Small Yard Shows Off Big Personality
The back yard is my gem. We love nighttime dinner parties under the pergola. It’s just gorgeous. And the water feature… You just gravitate toward the waterfall. We sit out there all the time. We feel so lucky. It is such a beautiful garden—all aspects of it. Ellen, Chevy Chase, Maryland
You might think that maintaining a modest sized property in Chevy Chase, Maryland would not require a personalized garden management program. Well, that depends on the ambitions of the homeowner and the conditions of the site. In this case, our client had employed a yard maintenance crew to perform basic tasks such as mowing and weeding. She was very pleased with that company, but found in time that they didn’t have the horticultural expertise to help her achieve her vision for an English style garden design. So she called on Surrounds Garden Management.
Things kept coming up. I had to keep calling other people to do the work, and it was never coordinated. Ellen, Chevy Chase, Maryland
Tom Kniezewski, of Surrounds Garden Management, says, “Our job is to understand the client’s vision.” The client envisioned an English style garden, but not quite so wild and carefree looking. Achieving her vision would require skillful pruning and trimming techniques to control the size of plants, yet keep them looking natural and “uncut”. Our garden managers have changed and added plants frequently during the three years we’ve been tending the property. At this point, we’ve replaced almost all of them. Kniezewski says it continues to be “a work in progress.”
Site Conditions Dictate the Garden Design and Management Plan
As we design plantings, we have to factor in the different micro-climates on the site. With a small sized lot, this process can be particularly tricky, much more so than with a large (three acre) lot in the outer suburbs. Standing in the front yard we see the right side of the house has full sun. The left side is completely in shade and the front is partial. Our challenge then is to integrate three different micro-environments—three different sun types and moisture types—and make them flow visually.
Advising the client on correct plant selection and placement for the site is extremely important to the success of the garden. Plant spacing is even more important on a small site than in a large landscape because you see everything in close proximity.
Highlights of the Garden Management Plan
The original garden design had been somewhat formal in style. The client’s vision was to transition that existing landscape into an English garden. The English garden style is densely planted, so you don’t see any soil or mulch. At first glance, the garden appears to be growing randomly. In fact, it is carefully composed, subtly organized chaos.
Even though the planting areas have filled in now, we still place annuals in the garden throughout the seasons. This allows us to maximize fullness, color, and a variety of leaf textures continuously as the permanent garden goes through its seasonal changes.
Some plants have grown out and need to be pruned back. Some flowers have multiplied and become too densely packed. When that happens, we divide them and relocate those additional plants to other areas of the garden.
Selecting Specialty Plants
Back in England, we had plums and apples all the time because we had so many fruit trees in our garden. I made apple jelly and apple jam. I missed that. Ellen, Chevy Chase, Maryland
The client had asked for an apple tree, but Kniezewski talked her out of that because apples like an environment that is colder and drier than the one in her secluded back yard. He suggested a peach tree instead. Then plums came into the discussion. Since we only had room for one tree in the garden, we selected a self-pollinating plum tree from Washington State. (Most fruit trees need a companion tree for pollination.)
Our horticultural knowledge is what becomes a great resource to all of our clients. We talk to the client and try to understand what they really want, then make our recommendations in terms of what will work on the site.
If the client asks us to plant an apple tree, we will ask: Do you specifically want apples, or do you just want any edible fruit? Do you want it for the type of tree and the blossoms? Or is it just the idea that you like? Tom Kniezewski, Surrounds Garden Management
Ellen really wanted to be able to step outside and pick fruit right off the tree. So we did the research to identify the right type of plum–from the hundreds of varieties–that would grow successfully in her climate zone.
In the end it’s the client’s choice as to what they plant, but we give them the opportunity to make an informed choice. So if the plant doesn’t work out, they may be disappointed but they won’t be surprised.
The difference between a simple landscape maintenance program and a garden management program is in the details. Simply put, the best garden care results in the best gardens. When the homeowner has aspirations to a particular aesthetic and needs in-depth horticultural expertise, the garden management route is clearly the way to go. If you feel ready to take your garden to the next level, feel free to contact one of our garden management specialists.