Christina's Corner - Elephants in the Backyard!


Christina's Corner - Elephants in the Backyard!

Newsletter #5 – May/June 2019

Landscape planting seems to hit a fever pitch in May.  Everyone is thinking ahead to Summer fun – cookouts, garden parties, hosting the neighborhood kids for backyard games, lounging around on the patio or by the pool – and they want to paint the landscape with bright, cheerful colors to celebrate. And, invariably, they will stuff too many plants into too little space, resulting in a hodge-podge of Barnum & Bailey proportions by the time Independence Day rolls around.  Sometimes I just have to say, “Ooh!  Do you keep the elephants in the backyard?!”

Okay, so maybe I can be a little jaded about the glut of mismatched, too-close-together, carnival-esque landscapes I see, but I think in terms of how much money, time, and effort would be saved by having a fluid plan that can be tinkered with as needed.  We all become seduced by plants we see in our neighborhoods and local nurseries; I am not immune to that just because I have been in the garden so many years.  The best landscapes are a nice mix of form, texture, and color, but sometimes playing with too much color or variety can make the whole picture go sideways, prompting snarky remarks from people like me. (Sorry!  I can’t help myself!)

To me, the key is getting the bones of your landscape in place, then filling in the design with plants that are more exciting or colorful.  This background is not only your structure and interest during the Winter months, it is also the framework for launching those incendiary seasonal colors – purple, red, yellow, orange, pink – into your neighborhood.

Many people say they are “tired” of Boxwoods, Hollies, or Junipers and I myself am sometimes tired of the way they are used over and over in too many boring landscapes.  However, most people are not aware of the diversity within these groups – newer cultivars that are so much more adaptable to modern landscapes.  There are so many forms of Holly and Boxwood that it can boggle the mind, and many new forms of Holly do not look anything like the stiff, prickly shrubs of yesterday.


My passion is design and knowing as much as I can about these plants helps me to use them in more interesting ways.  I am still asked sometimes for the same-old, same-old, but more homeowners are recognizing that there is a better way to go about this whole landscape thing.  There are many great plants that are overlooked simply because people are unfamiliar with them.  For instance, do you know that River Valley carries more than a dozen types of Boxwood, in multiple sizes and forms, and over twenty varieties of Holly?  Not to mention the ten or so varieties of Loropetalum!  And Camellia, Hydrangea, Abelia, and Japanese Maple!

There is something for every home and project – from foundation planting to screens to borders to pool plantings.  Part of my job is to help choose plants for customers, and I work my magic by simply knowing my plants.  Having a designer’s eye is very helpful since I am usually working from photographs and measurements of the house and property.  There is no “cookie-cutter” for me – every property is different, every home has different features to consider, and every homeowner has their own ideas about how they want the landscape to look and fit into their lives.       

If you need something different for your landscape, or just a new set of eyes to help pin down the missing elements, come to River Valley.  We consider it a privilege to help you pull it all together – plants, pottery, stone, water features, fire elements, whatever you have in mind.  See you soon at River Valley!