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Archives for April 7, 2017

Plotting Out Your Garden: Part 2

Last month we talked about the importance of planning out a garden design on paper to create a beautiful space that is easier to maintain, more abundant and, at the end of the day, better connected to the surrounding environment.

We left off by working through the first half of a step-by-step system I developed called GOBRADIME — which stands for Goals, Observation, Boundaries, Resources, Analysis, Design, Implementation-Maintainance/Monitoring and Evaluate/Enjoy. Now it’s time for the DIME part.

As you start to hone your plan, here are some helpful questions to ask yourself:

What work can I avoid doing?

How is everything affecting everything else?

What are the yields and how can they be improved?

How can I make the least change for the greatest effect?

Where are the imbalances and how can they be corrected?

What are the best and worst places for each element/plant/structure?

How can I use what is available now to turn problems into solutions?

What are the economic and ecological costs to implement and maintain the design?

If nothing was here, what would I bring in? What is here now that I need to remove?

Find connections, think about relationships, and start choosing where and when to make changes.

Don’t overlook the value of intuition, aesthetics and random assembly as design tools. Sometimes just putting a plant where you think it looks nice, or where you happened to set it down first, works better than anything else. If you get stuck, try using a process of elimination by asking: “Where shouldn’t this go?” and see where that takes you.

I’d love to get in deeper with the massive range of strategies for analyzing goals, observations, boundaries and resources, but for now I’ll just say that you simply MUST go on the internet and look up “permaculture zones and sectors” for a major geek-out and irreplaceable tool.

Design: Make a bunch of photocopies of your base map and do a handful of completely different designs to warm up your imagination. Now go through everything again and write a list of actions that will bring your visions into reality. Prioritize these actions by sorting them according to goals, budgets, seasons, etc. Write down how many labor hours you estimate for each step. Think in terms of phases, and make realistic plans according to your boundaries: Which goal do they help to meet and how important that goal is to you? From here you should be able to develop a timeline that makes sense, attached to visual maps of what your garden will look like in a month, three months, six months, two years, and as far out as you want.

Implementation. This is the time to stop writing and start actually moving stuff around. Get busy! Continue to jot down notes as you develop new ideas or make changes to the original design — this will save time later when you evaluate your work. But also, pace yourself so you stay sane and are able to follow through with the rest of the plan. Don’t burn yourself out. Take your time and focus on doing less right, rather than more wrong. And be sure to take plenty of time to step back, rest and reflect on your progress.

Maintenance and Monitoring. All gardens need maintenance. When clients tell me they want a “no-maintenance” garden design, I tell them to plant gravel. But it’s true that some gardens need less care than others, and it’s the space between that provides us with information and opportunity for improvement. That’s why maintenance and monitoring are interconnected, inseparable steps. Ideally, in a home system you will be living in and interacting with the design as it comes about. Pay attention to the ways in which your life improves or becomes more difficult through these changes. Some people develop detailed forms to document the data generated by their projects, such as growth rates, yields and potential yields, and climatic patterns. Others might keep a simplier garden journal, or maybe just take photos and mental notes. However much detail you choose, the point of monitoring your progress is to find and record successes and problems (including potential problems) with the design, so you can either repeat effective patterns or go back and redesign failed ones.

Evaluate and Enjoy! Identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges. Attach these notes to the maps and journals. As you evaluate, you will discover new goals, new ideas, and new ways to improve the efficiency and ecological integrity of your design. When you are ready, start again at the beginning, establish new goals and spiral around to the next phase of your project. But first, hit the hammock. Rest, read, relax and enjoy your bountiful, beautiful garden. You earned it!

Finally, remember that your project, if it involves people and especially if it involves plants, is an organism rather than a mechanism. The GOBRADIME design system, like any other, is most effective when coupled with a good degree of common sense and natural intuition. Trust your instincts and use the formula to help you refine them. But be careful not to become obsessed with controlling every aspect of the design. Mistakes are tools for learning! Take notes, laugh often and use GOBRADIME as a circular pattern, rather than a linear process. Have fun!

