Backyard Magic - Creating Cozy Comfort
The objective of this landscape design project was to take a small, unattractive 50s backyard and make it more attractive and functional. This included updating it to the 21st century with a living area, dining area and barbecue, but also using scale and imagination to make it appear larger than it actually is.
We began expanding the existing space by altering the shape of the low brick wall to provide more space and to raise it to chair height, providing additional seating. Old trees and unattractive shrubs were removed and replaced with plant material that reflected the color scheme (selected to accent the gray house) of white, green and burgundy.
The water feature was enlarged with more stone to give a more natural look and enhanced with a larger pump to increase its water flow. The plants surrounding it were replaced with ones that helped focus the eye and make it appear natural to the site.
A retaining wall was installed to account for difference in elevation between the neighbors' property and my client's and the dilapidated wooden fence was replaced with tongue and grove fencing, painted to match the house.
An iron pergola was added to define the dining area, which will be covered with grape vines to provide shade. New table and chairs were added as well as a a barbecue. A seating area was created with matching chairs and a center table and located immediately adjacent to the doors leading out of the living room.
The side yard planting was replaced with espaliered Pyracantha in a diamond shape with appropriate under plantings. Low voltage lighting was added to accent the plantings and water feature and a candle-lit chandelier was hung over the new dining table for illumination and to help define the space
The clients informed me that everyone who knew their yard in its original incarnation couldn't believe the transformation, telling them how beautiful it was and how "it looks sooooo much larger!"
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In addition to my work as a landscape designer and contractor, I love giving advice and have provided garden consultations to any number of folks with great results.
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Plant Of The Month
The Pyracantha is an excellent shrub for planting in a variety of ways. It can be planted against a wall and then trained against it, or alternatively you can plant to create a dense, evergreen hedge. Pyracantha plants produce fragrant white flowers during May and June, followed by red, orange or yellow berries in autumn and winter (depending on the variety chosen).
It also attracts wildlife into the garden, such as birds who feed on the berries throughout the winter and the shrub provides cover for nesting and roosting birds, as well as attracting bees in the summer. Pyracantha are easy to grow and require very little maintenance. They have small, gloss-green leaves and are thorny, so be sure to put on a pair of protective gloves when planting and pruning them.
Pyracantha berries are not poisonous as many people think although they are very bitter to taste, they are edible when cooked and are sometimes made into jelly.
Pyracantha can be planted in most soil conditions as long as the site is not waterlogged. They do grow better in fertile, well-drained soil but it will also do well in dry or clay soils. Ideally they are best planted in full sun to promote a heavy crop of berries but will do fine in partial shade but may not produce as many berries.
If you are planting Pyracantha to be trained against a wall then plant the Pyracantha approximately 30-40cm away from the wall. Pyracantha are strong enough to hold themselves against the wall but would probably benefit from being tied onto the wall.
When planting, only plant to the same depth they have been previously planted, never plant further up the stem as this can damage the plant. Water plants regularly when planted and do not allow to dry out.
There are many varieties of Pyracantha available which include:
Pyracantha 'Red Column' (red berries), 'Pyracantha Orange Glow' (orange berries), Pyracantha Mohave (orange/red berries) and Pyracantha 'Soleil d'Or' (bright yellow berries) which are ideal for using to plant as a hedge or train up a wall or fence. They grow to around 10ft tall but can be pruned to your required size, but be careful not to prune out last year's growth as these produce most of the berries. Other varieties which are supposed to be partially resistant to Pyracantha Scab (a common disease that effects Pyracantha) are The Saphyr® range and 'Golden Charmer', 'Orange Charmer' 'Shawnee' and 'Teton' Pyracantha.
Pruning & Training
Pyracantha is a low maintenance shrub used for training up walls or around frames and doors, when pruning care should be taken not to prune too much of last year's growth off. This is because a Pyracantha flowers upon the previous years growth in the summer followed by berries in the autumn and winter. Pruning is best done when plants are in flower, this is so that you can prune back the flowers so that the berries will be on show later in the year, this also reduces the amount of flowering branches being pruned off.
If you are pruning a Pyracantha hedge then this should be done from spring and ideally up to three times a year to keep the hedge nicely trimmed to your required shape. This however will make the hedge produce far less berries, but there is not much else you can do if you want a tightly cut hedge.
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