Monday, September 17, 2012

New Blog for Blue Dot Landscaping

We have a new blog specifically for Blue Dot Landscaping. 
Landscaper Greenville is the new site.
I will be migrating landscaping related posts from Blogspot to the new blog
SCyardman.Blogspot will, in the future, only contain personal things I wish to write about.  Politics, my quest for a new partner in life, the trials and tribulations of online dating, funny stories and stories about my boys and Byrnes Football.

Monday, October 17, 2011

New Plantings - proper planting techniques and care

   Planting new trees or shrubs?  Of course we hope you are in Greenville or Spartanburg county and you have hired Blue Dot Landscaping to install your new plantings.  If so, you can skip to the second part of this post which will cover the best technique for tree and shrub care for newly installed plantings.  If you desire more research, we like this  Charlotte landscaper's blog.
Planting a large Willow Oak

   First I will share with you what we have found to be the best way to install your new plantings.
  1. Measure the size of the root ball of your tree or shrub.  You want to know the height and the diameter.
  2. Dig your hole so that 2" of the root ball will be above the preexisting ground level if it is a shrub.  Most trees should be 4" above ground level, Dogwood trees should be 6" above.  The number one reason we see plants not thrive is that they were planted too low.
  3. The diameter of the hole you dig should be about 50% greater than that of the root ball.
  4. As you are removing soil from the hole, chop it up with your shovel so that there are no large chunks of dirt.
  5. Install plant, use fill dirt to fill bottom 1/3 of hole around plant and make sure everything is level, plum and facing the way you want it to face.
  6. Mix in mushroom compost with the remaining soil.  We use one 40 lb bag of compost for three 3 gallon plants.  2 entire bags for a larger tree.  We have found that mushroom compost is vastly superior to peat moss and other things you can buy as a soil additive.
  7. Add some granular 10-10-10 fertilizer.  You can use many different types of fertilizer but 10-10-10 works and is cheap.  About 1/2 a handful for shrubs, two hand fulls for a big tree.
  8. Now fill the remaining part of the hole with the soil/compost/fertilizer mix.  Make sure you do not go above the top of the root ball.
  9. Rake the area smooth and install mulch or pine needles.
Now to the "Care" part.
   New plantings need proper watering above anything else.  The weather and rainfall you receive will determine exactly how much.  We recommend watering very thoroughly the day you plant.  In general you want to continue to water thoroughly but not frequently.  It is hard to be specific because you will plant at different times of the year and experience different temperatures and humidity's. Remember that plants need water AND oxygen to survive.  You can't let them dry out too much or they die from lack of water.  You can't keep the soil too wet or they don't get the oxygen they need.
If you planted in the fall, we like another dose of 10-10-10 granular fertilizer in mid spring.  We also recommend that you pay the most attention to watering frequently the first summer.  If your plants survive their first summer in your landscape.... they generally do well after that without so much intensive care. 
   A great thing we have found in addition to the above is to add a "root stimulator" to your watering's.  This comes in a liquid form.  Something like this will work well.  Apply this every 10 days for 3-5 applications.
   Make sure you keep your plantings properly mulched.  This means enough to keep the soil covered with at least 2" of mulch or pine needles.... but not so much that you cover the base(trunk) of the plant.

Good luck!


Friday, September 9, 2011

Landscapers we like in other areas

Earlier this year I actually had an original idea.  The basic concept was a more specialized reciprocal link exchange with other landscaping companies.  Many people do reciprocal links and Google has greatly reduced their effectiveness in your search engine value.  However, a link from another website that has value and has relevance is a good thing.  My idea was to find quality landscaping companies that also had quality websites in markets other than our own.  We would all link to each other on a separate landscape link page.  The original idea was to have 125 companies.  We have since modified that to include only 20 (we have 9 so far).  We have also changed each page on each website so that it is original content and links to different sub-pages on each site. 

