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Steiner
09-26-2011, 05:10 PM
This wasn't our best looking job to say the least. I hate to post it but I have to learn.

Tried to go for an all native planting because I have been taking some local courses on the advantages of native plants. Anyway I moved away from my tried and true plant stock and went with the plants listed below.

Redbud
Mountain Laurel
Creeping Phlox
Black eyed susan
Quickfire hydrangea (subbed in by homeowner, not native to my understanding)

Sun: Full sun
15' off roadway
Great soil lots of compost and depth of nutrients.

Anyway the black eyed Susans are dead either from fungus or under watering. Tree leaves are turning brown early. Hydrangeas are flopping and drying up. Looks like lack of watering on the homeowners part to me. It has been a tough year to get established and the homeowner casually said things like "I was on vacation," "I didn't want to water too much" etc.

My Questions:

1. Do you see any issues from an installation/design perspective except for maybe the stone choice which the homeowner subbed in at the end against my wishes. (I know, I know DVS)

2. Judging from the pictures of the black eyed susans do they look fungal or drought related?

3. Am I crazy to tell homeowners to water deeply every other day for the first 2 weeks? Is over watering causing these conditions?

4. I don't give a warranty (only establishment), but in this case I am going to replace the Black Eyed Susans. Are there better choices like maybe Purple cone flower?

5. I am thinking of changing my plant warranty to say 30 days non-irrigated instead of establishment only, because establishment is too ambiguous and I have had a few question the practice. I would like 30 days as this is concrete, set in stone, a hard measurement. Establishment is loosely defined as I see it.

Steiner
09-26-2011, 05:16 PM
Nothing against the customer but they had a strong vision of what they wanted. It was nearly impossible to change their mind about certain design elements such as contrast, shape, and material selection. I strongly suggested against the corn colored stone, not only for plant health but also aesthetics.

This job was completed in late May before the good rains, and just before a few super hot weeks.

I am wondering if mulch would have been a better choice, since the fabric could impede water infiltration.

IDEA: Maybe I state that all new planting are to be mulched for the first two years to improve plant vigor and then switch them over to lower maintenance gravel and fabric on year three. Anyone do this?

Steiner
09-26-2011, 07:21 PM
Anyone ? Anyone?

knox gsl
09-26-2011, 07:29 PM
Not sure about what to replace in your area, but they get 30 days from me and that is only good if the roots aren't dried out. I have never had a problem with plants dying or having to replace them with this warrenty. Most people will usually water for the first month or so because they are still thinking about how much they recently spent.

Steiner
09-26-2011, 07:31 PM
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Steiner
09-26-2011, 07:32 PM
Thanks Greenstar. Do you actually go down and inspect roots? What are you looking for specifically? What about when they wait 14 days to call you and then it's too late to do an autopsy?

Have you ever considered give a longer warranty for an additional price?
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Dr.NewEarth
09-26-2011, 07:51 PM
The rocks weigh too much on the plants rootballs. That causes stress which attracts
other problems.

MarkintheGarden
09-26-2011, 08:02 PM
Steiner, I like you courage. And I think that the worse part of all this was out of your control. Combining landscaping and gardening is not easy.

Rudbekia, "Black eye susans" look like that this time of year, I do not think they are dead. You should have deadheaded them (removed the flowers) as soon as they were spent. That helps the leaves to look good a little longer. Now, I would cut them back leaving only a few leaves on each plant. Coneflower does not look much better this time of year. Both are heat and drought tolerant. They will probably survive that bed, but in a nice fertile bed, they multiply.

I am not familiar with that type of hydrangea, but full sun and the gravel fabric bed are not the place to plant most Hydrangea. I would prune them back about a third, transplant them somewhere cooler and give them mulch and a light feeding of high ph fertilizer. I would tell my customer that it is move or die for the hydrangea, and suggest replacing it with juniper, orn. grass, boxwood, or a statue.

