Goats for sale.
Sheep and goat-powered “lawn mowers” everywhere mourn the day that English landscape architect, Lancelot “Capability” Brown, conceived the idea of the modern lawn.
Fences soon followed.
Prior to this time, outdoor “lawns” consisted of bramble bushes, weeds and maybe some herbs—a bountiful feast for free-roaming furry nibblers.
This hodge-podge of tall grasses rolled into an estate’s pasture land and was not regularly watered or fertilized. In short, it was something Better Homes and Gardens would have considered a botanical eye-sore.
In the late 1700s, Brown began integrating gardening influences from France and Italy, tightening borders and creating yard space filled with plants, statues, sculptures, terraces and water features.
These well-groomed yards were admired and reveled by members of the gentry, thus reinforcing a present-day gardening affliction for which we have yet to find a cure:
From the ground up
Cultivating and maintaining a lush, healthy lawn—admired by neighbors and roaming wildlife alike—is not difficult if you follow a few basic guidelines.
Dave Voegele, owner of Arbor Tech in Billings and certified arborist, said that the biggest mistake people make with their lawns is one that is easily corrected.
“We’ve all been guilty of mowing our lawn too short at one point or another,” Voegele said. “A well-maintained lawn should be between 2 and 3 ½ inches tall; anything less is too short.”
Setting your mower’s blade to the highest option will alleviate this headache. Also be sure that your mower’s blade has been sharpened (jagged, crispy grass edges are a dead giveaway of mower malfeasance).
Perhaps taking a little too much off the top wasn’t an accident. Maybe you purposefully cut your grass short knowing you’d be gone for a four-day weekend to Fort Peck. Think again.
A shorter lawn lacks depth and lushness but also has a tendency to dry out quicker, Voegele added. Your too-short lawn will likely look like a desert wasteland upon your return.
Decks, driveways, patio furniture and the lawn all took a beating from the string of subzero temperatures last winter.
“Last winter was especially brutal,” Voegele said, “and I’m dealing with more winter kill now than I can remember.”
To combat winter kill, which essentially looks like expansive dry patches of lawn, Voegele recommends vigorously raking out the dead grass and replanting with a mixture of seed, potting soil and topsoil—water generously.
Later in the summer season, Voegele said to be on the look-out for grubs and webworms chewing through your top layer of grass. Damage presents itself as dry or barren patches of grass, so it’s sometimes difficult to tell who the culprit is; professionals like Voegele can help to ID the source.
Stand tall and proud
Mature trees are coveted for their shade and majestic beauty. But whether you have mature trees on your property or are considering planting new, time and care must be taken to properly maintain them.
“If you’ve got Siberian Elms or Ponderosa Pines on your property, chances are they sustained marked dehydration from last season’s winter kill and wind,” Voegele said.
Give these species extra TLC as they rehydrate and recoup the cold.
If starting from scratch and integrating trees into new construction, Voegele suggests staying away from Aspen and opting instead for Australian Pines, Colorado Blue Spruce, Green Ash or Locust trees.
“Aspen are very susceptible to bugs, fungus and scales,” Voegele said. “People buy them because they are relatively inexpensive and grow quickly, but in this case, you get what you pay for.”
Lawn looks lush—check.
Trees are healthy and offering ample shade to the backyard—check.
The next step to maximizing your home’s curb appeal is by adding a splash of color and whimsy.
Whether you opt for a bountiful hanging basket of petunias or a full-fledged flower bed of moss roses, Ajuga, geraniums and marigolds, Steve Pottenger, owner of Jim’s Jungle and Garden Center, has just the bloom for you.
“Our hanging baskets are always a popular choice because of their versatility,” Pottenger said, adding that customers have also been opting for water-wise plant life like native grasses and succulents.
When it comes to watering, Pottenger suggests a saturation of 1-2 inches of water per week for flowers (more, of course, if we’re experiencing scorching weather.)
For a garden gate or trellis, Pottenger suggests adding color and texture with Clematis Roses, which crawl and swirl creating a fresh, thick secret garden of blooms.
For the walkway, try subtle landscaping and soft creeping flowers like Lobeila or Alyssum. Stay away from sprawling blooms with vines, as these can inadvertently trip visitors.
“There’s no exact science to planting flowers,” he said. “Choose what speaks to you and makes you smile.”