NOTES FROM THE FIELD… PLUS SOME NICE PRESS!

Posted by LisaMierop on October 30, 2019

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Spring came to 2019 bringing with it one of the best ornamental tree shows I have seen in a long time. Magnolia, cherry, crabapple, dogwood and redbud performances were show stoppers that did not disappoint in any category: abundance, duration and color saturation of flowers.  The season has also brought a seemingly non-stop flow of rain, great for lawns and plants, but very hard for those of us trying to earn a living working out of doors. Saturated soil, mud and slippery slopes – it seems we can’t catch a break from wet weather.

 

2018 saw a record 65” of rainfall in New Jersey, the highest since weather records began being kept in the late 20th century, and around 20” above normal for our area.  2019 is lining up for second, or maybe, another first place. Ouch. This is not a good thing! I have seen many normally hardy shrubs and perennials just ‘drown’ between last summer and the recent winter thaw.  Plants that prefer sharp drainage in particular, like rhododendron, or perennials yarrow, catmint and lavender – simply dead from too much water. This is a first in my experience, and I am hoping it’s not our new ‘normal’. I fear this may be wishful thinking however as we head for our 10th consecutive Friday of rain. I have started researching plants that like to be really wet all the time!

 

On a cheerier note, Mierop Design has been fortunate to be highlighted in several recent articles, both on-line and in print. Houzz published a short interview with me about how I find new business, and Montclair Magazine’s May issue did a wonderful feature story on a large project from a few years back: The Anchorage on Park and Wildwood Streets in Upper Montclair. The homeowners of this landmark wanted a complete facelift for their property, and with it there were many challenges: big house/small property, little privacy with close proximity to busy car and pedestrian traffic and heavily overgrown shrubs. I worked with my partner, Frank Contey of Terra Graphics, to transform this beloved property into a showcase that matches its perfect Georgian architectural style. The property was fully enclosed with fencing for privacy and safety, large screening evergreens were installed in key locations, shrub borders were fully replanted and the driveway was relocated to open up available real estate. A large set of steps and a patio with an outdoor kitchen were created for elegant outdoor living. A remotely operated driveway gate and gas lanterns all around were the finishing touches. Thank you Rachel Grochowski of RHG A&D and Montclair Magazine for including our work on this great project.

Recently we did a fun outdoor furnishings installation partnering with Janus et Cie., one of my favorite luxury brands.  Our design liaison at Janus, Paul Sarrubbo, published these photos of our work just as we opened the patio for spring 2019. It will only get better as plants come into full leaf and flowers start to pop with color. You can follow Paul on Instagram @paulsarrrubbo_jec.

 

Finally, Frank and I were invited by Van Vleck House & Gardens to be Key Note speakers for their 20th annual Roses To Rock Gardens tour of private local gardens. We will be addressing the group on Saturday, June 8th at the Van Vleck property. As it is a big anniversary for the tour, the topic will be a short history of the house and gardens themselves…and all the recent renovations that have enhanced the grand estate, one of the best loved treasures in Montclair. We hope to see you there!  

Let’s cross fingers for less rain this year and Happy Gardening!

 

 

 

The Suburban Lot is a monthly blog that highlights topics and issues unique to the suburban landscape.  For assistance with any of the above information please contact Mierop Design, a complete resource for landscape design, installation, outdoor furnishings and property maintenance services.

BOXWOOD BLIGHT – AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH

Posted by LisaMierop on January 1, 2019

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Advance apologies for starting the New Year on a down note, however the topic of boxwood blight has been on my mind since fall. I am still somewhat in denial, hoping the problem will go away if I don’t talk or write about it. Sadly though, my magical thinking isn’t working. Like other uncomfortable reality checks, especially those connected to the roller-coaster of climate disturbance, boxwood blight is here for the foreseeable future.

WHAT IS BLIGHT?

Boxwood blight is a fungal disease spread by spores carried via air and wind. High temperatures, humidity, overhead watering and rain create ideal vectors for the spread of blight. This year’s unprecedented rainfall and high humidity created the perfect combination for rapid spread of the disease.

Once a plant is infected, the disease spreads very quickly, easily defoliating entire hedges within days. The damage can be sudden and dramatic, and once diagnosed, there is no treatment or cure. Affected plants have to be carefully removed along with all associated leaf debris. The debris cannot be composted and must be kept separate from other plant material. Tools used to remove affected plants must be disinfected in order not to further spread the disease. Even shoes, clothing, birds and other small animals can carry blight from one garden to the next!  Making matters worse, soil hosts the fungal spores for up to 6 years, making replanting of new boxwood in the same location ill-advised. Even with removal of soil, introducing boxwoods again to the same plant bed is highly risky, although some cultivars are considered more resistant than others.