Heather Jo Flores is an avid seed saver and the author of Food Not Lawns, How to Turn Your Yard into a Garden and Your Neighborhood into a Community. Find her at

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Award winning garden designer can help you love your garden

Since winning Gold for her garden design at BBC Gardeners’ World Live at the NEC in Birmingham last year, Yeovil based garden designer Julie Haylock has been as busy as one of the bees in her “Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree” winning border design.

Julie and husband Andrew with her winner’s award at the BBC Gardener’s World Live Show at the NEC last year

With it she won Gold for her design, and in addition the Special Achievement Award for the Best Interpretation of the Theme.

Julie has a Diploma in Garden Design from Kingston Maurward College, and has loved gardening all her life.

“We had successfully entered Yeovil in Bloom for several years, and after the death of my beloved horse that I had owned for 24 years, I needed a different direction”, said Julie.

“I started studying Garden Design at Kingston Maurward and loved it, and it was a real boost to win at the NEC while on the course”.

Castle Gardens in Sherborne sponsored the plants for Julie’s design at BBC Gardeners’ World Live, and the connection with The Gardens Group still continues, as she gave a talk about her winning design at all three of the Gardens Group garden centres (Sherborne, Yeovil and Poundbury) and in June this year Julie will be running a Border Design and Planting Workshop at Castle Gardens in Sherborne.

As Sandhurst Garden Design, Julie has designed back and front gardens for clients as well as planting plans.

Julie works in association with GJS Landscapes of Yeovil as their designer and they have worked together on several projects.

Her designs have included a very appealing low maintenance, beach-themed front garden (above and below) and a back garden with a new pergola, revamped planting and a simple step to give access to the lawn area.

“The client had to step over her border to get onto her lawn so I put in a new step which also doubles up as a seat to enjoy a quick cup of tea in the morning,” said Julie.

BEFORE: a back garden before Julie’s magic touch

“A few months ago the lady client got in touch with me and said ‘You have made me fall in love with my garden again’, and you can’t get a lovelier compliment than that”.

AFTER: the same back garden pictured previously, after Julie’s designs were created

At the initial consultation with a client Julie will spend time discussing what the client wants from their garden, their preferences with regard to materials and suitable plants and colours for the scheme, as well as the amount of time the client can afford maintaining their new design.

AFTER: the same back garden pictured previously, after Julie’s designs were created

Julie said: “I like to use a variety of plants to provide as much all year round interest as possible, working with the client to discuss plant choices or ideas they may have which are suitable for the garden location, and which will encourage bees and other wildlife into the garden”.

AFTER: the same back garden pictured previously, after Julie’s designs were created

“I like to use natural products like stone and timber where possible, and will be happy to source items to “dress” the garden for a client, such as a statue or items of interest to provide a focal point in keeping with the surroundings.”

In any spare time Julie has away from client gardens and her own, Julie likes to visit gardens with her husband and business partner Andrew.

“We like to visit National Trust and English Heritage properties to get inspiration from the pioneers in landscape gardening.

“We are hoping to visit Sissinghurst in the summer to catch those roses which I have heard so much about”.

To book a place on the Border Design and Planting Workshop at Castle Gardens in June or to discuss a garden design – whether you want planting ideas for a border, or an entire garden makeover – call Julie on 07899710168 or email

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New book explores historic New Orleans garden design

A new book by preservationists and authors Mary Louise Christovich and Roulhac Bunkley Toledano provides a glimpse into 300 years of garden design in New Orleans through delightful sketches of historic houses, gardens and flowers.

“Garden Legacy,” published by The Historic New Orleans Collection, showcases more than 80 19th-century properties and their surrounding gardens and, according to a press release, “chronicles the changing tastes and styles of exterior domestic spaces in New Orleans, paying particular attention to the Crescent City’s legacy of French-American landscape design.”

The Historic New Orleans Collection will celebrate the release of “Garden Legacy” at a party on April 12 at 6 p.m. at 533 Royal St. Admission is free, and copies of the book will be available for purchase.

The authors drew from records from the collection’s archives as well as from other American and European resources, include property sales and period maps. Memoirs from early Louisiana settlers, for example, offer insight into how they fashioned their gardens from Louis XIV-era designs but used Louisiana native plants.

