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Near Miss: To Screen or not to Screen Part 2

Since the last post, I’ve been thinking about what my unsolicited solution is for the screening problem caused by poor plant species selection. I even drove back over there last week to take a closer look at the crime scene. Call me a horticultural stalker because I’m sure the other homeowners in the neighborhood have been posting about a guy in dark sunglasses photographing their property.

HortHack™- If you slip on an orange vest and act like you own the place, people will usually leave you alone. (HortHacks are loosely defined as gardening, landscaping, and horticultural tips you are are only going to get from Tim Wolfe).

Well anyway, let's see if I can help. I don’t know about you but I like to start at the beginning. For me, the beginning is learning the client's functional goals and design criteria.

Functional Goals- in landscape design, the set of goals pertaining to the future needs and practical purpose of the site.

Functional goals are generally revealed in client interactions in the form of an initial onsite consultation. This is where someone like myself is likely to learn about the clients’ likes, dislikes, and how they would like their landscape and plantings to function. After 21 years in the business, I’ve heard almost everything. I can’t say I’ve heard it all because the things I hear never cease to amaze me. During this meeting I also expect to learn about the clients’ additional design criteria which could be anything from they “don’t like red berries on hollies” to their love of camellias but hatred of picking up the the spent blossoms after a cold snap (I think anyone should consider themselves lucky if they were to have such a quality problem, but hey, I’m here to please the client).

During this interaction, one might also expect to learn about budget and how patient the clients will be in waiting for the revised installations to fulfill their role. This will shape the solutions I will present to them. For this exercise, let's pretend the clients are tired of motorists and neighbors peering through their near miss solution and are ready to do something about it but at the same time they don’t want to take out a second mortgage to cover the costs. Moving right along to the next phase:

Site analysis- in landscape design, consideration or evaluation of the conditions, restrictions, and environment of a landscape site.

Before we do what we need to do (not jump the gun and plant something like emerald arborvitaes or magnolias), so our clients can be who they need to be (more private), we really need to understand more about the site. This takes place during a careful onsite site analysis, so let’s jump right in!

First, I’m going to collect a soil sample and send it off for analysis. I will drop it off at the extension service, where they will send it to UGA for analysis. I should receive the results within two weeks. The test results will tell me the pH of the soil and if we have any nutrient deficiencies. This information will give me insight into what I can do to dial in the soil chemistry for optimum performance of our replacements.

While it's pretty obvious the Leylands are in too much shade, closer examinations shows that the tall pines have not been pruned in years. I’m going to recommend some crown raising along with some crown cleaning to remove some of those large dead limbs (widowmakers as we call them) that may not only injure us or the owners, but could potentially fall from several stories up and crush one of our replacements. An even closer inspection reveals that two of the large pines have quite a bit of decay at the trunk base along with carpenter ant infestations, so we will fill out a Dead, Dying, Diseased or Hazardous Trees Application (often called: DDH for short) online with the arborist division for removal. The overdue pruning work and hazardous tree removals will not only make the site more attractive and safe, but will increase sunlight infiltration. The much needed increase in light levels will help our replacements make food through photosynthesis, and photosynthesis equals foliage, and foliage equals screening. Do you see where this is going?

Sunlight exposure is a big one for me, and since I’m not usually standing on an installation site every hour of the day, every month of the year, it can sometimes be hard to assess how much sunlight a given planting site will receive next month, 3 months from now, or six months from now and even today (if it's cloudy).

HortHack™- How to be in a given location and assess the sunlight conditions at any point in time? Download the Sun Surveyor App. This extremely useful iPhone App is a tool I use to help me determine how much sunlight any given site will receive at any time of day, at any time of year. Here are a couple screen shots:

An exposure analysis using the Sun Surveyor App reveals that we are on the northern edge of this urban forest line. This is very helpful data because I now know that no matter what time of year it is here at the revision site, I know that there will filtered light through the tall pines at least half of the year. I also learned be there will be both early morning and late afternoon direct sun exposure for the other half of the year for an approximate total of 3.75 hours each day given the current forested conditions in and around the site. I will use this is valuable information to select the revision plantings.

I know last time I promised to discuss what plantings I would recommend for the site; however, research shows that the average attention span for a visitor to a blog is 96 seconds and I think I’m well over that. Please make sure to subscribe so you can tune in next time when we get into the solution!

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