Blight was first identified in England in the mid 90’s but didn’t reach the US until 2011 when cases were reported in Connecticut and North Carolina. It moved on to Delaware, Virginia, Pennsylvania and a handful of other states, with the earliest cases confirmed in New Jersey in 2013.

Although aware of box blight traveling ever closer, I still hoped our gardens would be spared. This summer, however, over a dozen cases were confirmed in the Montclair/Glen Ridge area and reality set in.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

Boxwood blight appears first as light brown spots on the leaves. Spots enlarge, often with concentric circles, until entire leaves are affected and then drop completely off the plant. The fungus also infects the wood resulting in dark brown to black “diamond-shaped” lesions and stem dieback.  The disease spreads very rapidly with plants fully defoliating in a short period of time. It’s important to have professional diagnosis and confirmation. Boxwoods are affected by other diseases which may cause similar looking damage.



WHAT TO DO?

Beyond the damage and loss to properties of old and new boxwoods, two main questions arise: how to manage or prevent the spread of blight and what to substitute if boxwoods have to go away?

Prevention seems to be the best and only method for management right now with fungicide treatments sprayed throughout the growing season. Just as boosting the immune system staves off illness, the same is true for the plants. Spray treatments have to be applied to the full plant (all leaves and stems) and rainy weather will increase the frequency of treatments required. I recommend having your current landscape inspected by a trained specialist and following his or her recommended protocol for plant protection. Further, monitor overhead irrigation keeping it to a minimum especially during periods of high humidity or after heavy rainfalls. Consider planting boxwoods farther apart to promote air circulation and to slow disease spread.

PLANT SUBSTITUTES

It’s not an overstatement to say that boxwoods are the backbone of the landscape industry and that there is no real substitute. As a broad-leafed evergreen they create architectural structure, are winter hardy, deer resistant and even tolerate a good amount of shade. They are indisputably beautiful for hedging and take well to shaping and pruning. If boxwoods are now ‘high risk’ investments, what can be substituted?

Selections to consider are:







No other shrub possesses as full a range of benefits as the boxwood, so here’s hoping that the industry quickly will be able to both treat diseased plants and develop truly disease resistant cultivars. I still plan to use them, but more sparingly and with client consent that risk is involved. I can’t go cold turkey on one of my favorites, and remain eternally optimistic that the industry will eventually find us a way out of this dilemma.

The Suburban Lot is a monthly blog that highlights topics and issues unique to the suburban landscape.  For assistance with any of the above information please contact Mierop Design, a complete resource for landscape design, installation, outdoor furnishings and property maintenance services.

SO REALLY, WHAT'S THE RUSH?

Posted by LisaMierop on August 24, 2018

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In 2018 I have traveled to two dramatically hot, dry and ancient places. India came first in late winter, followed by Arizona this month. Both trips involved extended driving through vast expanses of mountainous desert land peppered by stops at archaeological and man-made monuments.

These visits to vastness: the Grand Canyon stretching hundreds of miles and Buddhist monasteries that took generations of laborers to carve into mountains before the birth of Christ, offer sharp glimpses into what infinity looks like. One can’t fail to be humbled by the monumentality and timelessness of it all, while simultaneously reminded of the fleeting nature of individual human life.

I am a designer. What does all this have to do with me or the business of imagining and implementing landscapes for a paying clientele? The answer is: everything. Trips like this can’t fail to push ‘pause’, opening up renewed annoyance with the inane electronic life we live: cell phones, laptops, Amazon-everything and the ever-present rush to do more ‘better, faster, smarter’.

Baseball, the beloved American multi-billion-dollar sport, is in serious jeopardy of losing popularity because its audience is ageing and the game doesn’t move fast enough for younger fans. Time Magazine reports that “there is a major dissonance between the focus and attention it (baseball) demands and the habits of younger generations who expect action to be a click away.” Yikes, try telling that to Buddha!!

I immediately translate this dilemma to my business as I more often encounter expectations about timelines and outcomes that are so accelerated from ten, or even five years ago. ‘Point and click’ may work for shoes and airfare, but it will never, and should never be asked to work for landscape design and implementation. 

People used to plant trees for their grandchildren. Now they plant them for a party scheduled a few weeks away. I have clients request the biggest possible plants because they “don’t want to be old” before enjoying them, or they ask why building a hand tooled stone wall has to take ‘so long’. The requests and questions leave me completely baffled.  It’s takes time – that’s mostly the point.   

