The Art and Wisdom of Japanese Gardens- STONES- simplified for the beginner

There are many guidelines within the Japanese Garden ideals for positioning, creating interpretation and energy transfer in alignment and design of rock layout. From the huge boulders that interpret mountain scenes to the tiny gravel that simulates the look of water we can create snapshots of the larger landscape views.

There are standing stones and lying stones which should be identified upon delivery of the stones so they can be placed appropriately. Some designers say that there should be more horizontal stones then vertical stones in your garden.

Other key notes highlighted in the book Infinite Spaces- The Art and Wisdom of the Japanese Garden include: Running away stones must have chasing stones, Leaning stones must have supporting stones, Upward looking stones there must be downward-looking stones, and Vertical stones must have horizontal stones.

Typically a principle stone is chosen and it dictates the arrangement of the other stones.

Once layout begins larger boulder types should be set securely in place with their bases deep in the ground. The best sides should be showing and if necessary lean a stone with an ugly top so that no one will notice it.

Flat type stones are also important for creating paths that lead us through the garden and cause reflection on the journey of life. A well designed path starts with the right foot stone and are placed appropriately for a leisurely walk through the space or a spaced close together for more of a ‘paved’ type surface.

Our expert team is available to help out with planning for the right look, installation instructions and tips or complete a project for your own outdoor space. Give us a call today to schedule your consultation 507-581-6886 or email amy@ateamlandscape.com

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STRAWBALE GARDEN- a landscape designer perspective

Strawbale garden are a growing trend that has many positive aspects. The idea that you can grow vegetables anywhere- even on top of the driveway, has many people choosing to explore this option. A  couple of strawbales, few days of conditioning the bales, a good irrigation plan and a fertilizer application now and then can provide the fresh veggies you’ve been waiting for, with no digging required!

STRAWBALE GARDEN PREPERATION

First choose a site that gets at least 6 hours of sun a day (most vegetables need that much). Your site doesn’t have to be on level ground but you may want to add some bracing if it will be on a slope. Once you’ve put out your bales drive in metal T-post to the ground on the ends and attach wire between the posts. This wire will aid tomatoes and other taller vegetables with support as they grow.

Conditioning is a necessary process to provide the compost dirt in the bale to give the plant roots something to grow into. Research the available methods to do this 10-12 day process to be sure you have a successful experience. Do Not Skip the conditioning process. Water, water,water.

Install your plants or spread some potting mix on top of a bale and plant your seeds. Your garden is ready to grow!

SUMMER MAINTENANCE

Keep bales well-watered throughout the conditioning process and through the summer. A strawbale above ground is a lot like a pot of flowers it can dry out quickly in windy, hot conditions. One of the best ways to provide moisture is to add irrigation. Soaker hoses can work well and drip irrigation can be the best option since it gives direct spot watering.

Be sure to apply fertilizer to your bales through-out the summer months. Since you’re not growing plants in the soil that has nutrients available, you will need to supplement with your favorite garden fertilizer.

There should be no need to weed, though occasionally a mushroom will appear or if your bale had some seeds in it, they may sprout.

DESIGN TIPS

Incorporate your strawbales into an existing mulch planting bed (if there is enough room between plants). Shrubs behind your bales can act as a good support and help disguise the less then desirable decay that happens by the end of the season.

Sow seeds of nasturtiums into the sides of your bales and they will drape down the side and cover the bale. Or plant a row of annuals in the ground in the front of your bale (if you set your bales on soil) to provide some color and more bale camouflage.

Place your bales in interesting lines with paths between to create a maze or create a raised planter for more planting space.

To learn more about strawbale gardening check out the book -Straw Bale Gardens by Joel Karsten. If you’re not sure how to incorporate some strawbales into your landscape call us and set up an appointment with a designer to help you choice the right location. Email: amy@vhiinc.com or call 507-581-6886.

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GROW YOUR FOOD! Gardening ideas and types.

Popular garden types- pick the ones that fit your lifestyle and design ideas.

There are so many ways though that you can easily produce an edible harvest in your own yard, deck or windowsill. Containers are available in a multitude of styles, colors and personalities to best fit your budget and needs. New varieties of plants come out almost daily giving us a plethora of choices to be successful with potted plants. Herbs on the windowsill are handy for adding fresh flavor in a multitude of dishes. Compact vegetables grown on the deck also makes for quick salad prep.  The popular trend of strawbale gardening even allows for driveways and other hard surfaces to host productive thriving garden spaces. Also technologies involving self watering containers, drip systems and fashionable watering cans keep plants hydrated as well as saving time. As long as sunlight is available there is a plant to grow there.

