Maintenance Information

If you are searching for particular maintenance information, please see the blogs for the months that correspond to the time frame that you are searching. Also check the labels of the blogs (at the base of the blog page) for blog subjects that might be helpful.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Pool Remodels

Did you know that Lois designs pool remodels? Well yes, yes I do. Here is an example of a pool in need of a facelift.  The remodel will include a new waterfill spill wall at the back, an added spa area, new plaster, coping and pool deck. The overall cost will be around 15-20k.

Usually the discussion begins as a pool ages and needs work- new plaster, leaking bond seal, cracking or pop off tiles, rough surfaces or cracking pool deck. Some of these things can just be repaired but when the overall pool needs updating then the discussion of whether to do the work or just fill it in comes up.

I have been involved in both scenarios and it usually depends on what fits the family. In terms of resale value it is not really a selling point to have a pool as many buyers won't want it where as others will.
If you have a pool or have had one then you know that they are a lot of maintenance and cost around $30 a month in electricity to run the filters- heating adds onto this cost. Water evaporation is another cost as well as chemicals and algea control.   If your family does not use the pool and you need more general area in the yard for garden or patio then filling it in is a good option.
Filling in a pool usually costs around 8-13K and the process varies with different cities specs., access and pool type. This type of work is done by an excavating contractor or landscape contractor. As a landscape designer I give options and a plan for what will be in place of the old pool.

Pool remodels can revamp a dated pool and give it a more modern look.  Many of the pools I have worked on take advantage of the new pool interior finishes i.e. pebbletec or pebblesheen which give the pool a more natural look "more like a pond" than a pool.

A great website where you can see pool finishes and tile is the National Pool Tile website which allows you too insert different samples into a pool template to see different looks.

Often new coping and pool deck are all that is needed. In our old pool we had exposed aggregate concrete as the pool deck which was awful as it was rough and very hard on the feet- not slippery though!  New pool decks can take advantages of the more recently introduced stamped concrete or pavers that have a much more elegant look and are easy on the feet. Glare can also be reduced with a more neutral pool deck color and interior finish color.

The planted area around the pool can get quite worn looking and redoing those plantings areas can really improve the look without a huge budget.  With good soil prep., automatic watering and plants that fit the areas the whole backdrop of the view of the pool is improved.

If you are considering redoing a pool area and want to consult on options let me know and we can brainstorm some ideas!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Fountain Grass- the good, the bad and the ugly

Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum'- Fountain Grass appeared in the nurseries with many other ornamental grasses a few years ago, but be warned, not all ornamental grasses are as inocuous and lovely to care for as they first appear.
I too thought this would be a wonderful and graceful plant to use in ornamental, dry gardens. What a mistake! Fountain grass became quite the problem. Growing to a huge height and overwhelming borders only to completely die off in winter creating a giant cleanup and pruning project.  That would not have been so bad in comparison to what was to come.

The worst surprise came when I took my dog in to see the vet. because he was scratching at his ear a lot. She extracted a seed head from his ear and said he had got a foxtail in his ear. I quickly spoke up saying we didn't have any foxtails in the garden. Then it dawned on me- this was not a foxtail but a seed from the fountain grass in the backyard.  With his droopy ears the seed had burrowed down and was irritating his ear canal.  This was awful. Not only had I hurt my dog but we had been using these grasses in lots of peoples yards. Horrible.

Unfortunately in gardening this type of thing happens sometimes. A new plant is introduced and seems great but the reality is different than the first impression. I always used my garden as a testing ground for different plants to understand the growth, maintenance and disease resistance of plants in our area.  With the ornamental grasses the things to watch for are reseeding in an invasive way, unruly growth, and excessive maintenance issues. Most of my clients want low maintenance and if they have a gardener they may not know how to care for ornamental grasses.  Over watering can also be a disaster creating way too much growth and spread or the opposite- rotting out the crown. Over the years I have honed down the choices to many nice plants that are long lasting, stay trim and are fairly disease and pest free. Its taken awhile and new plants are always being introduced.  Gardening is a learning experience. Anyway, if I used a fountain grass in your garden I am sorry! It seemed wonderful at the time- wrong.   

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Rose Pruning

Despite the lovely warm, dry weather the winter pruning must be done! Especially in mild years when plants are fooled by lack of cold and just keep growing and growing and growing. In the pictures above I have some before and afters of Roses trimmed and untrimmed (also note the poor staking of the tree rose- please use large.metal stakes when planting or this will happen to yours). Anyway the idea of doing winter pruning is to maintain good structure in the plants, prepare for the flowers and new growth in the spring and to prune out any dead or diseased wood also any crossoing branches (this is not always possible).
When pruning Roses always wear leather gloves preferably Rose gloves that have cuffs that cover your wrists and forearms too.  After many, many scratches and abrasions I finally have learned to always where my gloves. 
I don't really like to prune back into the old wood (branches with old bark and main trunk) so I try to keep up with the pruning each year so this doesn't become neccesary.  Roses are fairly forgiving though so a few wrong cuts aren't usually a disaster.
Start by pruning out the current years growth cutting back the green wood just above an active bud (one that is plump and not dead looking). I like to leave 2 active buds along the branches so as the Rose grows out there will be enough new growth.  Prune out any dead and damaged wood.
The old rule of thumb is not to leave the cut end of a dead branch any longer than 1/4" from the trunk.
As you prune open up the center of the plant so that as the foliage fills in there are not branches crowding the center and creating dark spots and poor air circulation that encourages pests.
As you finish pruning the Rose remove any leaves left on the plant and rake up below to remove diseased leaves that can infect the plant in the coming year.
For diagrams of the pruning see the Sunset pruning book which is very good or attend a class at a local nursery. I am happy to consult with local clients on garden care also.
A little care makes the world of difference in the flower production and health of your garden.
Enjoy and Happy Winter pruning!