard.


Planting to Transition from Winter to Spring

Sequence.  The term “sequence” in landscape design is when the seasonal interest of one plant gives way to the interest of another.  Over the years, I have installed plants in my yard that offer a constant progression of color throughout most of the year.  Presently, our small woodland has plantings that liven up the winter by flowering in February.  Giving way to a variety of bulbs and shrubs sprouting during the month of April.  For example, Witch Hazel and snow drops, which have been in bloom since mid-February, are beginning to wane; while Andromeda, Hellebores, and Daffodils are starting their profusion of color to liven up our April landscape.
So, consider these plants for your late winter – early spring garden interest.  The planning for this approach has to take place in the autumn when the garden centers are carrying the plants, and they can be established in your landscape.


Principles of Sustainability

Sustainability is defined as an avoidance of the depletion of our natural resources in order to maintain a balanced environment.
Two ways that this can be done were seen by my wife and I when we visited the Naples Botanical Garden in Naples, Florida.  The first is the use of local materials for construction.  For example, the many elevated boardwalk pathways that lead you throughout the garden, were made from resurrected bald cypress wood which had sunk over one hundred years ago during logging operations in a local river.   The nature of the wood allows it to be preserved while submerged, so it made an ideal recycled material for the garden walkways.
The second was the use of design plantings in the parking lot, which captured rain water and pollutants from the parking lot into bioswailes.  These engineered plantings are designed to filter the captured water and release it into a nearby lake to be used to irrigate the garden.  Thus, completing the cycle of water entering the landscape, being cleansed and reused without tapping into any other water source ... true sustainability!


Planting with Christmas in Mind

If you’re thinking about a new landscape for your yard, or just changing up an area on your property, consider incorporating evergreens.  We see them all around in outdoor decorations during the Christmas season, so wouldn’t it be nice to have your own to cut for outdoor containers and window boxes - or even to fill vases in your home?    Tree varieties like Pine, Spruce, Cryptomeria, Leyland cypress, Magnolia, and Holly; and shrubs like Mountain and Cherry laurel, and Andromeda, are excellent choices to enjoy and utilize all throughout the winter months.   The soil in your pots from summer plantings will act as an Oasis for your evergreen boughs.  With this collection of material on your property – and maybe adding in some Kale and Winterberry holly, you can create your own beautiful winter containers.


A Lawn Alternative – American Beachgrass

Sometimes the traditional cool season grasses that are most commonly used in home lawns may not be the best choice.  Site conditions vary from residence to residence, but for homes in seashore communities, along rivers, or those lacking irrigation, KY bluegrass and tall fescue may not be the best choice.   These environments are frequently exposed to high wind conditions, salt spray, and sandy soils, which do not sustain traditional grasses.  

American beachgrass (Ammophilia breviligulata), a native species to eastern North America, is commonly found in sand dunes along the Atlantic Ocean.  Although not typically conducive to recreational use, this low-maintenance grass serves to prevent soil movement from wind as well as providing a wildlife habitat.

The optimum beachgrass planting season runs from early October through March.   Once planted, these small, bare-root plants need no follow up maintenance … including watering.  


Last Spring BCN Horticulture landscaped the Marina Grill in Belmar, NJ.  It was one of our largest jobs to date.  We teamed up with Vito Paratore (our photographer) to give you this awesome time-lapse of our work.  Hope you enjoy!


The Angel Oak Tree

My wife and I had the pleasure of visiting the Angel Oak Tree located on John’s Island in South Carolina in February 2014 and again in February 2015.

This Live Oak (Quercus virginiana) pre-dates, by at least a century, the cotton plantations of this region making it one of the oldest living organisms east of the Mississippi.  Our first visit was just after an ice storm had moved through the area and the arborists who were monitoring the tree and had responsibility for its care, had set up temporary metal poles to support the large branches just prior to the storm.  During our arrival we observed that all the poles were bent.   

Since our visit coincided with the arborist’s project, we were able to engage him in conversation and learned that the poles had become compromised with the added weight of the ice from the recent storms. It was fascinating to watch these professionals painstakingly and with much trepidation replace the temporary braces with the more permanent.  So much at stake in the care of this highly valued tree.  We discovered that the care of this tree is very precise with monitoring practices for insects, cabling large branches, prescription fertilization, and pruning. 

On our follow-up trip this year we observed that the temporary poles were replaced by more permanent wooden “telephone poles” to anchor and stabilize these massive branches.  The tree is in outstanding health with a great shape and form.  With the care it receives and its general health, the Angel Oak will probably provide future generations many more years to enjoy its beauty.