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 March 20,2018 by House of Funk 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 Garden, The Montclair Garden Club, and Van Vleck House & Gardens, and has been featured in several notable publications including The New York Times, Montclair 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. 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 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 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.
It’s been a busy year for Mierop Design! Months of spring rain dampened neither construction nor editorial attention, starting off with a 2017 Houzz Service recognition award for the second year in a row! Houzz, an innovative on-line resource (houzz.com) for both interior and exterior home improvement, is widely respected for its inspirational content, shopping and contractor referral services. Only 5% of Houzz profiles receive award recognition, so it is a distinction to have been selected again by the editors at Houzz. The Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD) awarded its Silver Design Award to Mierop Design this summer for its competition entry, ‘A Grand Gesture’. Click here to read about the award winning entry. Featuring a resort style showplace garden, this magnificent project sets a massive koi pond, pool, pergola and stone terrace among extensive and showy plantings of vibrant color and textural contrasts. APLD is an international association dedicated to the pursuit and development of the practice of professional landscape design. Certified members may participate in the competition which yearly draws hundreds of entries from around the world. Mierop Design is honored to have been awarded this recognition for one of its most memorable and favorite projects! Thanks to The Scout Guide of Northern New Jersey, Mierop Design has twice in the last year been the subject of wonderful local coverage. First a personal interview with Lisa Mierop, and more recently, a feature entitled Turning Inside Out which highlights Mierop Design’s sister business, Pavillion Outdoor Furnishings. Furnishing the outdoor spaces designed and built by Mierop Design is the finishing touch to any landscape project, and has becomes an integral part of services offered. The Scout Guide is a nationally franchised publication, both in print and on-line, that is dedicated to searching out the best of local resources in 60+ cities throughout the country. The Northern New Jersey edition is a locally focused selection of independently owned businesses, artists and entrepreneurs who are devoted to beautifying and enhancing life and its surroundings. The third edition of The Scout Guide of Northern New Jersey launched this June and is available at our shop, or online (email@example.com). We are proud to have participated in three volumes of The Scout Guide of NNJ, and look forward to Volume IV in 2018! 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.
When I was a teenager, my favorite fashion articles featured ‘on the street’ photos of women dressed either very well or very badly – with big bold headlines telling you ‘do’ this and ‘don’t’ do that’! I’ve always thought it would be great to see something equivalent for landscape design, pointing out common errors made by homeowners and landscapers alike. I’m a big believer in learning from mistakes, and seeing them in photographs is like taking a speed course in better design. OH DEER The proliferation of the deer population has changed the palette of what can be safely planted in any given area. Combining deer resistance with a need for a screening hedge or for plantings in a shaded spot can vastly limit choices. Deer will eat anything if starving, but it pays to avoid their favorite foods like arborvitae and yew. Don’t use these at all in deer populated areas, even though they have been the most classic standbys since forever. Substitute deer resistant varieties. A good list for our area is from Rutgers University. They rank plants in four groups from most to least resistant, and you can use the list based on your deer traffic. SCREEN ME The most common request from clients is for a screening hedge to block views to neighboring properties and roads. Sadly though, many property lines where the hedge needs to be placed, are shaded by existing established trees. The reality is that tall evergreen plants don’t grow under big trees. A newly planted hedgerow may last a year or more but will fail over time between lack of light and root competition from larger surrounding trees. If the goal is evergreen screening, larger trees may need to be removed to make light available for new plantings. A looser combination of shrubs planted in and around existing trees may be another solution. A tree or other object that distracts the eye can be a device to minimize an unwanted view. And sometimes a fence is your best option. WHAT WAS I THINKING? Plants, like people, come with all sorts of particular needs and preferences. There is wiggle room here and there, but respecting a plant’s particular cultural needs brings success. If you have a shady garden and love roses, don’t imagine they’re going to grow just because you love them so. This never pays off so it’s best to select plants that thrive in the conditions you have available: wet shade or sun, dry shade or sun being the most important factors. Plants also generally come small (that’s why they call it a nursery), but they grow! Read the tags before you buy and understand what the ‘mature’ size is before placing it in your garden. It’s hard, and sometime impossible, to move large shrubs and trees once they’ve settled in. It’s much easier to measure twice, and plant once. CROWD CONTROL Gardens are fluid and take time to develop. Plants grow and change shape, albeit slowly. For the most part plants arrive as young specimens that need several seasons to mature to potential. In our ‘point and click’ culture, waiting doesn’t sell well. But the notion that more plantings will solve the problem makes for costly mistakes. Plants need ample space and air to allow for future growth. Planting closer together may take away unwanted gaps short term, but only creates headaches later when things are overcrowded and overgrown. MULCH MADNESS Once a landscape is installed mulch is required to finish off the