Grassless Florida Friendly Landscaping

The time has come to do something with that old lawn. Why replace it with more grass? The first cold front has already brought with it cooler weather, and a lack of rain. Wouldn’t it be nice to put in something that will look colorful all year long and last many years without a lot of work? Go Grassless.

Low Maintenance Landscape

If you are looking for something easy to maintain, less grass is your best option.  Think about it… grass is the highest maintenance element in any landscape design.  it requires constant attention from mowing, to weeding, to chemical to physical, weekly during the growing season to bi-weekly in the off-season.  Reduce or eliminate this one element and your amount of yard maintenance is also reduced.  This is a no-brainer!

Anytime is the Right Time 

Unlike traditional landscape projects, grassless landscape designs can be installed any time of year.  Hardscape elements like Pavers and Pathways add value to any landscape design.  These projects can also be done in the winter months.  In fact, it is better to plan these projects when the rain is not in the forecast.  Most of my clients like to do all of their work during the hottest and wettest part of the year, and that’s alright… I don’t mind it.  But, why wait?  Getting your plants in the soil during the dormant season will have them established during the growing season.

Save Water and Still Look Great!

Watering plants during the dormant season means using less water.  Less water also helps with having less weeds…nature works like a machine.  One thing effects another and on and on.  If you want a low maintenance landscape, you must design it that way.  Everything has a process that it follows by design.  Grassless yards are designed to save you time, water and money.  

 

The Cost of Florida Friendly Landscaping

grassless-yard

Grassless Yard

I have been talking to many of my clients for years, on the subject of reducing turf areas, or removing the entire portion of grass left in their yard, and doing something different. My background experience and knowledge database comes from a maintenance company I had owned for many years prior, and many others I had worked for prior to that.

I developed a style of landscape design that didn’t require the need for grass, irrigation, fertilizers, or constant maintenance. I thought this might be an attractive idea for most people, as nobody seems to have the time to care for a nice lawn, and spending more money to maintain such a cheap element in the landscape didn’t make sense either.

As it turned out, “Going Grassless” was a tougher sell than I believed it to be. For some reason, most people still want a nice lawn, even when to do so has proved impossible under current circumstances. I have to admit, I would like to own a unicorn …if I could. I don’t have the means to care for a horse, and if it were even possible to buy such an animal, I would need to be able to care for it like a horse. Having a nice lawn today requires deep pockets filled with resources you are willing to throw away… for something you will barely notice and have to constantly care for. At least you can ride a unicorn …or a horse!

Cost of Water

First, if you are on city water, you should notice this every month. When you are on metered water, you get surcharged for going over a certain limit of usage. In dry months, when you have to sneak in a day here and there to keep from losing your investment, you will exceed this threshold and see it in your water bill. Over time, if you add up the cost, you will be shocked! The cost of watering your lawn goes beyond the actual dollars you spend on the entire install of the lawn…  and all of your  water bills combined.

Cost of Maintenance

To keep a lawn healthy, You will obviously need water. Fertilizers will be needed to feed the lawn, but if your soil PH is not right (due to acidic trees such as oaks or pines), you will need to correct that before fertilizers will work. Then, you will need more water… to keep the fertilizers from burning your lawn. More water means more weeds, so you will have to stay on top of that issue. Also, during the summer months, more rain and humidity will make the grass grow… so you will have to cut it more often. Too much rain or water will cause fungus and disease, and that becomes an issue. In the dry season you will have to water more or watch your investment wither… grass is a live element that needs your attention and WATER.  Besides the time factor, which nobody seems to keep in mind, there are greater costs to consider as well.

 

Environmental and Ethical Costs

Some tell me “I don’t worry about my water bill, I’m on a well.” Okay.. you are free from a meter, but your water comes from the same source… THE GROUND. Pumping ground water to keep your lawn green and beautiful has a higher cost than you can imagine… did you know that it has been a factor to causing Sinkholes? You can certainly expect more sinkholes as Florida’s population surges. This problem isn’t going away by magic. We have to be more responsible and look for other methods to beautify our homes. If we continue to do the things we have in the past, our children will stand in line for water to drink. That is a harsh reality. We need to pay attention to this TODAY. Many people live in HOA communities that promote St. Augustine lawns, and waste millions of gallons of water to keep their lawns looking nice… if you live in these communities, ask yourself “Is it worth it?”

There are better options than harming the environment, and leaving little resource on the planet for our future generations, than having a green lawn. Go Grassless is one. Reducing your lawn is another. If you have a dead patch, do something other than resod.

Here is another article posted on Angie’s List, when they interviewed a client of mine, Tom in New Port Richey, about going Grassless.