Images in the book include lovely sketches of irises, delicate bignonia cherere blooms, images of archaeological fragments and portraits of prominent individuals in Louisiana history. For the uninitiated, a glossary of 18th-century landscape terms proves useful.

The book is divided into two main parts. Part one focuses on the history and culture of the area, such as early settlers’ observations of Native American practices. Part two highlights specific properties and their gardens in the French Quarter, downriver, “back of town” to Bayou St. John and upriver. Properties includes the Baron De Feriet Plantation; the Saulet Mansion on what is now Annunciation Street; and a French Quarter Creole cottage owned by Eulalie Mandeville, a free woman of color.
“Garden Legacy” is the eighth collaboration for Christovich, a Garden District resident, and Toledano, a Charlottesvile, Va., resident. The two are both noted authors who also wrote some of the volumes of the popular, authoritative “New Orleans Architecture Series” from the Friends of the Cabildo.

In the foreward for “Garden Legacy,” preservationist S. Frederick Starr points out how French contributions to garden design often are overshadowed by English traditions. This book, he writes, “reveals for the first time the extent, scale and diversity of a completely different concept of landscape design and type of garden that also took solid root in the soil of North America.”

‘Garden Legacy’ book release party
What: Authors Mary Louise Mossy Christovich and Roulhac Bunkley Toledano discuss
their new book on historic New Orleans garden design.
When: Wednesday, April 12, 6-8 p.m.
Where: The Historic New Orleans Collection, 533 Royal St.
Details: Admission to the event is free. Books will be available for purchase. For more information, call 504.523.4662 or visit

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Celebrate International Migratory Bird Day in Algoma

The Algoma Bird Celebration will be held April 8, 9 am – 2 pm, at the Algoma Youth Club, 620 Lake Street. Drop in for a while or stay all day. This free community celebration of International Migratory Bird Day offers activities of interest for all ages.

Vendor sales and displays by local organizations will be available all day to offer products and information from A to Z regarding bees, birds, flowers, trees, gardening, photography tips, garden ornamentals, landscaping ideas and more. The children’s activity area will offer stories and coloring pages by artist Janet Tlachac-Toonen and origami making. Food sales, provided by the Algoma United Methodist Men, will benefit the Heifer International Project.

Programs will begin at 10 am with “Getting the Picture: Song Birds, Shore Birds, Waterfowl” presented by local nature photographer Robert Kuhn, whose annual updates highlight wondrous bird sightings in and around Algoma. At 11 am meet a red-tailed hawk at a kid-friendly program presented by Kim Diedrich, chief naturalist at Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary. Enjoy lunch at the celebration, followed at 12:30 pm with “Birdscaping with Native Plants” presented by Karen Newbern of Door County Landscape Nursery.

Also, information regarding Algoma’s “Bird Bistro” will be presented. Returning and new “Bird Bistro” gardeners are encouraged to attend. The Bird Bistro effort encourages nature-friendly gardening practices through education and information sharing. For more information, visit or call 920.487.8136.

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Meeting Kicks Up Ideas for Neighborhood Initiative Funds

Meeting Kicks Up Ideas for Neighborhood Initiative Funds

By Michael Marshall

Small group brainstorming for Neighborhood Initiative Funds at the Crozet Community Advisory Committee’s March 15 meeting at Crozet Elementary School. (Photo: Mike Marshall)

Albemarle County’s Neighborhood Funding Initiative is a one-time program to distribute $1.4 million in unallocated county funds from its 2016 budget projects in the county’s seven official development areas.

Ideas for projects in Crozet were brainstormed at the Crozet Community Advisory Committee’s March 15 meeting at Crozet Elementary School that drew 37 interested citizens.

County employees Emily Kilroy and Laurie Allshouse explained the program and the purpose of the evening, then broke up the crowd into groups sitting at the cafeteria tables to come up with suggestions. Money could go for planning or design or for landscaping or beautification, ideas “that improve the quality of life,” said Kilroy, but not for any project that had an ongoing expense.