Mulch would have been much better, and next time skip the landscape fabric too. First, the fabric gravel is not low maintenance. Secondly the fabric does little harm to the plants, but it kills lots of the other things that live in the soil. Not many plants ever do well in the fabric gravel bed. Junipers and some ornamental grasses do okay.

You did a few things well! You used a variety of sizes, and there is variety as far as seasonal peak. I like the stones. The shape of the bed could be better, but that was not your choice. The plants could have also been placed better by using groupings rather than spaced equal distance like soldiers.

This is a great example of the difference between gardening and landscaping, and what not to do when combining them.

I guess the customer is happy, except that they are concerned about the health of the plants. For the most part, that is what those plants look like this time of year, and certainly a hot dry year that it was.

I use a product called Superthrive, you can find it online. I would use that to help mitigate the damage done by the fabric/gravel. I would fertilize lightly.

White Gardens
09-26-2011, 08:10 PM
Septoria Leaf spot on the Black-Eyed Susan's.


http://www.extension.umn.edu/yardandgarden/ygbriefs/p154rudbeckiadisease.html


....

MarkintheGarden
09-26-2011, 08:12 PM
Thanks Greenstar. Do you actually go down and inspect roots? What are you looking for specifically? What about when they wait 14 days to call you and then it's too late to do an autopsy?

Have you ever considered give a longer warranty for an additional price?
Posted via Mobile Device

I do not warranty anything ever. I rarely loose plants, and sometimes I do replace plants when I do loose them.

I set up water timers for my customers, I use the best horticultural methods available. "Get your plant some life insurance from someone else!"

knox gsl
09-26-2011, 08:46 PM
I've never had to replace a plant for a customer so I'm happy with my warrenty setup. I don't do a large volume of install work though. I have found that I get the best results in not letting the customer place plants in areas they shouldn't be in. I also stress water, water and more water in the first few weeks and lighten up over the next few weeks.

Gilmore.Landscaping
09-26-2011, 09:09 PM
Wow No warranty on plants?? All my stuff is gaurranteed for 1 year with proper irrigation or supplementary watering. As soon as they say something like vacation or i forgot that basically voids the warranty. You should not even have thought twice about that.

I will say hat the stone would heat up more then regular mulch so more watering during those hot times would have been helpful. Black eyed susans should be pretty hardy and even if they don;t look amazing this year follow the pruning advice listed above and they would come back next spring.

As much as they say hydrangeas will do ok in full sun I would highly recommend not doing it in the future, its not the natural environment for the plans and thus will always need more attention.(which is kinda the opposite point of a natural garden. There are so many options for full sun that I would keep those for a shadier zone.

Also they looks like fairly large initial planting, which also would stress the plants more. Next time go for more smaller plantings. It will look better, fill in faster, and less stress from the planting.

Its was a good attempt and I would take a serious look at those books again, it has some native plants, but definitely not something I would call a native planting.

Steiner
09-26-2011, 09:32 PM
Here is what I typically do for installs just to show the caliber of my design work. I do all the hardscaping too. We are strictly design/build.

This install was very out of my control budget and choice wise.

Thanks guys for the comments I appreciate it.

The hydrangea comment is helpful. The particular variety was sourced as a full sun tolerant cultivar. I was hoping the tree would provide enough shade in 2-3 years to help.

Steiner
09-26-2011, 09:40 PM
Steiner, I like you courage. And I think that the worse part of all this was out of your control. Combining landscaping and gardening is not easy.

Rudbekia, "Black eye susans" look like that this time of year, I do not think they are dead. You should have deadheaded them (removed the flowers) as soon as they were spent. That helps the leaves to look good a little longer. Now, I would cut them back leaving only a few leaves on each plant. Coneflower does not look much better this time of year. Both are heat and drought tolerant. They will probably survive that bed, but in a nice fertile bed, they multiply.