Containers and Pots- no yard, no problem

Mix vegetables and herbs with flowers for a colorful and edible container planting!

Straw bale – great for less than desirable soil

Square foot – high production out of small spaces

Kitchen – combine a wide variety of plants with useful purposes in a careful design

Flowers, fruit trees, herbs and vegetables all planted in this showy garden.

Production Rows – high production farm type gardening

Our busy and hectic lives often don’t leave much time if any for yard work much less gardening. Many of us have a desire to eat local, healthy and organic foods and wish we had the time and the ‘green’ thumb to do it ourselves. If you truly are not able to grow or maintain any of your own plants, the next best thing is to visit your local farmers market and support others who can!

Need some help in putting your ideas into a great design that works with your lifestyle and available space? Give Amy Voight a call 507-581—6886 or email amy@vhiinc.com and setup your initial site visit today! We can help you on the journey to a great productive landscape.

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Spring Perennial Maintenance

With warmer Temps and longer sunlight hours comes the spring cleaning duties. Roll up the sleeves, sharpen the pruner and head outside to tidy up your landscape and get those spring cleaning chores done.

ORNAMENTAL GRASSES

With the snow melted and gone and the soil temperature above freezing, now is a good time to cut down perennials left for winter interest. Ornamental grasses should be cut down to 3” or so before the new green growth starts to appear as it gets warmer. If your clumps have been planted for 3-5 years it may be time for division. A good sign of this need is a ‘balding’ center of plant. The best process to accomplish division is to first dig out the entire root area and divide into sections using a soil knife or sharp spade. Reinstall one of the divisions back in the original hole and plant the rest of the divisions in a new area or give away to friends!

HOSTAS AND DAYLILIES

Pull off or cut away any remaining leaves left on these plants. Division may be necessary for plants to remain healthy. While division can happen at almost anytime with these two spring is the best time.

CORAL BELLS AND OTHER ‘EVERGREEN’ TYPES

Be careful not to uncover these sensitive type plants too early and expose them to freezing Temps if winter decides to revisit few times. Carefully pull away any leftover leaves to tidy them up.

Cleanup all other sticks and stalks and lightly rake your garden areas if there is an abundance of leaves or other debris. Don’t worry about getting every last little thing to allow natural composting to happen .

Call on us for your spring landscape maintenance needs. We can get you started on the right path for a beautiful landscape that will bring you joy all season. Visit www.ateamlandscape.com Email aTeam@vhiinc.com or CALL Amy 507-581-6886 to setup your groundskeeping consultation today.

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STRAWBALE GARDEN- a landscape designer perspective

Strawbale garden are a growing trend that has many positive aspects. The idea that you can grow vegetables anywhere- even on top of the driveway, has many people choosing to explore this option. A  couple of strawbales, few days of conditioning the bales, a good irrigation plan and a fertilizer application now and then can provide the fresh veggies you’ve been waiting for, with no digging required!

STRAWBALE GARDEN PREPERATION

First choose a site that gets at least 6 hours of sun a day (most vegetables need that much). Your site doesn’t have to be on level ground but you may want to add some bracing if it will be on a slope. Once you’ve put out your bales drive in metal T-post to the ground on the ends and attach wire between the posts. This wire will aid tomatoes and other taller vegetables with support as they grow.

Conditioning is a necessary process to provide the compost dirt in the bale to give the plant roots something to grow into. Research the available methods to do this 10-12 day process to be sure you have a successful experience. Do Not Skip the conditioning process. Water, water,water.

Install your plants or spread some potting mix on top of a bale and plant your seeds. Your garden is ready to grow!

SUMMER MAINTENANCE

Keep bales well-watered throughout the conditioning process and through the summer. A strawbale above ground is a lot like a pot of flowers it can dry out quickly in windy, hot conditions. One of the best ways to provide moisture is to add irrigation. Soaker hoses can work well and drip irrigation can be the best option since it gives direct spot watering.

Be sure to apply fertilizer to your bales through-out the summer months. Since you’re not growing plants in the soil that has nutrients available, you will need to supplement with your favorite garden fertilizer.

There should be no need to weed, though occasionally a mushroom will appear or if your bale had some seeds in it, they may sprout.

DESIGN TIPS

Incorporate your strawbales into an existing mulch planting bed (if there is enough room between plants). Shrubs behind your bales can act as a good support and help disguise the less then desirable decay that happens by the end of the season.

