Forcing Spring Branches

Flowering Quince
Photo by: Plant Life Designs at Plant Life Designs

Speed up spring by bringing flowering branches indoors!

Quince, forsythia, cherry, almond, crabapple, redbud, magnolia and pussy willow are all excellent plants for forcing branches indoors.

Follow these six easy steps!

  1. Choose a day above freezing to cut the branches as this helps with the transition from outside to inside.
  2. Select branches with plenty of buds, and preferably buds that are starting to open. Be sure to also select branches that are not critical to the overall appearance of the shrub.
  3. Cut branches at a diagonal and crush the end of the branch with a hammer to help with the uptake of water.
  4. Place branches in a vase with warm water.
  5. Keep branches in a sunny, cool spot . Be sure to avoid radiator heat. Keep the water healthy by changing it every few days.
  6. Blooms will appear in 2-4 weeks depending on the shrub variety. Quince typically take 3-4 weeks, whereas forsythia will only take 1 week!

Smelling Good

3 Ways To Maximize Fragrance In The Garden

‘Rosa At Last’
Photo by: Midwest Groundcovers
  1. Site fragrant plants close to your home, outdoor living space, or near a window you like to open during warmer temps.
  2. Site fragrant plants next to a south-facing wall as the reflected heat will make odors stronger.
  3. Site fragrant plants in an enclosed space such as a side yard or courtyard garden. The scent will be more contained and will be less likely to be carried away.

Turning Points

Photo taken by Plant Life Designs at a park in Brooklyn, New York

When two or more paths come together, using different stone patterns can signify a change. We often call these “turning points” in design. These can be places to pause and look around at your surroundings, as you decide where to go journey off to next. These can also be places to sit down, and take time to literally stop and smell the roses!

3 Examples to Bring Paths Together at a Turning Point:

  1. Utilize a completely different stone.
  2. Change the pattern using the same stone product.
  3. Add different shapes such as a circle, mixed with a linear path.

4 Benefits of Raised Garden Beds

Custom designed and installed raised garden beds by Plant Life Designs.
Product: Highland retaining wall stone.

  1. Soil Control. The luxury of importing good soil.
  2. Height Control. Beds at 18″ or more are less likely to fill with weed seeds as their seeds tend to travel in ground currents that raised beds are usually above.
  3. Temperature Control.  Raised bed soil tends to warm up quicker in the spring, allowing for earlier planting.
  4. Pest Control. Slugs and snails generally do not like to climb the walls of raised beds. Additional chicken wire beneath the garden beds prevents damage from moles and gophers.

More Garden Tips!

Plant cover crops such as clover, rye, or fava beans to fix nitrogen into the soil in the fall and then turn soil over in the spring.

When designing your edible gardens, it is also important to think of harvest and how neighboring plants might fill in the gaps after you pick.

Beet & Parsnip Salad

Serves Six:

Ingredients for Salad:

2 TBSP sugar

1 tsp salt

1/4 c. sherry vinegar

3 medium beets, peeled and sliced into thick matchsticks

3 medium parsnips, peeled and cut crosswise into thin rounds

1 apple, cored and thinly sliced

handful of baby kale leaves

Ingredients for Sherry Vinaigrette:

1 TBSP sherry vinegar

1/4 tsp. sugar

1 tsp. mustard

salt and fresh ground black pepper

4 TBSP extra virgin olive oil

1 shallot, minced

Directions:

In a large bowl, dissolve the sugar and salt in the sherry vinegar and 1/4 cup of water. Add beets and toss to coat. Set aside for an hour to create a quick pickle. Drain beets and blot dry on paper towels.

On a pretty serving plate, stack the beets, parsnips, apples, and kale in alternating layers to make a good-looking heap.

Vinaigrette:

In a small bowl, whisk together the sherry vinegar, sugar, mustard, and salt and pepper to taste, whisking until the sugar is dissolved. Whisk in the oil until emulsified. Add the shallot to the dressing.

Drizzle the salad with the vinaigrette just before serving.

Recipe from: ’66 Square Feet’

The Marriage of Materials

The natural stone of the pillars, combined with the cedar pergola, coupled with the concrete dining table atop the carpet of unilock pavers, gives this outdoor space an exceptionally timeless look and is a beautiful marriage of materials. These elements not only look impressive now, but will also age to a distinct perfection.