I am not familiar with that type of hydrangea, but full sun and the gravel fabric bed are not the place to plant most Hydrangea. I would prune them back about a third, transplant them somewhere cooler and give them mulch and a light feeding of high ph fertilizer. I would tell my customer that it is move or die for the hydrangea, and suggest replacing it with juniper, orn. grass, boxwood, or a statue.

Mulch would have been much better, and next time skip the landscape fabric too. First, the fabric gravel is not low maintenance. Secondly the fabric does little harm to the plants, but it kills lots of the other things that live in the soil. Not many plants ever do well in the fabric gravel bed. Junipers and some ornamental grasses do okay.

You did a few things well! You used a variety of sizes, and there is variety as far as seasonal peak. I like the stones. The shape of the bed could be better, but that was not your choice. The plants could have also been placed better by using groupings rather than spaced equal distance like soldiers.

This is a great example of the difference between gardening and landscaping, and what not to do when combining them.

I guess the customer is happy, except that they are concerned about the health of the plants. For the most part, that is what those plants look like this time of year, and certainly a hot dry year that it was.

I use a product called Superthrive, you can find it online. I would use that to help mitigate the damage done by the fabric/gravel. I would fertilize lightly.

I have a ton of customers who desire gravel beds as they age. Many are weary of mulch as they think of it as a way for landscapers to pad their pockets. We have been hit by the recession hard here and I was lucky to find this job, its just a hard balance as you know to stay within budget.

I did use clumps/groupings of plants but the budget did not allow me to add what I thought I needed. Furthermore you were hitting it right on the head with the grasses comment. I pushed so hard, but lost that battle.

I am deeply concerned about this job as it is highly visible. My reputation is on the line. I had that feeling as soon as the papers were signed, it was going to be a tough one.

How well will these plants resist the winter salt? I was thinking of putting up a burlap barrier in November.

-Thanks again
Chris

Steiner
09-26-2011, 09:55 PM
Here is the design with plants and spacing drawn to scale. Plants at 60% full size.

mattfromNY
09-26-2011, 10:04 PM
Where in CNY?

Steiner
09-26-2011, 10:09 PM
Based out of Liverpool actually....

MarkintheGarden
09-27-2011, 08:58 AM
I have a ton of customers who desire gravel beds as they age. Many are weary of mulch as they think of it as a way for landscapers to pad their pockets. We have been hit by the recession hard here and I was lucky to find this job, its just a hard balance as you know to stay within budget.

I did use clumps/groupings of plants but the budget did not allow me to add what I thought I needed. Furthermore you were hitting it right on the head with the grasses comment. I pushed so hard, but lost that battle.

I am deeply concerned about this job as it is highly visible. My reputation is on the line. I had that feeling as soon as the papers were signed, it was going to be a tough one.

How well will these plants resist the winter salt? I was thinking of putting up a burlap barrier in November.

-Thanks again
Chris

Chris, I know what you mean about going with what the customer wants, and if gravel is what they want, then gravel is what they get. I think a lot of landscape companies oversell the mulch. As we all know, at the end of a mulch job, are pockets are padded with mulch. Ironic, that I often feel like my customers would pay for more mulch, cause they are accustomed to paying for lots of mulch.

I think that your photos show what happens when we get plants from a nursery that have been in ideal conditions and fertilized to the max for maximum blooming. It takes a couple seasons for them to naturalize and adapt.

It does look like the bed is near enough to the road for salt to be an issue, so the barrier is probably a good idea.

Gilmore.Landscaping
09-27-2011, 03:13 PM
I love the plan graphic, its well drawn and definitely shows well. But I am confused by the elevation drawing. Its though for me to read the heights but looks like you have the black eyed susans drawn at 5' high and your hydrangeas at 10'?? That's like double scale. you will learn quickly you need to be careful with cultivars. You need to pay more attention to the overall natural habitat for the plant. I know its the cusdtomers choice but its also your job as the proffesional to know what is going to look right and grow the best in the long run. The customer is NOT always right!!
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ed2hess
09-27-2011, 05:54 PM
I would not do a job that requires gravel on a mound. And I am not a fan of putting this type of mound out in the middle of the yard. If they had irrigation it would have created a problem and not many ways to get water up on a little hill. And I would not use plants that I have not had experience with.

