Top 10 Reasons
Plant knowledge is overwhelmingly the #1 most important consideration.
When designing a new landscape or enhancing an existing area, "seeing" into the future growth of plants is critical. The majority of (new and old) landscapes are in trouble because ongoing growth was not fully considered (if at all).
Arrangements of plants which look totally finished when first planted are very unlikely to grow into an appealing mature landscape. Natural plant growth means a landscape is not static, but progressive. All plants should be in harmony in the design and continue to blend and complement each other over time.
Larger species must have sufficient space allocated right from the start. Where will shade from new growth effect plants currently in more sun?
Without plant knowledge, it is impossible to design a landscape that will be attractive to start as well as improve over time.
| Proper plant selection is not a beauty contest. Specifying the best plants is 95% a matter of what "conditions" will be encountered by the new plantings.
For example, conditions next to the Intracoastal and along canals are almost always prone to strong winds many times a year. Salt spray is also an important consideration. Plants such as begonias, anthuriums, etc are out of the question. Only plants which can easily handle these conditions (perhaps even ENJOY wind and salt) are the ONLY ones on the list for landscape selection.
Thus, noting the conditions in each specific area of the landscape (sun, shade, wind, salt, water, etc) in every season is critical before plants can be specified. Once every area to be planted has its "conditions statement" fully described, Master Gardener can start making plant recommendations for you.
| Having noted all conditions, a list of possible plants could now be developed for each area of the landscape. However, it is premature to make the list now. First, we must "interview" the home owners to find out their preferences as well as colors/styles to avoid.
In so doing we often reveal likes or dislikes for palms, for example. It is common to have the husband and wife disagree on this subject. Therefore, the "political" issues must be understood first and perhaps compromises made before plants are specified.
Making everyone happy is important and very do-able. We greatly enjoy this process because in the end we have specified excellent plant materials we like that also please everyone in the home.
This process includes considering family pets, children, land use by the owners, outdoor entertainment areas, security, privacy and future home remodeling.
| Every landscape plant is purchased from a professional wholesale nursery where growing conditions have been optimized for each plant type. For example, plants that enjoy full sun are set out in North/South rows that receive sun from early morning to sundown.
Plants that require protection are grown at the nursery with fence or plant "shields" that block damaging winds. Plants that require shade or partial shade are grown in houses covered with shade cloth. Plants that require more water are given added amounts. Plants that want minimal water are set out in areas away from the overall irrigation system at the nursery.
The point is plants coming into YOUR landscape are VERY UNLIKELY to experience the EXACT same conditions provided at the professional nursery. Thus, most new plantings experience a transition period to settle into their new permanent homes. Even perfect plant selection does not overcome the fact that conditions differ from the nursery to the home landscape. The home owner must be patient until plants settle down. Some leaf yellowing or leaf drop, for example, are therefore almost always to be expected.
On the other hand, some plants improve virtually immediately compared to their nursery condition. This is the case for plants which really dislike growing in pots. Freeing their roots (planting into the landscape) injects these plants with a vigor not seen at the nursery. This may also occur when plant roots have become pot bound (strangled) and release from the pot relieves the former strain on continued growth.
Master Gardener is fully aware of all these situations and can predict what should happen with new plants. The home owner is made aware of what to look for and expect. Notes are made, written out and provided for the home owner's reference. Thus the home owner can call us for immediate service if plants do not progress as expected/predicted. Not to leave things to chance, Master Gardener continues to personally monitor new plantings even after all landscaping work has been completed.
This added "hovering" service is most often provided at no charge.
| Planting is easy, right?
Dig a hole and stick the plant in the ground. Pack the dirt back and you're done, right?
Wrong. Proper planting takes a lot more time and work and also requires added soil amendments in many cases.
Have you heard the term "install" as in "to install" plants? This is a very irritating term for Master Gardener. The phrase feels very disrespectful to both the plants and to Nature. There is an arrogance in the term that virtually implies plants will not be properly planted into the landscape. We do things VERY differently.
In the above paragraphs you learned that Master Gardener plants have been exactly matched to their conditions and to home owner preferences. Next, proper planting means digging generous holes (about 2X bigger than the pot size) and placing the soil ball EXACTLY level with the existing terrain. Very often this EXACT MATCH process means (after the first attempt) pulling the plant ball out of the hole and adjusting the hole depth. The adjustment may have be made a second time. Not until there is an EXACT MATCH will soil be filled into the hole.
The reason is 98% of plants are set back (perhaps permanently or may even die) if the soil match is incorrect. Too low or too high are both bad. The point is Master Gardener takes the time and trouble to plant your plants properly.