beds, retain moisture, maintain temperatures and aid erosion. Mulch comes in many varieties with accordingly varied price tags. Sometimes I’ll get a request for black mulch because it looks rich or organic. But beware- black mulch is dyed to look that way, and therefore to be avoided. Similarly red mulch, my biggest ever landscape ‘no-no’, should never be used. It looks like bacon bits sprinkled into the landscape. Just plain ugly. A LITTLE BIT OF THIS, A LITTLE BIT OF THAT Big buffet spreads are great for lunch, but a ‘little bit of everything’ doesn’t translate well into the landscape. As with any other great art, it comes down to editing. Don’t buy ‘one of each’ or dot plants into the landscape to try to fill gaps. Plant with purpose, intention and meaning. Groups of 3, 5 or 7 are recommended with larger swaths and masses making the biggest impact. As we are information overwhelmed everywhere else in our lives, use the landscape to reduce visual noise levels. Keep the message clear and avoid dotting in a little of everything. It always fails to please. VOLCANO MULCH Have you ever noticed trees that look like there is a small volcanic eruption at the base? This trend seems to be popular mostly in commercial applications, but I do see it around in residential settings. Trees can easily be set too low, or settle after planting and fail for this reason – suffocating the roots. ‘Plant them high so they never die’ is a good warning, but don’t go too far with that idea! And once planted at the proper depth, don’t drown them in mulch. It’s looks bad and it’s suffocating for tree root systems. And it’s double worse if you use dyed red mulch! Ouch on so many levels! 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.
I have traveled to France many times over the years, and even lived there for one year of high school and later, a college semester. Somehow though, I never visited Versailles. No particular reason. Just never got there. Until last week. Being January, that rare time of the gardening year that permits a work absence, we decided to join friends and travel to Paris. I made up a list of not-to- be-missed stops including Versailles. As a landscape designer I thought it high time that I set foot in the place! Plus I had coincidentally just finished watching the French-Canadian TV series, Versailles, which piqued my interest even more. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about Louis XIV’s obsession with turning his father’s hunting lodge into a grand residence for the French nobility while creating a monument to the grandeur of France. What I didn’t realize was that Louis’ drive to control both Nature and the unruly aristocrats of his day, was so voracious and unstoppable that in the process he nearly bankrupted his nation! JANUARY IN VERSAILLES Paris is bone cold this time of year, and the day we chose to go found even a dusting of snow on the ground. You could ask why visit at this time of year if gardens are the primary focus? As it turns out, the timing was ideal to understand the structure which underpins the greatest of classical French landscapes. The snow gently chalked water features and paths in white, etching out the footprints in wide open space. The absence of leaves made the long allees of pruned hedges and topiaries, the parterres and water features easily visible. There were no containers in sight to distract the eye – those famed ‘Versailles tubs’ that line the garden walkways in season. It was a magical and reductionist view into history. DEFINING TERMS Allee, from the French verb ‘aller’ meaning ‘to go’, is a linear path or walkway, typically defining a long view or perspective into distant space. Parterre, from the French words ‘par’ meaning ‘by’ and ‘terre’ meaning ‘earth’, are formally shaped beds, often mirroring one another, that are established using low plantings (often annuals) in symmetrical patterned arrangements. Topiary, shrubs or trees clipped into ornamental shapes. Versailles tub, a distinct, square planter with one hinged side used as a door, allowing the installation and removal of large containers. Massive wood paneled Versailles tubs were carted manually into place every season and then removed in colder months to the indoors. Tender plants, like palms, were housed in the ‘Orangerie’, a protective structure that kept ‘tropicals’, out of their native habitat, alive during the winter. MONUMENTAL SCALE You often hear about the scale of Versailles, and I thought I was prepared for what I was about to see, having studied it in Art History and later Landscape Design classes. Nothing, however, can convey the vastness of the space better than scaling your own body within the massive formal parterres and hedged allees that define these gardens. Photography completely fails to capture the monumentality of the space. COMPLEX OR SIMPLE? My clients today often ask for more formal garden design. Look through any shelter magazine or on-line resource and you’ll see gardens featuring clean lines and highly edited plant selections with often monochromatic color schemes. Formal spaces are visually satisfying. They convey strength, unity, harmony and peace. Being timeless, they look completely modern and flow well with today’s preference for mid-century and modern styling. AND NOW A WORD OF WARNING… Formal gardens can appear to be deceptively ‘simple’. In the world of gardening, however, never confuse ‘simple’ with ‘easy’ or ‘low maintenance’. Perpetual pruning and maintenance are critical to the success of this garden style. In the case of Versailles, an army of full time garden staff are still employed to keep things looking clean, crisp and defined – not to mention the massive task of changing out all the annuals in the parterres and Versailles tubs seasonally. Although the look is simple and clean, remember Nature is not. Keeping up this type of garden involves a commitment in terms of time and money. Strict schedules of pruning, shearing, clipping and annual replacement are necessary. Louis XIV realized an out-sized vision to control both Nature and the French aristocracy. Our goals are surely less lofty, although we still long to offset the busy complexity of our over-saturated, high-tech lives with the calm and peace that a more formal garden offers. Allez-y, or as we say ‘Go for it!’. 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.
