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Category Archives: Garden Design

Landscape Maintenance for Spring

Bloodgood Maple
Spring Landscape Maintenance for Summer Beauty

What is your spring landscape maintenance plan? We all want to get our landscape gardens off on the right roots so we can enjoy a healthy, thriving and vibrant landscape through the spring, summer and fall. Spring landscape maintenance plans start with general plant and bed maintenance, followed by shrub pruning, perennial cutbacks, fertilizing, mulching and edging beds. Garden Design Inc. offers full service Spring Landscape Maintenance and ongoing landscape services for Allentown, Emmaus and the entire Lehigh Valley Landscape companies.

March – April  Landscape Maintenance

Overview:  Plants begin to break dormancy. Work done now sets tone for remainder of season. Good Garden Hygiene will reduce needs for excessive pesticide and herbicide throughout the season

General Plant Maintenance:

  • Cut back and cleanup dead and decayed perennial growth from prior season
  • Prune any dead branching from woody shrubs and small trees
  • Weed removal – winter weeds bittercrest, chickweed dandelion etc.
  • Check for Scale and treat with Horticultural Oil
  • Divide Perennials – where appropriate to fill in and encourage healthier growth.

Infrastructure Maintenance:

  • Exposed lighting wire or irrigation tubing – dig and bury
  • Check lighting systems, replace bulbs as needed, adjust timer as needed
  • Check downspouts and drains for clogs or other issues
  • Inspect hardscapes for heaving – repair lifting or shifting paving
  • Inspect general garden drainage and resolve any washout problems
Landscape Maintenance
Landscape Gardens Allentown

Perennials:

  • Mow Liriope, Epimedium and other appropriate cutback groundcovers
  • Hand groom Fern, Hellebore, Bergenia, Geranium (semi-evergreen perennials)
  • Uncover plant crowns and ‘press down’ from winter heave
  • Cutback and Divide Grasses

Flowering Shrubs:

  • Rejuvenate Pruning – on heavy bloomers – Roses, Spirea, Hydrangea, Weigela
  • Selective Pruning – to Form/Shape larger woody flowering shrubs i.e. Viburnum
  • Reduction Pruning – Reduce 1/3 old wood past seasons i.e. Red Twig Dogwood

Evergreen Shrubs:

  • Rejuvenate Pruning – form oriented shrubs i.e. boxwood and ilex
  • Selective Pruning – Remove dead and damaged wood
  • Disease & Pest – Inspect and treat Scale and psyllid (boxwood)

Trees:

  • Selective Pruning – Remove dead/diseased wood and prune minor to good form
  • Remove reversions, scions and root sucker growth

Fertilizing:

  • Perennials – Fertilize around the crown, not on it
  • Shrubs – fertilize 3-5” around the drip line, not inside or beyond
  • Trees – Fertilize 6-12” around the drip line. Deep plug fertilize every 48”

Mulch:

  • Cut bed edges – Check work order for specification Hand Edge vs. Machine
  • Note prior over mulching and remove/spread out before new mulch
  • Install mulch between plants – do not ever dump onto a plant!
  • Move mulch around plants, never closer than 1” to crown or trunk
  • Never bury crown, trunk or branching in mulch
  • Never over mulch around any plant (2” Maximum)

Deck Design

A deck should compliment the housing structure but it is should also be able to stand on its own. It should look appealing but also provide some functionality for an outdoor living space.
A deck should compliment the housing structure but it is should also be able to stand on its own. It should look appealing but also provide some functionality for an outdoor living space.

Are you interested in Deck Design for your backyard landscape? The implementation of decking has a mixed connotation. While they clearly have the potential to create an interesting outdoor living space for the home owner, often times their designs are constructed in an uninteresting, boring, and bland fashion. They are usually the last addition to be constructed on a typical suburban home. What tends to be a common re-occurrence is that the deck design appears to be an awkward rectangular addition to the back of a house, left to rot.

Fortunately, there are many opportunities to dress up a deck, and typically that can be done by experimenting with decking materials, preservation techniques, and surrounding vegetation. Decks have opened the doors to landscape architects to explore how this type of structure can reach top efficiency while also retaining a visual aesthetic.

