Saturday, February 21, 2015

Waterfall planting

We had a design plan drawn up by Shade Today to use as a starting point for the beds above and below the waterfall.
Concrete retaining wall
Stone retaining wall with waterfall and pond

'Golden Rain' Crabapple in bloom
'Golden Rain' Crabapple fall color
Dwarf Korean Sun Pear spring blooms

Dwarf Korean Sun Pear -fall
Hawthorn spring blooms

Hawthorn fall color

'Fat Albert' Blue Spruce (right) & 'Tiger Eyes' Sumac

Waterfall construction

The largest design update to the existing landscape design was planned to reinforce an existing concrete retaining wall and direct water drainage away from the foundation.  We hoped to camouflage the concrete retaining wall with some type of stonework. And since we were dealing with a drainage issue, a waterfall became a desirable addition.  We initially envisioned a waterfall gradually trickling down the hill into a small pond or even terminating in a lower maintenance "pondless" waterfall.  But over time our vision (and budget) expanded to a larger stone retaining wall that would include waterfall feature spilling from the top into a pond below at some distance from the house.  The inspiration came from the waterfalls viewed along I-41 at Shade Today, a nursery willing to build our dream water feature for a larger fee than we had originally budgeted.

Shade Today waterfall inspring our waterfall design
Waterfall under construction in our yard:
Hill sloped from garage down to walk-out basement level

Existing landscape when we purchased home.

Ground built up to slope away from corner where wall meets
corner of house to prevent water from leaking into basement. 
Boulders being stacked in front of existing concrete retaining
wall to reinforce and extend it out into the yard

Construction equipment 

Stacked stones extended out into yard.
Forms laid out for pond.

Concrete pond completed

Stone wall continued on around pond
Stone extended to create planting beds.

Our favorite Australian Shepherd checks out
 paver path constructed from basement concrete patio
 beneath deck to paver patio with fire pit in center.

The waterfall started up when we turned on the pump
this past spring after the ice finally melted, though
the hose promptly disconnected from the pump resulting
in a huge geyser of water spewing from the pond.  So,
once the pipe was  reconnected to the pump it
ran for while until it abruptly stopped.
Upon draining the pond we discovered a very rusty pump
that will most likely have to be replaced-a rather pricey
proposition, but money well-spent given how much we've
been enjoying the yard.

Landscape design review

Reviewing aerial views of the yard found online, helps picture the size and location of landscaping beds currently existing in the yard.  The pictures are a few years old as the beds closese to the streets inthe front and back yards have been expanded in recent years to include more native plant choices.

Aerial view of neighborhood
North edge of High Cliff State Park
(park marina on left)

The yard is somewhat unique lying between 2 streets, with an empty lot across the street from our backyard that is on the lake, allowing us to enjoy wonderful views of Lake Winnebago.

Aerial view of yard showing home with existing planting beds
Aerial view identifying zones around home for various activities

Borrowing a map of zones used by some permaculture enthusiasts, we have tried to place beds which will need a larger investment of time in maintenance and harvesting closer to the entrances to the house.
The majority of herbs have been planted the corner between the house and garage in the backyard allowing easy access for cooking from the back deck off the kitchen. (orange-along garage back)
Bird feeders with seed for song birds and nectar for hummingbirds and grape jelly & oranges for orioles are located just off the deck so birds can be viewed from the dining room nearby and feeder can be easily replenished (orange-back by deck)
Beds with ornamental shrubs and perennials are located further down the hill above and below the waterfall (yellow backyard) 
Down the hill where the backyard drains in to a ditch along the street, native plants are being planted to catch runoff preventing it from draining directly into the lake, functioning as a rain garden of sorts-monarch host and nectar plants have been chosen for inclusion to allow this area to serve as a Monarch Waystation (blue)
Foundation beds in a shady area in front of the house are planted with PJM rhododendrons, hydrangeas, hostas, heaters and some other plants that tolerate a bit more shade and prefer the somewhat more protected micro climate with less wind off the lake (yellow-along walkway to front door)
To the left of the driveway are two beds emphasizing host and nectar plants to attract butterflies and other pollinators (yellow along far side of driveway)
A large bed with a large spruce tree, planted closer to the street in the front yard, has been expanded in order to allow the Little Free Library to be placed in a landscaped area close to the street for easy access (blue-front yard near street)
A small bed with a daffodils and daylilies is planted to bloom in succession around the mailbox (along road on left side of driveway)

Permaculture zones
A diagram used to encourage consideration of water usage in xeriscaping landscape design serves to remind us to try to place plants with higher water needs closer to the house where access is easier.  And of course drainage should be designed away from plants with low water needs, toward those requiring larger amounts.