The companies included so far (and I like each and every one of them) are:

North Carolina

Charlotte Metro area -
We can't count how often someone spends a small fortune on landscaping and hardscaping and then expects it to stay beautiful without proper horticultural care. Even your big oaks need expert tending every 3 - 5 years. In Charlotte you should contact AA Tex for your Plants and tree care .


Baton Rouge-
Our friend from Baton Rouge, Corporate Green, has quite the extensive portfolio of
landscape services Corporate Green designs, installs and cares for the beautiful landscapes you admire so much. Whether you’re just needing to redo a few beds or design an installation for new construction..


Dallas - Frisco - Plano -
A good looking and well built Fence is a very nice addition to your landscape design. A good fence not only provides privacy for your property but also helps to keep animals out of your plants and flower beds. Backyard Creations, serving Plano and Frisco will be glad to help you develop a fencing solution for your home or business. Call Rich at 469-233-5500.


Portland -
Our friend in Portland, WA is a nationally known landscaper. He is particularly good at creating outdoor living spaces. A backyard design and build has become popular lately. Many people are finding great joy in having things like a walk, paver patio, or a garden pond. Outdoor living spaces with a kitchen are really great. JP Stone Contractors Inc. is licensed, bonded, and insured to work in Oregon and Washington. They maintain constant contact with their customer or their representative to guarantee satisfactory results.


Nashville and surrounding areas -
Peachtree is Middle Tennessee's premier Full Service Landscaping Company Their services include Landscape Design and Installation, Irrigation Service and Installation, as well as outdoor lighting. They also have a property maintenance division, providing on-going lawn and landscape maintenance, as well as nightly parking lot sweeping. .


Scottsdale -
There are many different types of patio options and many people who build them. We think a good Outdoor Patio Contractor is Ultimate Landscapes in Scottsdale. They have all the skills, experience, and machinery to create quality, lifetime patios.


Dayton – Miami Valley and surrounding areas -
With 27 years experience in excavating and trucking, Wise Landscaping is the right choice for your special projects, ranging from Dump truck service and hauling, to Backhoe and Bulldozer work. They do quality work with many years of experience including:


St. Louis -
When in St. Louis... (wait! is that the beginning of a song?)
We really like the Landscape services at Landscape Concepts. The services they offer include: Site/Hardscape/Landscape Design, Natural Stone and Pre-cast Retaining Walls plus many more.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Mac and Will complete a project

Blue Dot Landscaping in Greenville and Spartanburg, SC is proud of our youngest members.  Mac and Will, are 11 year old twins and sons of Rich Regan (Partner).  This summer, as they have since they were 4, they work with their father.  They both are expert wheel-barrow drivers.  In the last two months we have installed a truckload of Palisades Zoysia, 18 pallets of 419 Bermuda and two places that got about 1,000 square feet of Emerald Zoysia.  In each of the previous jobs we had a crew leader and several workers involved. 

When Mrs. Thomason of east Spartanburg decided she wanted beautiful grass in her courtyard we knew Palisades Zoysia would be a perfect fit.  We decided to let Mac and Will do this job.  (It required less than 1 pallet).  They dug up the existing dirt and removed roots and gravel and debris.  They added mushroom compost to the soil and raked it smooth.  Then they hauled the sod rolls to the site, placed the sod correctly and used a hatchet to trim the edges.  This picture is the final step: watering the newly installed grass.

What was the rest of Blue Dot Landscaping doing during this time?
Well, building a fence with an arbor of course!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Paver Patio with Pergola - Built by Professionals

The project here is simple.  Making it high quality, functional and long lasting is where the expertise comes in.  Our customer in Greenville, SC wanted a patio in their back yard.  It will serve as a getaway to relax and also as a gathering spot for friends and neighbors.

We decided on a size - 18 ft. by 15 ft.
The customer also wanted a pergola.  They mentioned, also, that the afternoon sun was bright and the direction was from their house.  We would try to give them some shade and at least partially block the sun with the pergola.