Primarily, material and surrounding vegetation can make or break a decking design. Materials play a significant role in the sense that it affects color scheme and other forms of visual aesthetics, but it also influences the maintenance and upkeep of the structure as well. For example, wood is not an uncommon material used in construction, but certain types of wood need a type of sealant to prevent water seepage and rotting.  Insects are often a culprit of decking deterioration as well. With proper repellant these detrimental elements can be prevented.

Installing a deck with suitable materials should require little maintenance post construction. Using materials such as composites typically have the least amount of maintenance due to their rot resistant abilities. When using woody materials, it is best to use tropical hardwoods for they are more rot resistant and they do not attract wood-boring insects. Some suitable hardwoods may consist of teak and ipe. One of the newer materials being integrated into decking design is aluminum. A unique feature to the type of aluminum that is used in deck design is that it is a strong material, and it does not give off a ping sound while walking on it.

Keep in mind that this is an outdoor room, so consider the elements when selected the placement of your deck. Sun and wind patterns will play a significant role. While a deck becomes an entity of its own, it is important to integrate the form in its natural surroundings. Perennials, shrubs, and small trees are all suitable vegetation to surround your deck.

As a finished project, decks provide an open space for people to congregate, similar to the roles of a patio. With its elevated properties, a deck gives the illusion of being in the house without actually standing inside the structure, but by acknowledging the similar elevations. Note that there is a range of possibilities of what can be placed on the deck, but nothing beats a nice set of seating and dining area. Adding a few planters would not be a bad idea. Consider what you want to use the space for, and build onto your deck landscape design from there. Perhaps the space will become a dinner seating area, which can be used during the day, and with the implementation of landscape lighting, it can be used after dark as well. Regardless of the design, find one the fits best with you and your landscape

Landscape Design Company

With a help of contrasting hardscape and lush vegetated greens, a brick home's facade can easily be softened.
With a help of contrasting hardscape and lush vegetated greens, a brick home’s facade can easily be softened.

Garden Design Inc. is a landscape design company that serves Coopersburg. Exploring deeper into the Lehigh Valley, there is evidence that the region has many historical architectural and landscape components. Touching on two smaller cities in the Lehigh Valley, Coopersburg and Hellertown, they are very similar is geographical make up; however, human population and existing development has left each city with its unique set of landscape design and construction opportunities.

With both cities covering less than three miles in area, Hellertown holds the higher population by almost double of Coopersburg. With that said, it is not surprising that Hellertown projects a tighter housing layout as a way to accommodate residents and business owners. While some may believe that the general lack of landscape eliminates the profession of landscape architecture, this statement is proven wrong. It is true that some elements of design may become restricted in urban design, other opportunities such as vegetation selection and hardscape design allow the design to explore.

Planting design is key in this type of urban residential landscape design, and utilizing shrubs that can withstand an urban environment is always a great way to start. Hydrangeas and rhododendron  as well as a wide range of perennials provide just enough pop of color in these cities that it catches the eyes of passersby, but it also does not provide so much that it looks out of place. Add some mulching to create a uniform groundcover that stands out from the grass and the hardscape.

Coopersburg and Hellertown developed fairly early, so there is little room for new construction and landscape design. With this said, residences were typically built much smaller back then. Since then, material choices for building construction has changed.  Some of the early developed houses are constructed of brick, which is often not seen in modern day housing construction materials. The red coloring produces a strong and almost harsh appearance to the house, but this can easily be softened through the use of vegetation. Shrubby evergreen plants and species of climbing plants have the ability reduce the visibility of the red brick, making the façade of the house less intense. Ideally, and this applies to any form of residential design, the design should be relatively low maintenance on the home owner. However, yearly pruning and cleaning will still need to take place.

Hardscape such as flagstone, bluestone, natural stone, and concrete are just a few examples of light colored materials that can be used as a strong contrast against brick for a walkway and/or patio design. Play around with mixing different paver types or arrangements to see which hardscape will work best for you and your landscape.

In a successful residential design, there is interest and visually pleasing vegetation arrangements ad hardscape implementation, but there is also an element that brings the viewer back to the original character of the building and the location. Take the opportunity to explore the unlimited options of landscape design in your area.

Landscape Design

The implementation of an accent hardscape can dress up even the most simplest of walkways.
The implementation of an accent hardscape can dress up even the simplest of walkways.