When the tables reported their conversations, the ideas that came forward included:

  • street, parking and sidewalk improvements to The Square
  • a ramp from Library Avenue or the library parking lot that would allow strollers and wheelchairs to access the Harmony Place playground at Tabor Presbyterian Church
  • crushed stone to put on Crozet trails to allow bikes and strollers to use them
  • a community center with basketball courts and dirt bike jumps
  • a hangout place for teens
  • a “transportation network study” that would identify where roads, parking and sidewalks are needed
  • a walkability study of Crozet
  • development of “western park” in Old Trail
  • a statue of Claudius Crozet to go in the planned plaza downtown
  • a marketing and parking study of the plaza that would help attract tourists
  • seasonal banners for the streetlights on Crozet Avenue
  • a skateboard park
  • neighborhood “links” to the Crozet trails network
  • fitness stations, a Frisbee golf course and a drone race course
  • a sidewalk along Rt. 240 from the Highlands to Starr Hill Brewery
  • sidewalks and repairs to sidewalks around the depot and Fruit Growers buildings
  • a family of sign designs for Crozet parks and trails
  • seed money to start funding for “Eastern Avenue” bridge over Lickinghole Creek
  • another way across the railroad tracks near downtown

At its next meeting April 19, the CCAC will create a prioritized list to send to the county supervisors, who will make funding decisions based on what’s proposed by the different growth areas.

In other CCAC business, current chair David Stoner was reelected to a one-year term and John McKeon was chosen as vice chair. Minute-taking duty will be shared by James King and Mike Kunkel.

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Best Backyard Ever! See How This Forested Landscape Was Transformed

Meander down the stone steps behind this Traverse City home to discover a backyard designed for soaking up every precious minute of Up North summer—and then some. With the help of a local landscaper, this forested lot was transformed into the best backyard ever.

This article was featured in the April 2017 issue of Northern Home Cottage. Subscribe for stunning home ideas delivered to your door. 

Summer is short at 45th parallel north. It makes the business of landscaping interesting, and Bob Drost, of Drost Landscape, has been adapting to April blizzards and early fall frosts for 25 years. He loves the challenge and the satisfaction that comes from a project completed with equal doses of creativity and teamwork. Just as important is a client who shares his goal of creating a harmonious extension of a home into this beautiful landscape, and then enjoying it as long as the weather allows.

Drost found such a client on the west side of Traverse City, with a gracious Craftsman-influenced house and a beautiful, yet underutilized, forested lot. Open space was minimal, and it became a soggy mess every time it rained. The kids wanted a place to play outside, and the parents wanted to cook and relax outdoors.

When Drost met with the clients, he says, “The ideas just flowed. I could see a lot of potential in this site.”

So did the clients, and they were ready to invest in a plan filled with features to maximize their enjoyment of the outdoors: stone steps hugging the house, native plantings to blend with the woods, a flowing stream and waterfall, a natural stone hot tub, a massive stone hearth and a full kitchen. It’s all mingled within a generous stone-paved entertaining space, both open and covered, and a small grassy area overlooking a wooded ravine. Now the backyard is where everyone wants to gather.

“My clients were phenomenal,” says Drost of the shared vision he had with the homeowners. They put a lot of thought into the details, and Drost’s team made their ideas real, from excavation to hand-chiseling the capstone on the hearth. The homeowner tells this story: A rectangular stone had been chosen to cap off the hearth and to control sparks. Once the hulking piece was in place, however, it seemed too geometric and clean atop the jagged, rustic hearth. So stone mason Dustin Drost set to work with a chisel and roughened it by hand.

The effect of such a luxurious space in the woods is surprisingly natural, with the design wrapping around the house and emphasizing the lot’s natural contours. The project’s signature material is its golden-ivory U.P. limestone with a cobbled texture. Drost has been using this stone in Lower Peninsula projects longer than any other landscaper.

The rough limestone contrasts with the sleek stainless and granite components of the top-of-the-line Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet kitchen, where suppers and pizza parties happen spring through fall. In winter, the family enjoys grilling and soaking in the hot tub. Other modern amenities include wireless speakers and a projection system for showing movies on an inflatable screen.

Even without the high-tech features, the space has an irresistible draw as sounds of the brook and waterfall mingle with bird song. The pumps that serve the water features are cleverly installed underground, behind a Bilco door, enhancing the natural sound and look.

Drost considers this one of his best small-space projects to date. When he visited after his crew had wrapped up all the details, he says, “I left here so pumped! This business, for me, is all about the thrill of doing it. Everyone on my team has their special skills, and this is where they all come together.”