The first step, as usual, was the excavation.  When building a proper paver patio you should always excavate to at least 7 inches below your expected final grade.

My 11 year old twins, Mac and Will get the joy of working with me during the summer.  No goofing off for my boys!  (Mac is in the blue, Will the red)

When excavating you also need to be planning.  The final slope of the patio should be determined.  You don't want it perfectly level because of water drainage issues.  You don't want it to slope too much or folks won't be able to have a good place to sit.  Generally about 1 inch of slope for 10 - 15 linear feet is good enough for good water drainage.  It is also a gentle enough slope that if you are sitting or standing on it - it seems level.  You also need to pay attention to the best place to send the water runoff.  We decided that the front left would be the best spot. 
A transit level is a useful tool in planning the elevations.  The man pictured above in red is holding the story pole.  The man in the blue will use the transit (not pictured) to measure the elevations.  We have decided that the back right corner is 0.  The front right corner and the back left corner will be 1 inch lower.  The front left corner will be 2 inches lower.  This will work fine for the patio, but means we are going to have to move some extra soil.  The right side turf area will have to be lowered about 6 inches and the left side raised about 6 inches.
Once we have the excavation complete we need to take a break from the patio construction and install the posts for the pergola.  We use 6 x 6 pressure treated lumber.  With a 8 foot high ceiling we need the posts to rise about 9 1/2 feet above the finished grade.  We purchased 6x6x12's and put them almost 2 feet in the ground (don't forget we have already excavated the 7 inches needed for the patio).

Now it's time for the aggregate base.  A well built paver patio will have at least a 4 inch base of stone and stone dust.  In our area a product called 'crush n run' is just about perfect.  For this job we are using 5 tons.
The installation of the 4 inch base is important.  If it is not the right slope - neither will the patio be.  You can't fix problems with the base by using sand in the later steps.  Compacting the base is also key to a well built paver patio.  The 4 inches of solidly compacted aggregate is the main cornerstone.

After the base is ready, it's time for sand and pavers.  We use a local product called 'river sand'.  Other areas in the U.S. have slightly different types sand underlayment materials.  We use 1 inch pvc pipe and a 6' level to screed.  Care needs to be taken so that the sand is as close to exactly 1 inch thick as possible.  The pavers should be layed so that you walk on the ones installed... to get to the place in which you are installing new ones.  The pattern we are using here is a popular one.  Using either Pavestone or Belgard products - we like the type called 'recs and squares'.  There are 6x9's and 6x6's (approx) in this pattern (called the K pattern).

My boys help with the hauling of the pavers from the pallets to the installer.

Many from Spartanburg might be surprised to see my partner, Mike Vandever, actually doing some work.  Here he is nailing in 8 inch spikes in order to hold the edging in place.  Some sort of permanent edging is vital in keeping the interlocking pavers in place.

I get the fun work now.  We spread polymeric sand (a sand with a glue type chemical mixed in) on top of the pavers and sweep the sand in the cracks.  We then use the tamper to make all the pavers solid and firm and level.

You then want to slightly dampen the surface to aid in the hardening of the polymeric sand.

With the patio complete now it's time to focus on the pergola.  Here we are notching a space for the 2x10 rafters.  By creating a 3/4 inch notch, placing the 2x10 in the notch, and then bolting it all together - you get a solid roof foundation that isn't going away.

The 2x10 rafters.

The finished pergola.  We used 2x8 pressure treated lumber for the top part.  Created curved endings on the 2x8's for a decorative effect.  On the very top is 1x2's to hold everything together.  The 2x8's run north to south to further block the setting sun.  The 2x4's you see in the front are for the purpose of creating a little more shade.