Depending on the city, the abilities and the types of landscape design will vary. Focusing on the eastern portion of the Lehigh Valley, Bethlehem is leaning in a positive direction for landscape and garden design. Bethlehem is fortunate because despite its average spread, it is still covers a wide spectrum of design being that it holds urban, rural, and suburban characteristics.

Bethlehem residential landscape design is rising in popularity, and regardless of the location, there is always potential for design. Although every landscape company has their own approach, Garden Design takes advantage of existing conditions as well promoting the usage of appropriate vegetation, hardscape design and materials, and landscape lighting.

To start, urban sections and older neighborhoods in Bethlehem tend to give off a small town feel, so simple planting and walkway and patio design is common. Throwing in a few perennials and a unique paver pattern and layout will add a splash of color and aesthetic to a formerly drab landscape. If space for planting design is limited, utilizing planting containers on and/or near the walkway and patio can produce a more welcoming feel to the landscape.

The suburban classification in Bethlehem covers a majority of the land.  This creates overwhelming potential for many forms of landscape design. Depending on when the house was built, a spectrum of conditions can coexist. In some of the newer neighborhoods, there is very little well-developed vegetation, in comparison to some of the older neighborhoods that have vegetation that has been growing for many years.

Large quantities of the houses built in the past ten years or so are typically built on a ‘clean landscape’ , which will be used in the context of little/minimal standing vegetation that existed pre-development. While this could pose ecological problems in the long run, this at least open the gates for more design opportunities for the home owner. Experimenting with front walkway design using different hardscapes can make one landscape stand out from the rest. Flagstone is not a common paver type in newer sections of Bethlehem; however, there is much potential for these materials considering its easy accessibility and attractive appearance.

Sizes of back yards in Bethlehem vary depending on the housing type, location, and year in which the house was built, but most yards are large enough to fit at least a small patio. One of the many benefits of patio design is that there are so many options to explore that can create a solid landscape design. Patio layouts and materials can easily be customized to each individual user.

Bethlehem is moving a steady rate toward more modern designs in the field of architecture and landscape architecture. Taking a look at other designs outside of the residential realm, Steel Stacks displays innovative design methods that will hopefully become translated and integrated into more forms of design.

Garden Cottage – A New Wave of Personalized Design

Garden cottages can be personalized to each individual client.
Garden cottages can be personalized to each individual client.

Garden Cottage is hot! These landscape elements are being called “she sheds”; however, as a landscape architect, I most commonly call them Garden Cottage. I have completed a project that had two garden cottages at a pool. One was for the men to smoke cigars and play cards (with the bar), while the other was for the woman to gather and visit (and the outdoor kitchen). I felt like a complete cliché designing it and seeing it built. But that was the client’s specification.

I would prefer to stay away from the he/she dichotomy because but who is to say that a ‘he’ wouldn’t like a ‘she shed’ just as much. But, I suspect everyone needs some alone time. . All sorts of research says that our mental, physical and spiritual health requires retreating from our daily routines and making time to relax. Doing that in a space outside of the daily household grind helps free the mind from the cooking, cleaning, bills and whatever surrounds us in our homes.

A far more descriptive discussion that informs the design approach to these small auxiliary ‘buildings’ which is far more fun and interesting as a designer, addresses the big question ‘what happens in the building?’. This is called the program. Other questions that can aid in the design process include: What purpose does it the building serve? Is it about an outdoor entertaining space, an outdoor room? Or is it for some specific hobby like painting, sewing, and woodcrafts? Or is it an office, a private space to write, to think, to read? All of these possibilities can be gender neutral. And the program will direct the design.

What I hear is a structure with more design detail and aesthetic, a Garden Cottage, something that is guided by the concepts of a ‘cottage’, ‘bungalow’, ‘lodge’, ‘Shanty’ or even a ‘shack’ but let’s avoid the word ‘shed’. So the roof, windows and doors need to have some character, be more dynamic, more unique than the ‘shed’. It may not be constructed from the standard cookie cutter materials available. Or if it is, the materials will be used and combined in unique and uncommon ways. So maybe it is the ‘Garden Shanty’ concept with the doors and windows being recycled and reclaimed materials. Or a ‘Garden Cottage’ with additional trim woods added throughout and a multi-layer paint scheme. The key is deciding on a concept then carrying that idea throughout the project material choices.

