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June 2019

Decking

Decking and all you need to know

Deck Vegetable Garden

The cedar deck includes a gazebo, swimming pool, five ponds, three fountains, five waterfalls, and a hot tub. It reaches from one side of the yard to the other—from a 12-foot-high cedar wall with three separate entrances to a private upper-level sundeck off the master bedroom. Tomatoes, peppers, and herbs grow in containers on the part of the deck that’s over the garage.

Howard didn’t start out with such a grand deck in mind, but everything he built seemed to lead to something else. “It just sort of grew as I was outlining it,” he says. “Kind of like a flower bed grows.”

When the deck was finished, about 10 years ago, Howard and Vera began devoting more of their time to the garden. They turned their attention from cedar planks to cedar trunks and from beams to berms. The result is a yard that blends geometry with blossoms: Brightly coloured annuals spill out of planters and hanging baskets, and perennials and shrubs cluster near walkways and waterfalls. The Nuzums even created four meditation areas in the garden—complete with two benches each—although they don’t spend much time sitting still. Ninety percent of their time outside is spent working, says Howard. “Or maybe 75 percent,” he says, laughing. “There’s more work than relaxation.”

Deck dynamics

A circular driveway leads to the Nuzums’ dramatic main entrance. Through a wrought-iron gate set into an arched doorway in the high cedar wall, there’s a glimpse of a fountain in the shadow of a weeping blue Atlas cedar (Cedrus libani ssp. atlantica �?Glauca Pendula’). Inside the gate, the lushness of the yard unfolds. Clematis in five different shades—pink, purple, lavender, white, and red—climbs the interior wall. Low clusters of lilyturf (also called monkey grass) line the walk, and a tall, bushy rhododendron reaches out from the corner.

From the entryway, the path forks. To one side is the upper deck—a long stretch of wide cedar planks runs the length of the house, punctuated by flower-filled pots and planters, benches, and an ornate gazebo. When his contractor quit in the middle of the gazebo’s construction, Howard finished it. With the help of son Burt, he cut out the intricate trim on a jigsaw and fitted the arch pieces by hand.

Pool Decks
Pool Decks

In the centre of the lower level of the deck is a swimming pool. A 5-foot waterfall pours into the pool from beneath a wisteria-covered screen. Surrounding the pool are two small ponds and—at the back of the yard—an 8-foot waterfall and a 4-foot waterfall. An 80-foot stone trough runs the length of the swimming pool, connecting the ponds and the waterfalls. The stone walls of the water features rest on a foundation of concrete block. A masonry crew took two years and used more than 100 tons of rock to build it all.

Water gardener 

Deck Water Garden
Deck Water Garden

Water is just as important as wood and rock in the Nuzums’ landscape. The focal point of their entryway is an Indonesian fountain, around which is a small pool, 18 inches deep, that Howard plants with water lilies (Nymphaea) and water hyacinths (Eichhornia). For a while he kept a bass in the pond—the fish reached about 11/2 pounds, eating about 12 goldfish a week, before a marauding raccoon stole it.

Howard had mixed emotions when the bass disappeared. “I had to go 15 miles to get a good price on goldfish, so it was a relief on that side,” he recalls. But he was also disappointed, because of all the time he’d put in. “I had been raising him for two years,” he says.

At the far edge of the deck, a luxurious, mist-filled rock garden surrounds the two waterfalls that cascade down a stone berm in the shade of large sugar maples (Acer saccharum). A second weeping blue Atlas cedar drapes its branches behind the large waterfall, framing a collection of flowering annuals, shrubs, and water plants. Honeysuckle (Lonicera) grows up the side of the rocks; cattail spears (Typha) edge the waterfall pool; zebra grass hovers on the bank.

Howard and Vera typically put a pot of annuals—perhaps petunias or pansies—in the streambed just above the waterfall. The flowers love the moist microclimate. “You don’t have to water them and they bloom all summer long,” Howard says.

Though ponds and other water features support flora and fauna, they also make life more complicated. For instance, the Nuzums constantly struggle to prevent algae in the water. The shallow, lengthy trough is especially vulnerable. “There’s a balance [needed] between the amount of sunlight, fish, and plants to keep algae from growing,” says Howard.

An annual spree

Hanging Baskets
Hanging Baskets

Their tastes change from year to year, says Vera, but recent favourites include snapdragons, asparagus ferns, salvia, Grecian daisies, Mexican heather, sweet potato vines, moss roses, geraniums, and tobacco plants. They plant annuals in 40 to 50 hanging baskets and several planters. At the base of their gazebo, the Nuzums place pots of pink mandevillas, which by August have climbed up the pillars and covered the arches under the roof.

One of the most popular garden annuals—impatiens—isn’t seen much in their garden. “I just got tired of them,” says Vera.

