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One of the most rewarding things about my job is having the opportunity to revisit areas that I have designed.  Despite designing landscapes for over 17 years, I never tire of having the opportunity to explore them again to see how the landscape has matured.  When touring the landscapes, I take time to look at what worked and sometimes what didn’t.  I take these lessons with me and implement them in future designs.


Blue Bells (Eremophila hygrophana) and feathery cassia (Senna artemisoides)
Today, I’d like to take you on a tour of a landscape that I designed for a church two years ago.  
I was asked by the landscape committee to create a landscape that would be filled with color during the cool season since that is when the majority of the members are attending.  

BEFORE:




The landscape was filled with over-pruned shrubs, many of which flowered in summer.  In addition, there were a large number of frost tender plants in the landscape that were unsightly when much of the residents were in town.

AFTER:


After removing the shrubs, I added feathery cassia (Senna artemisoides), which blooms in late winter and spring, along with the newer Blue Bells (Eremophila hygrophana) which flowers all year long while staying at a rather compact 3 feet tall and wide size.
BEFORE:


When working with an existing landscape, I always try to keep mature plants that are healthy and fulfill the design criteria.  In this case, a Mexican (Yellow) Bird-of-Paradise (Caesalpinia mexicana), that had been trained into a tree, which has evergreen foliage and flowers in spring and fall.

AFTER:


Blue Bell shrubs and golden barrel cacti (Echinocactus grusonii) completed this planting area.

BEFORE:


In this area, a few shrubs, a barrel cactus and a lonely red yucca hang on from the previously designed landscape, all of which add little interest to the landscape.


AFTER:

Valentine Bush (Eremophila maculata ‘Valentine) and desert spoon (Dasylirion wheeleri)

Contrasting textures and color add interest to the landscape throughout the entire year.  Seasonal blooming creates an entirely different look to the landscape as well.

BEFORE:


As landscapes age, plants can become overgrown and to some, unattractive as was the case with this old desert spoon.  The lysiloma tree was in good shape and the decision was made to keep it.

AFTER:

Angelita daisy (Tetraneuris acaulis syn. Hymenoxys acaulis)

Angelita daisy (Tetraneuris acaulis) is one of my favorite small perennials as its bright, sunny flowers appear throughout the entire year.

Valentine bush and feathery cassia serve as foundation planting.

BEFORE:


Pink fairy duster (Calliandra eriophylla) had been used to create a hedge.  However, while pink fairy duster does flower in winter and spring, it isn’t a suitable choice as a formal hedge.  Rather, it belongs in a natural desert landscape and untouched by hedge trimmers.

AFTER:

Pink Muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris) in winter.


Pink muhly was added for welcome fall color when its plumes turn a vibrant burgundy color, which fade to an attractive wheat color in winter.  After being pruned in early spring, bright green growth quickly fills back in.

BEFORE:


This is a high-profile corner as it is one of the entries into the church parking lot.  As you can see, there was little to attract the attention of passersby.

AFTER:


Adding a combination of plants that will ensure year round interest no matter whether it’s spring, summer, fall or winter.

Even though the purple trailing lantana (Lantana montevidensis) can die back to the ground in winter, the bright colors of the Valentine bush and feathery cassia will draw attention away from it.

BEFORE:


Three Agave americana were all that sat in this area, which offered little color and virtually no interest.  


I took the existing agave and spread them throughout the landscape, where they can create both texture and color contrast when paired with the softer shapes and darker colors of shrubs.  

One thing that I wish I had done differently was to space the shrubs in this area a little further apart.  This can cause landscapers to excessively prune shrubs into poodle shapes in an attempt to keep them from touching.  Pruning them severely once a year can keep them from outgrowing their space OR removing every other shrub once they become too large can take care of the problem.  

I hope that you enjoyed seeing the transformation of this landscape to one filled with cool season color.

Do you enjoy seeing “before and after” photos?


I do – especially with landscapes.


Just over a year ago, I was asked to help renovate a local church’s landscape.
  