With all these elements, there are two directing principles to respect. The function and the style define the design approach. The function of the architecture and its elements are directed by the program, the styles are directed by the concept. Program and concept are the two main design principles. The concept is driven by personal taste in this situation, the taste of the owner. The concept help direct the decorating choices. Is it Shabby Sheik, Tuscan, Country Garden Cottage, Eclectic Artist, Modern Contemporary, Mid Century Modern, Rustic Country………… The program is what happens in the space, how it works, flows, is organized. The concept includes the program in a bridge to the ‘style’.

While program and concept are two driving forces in design, budget will overrule in the end. It always comes down to what can be afforded. Start modest. It is always easier to add then subtract. It is also feels much better to discover you can have more than realize you cannot have everything you had hoped.

 

Paver Patio and Timber Frame Pergola Project

pergola, patio, landscape
a quaint backyard landscape in Allentown pa

Timber frame pergola. Garden Design Inc. completed the  timber frame pergola project pictured in Allentown PA, during the summer of 2014. The client contacted us to review ideas for creating a new outdoor living space. She started with the idea of a new patio in her backyard and a place to put a grill. The property had more opportunities for outdoor living than just a patio installation. The first step was to determine the clients budget. Once she expressed an interest in spending more than just a patio would cost, we began to discuss the range of additional project features.

The first constraint was a large cherry tree very close to her sunroom addition. It limited the flow and use of the adjacent space, and it made a big mess in areas she wanted to have patio space. But, it also provided shade. I suggested the possibility of removing the tree and installing a pergola overhead. The pergola would provide some shade and define the outdoor room adjacent to the sunroom. The client liked the idea and thus we added that additional design direction and element. The next constraint was how and where to put the grill. Since she was in the market for a new grill anyway, I suggested a built in outdoor kitchen. Nothing extravagant, just a simple grill station. The built in element would allow for a more unified design.

The client is an active gardener and has an eclectic backyard landscape. The plantings and the elements are organic in form and character with nothing being formalistic. Reflecting that aesthetic, we designed a timber frame pergola constructed with rough, large Douglas fir lumber. The pergola would be constructed in the timber frame approach with mortise and tenon joints, pegs and wood brackets. It will be allowed to turn grey naturally and not be oiled to maintain the yellow, new cut color. The pergola is designed architecturally as an extension of the sun room and the two sliding doors leading to the landscape.

The outdoor kitchen was designed with enough space to function as a grill station and allow for a bar overhang at one end. The overhang bar seating area accommodates two stools so a couple guests can visit with the cook while she is grilling. Or, the grandchildren can eat at the bar while the adults eat at the outdoor dining table. The grill itself is professional quality Delta Heat. Delta Heat grills are a great quality for perhaps the lowest price in the professional grill range. The countertop is granite and a propane line was run tot he outdoor kitchen to eliminate the need to switch grill tanks.

The patio is designed with two levels. The upper main patio includes the pergola area and the outdoor kitchen. The lower patio is oriented to the pond. The client picked a CST ‘Ridgestone’ concrete paver with a natural cleft finish. The edges of the patio have curb stone to hold the planting beds and define the patio form. Outdoor lighting was installed in the step risers and path lights were installed around the patio. Kichler landscape lighting fixtures were chosen by the client.

The end result was a quaint outdoor living space with unique architectural elements to define the use and character. We enjoyed working with the client during the landscape design process and the landscape construction phase of the project.

 

 

Memory Garden Design – Landscape for an Assisted Care Facility

Landscape Design Assisted Living
Memory Garden Design for an Assisted Living facility in Allentown, PA

Garden Design Inc. in Allentown, PA was given the opportunity to create the memory garden design plan shown above. The landscape design program is to accommodate and nurture a spectrum of elderly residential client’s ranges from moderately independent to those with a range of dementia. This  memory garden design project is in the first phase of design and future blog entries will document the design evolution through construction. The next phase is a construction budget which will help the client organization determine how much of the design can be instituted initially. From there, we will revise the landscape design, complete planting plans and construction details for the arbor, the potting table, the planters, the water feature and the paving surfaces.