Now, it’s also where the family and their friends come together.

Diane Kolak is a freelance designer and writer from Lake Ann.
Photography by Dave Speckman.

This feature was featured in the April 2017 issue of Northern Home and Cottage.
Get your copy here.

Northern Home and Cottage Resources:

Landscaping Design Installation
Drost Landscape, Petoskey, 231.348.2624.

Mapleridge Construction, Chris Miller, Williamsburg, 231.384.0388

Outdoor Kitchen
Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet

Water Feature
Easy Pro Pond Products, Grant

Bulk Materials
RW Popp Excavating, Traverse City

Rental Equipment
Alta Equipment Company, Traverse City

Plant Material/Hardscape
Great Lakes Landscape Supply, Cedar Springs

Hardscape Products
Emmet Brick and Block, Petoskey

Concrete Services, Traverse City

Hot Tub Helicals
Helical Pier Distribution, Howell

More Home Inspiration in Northern Michigan:

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Be inspired by the native plants on this Fair Oaks hillside

California native plants offer a lot more than water savings.

In thoughtful combinations, they can blaze with color through four seasons. During hot Sacramento summers, they may provide welcoming shade. Providing food and habitat, they benefit bees, birds and butterflies.

And they can create a handsome, easy-care landscape – even in difficult growing conditions.

Greg and Terry Anderson of Fair Oaks discovered all that and more when they turned their steeply sloped backyard into their own native oasis.

The Andersons’ backyard will be one of 28 stops on the seventh annual Gardens Gone Native tour on Saturday, April 8. Organized by the Sacramento Valley chapter of the California Native Plant Society, this tour has grown quickly into one of the area’s most popular celebrations of native plants in suburban landscapes. Beyond its entertainment value, it’s a treasure-trove of gardening ideas and how-to tips.

Despite stormy weather, 1,138 patrons took the free self-guided tour last year, said Colene Rauh, one of the tour’s planners and garden hosts.

For this edition, private gardens in Sacramento, Yolo and Placer counties will be featured with detailed plant lists and docents to answer questions available at each site.

“We try to provide a wide variety of landscaping options with native plants, from shade to full sun, from large landscapes to city lots,” Rauh said. “It demonstrates the many ways you can use natives in your own garden.”

Interest in native plants continues to climb. According to a recent survey by home renovation and design experts Houzz, just over half of homeowners planning a major landscape project in 2017 will use at least some native plants, up from 43 percent in 2015.

A goal of the local tour is educating gardeners on how to keep those natives happy and growing strong, Rauh noted.

“I did so many things wrong when I started,” she said. “You learn.”

On the tour for the fifth time, the Anderson home sits on 0.8 acres, most of it on a west-facing hill. (Among their gardening challenges: “Obnoxious, aggressive deer.”)

“When we moved in, this was all trash and weeds,” explained Greg Anderson, a retired family therapist and school psychologist. “It was a real mess.”

That was 1990. Inspired in part by the property’s oaks and his own experiences in nature as a fly fisherman and hiker, Anderson chose mostly native plants. He also got advice from longtime friend, nurseryman Jim Snyder.

“Seeing them in the wild is wonderful,” Anderson said of native plants. “The attraction of low-water (use) was good, too.”

Over the decades, Anderson transplanted and trained dozens of native shrubs and trees to create a beautiful and serene backyard retreat.

“Most of this hillside is on no irrigation,” he said. “I might give plants a little extra water now and then if they need it. (One area) I haven’t watered in 10 years.”

Before planting, he used 95-pound concrete blocks to form retaining walls and terraces on the steep slope. He added 20 yards of gravel to maximize drainage, a key to success for many native plants.

The results are stunning. Sculpted by nature and carefully pruned, manzanitas show off their twisted brown bark along a curved uphill path. Bees buzz happily around the shrubs’ pink flowers. Nearby, soft blue California lilacs scent the air as butterflies claim their nectar. Toyon bushes and smoke trees – both purple and green varieties – sport handsome foliage as well as seasonal blooms.