Hardscaping in a Florida Friendly Garden

hardscape_design

Hardscape is the use of hard materials such as rock, stone, concrete, paver, etc. These hard materials are what bring value to your landscape design. Hard materials like these are the things that require no replacement. As great as this seems to be, to have a Florida friendly garden, you still need other elements.

If you are having trouble growing grass, or plants due to poor soil composition, or an area stays wet for long periods of time, a hardscape may be a good remedy to that problem. Hard materials such as stone and rock absorb heat from the sun and can dry soil near and under it. Concrete can do the same thing. If you look at how fast a wet driveway can dry after a rain, you will notice that once the sun is back out, it doesn’t take much time. Next time it rains, pay attention to the street, as the rain hits the hot pavement it quickly turns to vapor and goes right back into the atmosphere. This is good for standing water, but to have a good balance, you still need plants.

 

Planting live materials inside of rock areas is not a good practice and the results are not positive ones either. As mentioned above, rocks can absorb heat and dry the soil, so placing a live plant in that situation and expecting it to do well is a recipe for disappointment. Plants should be in an area that can hold moisture yet drain well (so the roots don’t rot). Wood mulch is best for ground cover around most plants, but there are some that can do well inside of a shell bed. Seashell is another form of hardscape material, and some plants can actually do well in this environment.

 

The purpose of Hardscaping in a Florida friendly landscape design is to provide good drainage and minimize run off. Run off should be routed to planting areas (not storm drains) so drainage can occur there. This is the ideal way to utilize a hardscape within a Florida friendly landscape design. There should always be a balance of hard and soft materials such as mulch or bark and live plants and maybe a little turf (if you have to have grass in your yard).
Too much hardscape can lead to a “Heat Island Effect” which is when surfaces that were once permeable and moist are now impermeable and dry creating an island of higher temperature around the building. Shade trees are a great way to reduce this risk. Proper planning is also a great way to reduce the chances of causing this effect. Like any other improvement project, if you fail to plan, plan to fail.

 

Seashells in the Garden

shell_bedThe use of seashells in landscaping has proven to be a popular choice with many homeowners in Florida. This ground cover is durable as well as beautiful, and has many benefits to the garden. First, it is a good source of calcium (which some plants need anyway). In situations where the soil pH leans to the acidic side, calcium can help bring it back up. Beaches and palm trees are things many people think of when the thought of Florida enters their mind. Sea shells fit in this theme well, as they can be found near our beaches.

The use of shells in a landscape design can be done many ways. I’ve seen some where the shell is the main ground cover. By the way, that will work… that is if you do enough research to find plants that will live comfortably in that environment. It is important to always remember that plants are alive and your consideration to this will determine how long they will survive after the initial install is complete.

I prefer to use this ground cover in focal beds within a planting area. Florida field stone is a great border, as it has shells imbedded into the limestone itself! This really brings out the shell as a point of focus. Planting palms and things of the sort inside these shell beds can give a really cool Florida theme.

field_stone_bed

In my Florida friendly landscape garden designs, I use this theme often because it really drives home the Florida look and feel. Seashells are also used in parking areas and driveways because of the durability of the shells over mulch or pine straw. Also, shells are cheaper than rock, so covering large areas with it would make more sense than using rock.

large_sea_shells

Shell comes in different sizes too, so if you want a coarser texture, use the large stuff… this has a very detailed look to it, as you can clearly see the individual pieces of shell. Then there is a medium grade, which is smaller than the large, but not quite as small as the crushed stuff. The crushed shell is most common, as it is available at most supply yards. This grade of shell is a good base material as it won’t wash away easily. This would make a good path (as long as you wear shoes when walking on it). Walking on crushed shells is like walking on broken glass (not very friendly on the bare feet). There is also small shell that is not crushed. This has a different texture and color.

Fire Pits in the Landscape Design

The Element of Fire

Adding this awesome element of nature to your outdoor living space has many benefits. First, it is a great way to unwind from a stressful day. Fire has a mesmerizing effect on the spirit that is unexplainable. Just sit in front of it and see how long you can resist looking into its dancing flames! Next, ever had a need to thoroughly destroy old bank records or sensitive documents that if in the wrong hands can result in theft of your identity? Sure there are paper shredders, but good luck piecing together ashes! I would have to say the most valid reason to consider a fire pit in your landscape design would be this: Memories are made here.

Yes folks, fire pits are a gathering point at any outdoor function. If you had ever been to an outdoor party where a fire pit was in use, did you not see people gathered around it? The element of fire has been a gathering point for humans since man first discovered it. Fire is an element of life, like water, without it we couldn’t survive. It is easy to see why this would make a great focal point in any landscape design.