SUMMARY OF MEMORY GARDEN DESIGN ELEMENTS :

ARBOR GARDEN ENTRY – The arbor denotes the entry to and exit from the garden. It is visible from all areas of the courtyard to provide a landmark for residents and clear direction how the return inside from the garden. It inserts an architectural gateway element to help define the garden as its own sense of place separate from the building interior.

TABLE AERA – A table area is sited immediately inside the garden delineating the main activity and gathering area adjacent to the entry. The gathering areas are designed to draw residents into the garden and make the mental and physical process of going outside a more easy experience.

RAISED PLANTER ACTIVIY – A raised planter activity area is placed adjacent to the table area but with enough space to make its own area. The planter defines a perimeter wall to the seating area further defining both spaces. Residents can work on planting or enjoy the planting they have already done while sitting at the tables.

WALKING PATH – An oval walking path creates the unifying structure of the garden. It flows through the sub-spaces with a simplicity that minimizes confusion. Everything in the garden is tied to the walking path and residents can always find way back to the arbor entry without any confusion of turns.

WATER FEATURE – A water feature provides a sensory experience that triggers memory. A classic three tiered fountain is an iconic design with strong memory associations. For security and safety, the water would flow into a gravel base surround without a standing pool of water. The fountain can be seen from all areas of the garden including the entry and will provide visual clues to the organization structure of the space.

BENCHES – Benches are sited under the pergola and around the walking path. Six benches offer the opportunity for solitude or fellowship in locations prime for watching the activities around the garden (people watching).

ACTIVITY AREA – The activity area is a flexible space where accessible potting tables and sitting tables can be flexibly organized. This space defines the far end of the garden and is clearly visible to and from all other areas.

LAWN – A central lawn creates a neutral green plane allowing flexible use and viewing foreground. The lawn creates a sense of openness and space to minimize any potential for a crowded feeling.

LANDSCAPE PLANTINGS – A mix of trees, shrubs, flowers and groundcovers create the outer green layer to the garden. The plantings become a layer of textures and colors to create a sense of separation from the fence and the roadway beyond. Trees provide shade and vertical architectural elements, canopies to define and delineate the garden spaces.

Check back with us for updates on the evolution of this memory garden landscape design project. We hope to see it through construction and be able to share images of the final built project next spring.

Landscape Containers – Pots & Urns for Outdoor Living Spaces

landscape container bethlehem
landscape containers

Landscape Containers an architectural object added to the space. Don’t skimp of the size or character of the container even though the plants may flow and cover much of it. The container itself sets the tone for the quality of what will be installed. I prefer containers made from clay, wood or metals. The quality of these materials is worth the extra price. But, there are situations where those materials make a container far too heavy to be practical for some locations. Plastic containers have come a long way and certainly have a place. They are easier to more in and out at either end of a season and for that matter can stay out all winter long. They are also better for rooftop gardens where weight may become an issue.

The design principles for Landscape Containers are similar to other landscape planting design paradigms. Think in layers in order to create varied interest and character. Use the tallest plant material in the middle if the pot is viewed from all sides or the back if it is viewed only from one side. This is the ‘Anchor’ of the container, the central features, and the show piece. I like to use variegated Canna lilies, Pennisetum rubrum or my favorite is Caladiums (elephant ears).  The mid-section can be thought of as the ‘Fill’. Here you want to pick one to three plants types that will grow to layer in front of the anchor plants ‘legs’. Coleus is my favorite colorful fill plant for those playful and lively pots. Geraniums, dahlias, cuphea, or Persian shield work well for the fill layer and may be a little more toned down and elegant than the playful coleus. The perimeter layer is the ‘Spill’ or ‘Drapes’. This is the layer of plants that flow over the edge of the pot. Some may flow to the ground and run out from there. Ipomoea is a great vine like plant for this approach. Its leaves are heavily cut and provide great texture contrasts. There are deep red leaf, chartreuses and variegated leaf varieties. Aggressive and exotic ivy varieties work in a similar manner. Some pot designs call for a more restrained spill layer. Verbena is a mid-length spill with colors that will pop. Lobularia or lantana is also somewhat loose and draping plants that will hang moderately far over a container. Calibrochoa, red purslane and licorice plant are tighter in growth habit and will only slightly spill the edges.

