Tag Archives: landscape design

18 May

DIY Kinetic Garden Sculpture

1aThis weekend my husband and I finally made a sculpture for the focal point of our hill garden.  When we built the wall back in 2004 I had imagined a sculpture in this location, and even installed a concrete tube footing with rebar.  I guess I just never found something I wanted to spend a lot of money on, and there were always things that seemed like a higher priority (plants, ha!) but since my garden is going to be on two garden tours soon I figured I better get something in that spot that was mildly interesting.

We had a few criteria… 1) not too expensive (we ended up spending about $40).  2) not to hard or time consuming to make (It took us a couple hours).  3)it had to be at least 6′ tall to be in scale with the garden (it ended up being 10′tall).

Materials:   We started by going to the hardware store and buying 9 plastic pipes (10′ long pvc schedule 40), some huge landscape nails, 9 solar lights, a metal floor flange with a 4″ extension, and 2 cans of spray paint formulated for painting plastic.  We also used some plywood and a landscape nail we already had.

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We laid out the pipe on a tarp on the driveway, across two pipes to keep them slightly elevated.

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Next we sanded off the black bar codes and writing, then cleaned the pipes with a little soap and water.

We spray painted the pipes with two different color reds.  They were pretty close in color, one was more orange than the other.  I tried to do a fade from one to the other, but the paint colors are just so close you really can’t tell.

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We put 3 pieces of plywood together for a thick base, painted it black, then attached the floor flange in the center over a 1/2″ hole we drilled.

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Then we arranged the 9 nails facing up, in a circle around that.

The idea is that the metal floor flange would sit down over the piece of rebar that was sticking out of the concrete foundation in the area I wanted the sculpture.  You could also just have a long piece of rebar pounded far into the ground, it’s the same idea, but having it already in concrete was a bonus. The metal flange fit right over the rebar, and even though they are not technically attached, the rebar/flange combo keeps the sculpture from tilting.

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After we painted the pvc pipes, we gave them a quick second coat.

We put the plywood base into place by just setting it on the existing single piece of rebar coming out of the ground, and leveling the plywood base with rocks.

When the pvc pipes were dry, we put some 99 cent solar lights on the top of each pipe.  The solar lights just needed a little duct tape around the base and they fit perfectly snugly within the pvc pipe (we did check the fit of the solar lights with the pipe at the hardware store to make sure we got ones that fit together with little problem or work.

Putting up the sculpture was then just a matter of literally setting the pipes over the ends of the nails.

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The pipes bend naturally, and splay out.  When the wind blows they wave a bit, and move.  It is very organic looking.

I was very happy with the result, it is definitely eye catching, and I love the way it moves in the wind.  The solar lights at night are a little bonus.  I think we might go back at some point in the future and do another shorter ring around this one, maybe in yellow!

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22 Jan

Hill Garden 2001-2014 a Transformation!

Before photo 2002

 

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When my husband and I moved into our St. Louis suburban home in 2001 we inherited a south-facing, 18-foot tall, very steep, lawn-covered hill.  I looked at that hill and saw it as a great opportunity.  The grade itself provides privacy from neighbors, and the hill faces the house so I knew that we would get the full visual benefit of turning it into a garden.  My husband looked at it and wasn’t convinced!

Before even beginning my landscape planning, I knew I needed to get a jump-start on screening the surrounding houses, so right away I planted several ‘Keteleeri’ upright juniper on the top eastern corner of the hill.  These large evergreen shrubs would eventually satisfy my need for a 12-foot screen, without overgrowing the space.

hill digging

 

In order to create the formal look I desired for the rest of the yard, and to define the lower edge of the hill, we had a 4’ tall concrete block retaining wall installed.  By cutting into the hill, the wall also helped to expand the flat, useable area of my yard.  I resisted multiple terraces, because I wanted the area above the wall to be dominated by plants, not hardscape.

wall install

 

I kept my choice of plants to those with very fine foliage, small flowers, and a mature height of less than 3 feet tall.  This makes the plants appear farther away and the property appear larger.  I also wanted to create the feeling of an alpine meadow, which requires adhering to a specialized color scheme of mostly bluish purple, true pink, and red, with just a dab of clear yellow.  Most importantly, the plants had to be drought and sun tolerant.  To that end, I used a mixture of native and adapted plants.