Water use zones
planning used in xeriscaping

“Good planting design does not follow a formula.
 At best, it allows you to experiment with nature 
and through nature to make an original statement. 
As in all of the arts, the best garden designers take risks.
 Only by taking risks can you come up with something exciting and original.” 
~ James Van Sweden

Rejuvenating landscape design

"There’s less negative space in spring. 
I need the negative space of winter, that place that eases
 the senses after a rush of color, sound and texture. 
Good garden design balances and confronts opposites. 
After encountering a gorgeous vista or complicated planting bed, 
it’s necessary to have an open field of view, a skyline, a sitting area, 
an expanse of water or a meadow that’s sort of monochromatic."
-Benjamin Vogt

For those of us in colder climes, winter provides us an opportunity to reflect on the evolution of our gardens and make some plans for the busy gardening season.

The University of Wisconsin extension suggests a framework to utilize in the design process, offering  a starting point for assessing garden design and planning.

1.  Draw a base map
2.  Analyze the site
3.  Analyze how the property relates to the neighborhood/surroundings
4.  Analyze needs, uses, and goals for the property
5.  Consider budget & time
6.  Plan outdoor use areas
7.  Make use of area sketches
8.  Finish design

Selecting Landscape plants (trees, shrubs, ground covers, vines, flowers, grasses, lawn) for:
-energy conservation

Design Principles
-form (vertical, horizontal, weeping, pyramidal, rounded)
-Repetition  (R.V.Bess)

Landscape structures
-retaining walls

“In his garden every man may be his own artist without apology or explanation. 
Each within his green enclosure is a creator, and no two shall reach the same conclusion;
 nor shall we, any more than other creative workers, be ever wholly satisfied
 with our accomplishment. Ever a season ahead of us floats the
 vision of perfection and herein lies its perennial charm.”
 ~ Louise Beebe Wilder

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Slow Flowers

About 80 percent of the cut flowers used in florists' bouquets are imported, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says.  More than 90 percent of imported flowers enter the country through Miami.

Some American growers are fighting back, touting the "slow flowers" movement with its smaller carbon footprint with its shorter travel distance. A growing number of "farmer florists" are providing the option to buy local. There's been a small rebound in the number of cut-flower growers in the U.S., from 5,085 in 2007 to 5,903 in 2012.

California is the biggest fresh flower growing state, covering 76 percent of the domestic market, followed by Washington at 6 percent and New Jersey and Oregon tied at 4 percent.
California's cut flower business is traced back to the late 1870’s when a Ventura housewife, Theodosia Shepherd, was inspired to sell the flowers she raised in her garden, notably calla lilies that thrived in Southern California’s Mediterranean climate. Other women began to follow suit and the retail florist profession was born.
Some of the earliest known commercial flower nurseries were started near Oakland, California in the 1890’s by the Domoto family. While the Domoto’s were educating Japanese immigrants, floriculture was taking off in north San Diego County. During the Japanese interment during World War II, Paul Ecke, Sr. was among several growers in southern California who stored farm equipment and household goods for his friends that were removed from their homes. In Northern California, Italian growers continued the businesses of their Japanese counterparts.
In 1967, the Van Wingerden family set sail from their native Holland for Carpinteria, California. News of the Van Wingerden’s success reached Holland prompting other Dutch growers to immigrate as well.
Federal trade enacted policy over 20 years ago ushered in increasing percentages of market share coming in from imports in the US. Colombia's flower industry began to take off in the 70s and 80s. To give the Colombian economy an alternative to drug production, the U.S. Congress eliminated import fees on Colombian flowers in 1991, in exchange for Colombia meeting annual anti-drug goals. These flower farms which eventually became very tough competition for any domestic flower farms.
Despite a shift of drug production into Mexico, Congress has continued to prop up the Colombian flower industry. In 2011 lawmakers passed the Colombia Free Trade Agreement, which lifted remaining export barriers, over California growers' objections.
Today, there are 225 major cut flower growers in California, fewer than half of the total two decades ago.. More people seem to be moving away from buying at flower shops towards grocery stores that purchase large quantities at lower prices, with shorter stems.
So flower growers have shifted their tactics. They hope to lower costs by consolidating shipping. They are asking consumers to look for flowers with a little blue license plate logo that reads "CA GROWN", hoping to cash in on the increasing demand for "Made in USA" and "American Grown" products by American consumers. California Cut Flower Commission’s promotional activities in 2013 include support for the CA Grown certification of floats at the Tournament of Roses Parade, support of grower open houses and leveraging industry events and research promoting American Grown Flowers.