Gilmore.Landscaping
09-27-2011, 05:59 PM
I would not do a job that requires gravel on a mound. And I am not a fan of putting this type of mound out in the middle of the yard. If they had irrigation it would have created a problem and not many ways to get water up on a little hill. And I would not use plants that I have not had experience with.

Not using plants your not familiar with is pretty narrow minded. With so many new varieties coming out its your job as the professional landscaper to understand these plants and even if you have no experience with them you need to do the research to find out how to use them.
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MarkintheGarden
09-27-2011, 06:11 PM
It would be easy to post that I would not have done a gravel, fabric, mounded bed, but it is a different story when customers with money to spend tell you that is what they want to pay for. And this is true for the plant selection as well. In this case, telling the customer that a mounded gravel bed in the middle of the lawn MUST have a border to retain the pebbles, would have been a good idea.

Some jobs, it is best to stick to the plants you know, and some jobs are a good opportunity to experiment with new plants.

Steiner
09-27-2011, 06:50 PM
Mark, you have a lot of insight, your right on again.

I actually took the time with this customer to introduce them to permaloc edging in various surface finishes. I have used it often and feel the permaloc is a must for gravel installs.

I think the issue is I went for a budget number first, and then had to stay within those boundaries with many wants and needs. I almost walked but had a personal relationship that prevented me from doing so.

Gilmore: You are correct on what you say I should not have used plants I was not familiar with without knowing them. I think I mis-spoke. I am familiar in the sense of going on native planting walkabout with the author who wrote the book (Don Leopold (http://www.amazon.com/Native-Plants-Northeast-Gardening-Conservation/dp/0881926736)). Devouring the native plant book, attending numerous seminars on the topic and putting in at least 4 hours of research on the plant choices in total. I just have never planted them or sought them out. I usually go with my tried and true winners, but I was trying to better myself on this one.

I guess if I look at it like a learning process, I learned a hell of alot more from the failure and frustration.

Thanks for your honest comments.

-Chris

georgiagrass
10-06-2011, 05:48 AM
Echoing a few thoughts. First, I will not install stone in place of mulch without providing the customer a written statement that I do not recommend that installation and that I will have no responsibility for the survival of any installed plants. In Atlanta, it is just too hot for stone plant beds. The heat generated from direct sun on the stone just bakes the roots. If the plants don't die, their growth is stunted. Second, I have had little success putting hydrangeas in direct sun, no matter what cultivar. There are just too many other choices that like the sun to risk the hydrangeas.

David Haggerty
10-06-2011, 07:57 AM
I wouldn't install stone in an area that wasn't below the cutting height of a mower. Not on a mound where they could roll out and become missiles.
I'm not a fan of the dyed wood chunks either. If you get a mower near it the mower sucks it out like a vacuum. It never settles in like real mulch.
I'd only use stone around desert plantings.
Real hardwood mulch is an important part of good cultural practices. It has a purpose and usefullness that there is no good substitute for.
I know customers are trying to back away from using mulch. It is expensive to maintain. But who's the professional here?
I use stone as much as is practical, around foundations, fireplugs, signposts etc. and even some of the ground up & dyed wood chunks. But if it's going to be a living bed, it has to be real hardwood bark mulch.
While I'm on my soap box, I'm not a fan of mound building either. Why go to extra effort to drain the rain away from the plantings? Is it in a swamp or something?

There's my opinions. Based on personal experiences.

There is a trend toward sustainable landscaping, especially in the market I service. Factories and big lawns. A stone mound in the front of a lawn would be a maintenance nightmare. You have to be cautious when building a low maintenance installation that you're not simply shifting the maintenance to someone else.