New Landscape Design Coming to the Carteret Center

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Happy New Year! I don’t usually make resolutions to start off the new year, as I find it’s difficult to live up to such rigid goals and this year is no different. Nothing unobtainable for me, however, I am excited to get started on a landscape design project around the office building where I work. The landscape out front is very empty except for a few crepe myrtle plants that aren’t doing too well and a hedge of holly. The grass isn’t doing so well either, and the area is more weeds than turf, so a change is in order.

During the fall of 2022, I worked with a landscape design class to come up with a design for the front of the building. The concept that I liked was a play on water and ripples from a drop in a still pond, mixed with another design that incorporated a couple of curved pathways mixed with trees, shrubs and some perennial plants for color. The design wasn’t completed until the end of November, so I can’t get started with the installation until I get the approval of the staff who maintain the grounds around the building. Hopefully, that will happen in early January.

After the plan is approved, the idea is to start laying out a couple of the walkways and then installing some of the larger plants. I’ve been told by several people that I’m not supposed to plant in January, but I’ve learned from experience that as long as the ground isn’t frozen to the point where you can’t get a shovel in it, the plants don’t mind. So, I’m hoping that before spring is here I’ll have the crepe myrtles removed from the site and at least a few of the trees planted and beds laid out and ready for some spring and summer flowers to be planted.

The design calls for native plants. This will include many plants that people are familiar with, but aren’t aware they are native to the area, along with some that are lesser known, but will do well in this sandy soil with a near neutral pH and unpredictable water. The first year is the toughest on the plants. I’m hoping that mother nature will cooperate and send enough rain this year so that I won’t have to be outside watering plants all summer long.

As for the lawn, I want to start off by killing off most if not all of the weeds so I can start installing some new plants. However, there are a couple of islands in the parking lot that I want to keep as grass for now. In those islands, I want to kill the weeds without damaging what grass is still there, so I’ll use a lawn weed control product to kill them off. I’ll need to pick a warm day to complete this task because even cool season weeds stop growing when the temperature is below 50 degrees.

The islands have a mix of grasses dominating them with mostly a mix of centipedegrass and St. Augustinegrass. The pH in the soil is close to 7 so I think I’ll plan to fertilize for St. Augustinegrass and mow at a height (about 2.5 inches) that will encourage this grass to become the dominate grass in the islands. I’ll need to find a push mower that will do the job and hope that I can talk the maintenance staff into not scalping these two islands so I can see if this will allow the St. Augustinegrass to choke out all the other plants in the island. It will be a test, but hopefully this will work to encourage one grass to dominate over the others in the planting.

There are some edibles in the design as well. Not a vegetable garden, but some woody plants that produce fruit for people, but will most likely get devoured by birds and other wildlife. I wanted to include some blueberries, persimmon, and possibly blackberries or pawpaw plants. I’m not sure about the pawpaw, but if I can find evidence that they will grow in our coastal environment, I would really like to give it a try. The basic idea for including fruit and berry producing plants in the landscape is to have a demonstration site where I can hold classes on how and when to prune and maintain these type of plants in the landscape.

So while not a New Year’s Resolution, I do plan to improve the landscape where I work and spend a lot of time. Stay tuned for updates on the project throughout the year.