Even though I was tempted to do a Grinchy repeat of my last year’s observations on ugly holiday decor, I’m going high and talking about plants, my favorite topic. Winter can be challenging for the garden. No flowers, dead leaves, naked branches and soooo cold. But, there are ways to make the winter garden interesting, and planting beautiful berried shrubs or trees is at the top of that list. Massed or as single specimens, berried plants add needed color to the monochromes of winter. Aside from providing visual relief, berries feed the birds, create great winter views from interior spaces, as well as providing useful materials for holiday decorations. Many of these are Native Plants indigenous to our region, so are naturally adapted for winter survival. Finally berry ‘sets’ as they are called, typically last for months – far longer than flowering performances. Here are a few standouts to consider: WINTERBERRY Ilex verticillata or winterberries are technically hollies, but they bear little resemblance to their prickly cousins. They are good looking, tall shrubs that are beloved for their profusion of red berries in winter. They are probably the showiest of all winter berry shrubs, and are especially magical when contrasted against the dazzling whites of a big snowfall. NANDINA Nandina domestica, or heavenly bamboo, is one of my favorites. Not to be confused with real bamboo, they have an exotic, tropical feel that is lacy and delicate. They are heavily used in southern zones which is their normal habitat, but as our climate warms they have become more common here. Some varieties, like Firepower, have foliage that turns bright red but in this case, no berries! Can’t have both! Nandinas only downside is that they can defoliate in bad winters, but they do generally recover very well and are worth considering. PYRACANTHA Pyracantha varieties, firethorns, are not the most attractive of shrubs having a somewhat floppy awkward form with indistinct leaves. However, when sited flat against a wall as climbing vine, they show their superpowers and are spectacular for a late show of red, orange or yellow berries. Especially if placed against a light colored wall or background, firethorns can brighten the fall/winter landscape with unexpected color. Beware – they do actually have thorns, but nothing your average gardener can’t handle. CORALBERRY The first time I saw a coralberry (symhporicarpos obiculatus) was at The New York Botanical Garden in fall. It had an imposing form and was spectacular for its masses of large, lavender berries. Similar in color to beautyberry (callicarpa varieties), another great fall berried shrub, I was stunned by the profusion, size and color density of the berries. Coralberries come in several colors including red and white plus lavender. Other common names like snowberry, waxberry or ghostberry make this genus somewhat confusing, but any which way they are beautiful CRAB APPLE Moving over to trees, crab apples (malus varieties) are at the top of the list. Crabs, beloved for their compact form and good spring flower shows, don’t stop there. Fall brings fantastic berry sets in assorted colors. Nothing like true year round interest! My favorite variety, Sugar Thyme, is noted for its strong red berry set, WINTER KING HAWTHORNE The name says it all. A little used medium size tree, Winter King hawthorns (which like pyracanthas do have thorns) are standouts in the winter landscape. They offer a lovely spring show of delicate white flowers and have interesting silvery, exfoliating bark to boot. Years ago I planted an allee of them all along the road bordering an Essex Fells property, and it has stood the test of time. Four season interest keeps this tree variety at the top of my list for exceptional specimens. 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.
