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!

My New Year’s Resolutions as a Gardener

Tis the season for resolutions and while I don’t tend to make a lot I’ve realized that there are a few changes that could improve my gardening and make my life easier. Read on to learn more.

Plant Tags
Plant Tags

1. Find an easy way to document the names of plants that I add to my garden. I’ve never been good about recording the plants that I add to the garden. In some cases it’s unnecessary if the plant is easily identifiable or if there are only a few varieties available. But, many perennials are available in tons of varieties and while I always feel confident that I will remember which I selected I never do. Then when a plant does well and I want to order more I can’t remember the name. Part of the issue is that I always leave this task to the end of my gardening day, after the tools are put away, the leaves are raked, and I’m just ready to be done. I think a simple spreadsheet where I could record the name of the plant when I purchase it, rather than after I plant it would be sufficient, so I’m deciding to give that a try this year. Continue reading My New Year’s Resolutions as a Gardener

November: Gifts for Gardeners – My Recommendations

When I look at my favorite design blogs this time of year I’m overwhelmed with the number of gift guides offering recommendations on candles, decorations, furniture etc. And as an avid gardener I know that there are several tools that I regularly recommend to others. So, if you’re shopping for the perfect gift for a gardener here are my recommendations.

Kobalt Battery Operated Blower

Kobalt Battery Operated Blower Continue reading November: Gifts for Gardeners – My Recommendations