Steinkopf Nursery is an 82-year-old, family-run independent garden center in Farmington Hills. The nursery has a complete selection of trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals and more. It offers landscape design and installation.

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Updating an Overgrown Landscape
by Lisa Steinkopf       #Landscaping

The finished job shows off the beauty of the home instead of covering it up.

As some landscapes age, they begin to look overgrown and unattractive. Many times the landscaping was done incorrectly, resulting in the need for a new landscape sooner than would have otherwise been needed.

This Michigan landscape was installed less than 15 years ago. In this instance, the plants were encroaching on each other and the house. When new homes are built, occasionally the builder may landscape the home instead of hiring a professional landscape contractor. This can result in a landscape that may look good in the beginning, but is definitely not attractive a few years later. The wrong plants are used or they are planted too close to the house, a driveway or sidewalk.

Right Plant Right Place

Knowing the mature size of a plant or shrub is a critical part of the landscaping process. At this home, the crabapple tree (Malus spp.) was planted 5   feet from the corner of the house. The mature size is 20 feet wide, so you can see the problem. The homeowner has been fighting a losing battle trying to keep the crabapple off his home.

The junipers(Juniperus spp.) were hiding the windows and had grown together and into the bird’s nest spruce (Picea abies ‘Nidiformis’) next to them. The Cornelian cherry dogwood (Cornus mas) tree grew too large for the spot it was planted in and, because it was leaning toward the light, was blocking the sidewalk.

This homeowner wanted a complete redesign, incorporating lots of color and not a lot of maintenance.

The crabapple had overgrown its space.

Get A Plan

The first step was to draw a plan that included removing all the plants and starting with a blank slate. All the plants were pulled out and the bed lines were enlarged and reshaped. Plants were chosen so that when full grown, they would fill in but not overcrowd the area.

The customer chose a Cleveland Select ornamental pear (Pyrus calleryana ‘Cleveland Select’, syn. ‘Chanticleer’) as a replacement for the crabapple. The planting bed was enlarged so the tree trunk would be about 12 feet from the house. When full grown, it should not touch the house. The tree is surrounded with Red Drift roses (Rosa ‘Meigalpio’), which are low growing, low maintenance and provide color all summer. A hedge of Winter Gem boxwoods (Buxus microphylla var.japonica ‘Winter Gem’) was added, to tie the two sides of the sidewalk together. These evergreen boxwoods will add some winter interest. We made sure to plant the boxwoods so the hedge would be level. This, quite often, is a problem with installing a hedge. Uneven hedges that undulate up and down ruin an otherwise attractive landscape.

A view from the side shows the hedge curving behind the bed of Red Drift roses surrounding the Cleveland Select ornamental pear.

Incrediball hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens ‘Abetwo’) was used behind the hedge under the windows to add some color to the landscape without covering the windows or impeding the view. These hydrangeas are an improved form of the  ‘Annabelle’ hydrangea, having larger flowers and stronger stems to hold them up.

A tree-form Pink Winky hydrangea (H. paniculata ‘Dvppinky’) was used in the area where the Cornelian cherry dogwood was. This will give the clients some privacy on their porch but not completely cover the area.

Rozanne geranium (Geranium ‘Gerwat’) was used under the tree and Knock Out roses were planted behind the hedge for beautiful summer color. A burgundy weeping Japanese maple (Acer palmatum cvr.) will also add color, breaking up the monotony of the green foliage. Japanese forest grass, (Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’) went under the maple to add a bright graceful cascade.

The Japanese maple under planted with the ‘All Gold’ Japanese forest grass.

Another problem that was addressed was the unattractive downspouts in the landscape beds. A trench was dug from the downspout to the outer edge of the bed. We attached drain tile to the downspout. Then, we attached to a pop-up emitter that is flush with the soil. When it rains, the force of the water pushes the top of the emitter up, allowing the water to flow into the grass and not create erosion in the mulched landscape beds. Using this system also directs water away from the house, ensuring water is not collecting near the foundation.

Black plastic edging is a very popular choice for the typical homeowner. As you can see, this is an unattractive and obtrusive edging choice. It can heave out of the ground and most often, does not do the job it was intended to do, which is to keep the soil and mulch in and the grass out of the landscape beds. Using a natural edge is a much more attractive choice. Edging once a year is effective in keeping the grass at bay and the mulch where it belongs.

Landscape fabric is never a good idea. It impedes water from getting to the plant roots and it doesn’t allow air to get to the roots adequately, which can cause soil to become compacted.

Plastic landscaping edging is unattractive and obtrusive.

As you can see, this landscape is much more open and modern. The homeowners are absolutely thrilled with their new landscape. It gave them the color and low maintenance they were looking for. The beauty of the house is revealed and allows more light to come into the home. These photos were actually taken the day the job was finished. With minimal maintenance it will look gorgeous for years to come.

Give Plants A Good Soaking

Soaker hoses were installed so that each plant will receive adequate water.
When installing a new planting, the best way to make sure plants get established is by watering them well. Soaker hoses are one of the best ways to ensure plants get adequate water to their root systems. These hoses are made of recycled rubber, and unlike a normal garden hose, are full of holes. The water seeps out of these holes and slowly soaks into the ground around the root systems, exactly where the plants need it. Lay mulch over the top of the hoses to hide them and to reduce evaporation.

Trying to adjust sprinkler heads to hit every plant can be challenging and quite often wastes water. Attaching the hose to a timer doubles the efficiency of the soaker-hose watering system. The watering is consistent and the homeowner doesn’t have to worry about turning it on and off.

Run the soaker hose twice a week, check to see if your soil has been well hydrated several inches deep and then adjust the time you run them according to your soil conditions.


From Michigan Gardening Volume I Issue V. Photos by Lisa Steinkopf.


Posted: 06/16/14   RSS | Print


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