Entries in landscaping (7)


5 great shrubs for winter interest

When considering a shrub for the landscape it is worthwhile to note the plants characteristics throughout the year. During the design process, landscape designers often rely too heavily on the evergreen layer to create interest in the winter landscape. One of the most frequently asked questions by our clients is "how does the plant look in the winter?" While evergreens do provide green in the off season, there are also deciduous shrubs that offer interest in other ways. Here in Lancaster Pennsylvania, the five shrubs listed below hold their own in at least three of the four seasons. Check them out, for consideration when you are planning your landscape, or simply looking for something interesting to plant.

1. Hamamelis x intermedia   Witch - Hazel

The variety 'Jalena' with fragrant half burnt orange flowers mid February in Lancaster Pa. Strong horizontal habit. Excellent yellow-orange-red fall color.

'Diane' is a great deep bronze red flowered variety with a slight fragrance.


Fall color is often tri colored with red-orange and yellow. 


'Arnold's Promise' One of the oldest and best cultivars for fragrant yellow flowers.


Nandina domestica  Heavenly Bamboo

Heavenly Bamboo is not a true bamboo but simply has the upright habit and a leaf similar to many bamboos, hence the common name. By no means is this plant a runner like many bamboos, instead ot forms a fairly narrow plant up to 8' high in south central Pennsylvania although plants in the 5' range are  more common. Nandina can be tardily evergreen depending on the severity of the winter weather, particularly with regard to cold temps. Even with the recent visit from the polar vortex a plant on the south side of our home remains full in leaf and berry. The berries are great for use in decorations during the holidays and persist for a long time once cut.

The variety 'Fire Power' makes a good ground cover.


Cornus sanguinea   Redtwig Dogwood

Cornus sericea    Redosier Dogwood  

Prune back the stems in late winter to create the most vibrant color display. The numerous variety and cultivars range in size from 2 to 10 feet tall and wide.

'Winter Flame'



Red twigs among a grove of Aspen.


Ilex verticillata  Winterberry


Winterberry in a low lying area in Lancaster County with a foreground of Little Bluestem.

'Winter Red'

Winterberry at Longwood gardens in Kennet Square Pa.


Mahonia bealei  Leatherleaf Mahonia

The only evergreen to make the list, Mahonia is a functional broadleaf with leathery and spiny leaflets. The shrub offers a nice alternative to those who want something other than a Rhododendron. The lemon yellow flowers open in March and remain effective for 4 to 6 weeks. Flowers are wonderfully fragrant and attract early pollinators. Blue egg shaped fruit follow.




street trees

    Before and after pictures of streets with and without trees are the most compelling reason for planting them. But beyond the obvious beauty of trees lining a street there are also some solid practical reasons for planting them. Below are five reasons from the article "The Benefits of Street Trees" by Liz Dunn.

    Typical tree lined street before Dutch Elm disease.

    1. Cars drive slower on streets lined with trees.

    In the March 14th edition of the Seattle Times Pacific Northwestmagazine, former Seattle city arborist Marvin Black points out that traffic moves more slowly on streets lined with trees. Trees have a calming effect, and drivers are at least subconsciously aware that where there are trees, there are often pedestrians and children playing.

    In his book Great Streets, the internationally known urban planner Alan B. Jacobs notes that wide streets where the buildings are small and set back lose their definition, unless this effect is mitigated by lining the street with trees. Otherwise it feels like a transportation corridor, not a place where people live. Jacobs also cites research showing that for many people trees are the most important single characteristic of a "good street".

    2. Street trees reduce noise from traffic.

    Street trees reduce the amount of engine noise created because drivers go more slowly. A line of large leafy trees can also absorb a great deal of noise. Even a line of smaller trees can be enough of a buffer to block traffic noise from reaching private yards and homes.

    3. Residents walk more on streets lined with trees.

    When cars drive more slowly, pedestrians feel safer. In addition, curbs and trees provide a physical and psychological buffer between sidewalk and car traffic that increases this feeling of safety. The busier the street, the more this safety buffer is needed. And of course, trees provide an environment in which it is more pleasant to walk - something attractive and green to look at, shade in the summer, a canopy from rain in the winter.