Applied to the out of doors, climate control is an oxymoron. We expect to be able to manipulate temperature and humidity in our homes and cars, but have no control over what happens outside of these bubbles we inhabit. Controlling Mother Nature was never reality, however, as the years unfold, there is less pattern and predictability to weather, and more harsh events that leave damage and destruction in their wake. In our corner of the Northeast, we have been relatively fortunate (so far) not to have suffered the catastrophic flooding, wind, drought, fires and landslides seen in other parts of the US and globe. Things, however, are not what they used to be, even compared to five years ago. Regardless of your position on climate change, each year new records are set for high temperatures, and despite the copious rain of late, this summer was defined by weeks of drought in addition to scorching temperatures. As an individual with global climate awareness, who also happens to be a gardener, I spend a lot of time witnessing (and worrying about) changes I observe in my work, and their effects on plant life and local landscapes. I was raised on the organic paradigm in which the complex and holistic interrelationships of all life forms are respected. Plants such as rhododendrons that thrived twenty years ago now often struggle due to weather extremes. Other plants such as crepe myrtle or southern magnolias, once avoided due to marginal hardiness in northern New Jersey, have become everyday selections. As with many things in life where Nature is in charge we have far less control than we want. What is new is that the patterns that held the unpredictable within understood boundaries are literally melting. The ‘general rules’ have been thrown out and parameters that once defined New Jersey ‘normal’ are gone. There isn’t even a ‘new’ normal. So what to do? Aside from supporting local and international climate organizations and their political efforts, we must plan for a future that is different than the past, while accepting that change is our only constant. Gardening in and of itself can be a positive for the environment, assuming we’re not spilling chemicals into our lawns and water systems. It can’t, on its own, change the climate, but it could, if practiced organically by large enough numbers, slow the process of negative changes we experience. Regardless of the effort, our expectations have to adjust accordingly. Following are a few suggestions for dealing with the new reality of overly hot, cold, wet, dry, windy or otherwise challenging weather circumstances: PREPARE SOIL DEEPLY, THEN MULCH The more effort spent to prepare soil deeply with plenty of organic amendments, the more you will find plants thriving by absorbing available moisture and nutrients. It’s a lot like battling the flu by being well nourished and rested. The stronger the immune responses are, the better the resistance to infections and illness…the same goes for plants. The stronger their environment below the soil line, the better they can survive extremes of temperatures or precipitation. Mulching regularly ensures that the soil continues to be protected. Mulch insulates soil from heat and cold by maintaining even soil temperatures. It retains moisture within the soil reducing water requirements, especially important during droughts. Finally mulch breaks down into organic components that continue to feed soil and plants. GO ORGANIC Stop using chemicals unless absolutely necessary. Lawns are the most needy in terms of their chemical needs and many lawn care companies are offering ‘organically based’ programs now that minimize the use of chemicals. (See blog post from May 2016) In tree and shrub areas, organic fertilizers can be used to fertilize plantings. Make your garden weed-less the ‘old fashioned way’- pull the weeds by hand!! It takes time, but it’s better for the planet to stop using chemical controls. SELECT PLANTS FOR LOWER WATER NEEDS As temperatures climb and water becomes an ever more precious resource, consider plants that have lower watering needs. Especially in full sun where I am seeing plants crisp and burn under otherwise normal circumstances, try substituting plants that thrive in these conditions. Mediterranean plants that are accustomed to unrelenting sunlight can work here, as can some desert species. Some perennials that historically thrived in full sun may do better moving to part sun/part shade locations. Situating plants properly will be important going forward as we adjust to their changing ability to perform. REDUCE WATER CONSUMPTION Use water sparingly. This trains plants to seek for water, not expect it. Many automatic systems are set for run times that are too long and/or frequent. A rain sensor is important to shut the system off after precipitation, but it does not take you ‘off duty’ in terms of monitoring things overall. Experiment with your contractor to find the sweet spot between plants thriving and minimal runs/frequencies. For shady zones, run the system less often and for shorter times than in the sunny spots. The deeper plants have to source for water, the stronger and longer their root systems become. After heavy soaking rains, consider turning your system off completely for up to five days. Just remember to turn it back on!! PLANT A TREE, OR MANY Aside from making shade that offers a cooling respite, planting trees (or any plants for that matter) increases the air’s ability to absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. Globally, vast parts of existing forests and treed areas are being destroyed, forever altering the planet’s delicate eco-system. If you google ‘what can I do about climage change’….planting trees is one action step suggested. 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.