If you want something like this and live in the Charlotte area - try Tex Lawn Company.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

How to Select the Right Grass For Your Lawn

  Upstate South Carolina (Greenville and Spartanburg counties) is my location and it is the climate in which I know the most about grass types.  From Birmingham, AL to Atlanta, GA and then along I-85 up to Richmond, VA encompasses a similar sort of soil types and climate as mine.  The USA hardiness zone we are in is "7b".  When specifically speaking about grass types, we are described as a "Transitional Zone".  This means that we are not perfect for warm season nor cool season grasses.  Our primary type of cool season grass is Fescue.  We have 3 primary warm season grasses - Centipede, Bermuda and Zoysia. 
   Fescue - This is the right choice if you want the greenest most beautiful lawn you can have for twelve months a year and don't mind the effort of irrigation, weed preventers, lime, fertilizing and other issues.  Fescue can be installed fairly easily by planting seed in the fall.  We recommend an Oregon grown certified blue label.  This is also the best for predominantly shady lawns.  For deep shade we recommend mixing in some Creeping Red Fescue. 
Centipede - Is sometimes called the lazy man's grass.  Although establishment from seed can take 3 years, it requires the least amount of watering, mowing and fertilizing.  It likes sandy soil and direct sun but does ok in other environments as well.
Bermuda - Is the right choice if you want a low cut golf course look.  For areas with plenty of sun it can also be the easiest to grow.  You can actually have a lawn of this type without seeding.  Common Bermudagrass occurs naturally in our environment.  All you need do is to kill the competition with herbicides and fertilize and water the Berumda.  In 2-3 years you can have a thick lush lawn.  For a little better and quicker result, you can purchase a hybrid Bermuda seed.  For the best and quickest Bermudagrass lawn, sod with a Bermuda known as 419.
Zoysia - Is the most versatle grass in that it does well in sun or partial shade.  It is a very strong grass that is superior in choking out weeds.  Zoysia, after establishment, takes little care.  Irrigate once a week during the growing season and fertilize twice per year are the main requirements.  Zoysia needs to be installed by sod and is by far the most expensive grass to install.

   For more information you can see Carolina Fresh FarmsClemson also has some good information.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

My Top 10 Flowering Shrubs

   Anyone in the nursery business can tell you that sales of plants skyrocket when they are in bloom.  Azaleas sell well in the spring when they are blooming, the same can be said about roses in the summer.  We all can be guilty of the impulse buying.  We see something, we really like it, so we buy it.  That, however, is a really poor way to landscape.  We should plan ahead.... and plant when the season and weather best dictates it.  I believe that a quality landscape design incorporates different plantings that bloom at different times.  An ideal plan has something of interest (blooms or color changes as in Red Maples in the fall) 12 months a year.    Another good source, particularly if you live in the St. Louis area is Landscape Concepts. OK, here are my top ten favorite flowering shrubs:

  • Azalea - genus Rhododendron -Azaleas are a signature plant in the south.  From Augusta National to what seems like 100 percent of landscapes of older stately homes - azaleas are prominent in spring.  An extremely large variety of azalea species, hybrids and cultivars are available.  Most can trace their family tree back to  the Orient.  Among the standard variety blooming once a year around Easter - I like the 'Hershy Red' and 'Delaware Valley White'.  There is also available a low growing, late blooming variety - the 'Gumpo' azalea.  By far my favorite, however, is the newly released Encore™ series of azaleas.  They offer blooms twice a year, in the spring and again in the fall.

  • Knockout Rose - rosa 'knock out' -

  • "Despite the great possibilities for failure, the burdensome work, and the lack of glamour, my hobby became a passion. Even with successes, it didn't take me long to realize that growing roses would be more fun if it entailed less work."- William Radler, breeder/inventor of the Kockout Rose. You plant this rose just as you do most shrubs and you get beautiful blooms from spring until frost.  Very little maintenance is required.

  • Endless Summer Hydrangea -Hydrangea macrophylla 'Endless Summer'

  • In our southern climate most Hydrangeas only bloom once per year.  The 'Endless Summer' variety usually will have two full blooming periods.  'Endless Summer' may be pink, blue or lavender, depending on the soil in which it is grown. 

