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Lot Lines – the Official Blog of Outdoor Design Group, Colorado Landscape Architects

Korean Feather Grass – A Frothy Focal Point for the Part-Shade Garden

Korean Feather Reed Grass

Calamagrostis brachytricha, Korean Feather Reed Grass

Calamagrostis brachytricha, aka Korean Feather Reed Grass, is a clump-forming ornamental grass with green leaves and fluffy flower plumes. It is not as well known as its infamous cousin Calmagrostis acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’, commonly known as Karl Foerster Feather Reed Grass. But Korean Feather Reed Grass really should get more attention, as it is an indispensable option to add wispy texture to planting schemes in part shade conditions.

PLANT STATS

Scientific Name:  Calamagrostis brachytricha

Common Name:  Korean Feather Reed Grass

Plant Type:  Ornamental Grass

Mature Height:  3-4’

Mature Spread:  2-3’

Cold Hardiness Zone:  USDA zones 4 – 9 (up to 6,500 ft)

Water Requirement:  Medium. Slightly drought tolerant once established, but prefers adequate moisture. Requires regular amounts of water if it is planted in more sun.

Exposure:  Part Sun/Shade

Soil:  Tolerant of a wide range of soils.

Flower Color & Bloom Time:  The feather like flower spikes have a pink tinge when they initially emerge in late summer, and then fade to straw yellow in fall. Compared to Karl Foerster grass, the flowers of Korean Feather seem to be much more misty and gauzy when they first appear which gives the plants a wonderfully diaphanous appearance.

Winter Interest:  Gold foliage and flowers.

Disadvantages:  May reseed under certain conditions.

Availability and Sizes:  This plant seems to be regularly available at retail nurseries around the front range.  It is typically sold in 1 gallon or 4″  pots.

Best Features:  A large, showy, flowering ornamental grass that can take shady conditions.

Maintenance Tip:  Like other ornamental grasses, trim plants down to about 4-6” above the surrounding soil in late winter or early spring, before new growth begins to emerge.

This is the official blog of Outdoor Design Group, Colorado Landscape Architects.  For more information about our business and our services, click here.

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Project Highlight- Arvada Landscape with Custom Fire Pit and Mountain Views

patio and firepit

The landscape design includes patio space and a gas fire pit that allows easy enjoyment of the mountain views

Are you considering purchasing a new home? When you tour the lot, examine the adjacent views and how the site may be landscaped and used for outdoor living space. With a little foresight and a good design, the yard can be made into an inviting extension of your home for your family and guests alike.

For this project, located on the west side of Arvada, Colorado, we worked with the homeowners to take advantage of amazing mountain views, while adding value and convenience to their property. A sloped lot was redesigned to provide a flat lawn area and a secondary seating area with a custom gas fire pit. Pavers were used to soften the existing covered concrete patio, and a built-in outdoor kitchen and bar seating were added. Soft lighting provides security and ambiance in the evening, while the Rocky Mountains provide the backdrop for stunning sunsets.

firepit patio and outdoor kitchen

The view from the back of the lot toward the house and outdoor kitchen

patio with lawn behind

View of firepit with tiered lawn behind

outdoor kitchen and lawn

The view from the leveled-off lawn are to the outdoor kitchen

existing sloped backyard

The existing sloped backyard

Most builders will include a basic front yard landscape in the home price, but will leave the back yard as bare ground for you to improve however you wish. The design must be approved by the homeowners association. The proposed landscape will need to ensure proper drainage and shouldn’t have any negative impacts on your neighbors lots, or adjacent open space.

The front yard can always be redesigned as well. The front yard irrigation mainline and valves should already be in place, so the design can be modified pretty easily. This homeowner asked us to redesign the front yard simultaneously, and they plan to redo the front yard in a second phase. For the time being, they have completed their landscape, eliminating the bare dirt and allowing them to fully enjoy their new home and yard.

pavers were installed over existing patio

Pavers were installed over the concrete patio that came with the home

 

outdoor kitchen with mountain views

Enjoying a beer and the mountain views

This is the official blog of Outdoor Design Group, Colorado Landscape Architects.  For more information about our business and our services, click here.