Being in the autumn of my own life makes me partial to fall garden performers. Late to the party, they are a sweet reminder that great things can occur at any moment in the continuum of time. In fact, one could argue that the waiting makes them sweeter. As the gardening season rapidly draws to a close so does our expectation and anticipation of the new. Late bloomers are all the more gratifying for their strong show as the rest of the garden is fading away. Aided by lower temperatures and light levels, their vibrant colors pop against the backdrop of fall’s otherwise yellowing foliage. Many perennials and shrubs are deserving of consideration in your fall garden. Here are a just a few of my favorites: ASTER With daisy like flowers, fall asters come in a very wide range of heights and colors and are well known for their spectacular fall show. I prefer the shorter, stockier varieties that require no staking. Encourage an even more prolific flower show by pinching asters earlier in the season. JAPANESE ANEMONE Great for part sun and easy naturalizing, anemones come in single and double forms and make excellent cut flowers. They are at once elegant, graceful and a little bit wild. GRASSES Grasses are peaking by the fall. Slow to start in spring, they hold off until late summer to make their showy plumes which, if left uncut, make great winter catch-alls for snow. My all time favorite is Pink Muhly Grass with its pink cotton candy-like inflorescences, but there are so many from which to choose. Most grasses prefer full sun but you’ll find some great selections, like hakonechloa macro Aureola, for shadier areas. NANDINA Nandina (heavenly bamboo) ranks high on my list for its unique exotic foliage and showy fall into winter performance. Nandina domestica has brilliant red berries, and the cultivar Firepower has vibrant red fall foliage. Nandina performs best in full sun but is quite tolerant of part sun and part shade situations. ITEA Great fall foliage for this native shrub adds to its earlier season merits. A great naturalizer for part sun areas that also works well to control erosion. The name of cultivars Merlot tells you everything you need to know about its fall color show. 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.
This past spring many of you were worried about hydrangeas looking dead. I wrote about ‘Hydrangea Hysteria’ back in May, explaining that late winter frosts had damaged most mop head varieties, killing them back to their roots. Since then, they have regenerated beautifully, albeit without producing flowers, but the good news is that they were far from dead. The new garden angst right now concerns lawns. Many of you are reaching out for advice and wondering what went wrong this year, blaming your lawn contractor or those who apply treatments. (Quick hint: it’s most likely not their fault!) Here’s a quick explanation of what is going on. First, know that you are not alone. Everyone is experiencing large and small areas of brown patches and die back throughout turf areas. My small front lawn which grows in full sun and has proper irrigation, has never looked worse than it does right now, although it’s slightly better today due to recent rains and cooler weather. SPRING Fungal diseases due to wet and/or humid conditions are the cause. There are many varieties of mold and fungus that affect spring/summer turf including, most commonly: brown patch, summer patch sand dollar spot. Tracking back to May and June you might recall considerable rainfall and high humidity during night time hours. This is the worst time possible as this frequency of water at night allowed fungi to explode over a 2 to 3 week stretch. SUMMER Then came July and August with extreme heat and drought. This compounded the problem for already stressed lawns. Fungal problems were noted particularly in irrigated lawns where watering frequency and run times were cranked up to address the heat and drought, in some cases doubling the fungus problem. Lawns that were cut too short (a common practice) were also particularly affected. Lawn contractors often set blades low for a short cut that allows grass to maintain a neat look for a full week. This is not a recommended practice as short (or scalped) lawns are always more vulnerable to heat and drought stress. A lawn with longer grass blades has more natural protection for its root system from the stresses of heat and drought. Lawn should be cut high to a 3” minimum at all times, and even higher is better. Irrigation should always be timed to come on in morning hours, around 5 am or anytime up until mid-morning, to allow morning light to dry things out and prevent mold from compounding. WHAT TO DO Disease treatment is important although for those of you who want to go strictly organic, there is no good control available for fungus. If the fungus is caught early on, one treatment of a mixed fungicide can work. Otherwise two treatments may be necessary. The alternative is to let the fungus run its course and see what happens. If only the blades and not the crown have been affected, the grass could green up later on. If the crowns are affected, slit (or slice) seeding or topsoil plus over-seeding practices will produce new grass in thin or dead areas. PICK RESISTANT SEED VARIETIES The key is to pick seed varieties that are more fungus resistant like tall fescues and bluegrass or mixtures of those two. Bent grasses and fine fescues are not a good choice as they are most vulnerable to fungal problems. Be aware that once fungus is in the soil it will remain there and can become activated at any time by stress. The only way to rid fungus permanently is to apply fungicides. More organic approaches are to minimize stress with better mowing and irrigation practices and then re-seed or replace dead lawn areas as necessary. CLIMATE CHANGE Let’s also be sadly reminded, that this year has been the hottest ever in recorded weather history. Climate change will most likely be the topic of many future blogs as I witness significant changes in plant tolerances to the harsher growing conditions with each passing year. Whatever you do, don’t feel the need to fire the person who mows the lawn or applies your fertilizers and other treatments. He or she most likely has nothing to do with why your lawns don’t look their best right now. This is one year where the grass has not been greener on the other side! 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.
