The year was 1999. Some happy new homeowners had just moved onto their brand-new property with a blank slate ready for a landscape. One of their number one priorities was to install a fish pond, followed by a nice patio and then landscape plants. Spending most of their budget on the new pond, a collection of colorful Koi, and a very nice covered patio, there was little left for the landscape plants, so they did what many new homeowners do – they spent as little as possible to purchase the largest plants they could afford at the local big-box discount store.
Now, twelve years later, I receive a call from a young friend.
“Hey Ed. I wonder if you’d like to come over and check out our new house. It’s got a cool pond and a whole bunch of big trees – I think some of them are conifers!” He said as if trying to bait this old man’s interest. “I think we’re going to need to get rid of a bunch of these trees and I’m hoping you’ll give me some advice on what to keep.”
Sure enough, my young friends had purchased a nice home, built in 1999, with a fish pond, a nice covered patio – and a collection of species forest trees that were planted to screen the neighbor’s homes which had, in just twelve years, consumed a great portion of the backyard.
“We’d like to put a veggie garden in over here” my friend said pointing to an area that, because of the number of large trees planted, would receive less than two hours of direct sun per day in the summer. I doubt that much of the backyard will see any direct sun before May, and it will be back to mostly shade by mid September.
“You did say that you wanted to remove some of these large trees, correct?”
Thankfully, my friend is ready to remove most of these trees, opening up his property for a grand vegetable garden and a wonderful collection of dwarf and miniature conifers to complement the pond and make that space a delight. Since the neighbor’s trees have grown over the years as well, the selection of conifers I will recommend will make a much more tidy looking (and easy to maintain) living fence that will not out-grow its space while they regain a great portion of useable real estate and allow much more sunlight into their garden.
I drew up a quick design for my friends, showing them how to implement the plan in stages so that they can plan and budget for each phase of the project. They are excited to fire up the chainsaw and open up their space, and I’m excited that I’ve found a future source of firewood perfect for the fire pit in my own backyard.
The moral to my story is that bigger and cheaper is not always better when it comes to purchasing your landscape plants. It’s always a good idea to have a landscape plan and some understanding of the plants that you are purchasing. My friends are off to a good start and will have a premium garden to pass on to future homeowners, should they decide to sell and move, in another twelve years or so.
Next time I’ll talk about the pond design and my recommendations of dwarf and miniature conifers to complement that space.