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Plant Fall Bulbs Now for Spring Color Later

As we move further into the fall season, many gardeners have turned their attention to cleaning up and preparing to put their gardens to bed for winter. Gardeners should also take this time to plan ahead for spring blooming bulbs which are currently available in your local garden center. Now is the perfect time to add these must-have jewels to your landscape. For most areas in Colorado, you should plant these bulbs sometime between the middle of September to the end of October. I have planted bulbs as late as November during a mild fall and winter. As long as the ground is not frozen, you can plant bulbs. However, by planting in early fall you give the bulbs time to establish some roots before the soil freezes, ensuring the best success. Lucky for us, the growing conditions in much of Colorado are perfect for spring blooming bulbs. The climate and ecological conditions of many of the bulb’s native ranges are quite similar to our high plains region.

crocus_march2015

Crocus popping up through veronica and sedums.

The diversity of size, shape and color of spring blooming bulbs is fascinating. Some of the best bulbs to plant in our area are (listed in order of bloom time) :

Early Spring Bloomers:  crocus, Siberian squill, snowdrops, dwarf iris, and species tulips

Mid-Spring Bloomers:  hyacinths, daffodils, grape muscari, fritillaria and tulips

Late  Spring Bloomers:  alliums, irises and fox-tail lillies

allium-with-cholla_kendrick-lake_june-2016

Alliums with Cholla cactus.

Fall planted bulbs do best in soils that are well drained. If the soil is too wet, the bulbs may rot. The rule of thumb is to plant the bulbs at a depth 3 to 4 times the length of the bulbs. If you buy bulbs in a package, a visual guide to bulb planting depth is usually printed on the package.

Consider adding “bulb food” to the holes you’ve dug before you drop in the bulbs. Phosphorus fertilizer will give your bulbs a boost, and help them become established. Traditionally a product called “bone meal” was recommended for providing phosphorus to bulbs. But research done at Colorado State University has shown that product doesn’t work well in our typically alkaline soil chemistry. Consider a conventional (a.k.a. “non-organic”) fertilizer called “triple super phosphate”. However, using phosphorus from conventional fertilizers has been linked to environmental damage such as toxic algae blooms in lakes and rivers. Use the conventional phosphorus sparingly and carefully. If you’ve not already done so, amending your soil with compost is also a good idea to improve soil texture for your bulbs.

foxtail-lilly-june-2016

Close up of foxtail lillies.

Most spring blooming bulbs do best in full sun to part sun locations as opposed to deep shade. But if the site is south facing in full sun, that area’s soil may warm up too much in late winter, causing the bulbs to flower early and those blooms would be susceptible to frost damage during cold snaps. It is a good idea to mulch the soil where you’ve planted the bulbs. Mulch will keep the soil from drying out, and help moderate soil temperature so it doesn’t warm up too quickly.

Design-wise, you can tuck just a few bulbs into niches between established perennials and ornamental grasses in your garden, or you could add large groupings of one type of bulb to get maximum color punch in your landscape. One effective way to add bulbs to an existing garden is to place them around low-growing plants that will still be dormant when the spring bulbs emerge. That approach is particularly effective with low growing groundcover perennials. Some people will add early spring bulbs such as crocus or snowdrops to a lawn area, knowing that the grass won’t start growing or need a mowing until after the bulbs are done. And if you want to add bulbs year after year, you might want to make a plan or take photos of where the existing bulbs are when they are blooming. That way you can avoid disturbing the established bulbs next time you add more in the fall.

tulips-may-2013

Tulips mingling with veronica and the remnants of last year’s ornamental grass.

For all the bulbs, you should not remove the leaves after the flowers have faded, until the leaves have turned from green to brown. Removing green leaves too early deprives the bulbs the ability to feed themselves in preparation for the next year’s blooms.

If your bulbs are “happy” where you’ve placed them, there’s a chance they will supply you with gorgeous blooms for many years. Adding spring blooming bulbs to your garden is an easy way to get dependable spots of color into your landscape for a springtime show!

This is the official blog of Outdoor Design Group, Colorado Landscape Architects.  For more information about our business and our services, click here.

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