As with landscape design in general, think about your design concept. Are you creating a playful lush container for a private space or a formal more manicured container for the front entry to the house? Do you prefer predictable or spontaneous? A wild mix of tropical feeling plants or the simple and elegant statement made with a couple more subtle colors? Will the Landscape Containers be a monochromatic, complimentary or contrasting color scheme? My advice is not to take yourself too seriously and have fun. Experiment and enjoy the learning process. Try something new each year even if it is only in one of the layers. And don’t cheat yourself on the quality of the Landscape Containers.

A Pergola in Landscape Designs – Add Form and Function

Timber Frame Pergola
A natural timber frame pergola set on a bluestone flagstone patio beside a natural stone outdoor fireplace

A pergola can add form and function to outdoor living spaces and define an outdoor room. The columns signify the corners and walls of the room, while the beams & joists create a roof overhead. It will denote the main room for gathered activates while creating a visual point of convergence and architectural interest. These elements of the form are also main elements of the pergolas function to define a space.

Style is the element of the form that will define the character of the outdoor room. White Palladian columns with clean white beams and joists will create a formal space when situated in gardens of strong architectural and organized plantings such as boxwood hedges. Rough timber frame posts, beams and joists produce an informal feel to the room and blend seamlessly with loose informal planting and a more organic garden structure. The materials used for the pergola construction will influence the resulting style but should also be considered with respect to long term maintenance of the structure. Cedar or other timbers will require some sealing or oiling over time.

There are a variety of companies that produce synthetic pergolas with vinyl, fiberglass and polycarbonates. The higher quality of these products are almost indistinguishable from painted wood, though the lower quality clearly have a plastic feel to them. These synthetic products tend to work best when a more formal style is desired. Shade can be an important function of the pergola. The pergola alone may not offer enough protection from peak summer sun.

Vines grown on a pergola create additional shading and aesthetic interests. Another shade option is a retractable canopy that is set on tracks in the beam structure. These can be either mechanical or manual and provide a much lower maintenance option for shade when compared to the vines. Retractable sun screens can even be fitted between posts to provide protection from the sun when it is lower on the horizon. A pergola can create architectural interest, define and outdoor living space, provide retreat from the elements, and give structure for fruiting or flowering vines. It will contribute both form and function to your garden and outdoor living space.

Pennsylvania Bluestone in Formal Landscape Design

 

Pennsylvania bluestone is the most prominent paving material in formal outdoor living spaces throughout the northeast regions. Some people may refer to it as flagstone or slate, but the proper name is bluestone and the majority of it is from Pennsylvania. The natural stone paving material can be found in estate gardens from northern Virginia to Boston. Here in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania, bluestone patios are common around the majestic old homes of West End Allentown, Saucon Valley Bethlehem and College Hill in Easton.

In formal landscape designs, the natural stone is cut in rectilinear patterns for patios. The limit of the pattern design is tied to the creativity of the landscape design and the landscape designer. Random patterns are the most common, but a good landscape designer can come up with multiple paving pattern options to uniquely fir the design. One approach is to install a band of stone on the perimeter of the patio, a running bond pattern in the field and a diamond pattern as medallion in the center.

Pennsylvania bluestone is sorted into various colors, grades and sizes. When left natural cut, the top has a finish known as ‘cleft’, meaning that it has ridges and variations. This rougher finish can be refined by flaming the tops which causes the stone to regularize and leaves a more even textured finish. This finish is most common on the uniformly color range called ‘Blue Blue’ or ‘Thermal Blue’. Classic and formal landscape and patio designs tend to call for the uniform color. Pennsylvania bluestone also comes in ‘Lilac’ ‘Green’ ‘Brown’ and a full color range mix.

bluestone patio
Formal Bluestone Patio in landscape design courtyard project

Bluestone patios can be installed several ways. The stone can be installed on a concrete slab with mortar pointing in the 3/8” joints between stones. Bluestone can also be ‘dry set’ on compacted stone base much like a concrete paver patio is installed. In that approach, polymeric sand or screenings are swept into the stone joints. A good installer will cut each piece of stone such that they all fit into the pattern with less than 1/8” joints, but 3/8” or more is the common joint for ‘dry set’ bluestone installers. A hybrid method involves installing a bluestone curb and then setting the stone on a damp masons mix mortar bed with each stone custom cut to make the tightest joint possible. This technique is expensive and reserved for only the best masons and the higher budget projects.