As a contrast to the rounded shrubs, 15-foot redbuds explode with purple blooms like bright exclamation points. An equally tall flannel bush glows with hundreds of golden flowers that catch morning sun in their cupped petals.

To fill in under the shrubs and trees, Anderson used a mix of native and water-wise perennials and ground covers. Among his favorites are coral bells (in several varieties and foliage colors), sulfur yellow yarrow, coreopsis, Hot Lips sage and brilliant green Japanese forest grass. He also incorporated such bulletproof Sacramento garden stalwarts as crape myrtles and nandina into his mostly native landscape.

“The redbuds bloom in spring, the crape myrtles in summer with almost the same color,” he explained. “The nandina is remarkably drought-tolerant, too. Both the crape myrtles and nandina are very forgiving; you can prune them hard and they bounce right back.”

Facing the street, a line of redwood trees provides shade and privacy. At the base of the hill, they get plenty of water that drains down the slope.

Where once was a large square of turf, a deck sits next to the house, surrounded by wispy feathers of deergrass that move gracefully in the breeze. A small patch of “lawn” is mostly bee-friendly clover. Raised beds offer room for vegetables and herbs.

“I actually like the vegetables best; he gardens, I cook,” said Terry Anderson, a retired state Senate worker. “But I love to come out here in the evening and sit on the deck, just enjoying how peaceful it is.”

Gardens Gone Native

What: Seventh annual self-guided tour of private gardens featuring at least 50 percent California native plants

Where: 28 gardens in Sacramento, Yolo and Placer counties

When: 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, April 8

Cost: Free

Information:; for map, register at

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Master Gardeners Of Hamilton County Hold 5th Annual "Master Your …

The Master Gardeners of Hamilton County, in association with the University of Tennessee Extension, present their 5th annual “Master Your Garden” Garden Expo on Saturday from 10 a.m.-6 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. at Camp Jordan Arena in East Ridge. Admission is $5 (cash or check only).  Children under 12 are free.  Free parking is available.  For up-to-date information, go to:
Focusing on gardening and the outdoors, MGHC’s “Mastering Your Garden” Garden Expo brings together an array of exhibits, demonstrations, educational activities, and vendors of interest to experienced gardeners, gardening enthusiasts, browsers, and children.  

Carol Mathews, 2017 Garden Expo chair, said, “Our goal is to bring the latest gardening information to the Chattanooga community.  For a $5 admission, attendees will experience a wide range of interesting and informative lectures and demonstrations, browse exhibits, talk to knowledgeable vendors about plants, tools, and garden art, and can purchase a wide range of garden related items.  In past years, people attending have stayed for hours partaking of our numerous and varied offerings; many have gone home with something beautiful and lasting for their own gardens.” 
Events at the Garden Expo include:

• Keynote Speakers:  Saturday — Patricia Lanza author of “Lasagna Gardening;” Sunday — Linda Fraser, botanical artist, “Plants of the Bible”

• 17 free seminars presented by local and out-of-town experts throughout the 2-day Expo. Topics include: Monarch Butterflies, Daylilies, Hydrangeas, Roses, Conifers, Crepe Murder, Small Trees for Landscaping, Container Gardening, Vegetable Gardening, Straw Bale Gardening, Seed Saving, and more.  

• On-going live demos both days: Insects Butterflies, Proper Mulching, Raised Beds, Composting, Rain Barrels, Therapeutic Gardening, Straw Bale Gardening • Vendors Exhibitors featuring: live plants, including flowers, shrubs and trees; landscaping and gardening supplies; as well as, foods, nature-related jewelry and artwork. Among them:  2 Angels Mushroom Farm, Algie’s Vintage Birdhouses, Bursting Blooms Landscape Design, Dirt Dawg Nursery, Down to Earth Herbs, GreenStalk, Green Thumbs Galore, Hill City Honey, Linda Fraser Botanical Artist, Rosemary Knoll Eatable Delights, Rustic Greenhouse, Orchid Gallery, Stone House Jewelry, TN Naturescapes, White Harvest Seeds, Windy Hill Pottery, Yard Critters, and more.

• “Ask A Master Gardener” Q A Table: Expert advice on trees and shrubs, flowering annuals and perennials, vegetable and herb gardening, landscaping, mulching, and composting; as well as general guidance on maintaining an attractive and productive garden.