Often the soil for a new plant (especially non-native plants) is amended with a high grade professional soil mix. Our native soils in South Florida are very poor and new added soil and/or composted manure make a tremendous difference, especially over time. The old timer's phrase is "build a $10 hole for a $5 plant" and that's the way we plant.
Also critical is water. Almost every new plant should be "watered in" to insure the least disturbance and minimize transition shock. Water is added in around the root ball in the hole before soil is packed around. In fact, with larger root balls, we alternately layer water and soil around the root ball packing the soil as we go higher with the soil.
Master Gardener does not lose plants, period. Plants come to their new home in good condition and our methods actually improve each plant's new environment.
Nobody is as fussy about proper planting as Master Gardener.
| Master Gardener strives to specify two or three "special" plants in each landscape we work with. By "special" we usually mean selecting a few plants that will be unique in the neighborhood and provide extra pleasure to the home owners due to extraordinary beauty. Thus, the home owner enjoys "bragging rights" for owning a few unique beautiful specimens friends and neighbors will greatly admire for years to come.
For example, we love the Ylang-Ylang tree, cananga odorata. The Ylang-Ylang (pronounced ee-lang ee-lang) is probably the most fabulous perfume tree in all the world. It is THE TREE from which the world famous Chanel No. 5 perfume is made. Imagine owning a gorgeous, fast-growing, flowering tree that smells exactly like Chanel No. 5 perfume!
Another Master Gardener favorite that is even more rare and possibly more wonderful than the Ylang-Ylang is the JOY perfume tree, michele champaca alba. This is the tree that smells exactly like the other world famous perfume from France, JOY.
The point is if a flowering tree is appropriate to specify in a landscape, why not "kick it up a notch" and plant an extraordinary species like Clerodendrum quadriloculare.
Many gorgeous shrubs are also available that are unique, will provide extra pleasure and a large measure of exclusivity to the owner. Likewise, ground covers are not all liriope. Better quality materials are available and we do not hesitate to use proven (easy-to-grow) species.
If you agree using unique plantings make sense, Master Gardener has the knowledge to specify special plants for you.
| It has taken years of nursery visits to locate several dozen top-of-the-line plant nurseries with which we do business. In fact, many times to fill an order for a landscape, Master Gardener will have to travel to Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties to gather all the specified materials. This can easily take several days of intense "shopping" and about 200 miles of travel.
Our sources are secret. If, for example, other landscapers knew where to buy a Tahitian Hat tree in great condition, we'd be helping the competition.....so we don't. And, every year we find one or two more extraordinary nurseries to add to our list.....and sometimes nurseries are taken off the list.
Another benefit for the home owner is our intense thirst for plant knowledge. No one can know all the plants and their preferences for maximum performance so we regularly "grill" these professional growers for every bit of knowledge we can get. In this way we learn from experts and use that knowledge to create exceptional landscapes for home owners.
Finding great landscape plants in top condition is not the same as a simple trip to Home Depot. There's a lot of energy in the process and the home owner is the beneficiary of our extra efforts. Time off for Master Gardener is often spent visiting new (to us) nurseries and making note of their potential in future landscape designs.
| You may think that plants we put into your landscape belong to you, but Master Gardener feels they will always belong to us
Actually, we care more about your plants than you do. Hardly anyone is as excited and intense about plants as we are. We are exceedingly interested to watch "our plants" grow and mature and bloom or fruit. We take the time to drive by then stop in to look at progress, even years after planting. We get quite upset if something goes wrong with our plantings and are quick to assist our customers with corrections.
| There can be great danger in the landscape. Plants can easily be damaged. Most home owners hire a lawn service to maintain the basics. If the landscape layout does not assume "wild men" are coming to trim your lawn, bushes and trees, serious damage is almost inevitable.
A quality landscape design can do much to protect plants from lawn service damage. For example, Master Gardener specifies all trees and palms be planted into beds, not into lawn areas. Creating a perimeter keeps the killer weed whackers away from tree bases. Weed whackers have killed countless trees by severing the bark. Many other trees, palms and shrubs have been wounded allowing disease and insects to further damage plantings.
Master Gardener landscape designs assume the worst. Our designs specify maximum protection. Also, home owners are schooled in their plantings and their proper care. Documentation is provided for all major plants with care and feeding instructions included.
Customers may call Master Gardener anytime to get questions answered about proper ongoing maintenance. Landscape customers may also hire Master Gardener for ongoing maintenance. Sorry - we do not do lawn work or large tree trimming - we do everything else.
| You can hire any one of dozens of reputable landscape firms, but none is as passionate about plants as Master Gardener.
We care a great deal about the quality of our workmanship and the ongoing progress of our plantings. We are extremely serious about making customers not just happy, but delighted with their landscape. Our passion shows in everything we do and that is to your benefit.