Sow seeds of nasturtiums into the sides of your bales and they will drape down the side and cover the bale. Or plant a row of annuals in the ground in the front of your bale (if you set your bales on soil) to provide some color and more bale camouflage.

Place your bales in interesting lines with paths between to create a maze or create a raised planter for more planting space.

To learn more about strawbale gardening check out the book -Straw Bale Gardens by Joel Karsten. If you’re not sure how to incorporate some strawbales into your landscape call us and set up an appointment with a designer to help you choice the right location. Email: amy@vhiinc.com or call 507-581-6886.

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Early Spring Gardening in MN- February to April

Seed Starting Helpful Tools and Equipment: egg cartons, milk jugs, seed starting tray systems, clear bags, shop lights, metal shelving unit, seedling fertilizer, small watering can, wood label sticks or clothespins

Seed Starting- Indoors- Celery is first at the end of February followed by Brussel sprouts and onions a couple weeks later. Eggplants and peppers are started in mid March and Brassica family (Cabbage, broccoli etc.) toward the end of March. The beginning of April means 6 weeks until our last frost date (mid May) Tomatoes are started now followed up by squash, cucumbers and pumpkins on late April if you want to give them a head start.


Seed Starting- Outdoor- using milk jugs as mini greenhouse planters you can successfully start seed for cool weather vegetables or prairie type flowers. This year I’m trying this method with: Cabbage, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Parsley and Kale around Mid/Late-March. Towards the end of April spinach and lettuces could be started in the garden but may need night protection. If the soil isn’t too cold and wet Potatoes can be planted.


Groundskeeping Helpful Tools and Equipment: Felco hand pruners, hedge trimmer (manual or battery powered), Loppers, Pruning Saw, tarp to pile clippings on.

Groundskeeping- cut ornamental grasses and other perennials left for winter interest to 3” high. Pull away any leaves or other organic debris from planting beds once snow has melted and overnight temps are above freezing most nights.

Groundskeeping- Pruning – cut spireas, potentilla and weigela to 6” high every 3 years for fresh growth. The general rule is cut back no more then 1/3rd back and 1/3rd thining out for shrubs. Prune spring bloomers (like lilacs and azalea) right after bloom is finished. Most trees should be pruned by the end of March but birch and maple will drip sap at this time of the year.

Homemaking- Maple Syrup is dependent on weather for sap flow. Time to order chicks for meat or eggs.

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FAUX NATURAL STONE – GET THE LOOK WITHOUT THE PRICE TAG

Some of the following pictures are from the Rochester Concrete Products website and feature Rosetta Stone.

The natural look of beautiful stone walls, columns, accents and patios appeals to a lot of us. There is something about a carefully designed landscape that looks like a scene we might happen upon in the mountains or a walk in the woods. The wild grace of an undisturbed native environment, especially one that has a time weathered stone, invokes something beautiful in our minds. While a careful plan from a Creator has formed these natural environments with no effort,  we humans try to replicate them in our little domains through much effort to make it look unplanned and natural.

TRADITIONAL NATURAL PRODUCTS

 There is a myriad of products available fashioned from available stones and cut into all shapes and sizes. We can make walls, patios, walkways, columns and more. But along with the natural look comes the ‘natural’ shape, thickness and all the variabilities. Time consuming labor hours  with the price tag of stone cost and delivery quickly drive up the project budget. Experience and a craftsman eye are key to a successful and beautiful end product.

A NEW GENERATION OF ‘STONE’

The landscape industry is consistently expanding and working on new technologies to improve aesthetics, functionality and installation ease. While many products that try to replicate natural stone look fake and patterned there are some available that strive and meet the desired effect.  One of the most notable manufactures is Rosetta Stone. They have carefully selected stone to build their forms and patterns around then use high quality concrete with a through color mix to replicate our favorite looks. They have a great firepit kit that beautifully replicates the random cut stone look. Also available are column kits, wall stone and outcropping stone looks.

STRONG LOOKS UNDERFOOT

Samsung Techwin

Popular choices for ground surface include stamped concrete that can be formed, patterned and textured to replicate natural stone in color and feel. As with plain concrete, stamped concrete is subject to cracking in freeze thaw cycles. Other products include concrete pavers in cut or random sizes and may have a tumbled process to give a weathered look. These types of products are more consistent in top surface being level which provides an advantage to the inconsistent nature of flagstone especially with the use of furniture.