• Children’s Area (ages 2 to 12): Budding gardeners will engage in hands-on, gardening-related activities with a fun project to take home.

• Bonsai exhibit sponsored by the Tennessee Valley Bonsai Society

• Door prizes donated by Expo Sponsors, Vendors, and Master Gardeners.

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10 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Landscape Designer

If you’re considering working with a landscape designer, finding the right fit — and avoiding surprises midway through the project — is largely about knowing which questions to ask upfront and being familiar with the range of services these professionals provide.

We reached out to four seasoned landscape professionals — Peter Reader of Peter Reader Landscapes in London, Beth Mullins of Growsgreen Landscape Design in San Francisco, John Algozzini of KD Landscape Management in Chicago and June Scott of June Scott Design in Southern California — to get the inside scoop on the range of services available and the 10 essential questions potential clients should ask before hiring a professional for the job.

First, get your ducks in a row. Before reaching out to a professional, write a wish list for your garden remodel, establish your priorities and budget, and decide which parts of the process you’d like to hire a pro for help. With this on paper, you’ll have a clear sense of what you’re looking for in a designer before you begin to contact professionals.

10 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Landscape Designer

1. What services do you offer? First and foremost, determine what services a landscape designer offers to see if he or she is the right person for your project.“The best question a potential client can ask is: ‘Are you experienced with the scope of work we want, and can you design and manage it?’” Algozzini says.

Generally speaking, landscape designers fall into one of three categories, depending on the services they offer:

Design only. Some designers specialize only in the design process. This typically includes a site analysis and discussion of a client’s needs, a preliminary design, revisions based on your feedback, and a final detailed master plan for your garden. This detailed planting plan and construction document is then handed over to you (or a landscape contractor of your choosing) to take it from there.

Design-build. Others offer the design service described above, as well as overseeing plant purchase and all installation. Contractors are needed for permitting and hardscape installation — sometimes the landscape designer is also a registered contractor, and other times they have landscape contractors on their team or ones to recommend and oversee.

RELATED: Choose From the Best Design-Build Firms

Full service — design-build and maintenance program. For the highest-touch service, some landscape designers will offer all the above, plus oversee ongoing maintenance of the garden.

2. Can I see examples of your past work? “Consider the style of the designer in relation to the garden you want,” Reader says. “If you want a modern, clean-lined city garden, have they designed any before? Or if you are looking for a cottage-style garden, do they have the plant knowledge to deliver?”

Alternatively, if a designer’s portfolio doesn’t include the particular style you’re looking for, check out his or her credentials for evidence of the training to make the vision of your garden a reality. Degrees from accredited landscape design colleges and memberships in professional organizations are both good indicators.

3. Do you offer garden consultations? Some landscape designers will offer one- to two-hour garden consultations. During this meeting, a designer will typically come over to your property, join you for a walk around the garden, listen to what you’d like to accomplish with your remodel and begin to bounce some ideas around for the design.

This is a great opportunity for you to determine whether you have a fit with the designer, and for the designer to see if he or she fits with you as a client. “It is important for a client to determine what role they want to play,” Mullins says. “Are they interested in a collaboration, [want to] defer completely to the designer or have a clear idea for their garden and just want someone to implement it?”

Don’t expect an initial consult to be free of charge — it is, after all, two hours of a professional’s time — though some designers will put the consult fee toward the cost of the design if you end up hiring them.

4. What ideas do you have for our garden? After you’ve shared your wish list and budget with the designer, and the designer has had a chance to view your property, ask what vision the designer has for your landscape. Designers have different mediums of presenting their ideas for your landscape, ranging from a collage-style mood board with inspiration images for plants and hardscape materials to a two-dimensional, to-scale drawing created with a CAD program or by hand.

This is the time to speak up about what you like and dislike in the design or if you see anything that’s missing from your wish list — for example, more space for tool storage, room to grow vegetables or an area with shade. Following this meeting, a designer will draw up a revised design drawing based on your feedback.

5. What is your process? A designer’s process depends on the services he or she offers (see question 1). Get to know the process — and whether you or the designer is responsible for overseeing each step — from the beginning so that you’ll know what to expect once the project is underway. If you’re hiring a designer who specializes in design only, ask yourself whether you have the time or experience necessary to oversee the project installation or if the designer has contractors to recommend.

