Creating a Resort Style Retreat
Now is the time to take advantage of the great fall weather to transform your home landscape into a resort retreat complete with trees, shrubs, groundcovers, containerized plantings as well as patio hardscapes and shade coverings.
Planning the Landscape
These are ideas you can use for planning, whether a professional is doing the design and installation or you are doing it yourself.
The first decision is placement–where to put the trees, shrubs and groundcovers. Knowing the locations of the planter beds is simple – everywhere there’s not annual flowerbeds and grass. That’s not to say that every inch of yard will be covered with plants, but every inch is part of your overall landscape plan and should be considered. In other words, the landscape plan will account for the form and function of all the areas in your garden.
Forming areas for trees, shrubs and groundcovers will utilize the hallmarks of resort style that include the following: shapes are free flowing, the sharp edges of house and fence corners are softened with sweeping curves, outdoor “rooms” or vignettes are created for your special outdoor living needs, techniques like massing and collage can be utilized with shrubs and groundcovers, and the “icing” can be added with special features like outdoor lighting and sound, armadas, Solara open/close patio cover that allows you to use your patio year round, and special BBQ /dining areas.
With the planter beds sketched, note areas for each type of plant. Placement of trees can shade the house and drastically cut energy bills. And, a deciduous tree can allow the warmth to penetrate in winter when the leaves are shed. Medium-tall shrubs under windows can reflect away warming light rays. Note on your plans where these ideas can be implemented and where you want each type of plant placed. Mix placement to vary the depth and texture between the top story (trees and large shrubs), mid-story (medium to small shrubs) and understory (groundcovers, mulch and rock covers).
Be aware of the specific challenges your design faces. A strategically placed vine, for example, on a large wall surface has a cooling effect on the wall and home. You can also use a living wall trellis planted with vines to soften blank walls, block a bad view or break up long narrow spaces with varied points of interest. You can give unsightly garbage containers a home by building a beautiful screen wall with trellis and vines. We prefer a metal trellis that will be soon covered and will never decay. There are as many solutions to design challenges, as there are challenges to overcome. Use your imagination and good taste.
Poolside planters need special consideration. Plant choices should avoid anything that sheds. Don’t plant deciduous trees, plants that shed blooms or plants that drop fruit near the pool.
There are abundant choices of plants. Knowing what to plant where can be daunting, especially for newcomers to our climate. Choices range from Xeriscape desert plants to lush yet water-wise plants or tropicals. There are a few ways to navigate these choices: resource books, logical deduction and professional assistance. The Sunset Garden Book and Plants for Dry Climates book is especially detailed and thorough, with literally hundreds of listings with photos. This type of research can be time consuming, and many resource books for the southwest are geared toward a more tropical climate like that of California. So, some of the plants in the listings may not thrive here. Consider speaking with your local nursery for advice on which plants are grown here and ready to be planted. Bring your sketches. Know the north/south/east/west orientation of the yard. Photos of the space are great too. Also, have an idea of how much sun each area receives: eight hours, six to eight hours, less than six hours and total shade. As you hunt your way through the nursery, note which plants you like. If it is in the sun, a logical deduction is that they will live in the sun. Yep, it can be that simple. If the plant is under a light shade cloth, the plant will need an area protected from the hot sun of the afternoon, but will likely do well with morning sun. Plants in a completely shaded area need the same at your home. This process is called choosing plants for their preferred “microclimate.” Each planter bed and vignette will have a microclimate varying from full sun to full shade. So, when choosing plants, first find out what you like and then work on where it will fit in your landscape.
Written by Gary Petterson
Gary K. Petterson is president and horticulturist of Gardener’s World located at 3401 E Baseline Road in the South Mountain District. Contact Gardener’s World at 602-437-0700. Sign up for free email garden tips and class information at www.gardenpro.net