My COVID Project – Problems in my Backyard

At the start of 2020, I had no plans for significant work in my back yard – in fact, I was looking forward to a break from projects as we were in the process of completing a very involved basement renovation. Once we knew we would be spending a lot more time at home this year I started thinking about how to make our property as comfortable and enjoyable as possible during this challenging time. Our desire to spend time outside with friends and family led to an almost complete renovation of our back yard.

Backyard Our backyard when we toured the house in August 2009. Continue reading My COVID Project – Problems in my Backyard

Highlighting Boulders in Your Garden

Bright Leaf Landscaping provides landscape design and installation services to Durham, Chapel Hill, and Hillsborough. Boulder placement has been tied into many of our landscape design projects. Read on to learn about highlighting boulders in your garden.

Clients want boulders incorporated into their gardens for many reasons. I’ll create a bed of low growing plants around the boulders. I like to use a variety of groundcovers and spiky textured plants. The idea is to showcase the boulder, not cover it up. You can even install a spotlight for a nighttime view.

Phlox subulata and Iberis sempervirens

Phlox subulata and Iberis sempervirens

Continue reading Highlighting Boulders in Your Garden

My Easy Container Garden Strategy

I love the beautiful containers I see in magazines throughout the year – a combination of petunias, cannas, and other warm-season annuals in the summer, or conifers, pansies, and kale in the winter. Unfortunately, these plant combinations almost never work for me – inevitably one plant doesn’t grow, one grows too much and flops, and it never achieves the lush look I’m going for. Read on to learn what I do instead.

Use cold hardy shrubs, perennials, and grasses in containers.

Fatsia japonica
A Fatsia japonica in a container. Cold hardy in a protected location.

Continue reading My Easy Container Garden Strategy

Suggestions for Step Stone Paths

Step stone paths are a great option for a walkway. Size, spacing, and material are important considerations. Read on to learn more about my suggestions for step stone paths. Step stone size is a key factor to a functional path. I commonly see 1×1 step stone pavers that drive me crazy. They are too small and are less visually impactful. I suggest choosing step stones that are approximately 2’ deep by 3’ wide for a comfortable walk.

Manmade Paver Step Stone Path with Unnatural Color and Size

Step stone spacing is another important element to a functional path. Placing the step stones too close makes it awkward to walk. I suggest spacing the 2’x3’ step stones about 2.5’ from each center. You’ll naturally land in the middle of the step stone with each pace.

Natural Step Stone Path with Proper Size and Spacing

Step Stone Path
Step stone material is a big choice to make. I suggest choosing a natural stone for your path. You can easily find the size and color you want. The stone comes in irregular shapes that provide a more natural appearance. You can also choose cut stone with rectangular shapes for a formal or modern look.

Are you considering a step stone path with your next planting? Contact us at 919.619.4460 or fill out our online contact form. Landscape design and installation are our expertise, and we are always happy to meet with new clients to discuss potential projects!

It’s Getting Hot – How to Plant for Shade

As the weather heats up shade trees become more important in the garden. Read on to learn about three factors involved in shade creation – time, plant selection, and spacing.

One of the great things about gardening is that it forces even the busiest person to be patient. You can’t force it to be spring or fall, you can’t force grass seed to germinate faster, or bulbs to come up before they are ready. This is especially true with shade creation – most trees that we plant will never provide shade for us, maybe the future homeowner, or our grandkids, years down the road.

For clients looking to create shade as quickly as possible, I would advise starting with as big a tree as you can afford, while still making sure it is a tree that works in the space at maturity. There’s nothing worse than planting a large tree too close to the house and then having to cut it down once it’s tall enough to provide shade.

Mature Tree Blocking House

Continue reading It’s Getting Hot – How to Plant for Shade

Peonies – A Delicate Looking Plant that is Super Tough

I first noticed Peonies when I was working at a garden center more than 10 years ago. They stood out to me, not because of how they looked but because they sold in a small size for an exorbitant price – something like $40 for a 1-gallon plant. For this reason, I always associated them with something precious, fragile and expensive. And while they can be expensive, they certainly are not fragile, read on to learn more.

Peony Chart
(Chart showing different types of peony flowers)
Peony Bud
A peony in bud, ready for transplant

The high cost is due to their spectacular flowers which are often used in bouquets. The flowers come in a variety of colors and forms, and many are highly fragrant. Once out of bloom peonies fade into the background, and depending on summer temperatures their foliage can burn and turn yellow. In my garden, they flower around Mother’s Day, which is a nice treat every year.

But the thing that surprised me most about peonies is how tough they are. I’ve now transplanted several dozen that were discarded from other gardens, and I’ve also moved them around to different places in my yard, often providing them with very little care. Because they are a rhizome they require only a shallow hole and are surprisingly drought tolerant. They have performed well in both full sun and partial shade for me.

I think the only downside of peonies is that they aren’t much to look at when out of bloom. But, given how impressive they are when in bloom I grow them happily. Looking to add a tough but beautiful plant to your garden? Contact Bright Leaf Landscaping at (919) 619-4460 or fill out our online contact form. Design and installation are our expertise, and we are always happy to meet with new clients to discuss potential projects!