Landscape is not an off-the-shelf purchase. It’s very much about the time spent waiting, watching and experiencing the unfolding, liquid process of life. You wouldn’t expect your children to arrive as fully formed adults, and it’s the same with landscape. The place where you buy plants is called a ‘nursery’ for good reason. Watching change and growth, failures and successes is the joy of having outdoor rooms.  There is no need to ‘hack’ (I loathe this word) any part of it, looking for quickie short cuts. Hacking doesn’t apply to Mother Nature. She’s in no rush.

India and Arizona rewired my thinking, leaving an expanded sense of space and time, a sharp contrast to my work pace. I’m going to modify that and take a longer view. I’m going to get back to the garden!

The Suburban Lot is a monthly blog that highlights topics and issues unique to the suburban landscape.  For assistance with any of the above information please contact Mierop Design, a complete resource for landscape design, installation, outdoor furnishings and property maintenance services.

Mierop Design in the News

Posted by LisaMierop on June 19, 2018

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This blog has been very quiet for a long while. Winter left much weather damage in its wake, and spring brought rains that seemed never to stop!  The season finally feels off to a very late start – with  replacements to damaged trees and shrubs almost behind us.

The early months of the year were a boon for press for Mierop Design. Many thanks to interior design firm, House of Funk, for their series on local women who own their own businesses. I am very grateful for their blog about me, which is re-posted here….and to Monrovia Growers (a most favorite resource for great plant materials) and Houzz (an on-line community for design professionals) for their mentions and awards.

Lisa Mierop of Mierop Design: Women Who Own It

Lisa Mierop. Photo by Steve Hockstein

For landscape designer Lisa Mierop, a garden has to work in all seasons.

Mierop’s takes into account the form and function of both the home and landscape, as well as the homeowners’ aesthetic and needs. The result: Gorgeous landscapes that bring daily joy to its inhabitants and increase a home’s resale value tenfold. Mierop has taught classes for The New York Botanical GardenThe Montclair Garden Club, and Van Vleck House & Gardens, and has been featured in several notable publications including The New York TimesMontclair Magazine, and Design NJ. Thanks to hard work and dedication, her business, Mierop Design, has evolved and grown organically over time, making Mierop a household name around town. Read on to see how her journey unfolded.

How did Mierop Design come to fruition?
Many years ago, upon finding myself at home with a newborn and unable to get out and work in my garden, I entered an amateur design competition in Garden Design Magazine. I submitted images of my home garden, a garden that I had worked on for many years. To my complete surprise, I was awarded the Grand Prize Golden Trowel Award, and had four pages of color press published in the fall of 1995. The press was picked up by additional publications at the time, the phone started to ring, and my business was spontaneously born.

What is the most rewarding thing about being your own boss? The most challenging?
Being able to pick and choose the projects I want to engage with is very satisfying. I can tell if I am the right fit for a specific client or house, and I work to match my skills with what is called for by the homeowner or a certain property that speaks to me.

The most challenging aspects of a project are always around scheduling. Weather delays often cause deadlines to be pushed out for reasons beyond our control. Unavailable or delayed materials can undo the best plans. Coordinating multiple subcontractors is always tricky too, so keeping a project moving economically is a dance in which the steps keep changing as you’re moving.

How has running your own business changed your outlook on life?
I never set out to own my own business and I was quite nervous about creating one around my interest in gardening. I feared turning my passion into “work.” This business literally found me, but once in, I committed to doing it my way. This meant finding a path that was a bit unconventional, but one that proved successful because I brought my personal artistic style and hands-on gardening education to the table, as opposed to a more traditional construction /contractor background. Many landscapers are contractors, not artists/designers, which is what differentiates my path from the rest. I have a strong sense of scale, texture, and space, and I really know what grows locally in Montclair soil because I spent so many years working in my own garden and learning from that. In the past, I did manual labor for my company—even as the artist behind the vision, it’s important to get your hands dirty and be a part of every aspect of the project.

My outlook has changed because I learned that if you are good at what you do, and are willing to work hard at it, you can always find work and create income. I also believe that trust and integrity, almost more than talent, are key to successfully operating long-term with clients.

Lisa Mierop
Mierop Designs Landscaping. Photo by Steve Hockstein

Best part of the job:
My favorite days are planting days. This is the day, perhaps months after a project is initiated, that the plant truck shows up, the crew is ready, and that I, with plan in hand, start to set things up on the ground and see what has been in my head for all this time. I enjoy art directing those days and tweaking the original design so that everything feels just right in the end. Anyone can draw a pretty planting plan on paper, but it’s really getting into the dirt and seeing color and texture relationships in the field that allow a clear vision of what is and isn’t working.