As you can see their landscape had become rather bare as plants had not been replaced over the years.  In addition, there were some old plants that needed replacing.

So, I got to work on a new design.  When renovating an existing landscape, it’s important to determine which existing plants to keep.  I rarely get rid of all the plants since mature plants help anchor a new landscape while the new plants take time to fill in and grow.  Also, why waste a perfectly good plant as long as it is still attractive and can fit into your design?  You can always create a design to go with an existing plant.

A year after being installed, I was asked to come back to work on a different area of the church,  During that time, I took some “after” pictures of what the landscape looks like now.  


This area was filled with two old shrubs, which we elected to keep.


Some contouring (mounding) was added for elevation and river rock washes were added for drainage.


And this is what it looks like 1 year later.  Flowering feathery cassia (Senna artemisioides) adds color in winter and spring.  Year round color is supplied by angelita daisies (Tetraneuris acaulis) and ‘Blue Bells’ (Eremophila hygrophana).

Agave and boulders will add texture contrast.


In this area, I tagged two struggling shrubs with paint for removal along with a yucca plant that the church landscape committee wanted removed due to it poking people with its sharp leaves as they walked by.

The Mexican bird-of-paradise (Caesalpinia mexicana) tree would remain in this area.


The small wash was redone, which serves double duty – it adds a decorative element to the landscape and helps channel water from the roof.

Golden barrel cacti (Echinocactus grusonii) were planted in the corner where they will lend sunny yellow color all year long.  ‘Blue bell’ shrubs complete the planting in this area.


While pink fairy duster (Calliandra eriophylla) is a beautiful desert shrub in spring, it makes a poor hedge.  In addition, it does not flower 9 months of the year.  A plant that would look great throughout the majority of the year was needed in this area.


Ornamental grasses fit the bill perfectly in this area.  Pink muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris) is green from spring through summer and puts on a show in fall when burgundy plumes appear that fade to an attractive wheat color in winter.  Instead of a hedge, which would need pruning throughout the year, pink muhly needs pruning once, in spring.


This area had a few sage shrubs, a single red yucca and a barrel cactus.

I had everything removed in this bed except for the barrel cactus.  The church had a large number of old Texas sage shrubs (Leucophyllum frutescens ‘Green Cloud’).  The reason that I had many of these taken out was because a the majority of the members of this church are winter visitors.  Texas sage flowers in summer and early fall when they are gone.  I was asked to add plants that would provide winter and spring color.


Now this area is filled with feathery cassia and Valentine bush (Eremophila maculata ‘Valentine), both of which flower in winter and spring.  Desert spoon (Dasylirion wheeleri) adds both color and texture contrast and ‘Blue bell’ shrubs will add colorful flowers throughout the entire year.


This corner section of the landscape was filled with formally pruned shrubs that offered little beauty to the area.


The ocotillo and yucca remained and angelita daisies, ‘Blue Bell’ and feathery cassia were added.

I must admit that I was quite pleased at how everything looked.  It’s one thing to create a design on paper and another thing entirely to see it growing in beautifully.

On a slightly different note, I also took time to check on the streetside landscape by the church that I had designed 2 years ago.


In the beginning, there was nothing there but an old cactus or two.


What a difference 2 years makes!  A young palo blanco tree (Acacia willardiana) grows among feathery cassia, Valentine and purple trailing lantana.

The plant palette for the church mirrored that of the street landscape for a visually seamless transition.


Along this section fo the street, all that was present were 3 Agave americana and utility boxes.


The agave were relocated along this stretch of road with trees and colorful shrubs.  You can hardly see the utility boxes now.

Thank you for letting me share with you some of my favorite “before and after” photos.  Learn more about the plants that I used in this project by clicking their names: ‘Blue Bell’ shrubs, feathery cassia, Valentine bush and pink muhly grass.

*Do you have an area in your landscape that needs a little help?  Take some time and drive around and take pictures of landscapes that you like.  Then take them to your local nursery or landscape professional and have them help you renovate your landscape.