It’s a mild day in late February, and you’re meandering around your neighborhood, enjoying the beginnings of an early spring. Perhaps some daffodils will pop their white and yellow heads dramatically through the green grass along a bordering fence; maybe you’ll see the varying shades of white or pink blooms of the camellia in a friend’s yard and wish, longingly, that you had such a spectacle of beauty in your own yard; or maybe the focal point of envy is as simple as a hard-scape – eliminating the need for maintaining grass – complete with potted plants, including herbs, maybe some pansies and lattice work with ivy creeping up every inch.
These are some beautiful ideas, your yard is a clean slate and you have the urge to create your outdoor paradise before the heat of summer sets in. Or, here in the Lowcountry, even the heat of late spring can deter the average person from wanting to do anything substantial in the yard.
We certainly have excellent resources, beautiful gardens and wonderful inspiration for beauty in the Lowcountry, and I had the opportunity to consult with some wonderful local resources about how to best go about prepping and creating an outdoor paradise.
These resources and others can certainly help with your outdoor needs, but, before buying anything, make a point to take a look around your yard, porch and any other space you have to work with. Set your goals and decide where you may or may not be willing to compromise on price. This is the first hurdle. Tonya McClellen and Brooks Swanger, landscape designers for Simply Green Landscaping, continued on this point: “Do you want a front area to play with the dogs? Or do you just want a really nice green lawn? Or do we want a backyard oasis? That’s what you want to do first – find the purpose of your area.”
While it may be tempting to fill those online – or physical – shopping carts when you see pretty plants, pots or even larger things such as yard furniture, it’s important to stay on theme and remain realistic about the type of yard you have and the type of yard you want to have. For instance, buying mostly tropical plants in a full-sun yard because you’re going for a certain look is simply not the best choice – at least not without major modifications to the yard.
But whatever your needs, ranging from minor maintenance to major projects, Simply Green Landscaping will assure that your goals for an outdoor paradise are met: “Whether you’re building a new house or just trying to improve the curb appeal of your current home or business, Simply Green Landscaping can provide you with professional landscape design, comprehensive hard-scape and soft-scape services, decks and pergolas and maintain it all for you based on your needs, preferences and budget,” McClellen and Swanger said.
They recommended keeping expectations in check by driving or walking around your neighborhood and seeing which plants are doing well – and which ones you like best.
“For now you want to have your foundation plants. If you were doing a full-yard makeover, there are some plants that you could put in all year long. Some good shaded plants are soft caress mahonia, ferns, leopard plants and camellias,” they pointed out.
If your yard makeover is going to be a bit more intense – you’re considering sod, for example – the team Simply Green Landscaping will help you choose the right grass and prep your yard to keep it green, healthy and pest-free. Addressing concerns of keeping the sod alive post-installation, McClellen and Swanger emphasized the importance of having a good fertilization treatment plan in place.
“We do a six-month warranty, and that is as long as you have your yard treated within the first 10 days. We outsource the chemical treatments. You would treat for disease and pests, as well as fertilization due at certain times and proper irrigation,” McClellen and Swanger explained.
Proper irrigation is at the top of Catherine Burrous’ list. The master gardener at Boone Hall, she also stressed the importance of a good garden cleanup and prepping the garden for a fresh start.
Although the process may be more regimented and on show at Boone Hall, the everyday gardener certainly can learn a few pointers on how to keep a happy, healthy seasonal flower or vegetable bed. For instance, before purchasing plants or seeds at your local nursery, take into consideration where we live and what can thrive: “We’re almost subtropical here. Most of our local nurseries tend not to carry things that won’t work in our area.”
“We’re usually changing out the summer garden – the hot-weather perennials and annuals that have burned up – in late November. We change the whole garden out in the winter. We have a winter garden in now (early spring), and so that garden will come to fruition in March/April or early May. Then we’ll pull that garden and put our hot weather garden back in. So it’s a process here,” she added.
With Boone Hall always being on show, “deadheading,” or keeping the garden vibrant, alive and healthy and ready for new blooms is also a priority for her team of gardeners.
Burrous provided the inside scoop on the garden cleanup in between seasons: raking out all of the beds and bagging it for street pickup – sometimes using what is taken out to mulch around trees; an optional tilling of the beds; adding flower-bed conditioner; adding a biodegradable weed barrier, such as newspaper; and then placing mulch or pine straw over the weed barrier. Then, with a fresh start, you’re ready to plant.
Maybe your garden is thriving, but you’re looking for a way to add flair to your porch or outdoor space, where you can enjoy a cup of coffee or an evening cocktail, play fetch with the dog or watch the kids play. Mount Pleasant’s own Backyard Retreats provides the finishing touch to any outdoor space, working with areas large and small and of varying styles to meet an individual’s outdoor oasis dreams.
Sharon Campbell, owner and president of Backyard Retreats, said listening is the best way to meet customers’ expectations: “I try to feel them out to see what their personality is and what they want to use that area for and what their thoughts are on it. I always say, ‘Think about what you want to do there, how you want to use that space, where the sun comes in. … Think about all of that and how you’re going to use it before you start your project.’”
Campbell’s tips to avoid spending money in the wrong places? Look at the basics. Make sure you know the product you’re getting is going to last and why it’s going to last. Considering the heat, humidity, rain and salty air that permeates where we live, durable materials are a must. “For instance, Adirondack chairs: The stainless-steel screws with chrome coating on them and the wide arms (for support and balance),” stated Campbell, providing an example of the Lowcountry’s commonly seen, pastel-hued outdoor chairs.
If you do go with outdoor cushions or fabrics, you have to take care of them if you expect them to last. “If it rains and it saturates your cushions, turn them up vertically so the water drains,” Campbell said. Backyard Retreats also offers a convenient cover for outdoor furniture – shielding it from pollen, dust and rain.
Whether you decide to go with a traditional Charleston style or a more modern twist of angular lines and geometric prints to accompany your garden or outdoor space, Campbell certainly has the versatility to meet your needs.
So clean that garden bed, prep the soil and make a list of what you envision as you open your front door. Your outdoor paradise awaits!
By Helen Harris