A living landscape is nature’s work of art, crafted by humans into functional and aesthetically-pleasing forms. When it comes to performing the landscape work itself, there are people and companies who cut grass and then there are artists. What’s the practical difference between one or the other, presuming the required work gets done? Plenty, but the difference in approach is hidden in details most won’t actually notice in the finished work.
Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow this winter, promising us six more weeks of winter; this year it seems he is going to get it right. Towards the end of winter, many landscapes look like the rest of the natural world, shrouded in muted colors of brown and gray. The transition from turf areas to bed areas isn’t distinct, many shrubs have suffered frost damage, flower beds are empty and deciduous trees are without leaves. Even “evergreens” have a touch of gray to them. But this is the very time where professional landscape firms go to work on creating artwork that will burst to life in just a matter of weeks; the details they pay attention to now will soon be on display.
Here are a few important practices that set landscape artists apart from the rest:
- Turf applications of slow-release fertilizers are applied, to steadily provide balanced nutrition to roots of dormant turfgrass as soil temperatures warm up and tender new shoots emerge. There are no green grass blades to photosynthesize sunlight at the end of winter, so the initial energy boost needs to come from below ground, where you can’t see it.
- “Pre-emergent” herbicides are applied at the same time, to knock out weeds as they emerge from last season’s dormant seeds, armed to fight with turfgrass and squeeze out desirable growth if left alone. Weed seeds can originate in the landscape or be carried great distances by fall and winter winds. The right time to control weeds is before you see them.
- Plant beds are prepared by “cutting bed lines” to create desired contours which will hold their shape throughout the growing season against rain and wind. This takes time and effort to do correctly, but is like an artist crafting distinct contours into an oil painting with a palette knife, rather than splashing color on to the canvas. The process involves actually edging down into the soil and then tucking mulch into the “trench” that’s created. When dark brown wood mulch is worked into the bedline, a distinct edge is achieved. If you’re not a professional landscaper, you may not notice this detail, but you will marvel at the results. It’s like the frame and matting for the painting.
- Selective “winter cutbacks” of certain shrubs and perennial plant material will prepare the dormant landscape for a strong spring flush and restore visual balance to bed areas and foundation plantings.
- Once everything else is ready, flower beds will be prepared and planted. This process involves much more than plugging seedlings into holes. Soil is replaced or replenished, organic material is added and bloom booster fertilizer is incorporated into the mix. Odds are that the flower bulbs were ordered months before and seedlings have been growing in a cozy greenhouse, awaiting an invitation to the landscape. You won’t see those things either, but when this final splash of color is added to the landscape, you will marvel at the difference.
Emerald green grass, no weeds, manicured beds and gorgeous flowers are the result! The “Art of Landscaping” is created in winter, when no one is watching. When it’s time for Mother Nature’s living art show, however, your artwork will be ready for display. That’s when your commissioned artist puts their “Signature” on it!