I implemented the first round of planting over 2 years, starting with small wholesale liner plugs (72 plants to a flat).  Additionally, I fill in every year with new plants to replace what has not done well, or just for the fun of trying something new.

hill plugs

new hill plants

 

Each year, in the very early spring, my husband and I cut back all the plants on the hill.  We don’t remove any of the dead and dried plant material, we simply shred it and leave it to decompose between the plants and return the nutrients to the soil.   In mid spring, before the plants fill out, we hand weed quite a bit. Mainly we tackle the woody trees sprouting up.  We battle honeysuckle, maples and red bud trying to turn my prairie like hill garden back into a woodland forest!  The more we pull during the early spring, the less we have to do the rest of the year in terms of maintenance. But by the time the plants fill out in late spring, if we have done a good job of weeding to that point, there is little weed competition for the rest of the year.  I fertilize with an organic slow release fertilizer annually, and water about once a week.

plants 1 season

 

The three main initial grass varieties on the hill were the backbone of the design: Pennisetum orentale ‘Karley Rose’, Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’ , and to a lesser extent the Miscanthus sinensis ‘purpurascens’ (which is a beautiful grass, but hasn’t thrived for me).

2005

 

2005b smaller

 

The perennials successes are led by the Nepeta (Catmint),  Salvia greggii ‘maraschino’ (which surprisingly has come back for me for years despite it being only rated hardy to zone 7) and Amsonia hubrechtii, which has a fantastic golden fall color.  Pink Missouri primrose, several types of lavender and Plains Coreopsis (a self seeding native annual) also have established well.

Another species that is thriving is Rhus Glabra, the only woody species on the hill.  It is a native suckering shrub that I planted in the opposite corner from the evergreens to visually balance their height.  It has an outstanding fall color and is doing very well (maybe too well as it also wants to take over now…but it is pretty, and native, and for the most part the sumac and I are friends).

early fall 2006 smaller

 

I’ve also had a few disappointments – the Gaura ‘siskiyou pink’ and the Agastache rupestris I tried, both bloomed beautifully the first year and looked fantastic by my design criteria, but died out after only a year.  I’ve had little luck with Russian sage surprisingly, and also have been disappointed by several types of Penstemon, although last year I planted more Penstemon, so we’ll see if I fare better this summer.

I considered the Hill portion of the hill garden mature when it was 3 years old…about 2007.  The surrounding woody plants, the smooth sumac, the junipers, and many of the trees and shrubs in the rest of the yard have been growing now for over a decade, and although the hill itself still looks a lot like it did in 2007, the perimeter of the yard has gotten much larger and the yard is very private now.

 

2014 Pictures

2014

 

2014b

 

Our planning and work has paid off, as you can see in the photos. Instead of a bland, hard-to-mow steep slope of turf grass, we have an ever-changing view of diverse and colorful plants to enjoy throughout the year. We’ve provided a nice sized area for local bird and pollinator insect populations, and a pleasant backdrop to the various activities in and around our suburban home. Most of the winter we have a resident fox who likes to sleep in the hillside sun…and, for a plant lover like me, I’ve created a wonderful place to test and enjoy a variety of grasses and wildflowers in my own backyard paradise.

The hill changes with every season.  Here are a few more of my favorite photos of the hill garden, enjoy!

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photo 4

 

Photo 8

 

Photo 9

Mary Francois Deweese is a Registered Landscape Architect and Owner of Acorn Landscapes in St. Louis.

26 May

PDF Download of Sprawlstainable’s Garden Design

Thumbnail section of Garden Plan

2010 EDIBLE LANDSCAPE PLAN DRAWING 11X17 click this link to download

I thought it was very important for you to have access to the garden design for the Sprawlstainable Garden.  This drawing shows the entire site, the legend to all the edible plantings of fruits and vegetables, the house, the gardens, the patios, etc. The download is of the entire yard, the little thumbnail photo to the left here is just a small section of the garden.

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