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Landscape Consultations ~ Cape Cod

Landscape Consultations ~ Cape Cod

Here’s a question that I hear frequently: “Do you do consultations?” I consider Country Garden’s on-site consultation service to be another way we can live up to our company motto: Large enough to serve you, small enough to know you.

Many of our customers can be helped right in the nursery and store. Most of our employees are happy to look at a photo or two on a phone or iPad and make plant recommendations. We often identify plants from samples brought in, and are frequently asked for disease or insect problem solvers based on an example or a photo. But on many occasions, being on the customer’s property is far more helpful.

Most of the time when I’m on a consultation, I’m there for several reasons. The customer might want a new foundation planting design, but while I’m there they will ask for the identification of a plant they aren’t familiar with and some advice about pruning a tree or shrub.

Designing is easier onsite because we can all clearly see the conditions that will determine which plants will do well. Knowing how the trees in the area are shading the plantings, for example, or seeing that the soil is especially thin and sandy is important when recommending plants and landscaping practices. And being on the property to notice which windows have an important view, or which areas are most in need of privacy, for example, is key since these things aren’t usually conveyed in a photo.

I have found that it’s also important to be on the site with my client so that I can offer two or three suggestions about plants and use of space and learn which of these options best resonates with the homeowners. Often, since I’m looking at the property with “fresh eyes” I can suggest design and plant options that they haven’t thought of.

Before investing money and time in new plantings, many find it useful to “get a second opinion.” Sometimes I even act as an arbitrator between spouses who have opposite opinions about what should be done. (This never surprises me…my husband and I disagree about the gardens all the time!) Rather than have one person feeling like he or she has “given in,” they have me tell them what should be done…and frankly, often it’s a solution that neither of them has thought of.

Here’s a few tips for success if you’re hiring a landscape consultant, whether it’s myself or someone else:

  • If there are a few plants you know you’d love to have, make a list of those before the meeting. That’s not to say that they can always be used, because a good consultant will only recommend plants that they know are likely to live and thrive on your property. But knowing what plants you like helps everyone start out with a good idea of your general sensibility.
  • If there are plants you really don’t like, make a list of those as well.
  • Know that groups of three or more plants usually look better than one or two. So if the designer recommends three, don’t buy two and expect to have the same look.
  • If the designer draws plants as placed in a triangle or staggered planting, don’t place them in a straight line.
  • Plantings might look a little sparse when they are first installed…in fact, it’s better when that’s the case as you know the plants will have space to grow. Fill in with low, understory ground cover or perennials while the taller plants fill in.
  • Like many designers, I often recommend a “named cultivar” which is a specific variety of a plant. If I’ve recommended a ‘Magic Carpet’ spirea instead of other spireas, for example, I do so for a reason. The named variety has particular characteristics that will function or look better in the landscape. Often these are size of growth, color of foliage or flower and overall performance of the plants. In the example given ‘Magic Carpet’ stays shorter, has brightly colored foliage and is a very strong grower…there are many other wonderful spirea shrubs, but where a specific size and color are important, that might be the only one that fits. So pay attention to the names and don’t be quick to substitute any other plant.
    Some need an entire landscape design. These might take two to three hours. Call a designer when the house is finished. I'm frequently asked to come when it's time to settle on the size and shape of patios, placement of walk ways and the choice of trees.

    Some need an entire landscape design. These might take two to three hours. Call a designer when the house is finished. I’m frequently asked to come when it’s time to settle on the size and shape of patios, placement of walk ways and the choice of trees. It’s also helpful for many of my clients to have a priority list. “This year it’s important to do a, b and c,” for example, “and next year you’ll plant d, e, and f. The third summer you might want to think about x, y and z.” 

    Once a foundation planting is over 25 years old it's often time to pull it out and replant. Sometimes the plants have just gotten bare or broken, and other times they are just too big. Fortunately the range of plants that stay shorter has grown every year as more new varieties are introduced. So a foundation planting can be designed that won't require shearing the plants and fighting their size.

    Once a foundation planting is over 25 years old it’s often time to pull it out and replant. Sometimes the plants have just gotten bare or broken, and other times they are just too big. Fortunately the range of plants that stay shorter has grown every year as more new varieties are introduced. So a foundation planting can be designed that won’t require shearing the plants and fighting their size. When I draw up a plant it’s pretty much to scale, on graph paper, and it contains the names of plants that would do well on that particular site, the shape of the beds and other general recommendations for success.

    I frequently do consultations for people who have bought a house with established landscaping and don't know what's growing in their yard or how to take care of it. "This is a beautyberry" I said to this client.

    I frequently do consultations for people who have bought a house with established landscaping and don’t know what’s growing in their yard or how to take care of it. “This is a beautyberry” I said to this client.

    If you’re interested in scheduling a consultation, know that I’m commonly booking two to three weeks in advance during the spring season. You can reach me by leaving a message at the store. Read more about the Hyannis Country Garden consultation and design services here.

2 Comments

  1. Jackie Schrafft on April 21, 2017 at 11:00 am

    Hi CL,
    I enjoy your posts a lot. You have helped me before with some landscape questions and also did a consultation at our home.
    I have three quick questions today.
    1) My hibiscus thrived inside this winter. I followed your advise on what to do in the fall when I brought it in. My question….when is it safe to put outside again?
    2) I have a small perennial garden. I did not cut back my Russian Sage this past fall. I noticed buds on the old stems. Should Russian Sage be cut back or not? I do not see anything growing from the ground up.
    3) I have had a Kilian Donahue clematis that I got at Country Garden growing up my lamp post for the past few years. This is the first fall that I did not cut it back as was told not to. I see all the old brown stems now turning green and filing in nicely all the way to the top of the plant. I assume this is the right thing to do or it would never grown taller, correct? Is it ever necessary to cut back any of the old brown stems.
    Thanks for your expertise and help.
    Jackie

    • CLFornari on April 21, 2017 at 11:09 am

      Thanks, Jackie.
      1. Your hibiscus can go out when the temperatures at night are reliably above 50 degrees – usually end of may.
      2. Only cut off deadwood on RS but you can also cut it back by half to make it more full.
      3. Most clematis do fine if you only cut out dead wood every year … but if it becomes too congested prune it back after flowering.

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