 

Fire Pits in the Landscape Design

Fire Pits come in all sizes and shapes. Some are made of concrete and stone, some are made of metal.

Metal though being strong may rust or corrode over time. Water is known to crack some metal ones when dousing them while they are hot. Stone and concrete pits can last for many years, but some stone materials will not take the extreme heat and may crack or split. If stone is being used to construct a pit, samples of the stone materials should be fire tested to make sure that it can take the heat. When in doubt, Lava Stone works well… and looks awesome!

Stone Fire Pit

The Element of Fire

Fire Pit Safety

No matter the size, shape or materials one thing they all have in common is that they contain the awesome force of nature we call “Fire”. To do that safely, a few things need to be kept in mind.

  • Never place a fire pit under tree canopies. – Heat raises far above the pit, so if there are tree limbs growing near the pit, prune them away so there isn’t a chance of setting the trees on fire.
  • Keep the fire inside the burn area. – The bigger the fire, the greater the potential of it getting out of control.
  • Never use gasoline to start a fire. – Gasoline fumes can build up and cause an explosion!
  • Always make sure your pit is at least 10 feet or more from a structure or flammable material storage. – Really? Do we need to explain why?
  • Always have a source of water close by and ready to use. – Fire can get out of control quickly, and may spread out of control while you run for the hose, so have it next to the pit and ready to go before you light the fire.
  • When not being attended, put the fire out. – Don’t just pour a little water on it and go to bed. A hot fire can smolder for hours and restart while you are asleep or away. Monitor the pit until the fire is completely out before walking away.
  • Always check with your local Fire Department for fire codes before installing a pit.

When it comes to fire safety, a little common sense goes a long way… it can even keep you, your loved ones and neighbors safe to enjoy many nights by the fire.

 

 

 

 

What is Florida Friendly Landscaping?

Xeriscaping

Florida Friendly Landscaping

Being in Florida, dry is something we experience often.  A Florida friendly landscape can make for a wonderful addition to your home whether it is for looks or necessity. An aesthetically pleasing and functional landscape can be achieved simply by proper planning.

Knowledge is Power

All variables must be taken into consideration when establishing a design.  Incorporating Florida friendly plants along with alternatives to grass is a great place to start.  Being educated about the plants is equally important as “what catches the eye”.  Placement is a key to keeping those plants healthy and easily maintainable.  Materials such as stone, mulch and shell are remarkable substitutes to having a lawn.   Numerous combinations of natural resources can be manipulated into a beautiful composition that can overspread a lot or a little square footage.

How do I decide?

When choosing to landscape your home, recognize your aspirations and desires, consider your budget and inquire about the investment. The more knowledgeable you are as the homeowner, the happier you will be with the final result and reasoning behind your decisions.

Things to Consider

First, the up-front cost of this method of landscaping can be much higher than installing grass. As always, when you are purchasing anything of higher quality… expect to pay more. Using rock and stone materials in your landscape design will reduce the cost of maintenance, but can inflate the budget in the beginning. Keeping the stone and rock budget to controlled amounts (only in, and around key focal points) will also help keep your initial costs down.

The Tranquility of a Water Feature

Water Features

 

The sound of trickling water cascading over layers of natural stone, the droplets rippling the calm surface of the pond, the reflection of gorgeous flowers shimmering over the smooth, glassy surface. The effects a water feature can have on your soul are calming and inspiring. The sense of peace and tranquility makes the investment worth its weight in gold. Ultimately, how much is worth to you? Water features can range between the hundreds up to thousands of dollars depending on the size and style you desire. 


 

A water feature can be a breath-taking addition to your home. What appeases your taste will help you decide what purpose it holds. Obviously, if trees are anywhere in the vicinity of your pond, maintenance is going to be eminent due to the amount of leaves. Filters are an option to help keep the water clean. The size of the basin will be the determining factor on what kind of filter you will require. A waterfall, decorative stones, a statuary or the right choice of plants will accentuate your pond making it a beautiful work of art.

 

Ponds

A pond can be a beautiful addition to your home. Your taste will help you decide what purpose it holds. Obviously, if trees are anywhere near your pond, maintenance is higher because of the leaves. Filters are an option to help keep the water clear. The size of the basin will help you determine what kind of filter you will require. A waterfall, decorative stones, statues or the right choice of plants will accentuate your pond making it a beautiful work of art.

