Thursday, September 1, 2011

Personal Design – “What did I do this summer?”

Professionally, I am entrusted with budgets in the five figures, or more, for outside improvements.  However, for me, this is unrealistic.  BUT I am also a Designer, meaning that I find solutions to constraints and challenges, accommodating any budget, and creating a final design.  So this summer, what did I do?  You bet.  I indulged myself with a little “home-grown creativity,” using and enhancing what I already have…

The bones.
I began with two Real Estate mantras, the front door and the front yard.  The first impression of your property sets the stage and is a reflection of you – Is your front door inviting or imposing?  I focused here first – HAND pruning (not shearing) shrubs and groundcovers to unify beds and separate so-called accent plantings through careful removal of odd sprays/branches…thus, the view to the front door is enhanced.  Once “inside” the yard (typically on the driveway), look around and consider what you see…Neighbor’s A/C units, trash cans, and other functional appurtenances…SCREEN those.  Consider Architecture – the corollary is the foyer to your home. 
I transplanted toward objectionable views, abating the negative effect, and creating a consistency of “buffers”/hedges, in effect, and accent “wall.”  Remember, shrubs along the sides of your home are not as important as your frontage and the area around your front door…think of that as an amorphous “hallway.”  Thus, “the eye” should not “bounce” around, focusing on colors in less important areas or a multitude of textures.  This is not to say that variety should be avoided, just that a chaotic, menagerie of plantings is a visual no-no…for me, these were trimmed to form consistency, by hand.  Small Palms and Ornamental (yes, including Natives) Grasses help to avoid “shear to” lines and add both texture and movement (via wind) to any hedge line or mass plantings.  Capitalize on rhythm, capitalize on color (foliage or bloom), and most importantly, for maintenance, DO NOT overprune.  Within a month, we enter the dry season...and growth will slow.

The face.
The next objective was to “punch” a focus near the driveway and near the door…in an abstract way I capitalized upon what’s called “negative space.”  Open views, with no sense of closure/ceiling, etc., contribute to a feeling of openness.  The pines in our yard are 50’ tall and quite impressive, as the “ceiling” is well-above the roofline of our home.  I maintain that openness, much like the pine flatwood appears in nature, an understory and a tall canopy. I stray by using colorful shrubs/small trees which you walk around, near, or under, glimpsing butterflies, birds, bees, and anoles “hanging out.”  This plant palette includes: Walter’s Viburnum, Myrsine, Firebush, and Beautyberry, with the latter placed in “background” spaces (since they are deciduous in the South Florida winters) – these are unique to the area and to most visitors, who are used to ornamental selections are unique – plus, with three children, this saves us time/$$ by avoiding constant pruning, insecticide treatments (who wants to expose their dogs/kids to that, anyway?), and semi-annual fertilization…

The voice.
In addition to seeing wildlife, the plants have stories…how the bromeliad sprays are a sign of a “mother” plants’ “last show in life,” providing nectar for hummingbirds but an ominous sign that it will perish but producing successive babies or “pups” from its base.  How the wax myrtle plant’s “berries” were indeed used for candles…how saw palmetto berries are a favorite of the Florida Black Bear, one of which our “patrol” dogs just chased from the yard yesterday!  Stories such as these establish a character…Then, and only then, does a yard have a sense of Place, YOUR Place…

The mind.
Then, anticlimactically, we take guests to the backyard which includes a little wetland, Hawaiian stripe, Wamin, and Giant Timber Bamboos…and an “untouched” area of woods (with native orchids), but my thoughts and careful consideration for maintenance/enhancement are next in that area.  After all, the “back forty” composes 2/3 of our “yard,” of over an Acre.  We’ll get to that after a good game of catch…the football season is upon us!

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