Debra Prinzing, created Slow Flowers, an online directory of florists, studio designers, wedding and event planners, supermarket flower departments and flower farmers who are committed to using American grown flowers. Prinzing is the  author of Slow Flowers: Four Seasons of Locally Grown Bouquets from the Garden, Meadow and Farm (St. Lynn's Press, 2013) and The 50 Mile Bouquet: Seasonal, Local and Sustainable Flowers (St. Lynn's Press, 2012). She suggests local American farmers should be focusing on promoting the quality, freshness and uncommon varieties rather than price, a battle with imported flowers they can not win.

The 50 Mile Bouquet introduces some of the innovative voices of the new Slow Flower movement: including organic flower farmers and sustainably-motivated floral designers.

One of the books on my wish list

Kasey Cronquist is the administrator for the Certified American Grown program that launched with 36 members, most in California, who went through a supply-chain audit to guarantee the flowers' origin before being approved to use the American Grown logo on their products.

Flowers for Valentines Day

Some of the most beautiful floral arrangements I've seen were at Hotel Quito in Ecuador where we were staying on a hotel mission trip with Hope Pres, Memphis.  There were huge bouquets of the longest stemmed roses in the lobby with smaller stunning arrangements scattered throughout the hotel.  (The room I stayed in was in need of remodeling, but the views of the mountains from the upper level where we enjoyed buffet breakfasts each morning were spectucular.)

It turns out Ecuador accounted for 9% of the worlds cut flower exports in 2013. Colombia supplies 78% of all American cut flowers, followed by Ecuador at 15%.
According to an IB Times report from 2012, 90% of the flowers Americans buy on February 14th are imported, mainly from Colombia and Ecuador, competing to produce the best quality and highest quantity of roses for international (mostly American) buyers.

With the recent drop in value of the Russian ruble, Ecuador, the main exporter of flowers to Russia, is sending more of it's products to the United States looking for "breaking" that market with low prices. Roses that were sold for 65 cents of dollar each in Russia, are estimated to cost closer to 45 cents in the United States with production costs estimated at 28 cents of dollar per stem.

When agronomists discovered in the 1960s that they could grow these beautiful roses in the Andes and then fly them within a few hours into the United States, the industry soon began moving to South America from places where roses had been cultivated domestically. They discovered roses thrive in the intense sunlight, dry air and year-round equatorial temperatures. Ecuador's bio-diverse geography from the low coastal highlands to the high Andes (Sierra) plus the lower tropical Oriente and Amazon area has provided opportunities for great diversification from roses to other profitable ornamental flowers.  Gypsophila, Limonium, Liatris, Gerbera daisies, sunflowers, Clarkia, Daises pomporns, Ornamental pompoms and Novel pompoms and tropical blooms are exported as well.

As the quality and quantity of flowers produced for export increased, pressure mounted on these countries' flower workers and their environments, resulting in a host of problems, from low pay and child labor to misuse of hazardous chemicals. Poor working conditions negatively impact the health of the flower workers. It's estimated by the Labor Right Forum report that two-thirds of Colombian and Ecuadorian flower workers suffer from work-related health problems, such as headaches, nausea, impaired vision, conjunctivitis, rashes, asthma, stillbirths, miscarriages, congenital malformations, and respiratory and neurological problems.

In recent years ther has been increasing pressure on frams to become "Fair Trade" certified, prompting many farms to clean up their practices, resulting in millions of fairly produced flowers being sold worldwide. Ecuador Fairtrade Association is a group of farms that produce Fairtrade Certified roses, callas and spray roses. The Fair Trade certification guarantees that employers pay decent wages, respect the right of their workers to join trade unions and provide good housing when relevant. The Fair Trade certification also demands the practice environmentally-friendly farming methods which reduce the use of pesticides, conserve energy and protect watersheds and wildlife.

Ecuador Fairtrade Association is a group of farms that produce Fairtrade Certified roses, callas and spray roses. Ten percent of the FOB price paid for the FTC roses goes to a fund (Fair Trade Premium) for flower workers to invest in community development projects like: small businesses, scholarships for workers and their kids, health centers and loans.