 

Waterfalls

A waterfall can be added almost anywhere in your landscape. They make a beautiful addition on the edge of a pool or pond. There is a multitude of styles to choose from. Each distributor of pre-casted falls has there own individual selection, so the availability of a style you prefer will constitute the price. These are typically the most expensive. A hand-crafted fall can be designed by an artist but can be a little more pricey depending on the type of stones being used. The characteristics of the design will determine how the water cascades over the feature and every design is as personalized as the artist who builds it.

 

Finishing Touches

To add your own personalization to your water feature, a chosen statuary, pieces of driftwood or decorative stones may be added to give your feature that “pop”. Most stone yards have many varieties of gorgeous specialty stones used to accent it’s surroundings. A statue can be a fun, tasteful addition if placed in the proper location. If you wish to use plants around the feature, be knowledgeable of the plants and the environment they will be placed.

If every detail is taken into consideration, your water feature will be a stunning and personalized landscape design.

 Pond and Waterfall

 

 

LANDSCAPING IN FLORIDA

Welcome to Florida! Sand, sun, surf, palm trees and beaches… paradise. Although nature has it’s own beauty, to obtain your own personal ideals, Mother Nature has set a high price. Whether you are a full-time resident, occasionally vacation, or are looking to retire we would all like to feel comfortable and relaxed in our homes. With the proper knowledge and research, there are many steps that can be made to establish a plan to achieve that goal.

Sunset Chair

Throughout history, nothing brings people closer together or gives a person a sense of tranquility better than nature. Each and every part of this world has it’s own beauty consistent with the resources nature has provided for that environment. Each atmosphere is a very meticulous balance of the five elements of life… earth, fire, water, wind and spirit. Choosing to work with a landscape artist who respects and understands these elements and is knowledgeable of Florida’s environment is the first step towards creating a space that is comfortable for you and functional for years to come.

 

Landscape Lighting Techniques

Having a professional landscape lighting company utilize the correct techniques ensures that you highlight your important features and create the perfect amount of lighting in your landscape design.

Highlighting – One of the most common aspects of landscape lighting. Highlighting is created by using a spotlight at the base of an outdoor feature, such as a tree, or other structure. A landscape lighting specialist will change the distance and aspect just right to get you the best highlighting possible. Sometimes outdoor features, such as trees, will need two or more spotlights to accent it properly.

Landscape Lighting Design by The Landscape Artist OnlineSilhouetting – A silhouette is achieved by placing a landscape lighting spotlight behind the feature and then aiming it towards an adjacent wall. This creates an illuminated backdrop and looks especially good in the sunset. Also, utilizing a dark outline of the object helps to showcase plants and other dense features.

Scalloping – Landscape lighting professionals will often vary the position and angle of the lighting fixture while silhouetting to create a lighting technique called scalloping. For instance, aiming a light straight up from the base of the fixture will create a cone shaped backdrop.

Shadowing – Shadowing also places the landscape lighting fixture towards the base of the outdoor feature, aimed towards a near wall. The landscape artist tries to achieve a soft shadow for best results. The effect of the tree’s movement in the wind is sure to add drama to any home at night.

Grazing – Grazing is achieved when placing a landscape lighting element close up to the outdoor feature to showcase its texture and surface. An old tree, or stone wall with a unique texture will surely benefit from this technique.

Wallwashing – Wallwashing creates a soothing and even glow that comes off the wall or facade it’s pointed towards. For best results, place the lighting fixture a few feet away from the feature, and give it a sideways angle. By shining along side the wall, it maintains an even and somewhat subtle ambient lighting for the nearby area. A wide angle flood light with low wattage is recommended for this, as opposed to a spotlight.

Moonlighting – Create moonlighting techniques by placing a large fixture with a full glare guard high up inside a tree, and angled downwards. This effect looks like moonlight shining down through the branches. It causes attractive shadow patterns on the ground to appear, plus it provides a very natural and beautiful lighting effect.

Downlighting – The downlighting technique is similar to the moonlighting technique. Place a fixture high up, inside a feature like a trellis, tree, or eave, and cast downwards over a large area. Place the light higher if you intend to illuminate a large portion of the yard, and lower if you wish to illuminate a path or garden.

Accenting – Any lighting that draws special attention to a specific feature is considered accent lighting. Specifically angled uplighting or downlighting can be used as accent lighting, to point out an architectural design, plant, or other feature. Try using a narrow beam spotlight from a hidden fixture to add a flair of mystery to your accent lighting.

Pathlighting – Pathlighting is created by placing small fixtures along the borders of walkways, driveways, and patios. It is important that the style of these path lights be considered carefully. It is also important to be sure that they are positioned to illuminate the path, but also placed so that they avoid being kicked, moved, or getting in the way of the lawnmower.