Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
May, 2011
Regional Report

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Joyce (left) and Katia Velasquez discuss the new landscape.

Selecting a Landscape Designer

Theoretical question: the front of your house is looking dated and tired, or, the kids have grown and fledged and you want to redo the back yard to suit your own needs. How do you go about selecting a landscape designer or architect? There is a Directory of Landscape Architects on the Internet that will provide you with the names of over 17,000 businesses around the country, or you can go to the Yellow Pages in the phone book to find landscapers in your area. Decidedly the best way to select a designer is to take a walk around your neighborhood and see which gardens appeal to you.

My friends Joyce and Gary Reeder did just that recently. They had budgeted money for relandscaping the back yard of their home in San Carlos. Both Joyce and Gary are knowledgeable about gardening and the front of the house had been relandscaped ten years ago. What was once a lawn with "parsley" shrubs surrounding the house is now a pleasing, mature garden that requires little maintenance, is drought resistant, and is bordered with curving lines, attractive ground covers, and a variety of textures and heights.

Joyce and Gary happened to come across a neighbor who had recently had their back yard relandscaped. The Reeders engaged him in conversation and the fellow was so excited about his new garden that he invited them in to take a look. Both he and his wife loved camping on weekends and the landscape architect they were working with provided them with a natural setting, very much like a national park, only on a much smaller scale. There is a fire pit, low boulders to sit on and plantings that mimic nature. A large white oak became the focal point for the design and was enhanced and lit to reveal its magnificence even during the evening hours. Joyce and Gary were enchanted and asked for the name of the designer.

Katia Velasquez of Nature Elements in Felton came out to listen to the Reeders and to get a feel for what they wanted in their garden. What she heard was that both Joyce and Gary love watching birds. Their urban garden has always been a haven for wildlife. Squirrels, doves, goldfinches, hummingbirds, woodpeckers, and even the occasional hawk are frequent visitors there. The key here is that Katia listened to her potential clients and gave them what they wanted.

The actual work was done over the winter months. It involved bringing in huge amounts of soil, stone, and plant material. A few of the old brick paths were incorporated into the new design, but everything else from irrigation to mulch is brand new. The design is pleasing and well suited to the house. There is a wonderful water feature that is the focal point of the garden with pools of different depths so that a large variety of birds can enjoy a bath. The little hummers bathe in the splashing water near a rocky shelf, the doves seem to like the gravel shallows, and the hawk has a deep basin all to himself.

I was on hand recently when Katia came by to answer a few concerns Joyce had about some of the plants. She told me that most of her business is by referral. A neighbor will see that someone on the block is getting a new garden and will decide to make improvements on their own property. Katia also has an excellent relationship with her various vendors who are happy to select and set aside the best quality plants and hardscape material for her. She is well respected and knowledgeable and, one thing I like especially, anthropomorphizes the plants. "This little guy is getting new growth," she told Joyce, or, "We need to protect this guy from snails." I always think of plants a living beings and it's great to find that great minds think alike.

A new landscape will set you back a pretty penny, but the pleasure of a totally personal garden is worth the expense.

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