By working with a Plant Life Design’s designer, we not only help you select the materials that start out looking beautiful, but will also educate you on how the selected materials will age in the years to come.

Focal Points: Attracting attention in the landscape.

Focal points can be implemented into your home landscape in many different ways. Here are a few examples of focal points in the garden!

  1. Solitary Objects
A larger than life garden trowel draws attention to this perennial garden filled with geranium and coneflower
Photo by: Plant Life Designs

2. Mass Plantings

Purple siberian iris is a show stopper in this suburban landscape. Select plant material that also creates movement in the landscape. The thin leaf blades on this iris sway in the wind beautifully.
Photo by: Plant Life Designs

3. Intentional Relationships

The relationship between the furniture and garden not only promotes and encourages conversation, but also makes a great focal point! The abundantly green landscape in the background is accentuated by the furniture in the foreground.
Photo by: Riley Glenn Photography

A Three Tier Option

We have all seen it, and we may even be living with it. The new construction homes being built these days incorporate a standard element; the wooden deck that towers over the yard as it is placed over the walkout basement. With this common deck design, lack of privacy, shade and even space can limit us from using and loving our outdoor living area. At Plant Life Designs we are always striving to maximize your outdoor living, and we have some ideas that will do just that!

Standard Deck Design. A relatively small deck, maybe 12’x12′ is positioned off the dining area of the home with steps going to the backyard.
Three Tier Option. We would propose removing the staircase and adding in a second tier deck for dining and entertaining. The original deck tier is great for cooking as it is typically located off the kitchen. Add in a couple chairs with your grill and you can chat with your friends as you cook burgers! The addition of the second tier accommodates dinner parties well and lowers the space for additional privacy. Stepping onto the ground level (the third tier) makes a cozy spot for intimate conversations over a spritzer, and also transitions well into the green space of the lawn.

Exciting to think about all the wonderful memories to be made with this new layout!

Offering Solutions


Before
When we first visited this yard, our clients had just put on a new beautiful deck. After the construction on the deck was complete, the yard was left with a mix of river rock, some spotty turf and a pile of old materials from the renovation. With the grade change around the deck, we knew we had to get creative! Requests from the homeowner:
1) Coverage around the deck with plant material to draw your eye away from staring underneath.
2) A landing off the staircase for a nice transition from lawn to entertaining space

The rest was up to us!

After

With the grade change, we thought it would be so fun to create a nice crushed limestone rock walking path around the deck. By doing so, we could also create some larger areas for possible benches/chairs under the tree. It made sense to take out the turf from around the tree for ease of maintenance. With the selection of plantings around the deck we were able to offer some coverage over time, along with a variety of blooms! Roses, hydrangeas, grasses and perennial coreopsis offer a range of colors and low maintenance. The river rock remains under the deck to keep the weeds at bay, but we used a hardwood mulch for the health of the plants and to soften up the stone. A beautiful addition the the new deck!

White Winter Salad

Recipe taken from ’66 Square Feet’ by Marie Viljoen

Serves Six

FOR THE SALAD:

5 cups of thinly sliced white vegetables (parsnips, turnips, radishes, etc)

1 Honeycrisp apple, cored and thinly sliced, sprinkled with lemon juice

FOR THE DRESSING:

2 TBSP fresh lemon juice

salt

1/4 tsp sugar

fresh ground black pepper

5 TBSP walnut or hazelnut oil

TO SERVE:

2 heads of Belgian endive, leaves separated

1/3 cup pomegranate seeds

Directions:

In a bowl, just before serving, whisk the lemon juice with salt to taste and the sugar until they are dissolved. Add pepper to your taste. Whisk in oil until dressing is lightly emulsified.

Using your hands, gently toss white vegetables and apple slices in the mixing bowl until they are covered with dressing. Heap the salad in the middle of a serving plate with the Belgian endive either in among the vegetables and fruit or around the edges. Scatter pomegranate seeds over top and serve at once.

Pictured is White Winter Salad with pomegranate, apple, turnip, radishes & endive.
Photo Credit: Plant Life Designs