    Another thing that happens when we plant trees is that people can no longer park their cars up on the sidewalk. How often have you tried to walk down a street where a car has pulled up onto the planting strip and sidewalk, forcing you onto the street? The whole neighborhood benefits when people get out of their houses to walk. Residents are more likely to meet up regularly with their neighbors, to keep an eye on each other's property, to use their local parks and to patronize local businesses.

    4. Trees improve air quality.

    Trees consume carbon dioxide and emit oxygen. In general, the more trees we plant, the better air we breathe.

     5. Street trees increase property values.

    In his book City Comforts, local urban planner and author David Sucher says, "Even streets of modest houses gain a grandeur and presence when treed. Old money need not be the only ones to have old trees." Streets with trees look more stable and prosperous. Families with children are more attracted to a neighborhood where they can picture themselves going for walks and letting kids play on the sidewalk. A neighborhood that looks cared for, with visible sidewalk activity, experiences less crime and especially fewer break-ins. Of course, it is important to select a tree species that will thrive with minimal maintenance and will not block sunlight and views.

    Sucher estimates that street trees can boost the value of each home on the street by at least $1000 to $5000. In their pamphletBenefits of Trees, the International Society of Arboriculture estimates that the improvement in curb appeal due to street trees increases real estate values by 5-20%.

    Reprinted from "The Benifits of Street Trees" by Liz Dunn


establishing a budget for your landscape project


After a client has determined their needs and desires for their project, the next step is to discuss a budget or price range with the designer. Some clients have the luxury to work through the design process without establishing a budget, because they want what they want, they have the means to achieve it, and they don’t want a budget to disrupt the design process. But for most of us, establishing a budget is a prudent course of action. Without it, your designer will be guessing how much you are willing to spend, and most likely compromising what the value of your project should have for both your home and lifestyle.

While it is totally understandable that a client may have no idea what a project will cost because they have not done anything like this before, it still makes sense for the client to establish the maximum cost they can afford for the project or at very least a price range they are comfortable with. I have presented numerous designs with proposals for installation of projects, where budget was not revealed, and have heard, “I didn’t think it would cost that much. We only wanted to spend this much.” Unfortunately, as a result of not revealing the budget, more time and money is spent on revisions. Revealing the budget would have opened up a discussion of budget analysis. If your price range is inadequate for achieving your goals, then your designer can work with you to either modify your program, or suggest materials and design strategies that might be used to achieve your goals. In this scenario, many of my clients will install their projects in phases in order to achieve their objectives. This course of action still requires budgeting and planning but it is based on what you will spend for the first phase and over time.

Look at it this way, when you purchased your home or your new car you gave the agents the amount you were able to spend. This obviously allowed them to show you what you could purchase within that range. Without this information they most likely would have wasted your time and their own showing you houses and cars that were either above or below your means. Similarly, with a price range in place for your landscape project, a good designer will be able to evaluate your needs and bring them together in a concise plan.


If you build trust with your designer, and allow them to display their talent, you are on your way to establishing a mutually beneficial relationship. The relationship, while supporting the designer, will also provide you with a purposeful plan. If the plan is competently installed, it will at its best, achieve the full potential of your objectives and add meaning and value to your home and lifestyle.




influential designers: dan pearson

Dan Pearson is first and foremost a great plantsmen. His approach to design is still evolving, and the emphasis on how many plants are used in a specific design is becoming more restrained. In the past, he may have used twenty different species for a particular design, and today he may only choose ten. As a part of the New Naturalism movement, he sets out to blur the boundaries between garden and landscape. 







influential designers: piet odoulf


The great Dutch plantsmen Piet Odoulfs landscapes are the garden equivalent of comfort food. A sort of contemporary interpretation of impressionism for the modern garden. Inspired and innovative, Odoulf's gardens rely primarily on the use of perennials and grasses. Structure is of primary importance with color taking a back seat. Contrast among the shapes of flower and seed heads, and how they change through the seasons, embody his style. Although the overall feel of his gardens is informal, a closer look reveals elements of formality and a recasting of classical geometry.


  In Autumn, Odoulfs home garden in the Netherlands, with the wave hedge in the backgroud.


  The wave hedge. 


 Chicago's Millenium Park



Many of the plants in Odoulf's gardens constantly change through the seasons.