This is the start of a series of posts about an ongoing project that I’m working on here in New Jersey.
I first visited the house in the spring of 2014 to discuss the homeowners’ needs and desires for the property. They had already done a great deal of work on the home, adding on to the existing structure, building new garages and perfecting the interior.
Now, they were ready to move outdoors to begin the process of making the outside of the house reflect the inside.
Walking up to the front door, it was clear that the landscape hadn’t received attention in quite some time.
There were a lot of overgrown shrubs that were past their best and it didn’t match the stately architecture of the house. In addition, they live in an area where the deer are not only rampant but voracious, which, of course, limits the planting possibilities. As the homeowners were gardeners….they had already made a start on the back garden. At that initial meeting, it was decided the most important areas would be the front foundation beds and the front property line at the street.
There was a desire to make the whole front of the property more welcoming.
At the property line on the street, there was an issue of erosion. A very slight slope was washing into the street with each rain. There needed to be better curb appeal while also containing the erosion.
We worked over the summer on the designs and plant choices for those areas.
Once all was approved, we started implementing in Autumn of 2014. We installed the front foundation beds at the house as well as the beds at the street. All in all, when everything was finished, tidied up and mulched, it was a big improvement and it added greatly to the curb appeal as you can see in the “after” photos below.
Sadly, this is not a story with a happy ending and it’s one in which a few very hard lessons were learned.
After the planting was complete, the result was lovely. The loveliness, however, did not last long. There were three very big problems that caused the landscape to fail.
The first issue was a lack of irrigation.
Although we all have good intentions of watering our gardens, in the end, most of us lead busy lives and the day has a way of flying by. Suffice it to say, in spite of plans to take out the hose and water the beds, it didn’t often happen. This is particularly problematic with new plantings, which need water to settle in and take hold. A few of the small shrubs suffered while others didn’t make it at all. The astilbe and heuchera really took a beating in both the foundation beds as well as the bed at the street. By the following spring/summer, there was no sign of the astilbe or the heuchera.
The second issue involved an age old adage every gardener, including myself, knows: “Plant the right plant in the right place.”
I have to be honest and say that although I’m well aware it’s true, I didn’t listen to myself and I planted what I felt would work best from a design standpoint and not a light standpoint. I tried, very unsuccessfully might I add, to plant shrubs that would thrive in full sun to part shade in two very shady garden beds. The result was not good. The Crimson Pygmy Barberry, planted because of their deer resistance, did not thrive and their deep burgundy color became pale and anemic looking. I had neglected to really look at the site and consider the sunlight on those two front beds. It seemed whenever I was there during the design phase, it was either a rainy or cloudy day. Therefore, I never really appreciated the fact that even on a bright sunny day, there was only a small area of one of the beds that got full sun.
Finally, the last of the three problems were those voracious deer I spoke of earlier.
Again, I planted what the design called for and what I knew would make the homeowners happy. I planted hydrangea and left the homeowners with a large bucket of Deer Scram, which in my own garden does keep the deer away from the hydrangea. But I am vigilant about the deer repellent and my homeowners who work full time and travel, just weren’t able to keep up and the result was nine very sorry looking hydrangea.
But alas, stay tuned as there will be a happy ending this spring.
An irrigation system was put in last fall, which will ensure all the new plantings get adequate water. A new plant list has been devised with species that will be happy and will thrive in heavy shade and, finally, deer fencing has been installed all around the perimeter of the property. This May, the sun-loving plants will be relocated to the sunnier back garden, the hydrangea will be safely replanted in the gardens that are protected with deer fencing and a new batch of shade-loving plants will be reworked into the existing design.