Most surprising part of the job:
Right now what surprises me most is how seriously people are investing in outdoor living. I am of course very happy about this trend, but never expected to see it grow to this extent. Many customers are building extensive outdoor kitchens and adding pools. They are adding value to their properties and extending the year-round use of their outdoor spaces.

Why is a beautiful landscape an enduring home investment?
A beautiful landscape completes every home and adds to its resale value, both short-term and long-term. Mature gardens add distinct character to a property and today’s home buyers are happy to spend more to own a landscape that is both beautiful and functional for entertaining and relaxing for the whole family. An unkempt, neglected, or overgrown landscape is a clear negative to home buyers. I often seen landscaped homes sell quickly, with comments about how the finished outside rooms were the “hook” that made the sale.

Your favorite flowers to plant:
I am fairly traditional when it comes to flowers: Nantucket roses and hydrangeas. There are many perennials that I love too, especially catmint for its long flowering season.

Lisa Mierop
Lisa Mierop Landscape Design. Photo by Lisa Mierop

How you unwind and relax after a long day:
A good nap is my favorite way to decompress after a long day. Other than that, I am a pretty good binge TV fan. Lately, I am enjoying The Crown and Victoria; no surprise here that British sensibility, with its great garden culture, attracts my attention. I try to avoid politics if I want to stay calm.

Advice you’d give to other female entrepreneurs looking to start their own companies:
It’s important to invest in yourself as you grow. Don’t be afraid to spend on classes, reading materials, tools, equipment, or trips that educate or connect you to others in your field. I would also suggest moving slowly and not trying to grow or expand a business too quickly. There are so many variables, and things can change on a dime. It’s okay to move slowly. Everything doesn’t have to be “point and click.” Be courageous and trust the universe. And it sounds corny, but don’t be afraid to make mistakes. They can be a great way to learn and grow. Things will fall into place if you work hard, surround yourself with reliable people, and manage your expectations.

Motto you live by:
I don’t have a motto that I live by! I have to remind myself every day not get overwhelmed, and that things have a way of working themselves out. It’s hard advice to really listen to when it’s high gardening season and everyone wants their work completed right away! But I do.

 

Monrovia Growers highlights a Mierop Design project on May 18th. 916 likes! Thank you Monrovia for the call out! I love your plants so much!

 

 

Mierop Design was awarded Best of Houzz 2018, making this the third consecutive year for this prestigious recognition. Mierop Design photos have been saved and shared over 10,000 times! Whoa! Even I am impressed by the volume of traffic that Houzz consistently commands for those seeking on-line design inspiration and resources for their homes and gardens.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Suburban Lot is a monthly blog that highlights topics and issues unique to the suburban landscape.  For assistance with any of the above information, please contact Mierop Design, a complete resource for landscape design, installation and property maintenance services.

WINTER WEATHER WATCH

Posted by LisaMierop on March 21, 2018

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Winter 2018 opened with an unseasonably arctic January, and has continued to surprise with erratic weather bursts, alternating between windy, balmy, or the more recent damaging and wet snow. While Montclair was hard hit with damage to mid-size deciduous and evergreen trees, losses in nearby Maplewood and Short Hills were far more extensive.  With so many trees and shrubs toppled, broken or bent beyond recognition. I expect to see many woody plants removed and replaced, with the remainders pruned to see how they fill out in time. In some case, branches that are bent may be tied together to train wood back into place.

The lesson here is to understand the damage that can be caused by heavy, wet snow combined with rain.  As precipitation accumulates during a long storm, maybe shifting between snow and freezing rain, wet accumulation on branches of woody plants freezes and becomes heavier. The best way to avert loss is to go out (repeatedly) during a storm to gently push snow off of branches before they bend or break. This is best down with a broom or the back side of a wide snow shovel.

Climate change is undeniably wreaking havoc on our landscape investment although I remind myself that as upsetting as our local damage, we are by no means dealing with the destruction of a Houston or Puerto Rico – which is good to keep in perspective. Especially as we await this next, and hopefully final, winter snow storm!!! Fingers crossed that it passes with less of a reminder in our landscapes that it was ever here.

On a happier note, I was delighted to be awarded by Houzz with a Best of Houzz Service Award for the third consecutive year, as well as receiving recognition for 10,000 saves of my photographs to viewers’ Idea Books. Houzz is a beautifully edited on-line photo resource for homeowners seeking inspiration for their home improvement projects, both inside and out. If you are not familiar with Houzz, you will be delighted with the wonderful photography and articles presented, along with tips for finding professionals and plenty of shopping opportunities as well.

The Suburban Lot is a monthly blog that highlights topics and issues unique to the suburban landscape.  For assistance with any of the above information, please contact Mierop Design, a complete resource for landscape design, installation and property maintenance services.