Growing up in Manhattan, I began life with an odd relationship to the “outside”…. I remember Fran Lebowitz, the ultimate New Yorker, commenting that “Nature is by and large to be found out of doors, a location where there are never enough comfortable chairs.” I thought this was hysterical as it perfectly summed up a typical New Yorker’s perception of ‘outside’…as if it were somehow too much work to be there. This may be where I started, but like many of you, I’ve come a long way and so, thankfully, has the outdoor furnishings business. Kingsley-Bate Imagining your garden today you may think in terms of beautiful plantings that enhance curb appeal and create lovely seasonal vistas from the windows. The main goal in a good landscape, however, is to create inviting spaces that extend living from indoors to outdoors. And once you have created those outdoor spaces, they need to be furnished in order to be fully used and enjoyed. Plantings are part of the décor but in order to fully admire and enjoy those plantings, it’s important to have a place to lounge, dine, sun bathe, cook or whatever! Restoration Hardware Outdoor decor has exploded in recent years bringing all the comforts of indoor rooms to the exterior: from comfy pillows, to sheer draperies, rugs and light fixtures. The simpler wood and aluminum options of the past have opened up to a wide array of new materials including resin wickers, lightweight tubular aluminum and stainless steel. The array of choices is as exciting and wonderful as it is confusing. A few guidelines can be helpful, so to that end, I created a list of ‘tips’ for upgrading outdoor spaces that was recently published by Princeton Magazine and Urban Agenda, two on-line publications. Understand your space and style Gloster Is the purpose of your outdoor room dining, cooking, entertaining or all the above? Putting it in ‘interior’ terms is the space a dining room, kitchen, living room or a combination of all? Is your style traditional, modern or somewhere in between? Once you have answered these key questions you can more easily identify what pieces you’ll need and what look you’re going for. Plan out the space Make a scale diagram on paper or use a simple online drafting tool to measure out the space. Be realistic about what can and can’t fit, leaving ample room for access in and out of doorways and around deep seating and dining chairs. If you don’t want to plan out the space on your own, choose a retailer or designer that will walk you through the process. Ask to see a layout with various options if possible, and ask to see samples of materials and fabrics. It’s helpful to see the samples in the light of your actual outdoor space. Be realistic about costs. Outdoor furnishings are in investment, and like anything else, you get what you pay for. There are many great options, but generally the more quality you invest in the more likely that these furnishings will withstand the elements and give you many good years of use and performance. Play with color, fabrics and accessories Elaine Smith The outdoor fabric market is full of fade, rain and weather resistant introductions for many uses: cushion covers, colorful rugs, fantastic pillows and drapery accents in delicate sheers. Neutrals for cushions are the easiest choice especially where children and pets may be sharing the space. I recommend going neutral for the main fabric choice and then playing with color accents in pillows, rugs and accessories. This way you can change things up easily and often! Lighting Dual purpose fire table/coffee table Lighting is often overlooked out of doors, but as dusk turns into night time relaxing and entertaining, don’t forget to add the ambiance and practicality that light brings. There are many options: candles and lanterns are classic, fire tables and fire pits create a great reason to gather well into the fall months, torcheres add an exotic island touch, while fanciful string lights can create a charming party atmosphere or dining elegance when carefully interlaced on tree branches. There are even table lamps with exterior specified wiring and an enclosed bulb housing to give real ‘indoor’ lighting ambiance to your patio side tables and consoles. See the full article here: Mierop Design owns and operates Pavillion Outdoor Furnishings and is dedicated to guiding clients through the array of choices available in outdoor furnishings. Please feel free to contact us for customized outdoor furnishing layouts, as well as services to specify and handle all aspects of ordering, delivery and white glove set up. 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.