As a responsible client, you also need to be honest with a landscape designer regarding your budget for the project. “Knowing a budget beforehand is crucial,” Mullins says. “It doesn’t mean that a designer needs to spend the budget but dictates what [he or she] can realistically design for.” If a look you like is over your budget, designers often have creative ways to stretch your budget and give you the best garden for your space.

6. What is the estimated cost? Clear communication regarding the estimated cost of the project and your budget is essential. Ask your designer for a range of cost for both the design and the installation. Most installation estimates are drawn up by a contractor based on the cost per square foot of installing areas of hardscape outlined on the plan for the yard.

Scott shares another key question to ask your designer: “How are changes in scope handled during the design and installation process?” Given that unanticipated design changes often come up midproject, it’s important to be clear on whether a designer will charge additional fees for the time it takes to change the design plan or installation.

7. Are there any ways to reduce cost? Pathways, patios, retaining walls and decks are generally more expensive than planted garden areas, so the more hardscape there is in the design, the more it’s likely going to cost to install. Plus, the materials used for hardscape can vary widely for both the product and the installation.

It’s best to have a conversation with a designer when you are discussing the initial plan about ways to reduce the cost of the landscape to stay on budget. The designer will have ideas about where you can save money without compromising style, and what elements are worth a splurge.

8. How long will installation take? The time it takes to design and install a landscape depends on a number of factors: size and scope of the project, availability of contractors and other installation specialists, ordering and delivery times for materials and plants, dry weather for laying hardscape, and unexpected setbacks during installation. Instead of asking a landscape designer to have the installation done by a certain date, ask for an estimated range for the project to be completed.

As eager as you may be to enjoy your new landscape, keep in mind that skilled installation of hardscape and careful planting takes time. “While landscaping on TV is inspirational and great entertainment, the actual site work rarely has a team of 24 [people] working around the clock,” Algozzini says. “High-quality work is both art and science, and takes time to install.”

RELATED: How to Work With a Landscape Professional

9. When will the garden grow in? The time it takes for a garden to grow in depends on the scope of the design, what types of plants are proposed and how mature the plants are when they’re planted. A smaller area with ornamental grasses and perennials can grow in within a single season, but larger and more complex designs with trees and large shrubs can take years to reach maturity. Ask your designer which plants make sense to splurge for semimature specimens (like focal-point trees or shrubs needed for screening) and which plants can be purchased small and fill in quickly (like most ground covers, vegetables and ornamental grasses).

10. How much maintenance will it take to keep the garden looking good? Different styles of gardens and plants require very different levels of care. Be upfront with your landscape designer about how much maintenance you are willing to commit — either your own time or that of a hired gardener — going forward. Once you’ve invested in hiring a landscape designer and installing a garden, you’ll want to keep your landscape alive and flourishing for years to come. Ask your landscape designer if he or she has recommended maintenance gardeners or specialists to take care of the garden going forward.

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GARDENING TIPS: How the massive snowstorm could impact spring planting – WBNG

TOWN OF CHENANGO (WBNG) – The spring weather has many ready to start gardening, but last month’s storm gave the ground increased moisture.

Jim Hoteling of Hillside Garden Landscaping says the severe winter storm that hit the Southern Tier last month made a significant impact on the land.

“Moisture in the ground from all of that snow melting seeping through and a lot of times you just can’t plant until the ground dries up,” Hoteling said. “We can actually be doing things within the next week easily if we don’t get too much rain.”

He said to hold off on planting frost-tender plants including eggplant, tomatoes, and peppers. But there are some plants that will do fine right now.

“There are a lot of plants like onions, lettuce, and radishes, and things like that,” Hoteling said.

Agway in Binghamton has already started to see people pick up their seeds to get a jump-start on the season.

“Right now we are in the process of selling a lot of seeds, soils, seed starting kits,” Sales Representative Joan Pasquale explained.

Pasquale said transferring your plants is also a great way to start the planting season off right.

“You can put them out on a patio for a while and then bring them in at night until they get acclimated to the temperature outside,” she added.

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