1. Woodland Garden
I am often asked by clients, what is the best way to address areas that have extensive tree growth? Many homes and cabins in Minnesota have these areas in the landscape where there is a grove of trees, deciduous or evergreen and not much else other than weeds and sticks. These areas are called woodlands and can often have an unkept look. Woodland areas generally have several obstacles to overcome when deciding to dress them up. One is that they generally do not receive vast amounts of sunlight due to the dense foliage of the trees. This limits the choice and scope of plant material you can use. Second, woodlands are generally located toward the back of the property. This provides a beautiful backdrop or nice view, but when looking up close it leads us to our third obstacle, the woodland often looks messy and unorganized.
There are several ways that one can dress up a woodland garden. You want to start by coming up with a plan on how to tackle the area. You can do this on your own or hire a professional. You want to figure out the size of the area you will tackle, what is there? What do you want to enhance? What do you want to hide? Decide on parameters for the project and then decide on a budget. The budget does not have to be huge, you could just decide that you want to spend a weekend clearing out some of the debris and then spend $100.00 on annuals to add some color. Or you could decide that you want to add some unique features like a patio or bubbling fountain, the choice is yours.
A perfect way to dress up a woodland area is with shade perennials. These plants are adapted to growing in conditions where they receive less than 4 hours of sun per day. Perennials are also a good choice because once they are planted they will come back every year. There are abundant choices of shade loving perennials including hostas, lungwort, and many fern varieties. You want to mix it up so that you will have interest all year long. Many shade perennials have beautiful foliage characteristics that when put in combinations will give a very pleasing visual effect. Another tip for your woodland garden is to use a mulch groundcover once you have the space cleared and the plants are in the ground. This will aid in keeping the space free of unwanted intruders like weeds and tree seeds. Make sure you have a good 4 inches of mulch put down and use cedar type mulch as it degrades more slowly and you will not have to top dress as often.
For those that want to really dress up a woodland area, it is the perfect place for a patio with a nice bubbling fountain or gas fireplace. These spaces are often shaded which means you can gather on the patio and get some much needed relief from the heat of Minnesota summers. Woodlands are also unique because they make you feel like you are in nature even if it’s just your backyard. You want to capitalize on that and create a space where you can escape to the great outdoors.
Anyway you go about it the possibilities are endless for woodland gardens. They no longer need to be areas in your landscape that you only look at from afar. They are unique spaces that when addressed can add more functional space to your outdoor living area.
2. Sun Gardens
We all have that area in our landscape that completely bakes in the Minnesota summer heat all day long. It is almost impossible to grow anything there and if it happens to be turf, it looks dead 2 months out of the year. Well no more brown grass and half dead plants, there are simple things you can incorporate to give a more pleasing effect to those high heat, full-sun areas. Again you want to start with a plan. Ask yourself some questions, how large is the area? Is it close to a water source? (meaning can a hose reach or is there irrigation) do you want to establish a bedline or do you want a more natural look?
Once you have established the goals of your project there are some simple things you can do to add interest to the area. One easy way is to incorporate drought tolerant perennials and shrubs. These plants are adapted to high heat and often do very well after established with little maintenance. Some of the best choices for perennials are black eyed susans, ornamental grasses, and sedum. These plants have unique flowering and foliage characteristics that when used in combination can add color and interest to the area. Drought tolerant shrubs are a good choice in combination with the perennials to add more visual attention to the space. Some good ones are barberry, spirea, and junipers.
Another simple idea is adding some boulders to the space. They provide a nice backdrop for the plants and you don’t have to worry about them baking in the sun. You can use small to medium boulders in odd number combinations for a more natural look. If the space is large you may want to use some large boulders for an outcropping effect. You can then fill in the spaces with perennials and shrubs to complete the look. You will want to mulch the area to cut back on weeds and evaporation. Use 4 inches of good cedar mulch. This will also help to retain moisture and keep the root zones cool while the plants are establishing. You want to make sure you water the plants several times a week for most of the first season while they establish roots.
Once established the sun garden will provide an appealing element to your outdoor space and will save you time and effort trying to maintain turf in a high heat area. The color and interest from the different flowers and foliage will enhance your outdoor space for years to come.
Container gardening is a great way to spruce up any space in your landscape. Containers are a wonderful idea for small spaces, decks, stairs, entry ways, and just about any other spot you want to add some interest and color. You can utilize container plantings on any budget and in every garden scenario. They work in sun, shade, heat, winter and you can even do water garden containers if you are nervous about having a full scale pond.
First things first you want to establish a plan. How many containers do you want? What size is the area they will be located? Is the space in sun, shade, or heat? You then want to focus on choosing different types of containers. Plastic containers come in all different shapes, sizes, and colors and are generally light enough to move around. Clay or terra cotta containers come in many shapes and sizes and also come in some unique colors and glazes that can add a focal point to a space. You want to have enough containers to provide an impact on the space or draw someone’s attention. Group the containers in 3’s and try to have the same color but maybe 3 different sizes or shapes. Be creative; try to use the containers as a focal point that will catch your eye. You want to make sure that the containers have a drainage hole in the bottom for excess water to drain out. Add good potting soil to fill the containers. Do not use plain topsoil as it does not have enough nutrients to feed the plants all summer. You will also want to choose a fertilizer and apply at least once a month in between waterings.
Next, decide on plant material, again the choices are endless. You can choose annuals that will give a splash of color all summer long, you can choose perennials that will provide color and interest all year long, or you can choose combinations of annuals, perennials, and winter plants that you can change as the seasons change. You want to choose plants that can grow in the space. For instance if the space you want the container to be is on your deck and there is a large shade tree overhead pick plants that are shade tolerant. If you choose to pick the plant material yourself go to a garden center and ask what they recommend for sun, shade, etc. If you choose a designer to help, discuss with them what you want to create for the area. For instance if you have a large bare deck and want to create some height maybe some large containers with tropical plants will provide some shade and movement.
For winter interest at an entry point you may want to choose spruce tips and dogwood branches for a focal point against the snow. The possibilities are endless with container gardening. Try several things to see what works and what doesn’t. Keep a log or journal to write the types of plants you chose from season to season so that you can combine them in the future. Once you start you will find that container gardening is really an easy and inexpensive way to add beauty to your outdoor spaces.
If you need a landscaping contractor in Minneapolis, Call Lee’s Landscaping & Design. East Metro: 651-248-6076, West Metro: 763-263-8746 Us or e-mail us today for a personalized consultation. We are fully insured and members of the Better Business Bureau.