Recently I got to enjoy this beautiful October weather walking among the redwoods, mixed oak woodland and open fields watching hawks soar overhead and listening to migrating warblers in the trees. I was not here in Santa Cruz county, however, but Pt. Reyes National Seashore-a similar but different environment. What struck me was how the gardens of the local residents reflect where they live. There was a sense of place to the landscaping.
Our gardens reflect where we live, too. What can we learn from our surroundings that will help us in our own gardens?
Look to the horizon. Check views from every possible angel. Borrow scenery if it’s attractive or screen eyesores and distract the eye from them.
Highlight existing features. Develop designs that retain and enhance elements on site like interesting rock formations, meadows, existing trees and native woodland plants.
Consider all aspects of your outdoor space. What are your favorite flower and plant foliage colors? What patio materials do you like -flagstone, wood, gravel, pavers? What is your favorite season- spring flowering trees and bulbs or fall foliage and berries? How many hours do you spend enjoying the garden- sitting, reading, working, relaxing or entertaining?
Whatever landscape design elements you use in your garden, remember they can be broken into smaller parts to make them more manageable- paving this year, planting trees next year, then shrubs, perennials, garden art. Installing a garden is about the journey. There is never a finishing point.
Important in any design is your choice of trees. More than any other living feature in your landscape, trees contribute to your sense of place. Imaging how different this area would look without the redwoods, spreading oak trees or tall ponderosa pines.
A tree that looks good and thrives in many types of gardens while requiring little summer water once established is the Strawberry tree or arbutus. A relative of the madrone, this evergreen tree is interesting year round. In the fall and winter, clusters of small white or pink, urn-shaped flowers hang from rich, reddish-brown branches with shedding bark. Fruit resembling strawberries ripen in the fall and attract birds. The handsome glossy green leaves emerge from red stems and contrast nicely with the bark, flowers and berriies. Growing to about 25 ft tall they accept full sun or part shade. What’s not to love about a tree with ornamental bark, dainty flowers, decorative edible fruit and handsome foliage?
Another tree to dress your garden for fall is Prairifire flowering crabapple. Birds love the berries and the 1/2 inch fruit remains on the tree for a long time after leaves drop providing food well into winter. Many of the popular crabapple varieties of the past were highly prone to fungal diseases but this one is among the new disease- resistant varieties now available. Prairifire bloom later than most crabapples with long lasting bright red flowers. Even the red leaves lend color to the garden when they emerge in the spring. If your looking for a small 20 foot ornamental tree with spring flowers and fall berries, this is a good choice for your garden.
Let your landscape express a sense of place to your garden.