  • Yuletide Camellia - Camellia sasanqua 'Yuletide'

  •   Sometimes referred to as Christmas Camellias, the sasanqua varieties of Camellia are native to the evergreen, coastal forests of southern Japan. It was introduced by Dutch traders into Europe in 1869. Yuletide is a chance seedling of Kanjiro and originated at Nuccio's Nurseries in Altadena, CA. The Japanese use the leaves of sasanqua to make tea, and the seeds are pressed into tea seed oil for use as a lubricant and in cooking and cosmetics.
      This variety of the Camellia Sasanqua as well as many others are good choices for a large bed around a tree or even as a hedge.  It is also an excellent choice if you want an Espalier.

  • Camellia Japonica - Camellia japonica 'Governor Mouton'  -

  • I actually like ALL Camellia Japonica's.  They have lustrous dark green leaves and can be used in many situations.  They can be a speciman plant in the center of a bed, they can be a hedge or even a stand alone planting.  Camellias  prefers acidic, highly organic soils.  I like to  mix in pine bark mulch when planting.  You should maintain a good mulch bed because of shallow rooting.   Mature size can be 10 ft. wide and 15- 20 ft tall, but also easy to keep the size you want with twice a year pruning.  This Governor Mouton variety  has 3-5" flowers and  semidouble to loose peony form flowers are red with white splotches. 

  • Kleims Hardy Gardenia - Gardenia jasminoides 'Kleim's Hardy'

  • By far the most frequently used plant you will find in my landscape designs.  In addition to being very beautiful and fragrant, it can be used in many situations, sun and shade.  I particularly like using it in the same planting bed as Radicans Gardenia.  I like this combination near and around summer environments like a back porch or a swimming pool area.

  • Kaleidoscope Abelia - Abelia x grandiflora 'Kaleidoscope' -

  • The newest shrub on our list and possibly the most unique.  You get 3 different looks from this shrub per year.  You get a nice spring blooming of white flowers.  That is followed by the greenish /yellow tint you see in the picture on your left.  And then my favorite is in the fall when it has more of a bright orange,red and yellow 'kaleidoscope' look.
    “…really packs a wallop...specimens are vigorous yet compact, colorful to a fault, do not bleach in the sun, and catch visitors’ eyes.”– Dr. Michael Dirr, University of Georgia

  • Rhododendron Rhododendron catawbiense -

  • First we should get something straight.  Azaleas are actually Rhododendrons (or Rhodos).  Most nuseries and landscapers refer to Azaleas as the variety of Rhodo from Asia.  And we call what are actually 'native azalea' - Rhododendron. 
      The Rhodo typically has larger leaves, larger blooms, a less compact shape and blooms later in the spring.
    The Rhododendron catawbiense I like because it is fairly easy to grow in our climate.  This variety comes in many different vibrant colors.

  • Burgandy Loropetalum - Loropetalum chinensis Purple Pixie™ 'Shang-lo' -

  • There are many varieties and different uses for the Burgandy Loropetalum.  There are the taller shrubs for a hedge and medium sized for color in a bed.  There are even shrubs made into a tree form that are beautiful and sort of cool in that you don't see them on every street corner.  My favorite is the Purple Pixie.  I like it for its dark purple color and compact size. As with most Burgandy Loropetalums, it has nice pink flowers in the spring.

  • Gold Mound Spirea - Spiraea japonica 'Gold Mound'

    • Spireas (Spiraea species) are among the easiest flowering shrubs to grow. There are two distinct kinds of spireas: the bridal wreath type, with clusters of white flowers on arching branches in spring; and the shrubby, much lower-growing type, which has pink, red or white flowers clustered at the end of upright branches in summer to fall. The Gold Mound is a low mounded shrub with pink flowers.  3ft high by 5 ft wide is the normal mature size.  Yellow-green foiliage in summer. Recurrent summer flowering.
      For more ideas you might try this informative blog or for actual good research you could try our favorite Nursery in North Carolina.