EXPLORE FOR YOUR LOOK

Our expert team is available to help out with planning for the right look, installation instructions and tips or complete a project for your own outdoor space. Give us a call today to schedule your consultation 507-581-6886 or email amy@ateamlandscape.com

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Natural Stone Landscape Options

Landscape Choices:

Edging- want a different look to your landscape edging?

Chilton Stone Edging

Flagstone (steppers)- clean walking from here to there!

Chilton Steppers

Flagstone (irregular or cut)- formal to rustic, pick your style.

Mississippi Bluff Limestone

Wall cut- tight joints for a clean look.

Mississippi Bluff Limestone

Boulders (accent or walls)- naturalistic style at its finest!

Small Boulder Raised Planting Bed

Mulch- low maintenance groundcover? Depends how you blow it!

Mocha Dark Brown Rock and Shakopee Red Rock
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EARLY SPRING BLOOMERS for MN: Perennials

Lamium Purple Dragon- Long-lasting blooms Height: 6 in. Spread: 12 in. Dusty silver-white leaves that are outlined with blue-green. This groundcover perennial boasts purple snapdragon-like flowers that appear from April to June.

Winterglow Bergenia- H 12-15″ W 18″ Evergreen leaves are glossy green setting off the red flowers in April-June. Likes Partial Shade.

Bleeding Heart! -Aren’t these flowers sweet?! These perennials generally grown 24-30” x 18-30”, depending on the variety, and bloom in the spring-early summer. This is a low-maintenance, partial sun or shade shrub that is considered a cottage garden classic! FUN FACT: Depending on where you’re from, this shrub known as either a Bleeding Heart or Lady in the Bath! Lady in the Bath?! Yes!! Because if you turn the flowers upside down, that’s just what they look like

Bloodroot- These early spring bloomers cover the woodland floor with their shining white petals. The stems ‘bleed’ red when broken or crushed hence the name! Native to eastern united states and Canada they form large colonies with their spreading rhizomes. Ants, bees and deer are just a few benefited by this plant. Native Americans used it to induce vomiting so don’t try eating it!

Daffodils- You’ll have to plan ahead for these cheery flowers that require fall planting for spring blooms but they will provide years of enjoyment once you do. Deer and squirrel resistance are a bonus. These plants are perfect companions with summer blooming perennials and ornamental grasses.

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EARLY SPRING BLOOMERS for MN: Shrubs and Trees

After a long winter of grey days with piles of white snow our eyes long to see some signs of life in the bleak landscape. The following plants are some of the first to usher in Spring with glorious shades of pink, purple, yellow, orange and white.

Redbud Flower

MN Strain Redbud Tree- This lovely one is a Redbud Tree. The rose-pink flowers emerge in the spring and last for 2-3 weeks before the green leaves appear. Then in the fall, the leaves turn to yellow, making this a great tree choice for any area you’re looking to add a little color to!

FUN FACT: Those flowers aren’t only beautiful, but edible! They can be added to a salad for a burst of crisp sweetness! How sweet is that!

 ‘Leonard Messel’ Magnolia! Well-suited for colder climates, this stunning flowering tree adds an oriental flair to any landscape. It thrives in sunny areas with plenty of water.
8′-40″ x 10′-30″
FUN FACT: Magnolia flowers are typically pollinated by beetles, rather than bees or butterflies! Magnolias flowers do not produce nectar, but they do produce large quantities of high-protein pollen which the beetles use for food.

Royal Star Magnolia


‘Royal Star’ Magnolia H 8-10′ W 8-10′
Beautiful white double star shaped flowers appear in early spring before the strappy green leaves emerge. Protect from southern winds to prevent flower buds from freezing off.

‘Ann’ Magnolia Small upright-growing magnolia with red pink lily-shaped flowers in early May. H10’xW6’

First to flower- Forsythia

Show off Forsythia  First Bloomer in Spring Height 4-5 ft. Spread 4-5 ft. Golden flowers appear before the leaves emerge, and the green leaves turn burgundy in the Fall.

Northern lights azalea- These are Azaleas! Azaleas grow from 3-7’ tall with flowers that bloom in spring, coming in a multitude of colors, so you would be sure to find one that would work in your landscape! These shrubs look especially lovely when planted alone or near conifers, but can work in just about any garden with partial to full sun and acidic soil(ph4-5.5 ideal)! FUN FACT: Festivals celebrating the bloom of Azaleas are held around the world, including Japan, Korea, and the US

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