Until recently, Vera did most of the gardening. Since Howard retired in 2005, though, he spends more time planting. Vera says his presence makes a big difference in the way the garden looks. “Everybody has said it’s the best ever this year,” she says, laughing, “and I said,Well, it pays to have help.’”

Garden at a glance

  • Size of deck: 3,000 square feet
  • Hardiness: Zone 5
  • Watering: Sprinkler system and soaker hoses with timers. This year, Howard will install a drip system for the hanging baskets.
  • Original soil: Clay with lots of rock.
  • Soil amendments: Manure, lime.
  • Fertiliser: Whatever’s on sale.
  • Mulch: Cedar and shredded leaves.
  • Average annual precipitation: About 34 inches.
  • Hours spent in garden each week: 20 each for Howard and Vera.
  • Number of hanging baskets: 40 to 50.
  • Number of benches: 8
  • Favorite plants: Mandevillas and roses.
  • Favourite pond plants: Water lilies, water hyacinth, umbrella plant (Cyperus alternifolius).
  • Biggest mystery: Why one clematis is covered with blossoms and another, which gets the same care and the same amount of sunlight, blooms half-heartedly.
  • Best recovery: Rather than get rid of a 20-year-old rhododendron that had reached 12 feet tall but wasn’t looking very healthy, Howard cut it back to a 1-foot stem. A year later, it was robust, lush, and 7 feet tall.

Deck materials

Dark Cedar Stain
Dark Cedar Stain

Howard Nuzum never really considered using anything but cedar for his 3,000-square-foot deck. “I’ve always preferred wood,” he says. “I’ve worked with wood all my life.”

He admits that it requires a lot of care: Every five years or so he has to power wash and re-stain the whole deck. But he loves the warmth of the wood and its durability: At 10 years old, it’s probably not quite to the middle of its lifespan.

Other popular options for decking include pressure-treated lumber, composite, and plastic.

Type of material

  • Cedar:  Beautiful look, warm feel, durable; high initial cost, high maintenance.
  • Composite: Made from recycled materials; expensive, may stain or warp, low maintenance, vulnerable to decay.
  • Pressure-treated pine: Low cost, durable, looks good; contains toxic chemicals, high maintenance.
  • All-plastic lumber: No decay, low maintenance; slippery, loud, retains heat, expensive.
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Garden Design

Lighting Design

Lighting Design

The number of lighting products for homeowners has grown immensely in the last few years, but before you search for your favourite styles and fixtures, think first about design considerations.

Get focused

Illuminating Walkway
Illuminating Walkway

For starters, plan conservatively. Choose specific areas of your yard you want to light, and decide what purpose lighting should serve in each space. If you’re illuminating a stairway or walkway, for example, your first priority should be safety. In areas where you want to read or cook, you’ll need ample light to see fine details. If you’re highlighting an interesting garden feature, a more artistic treatment is appropriate.

Once you’ve made your list of priorities and purposes, refine your plan further so the result will be visually pleasing. Your eye should rest on a few selected focal points, not dart around the landscape. Lighting the most unique parts of your garden—structures such as water features, garden art, gazebos, and birdbaths, as well as trees with all-season interest such as crape myrtles, dogwoods, and oaks add interest and dimension.

If you have a pool or pond, place lights underneath the water to catch the movement of ripples and shadows, or light the spillway of a small waterfall. Lighting a dry creek bed can create the illusion of a stream, especially if you have a small fountain that provides the sound of running water.

Creativity counts 

Lighting Artistic
Lighting Artistic

Keep in mind that all lighting—even safety lighting—requires a little artistic talent.

Many landscape designers install indirect, rather than direct, light so it will evoke an enchanting mood while serving its purpose.

If you need to illuminate a walkway (Photo 2) or entryway, place a light facing upward into an interesting tree or bush nearby. This uplighting provides ambience by illuminating branches and casting shadows while also brightening the walkway. Place the light fixture at the base of the plant or tree, facing the trunk and leaves, so the lamp is not shining directly in people’s eyes. Likewise, respect your neighbours and avoid shining lights into their windows or onto their patio.

Placing the lights up high and aiming them downward—or downlighting—works well when illuminating structures such as a trellis, arbor, or pergola, especially when the lights and their wires are hidden in the rafters or behind climbing vines.

Getting started 

Lighting Artistic
Lighting Artistic

Outdoor lighting comes in a huge range of prices, from around $20 for a plastic 10-piece kit at your local hardware store to $200 or more per fixture at lighting stores. If you’re lighting a main walkway with highly visible fixtures, you may want to spend more on copper, brushed metal, or faux-painted architectural styles. But remember that not every fixture needs to be seen—often, lighting fixtures are hidden to keep the focus on your

garden and landscape. If your fixture is going to be underwater or buried half underground, for instance, you might be able to get by with a less expensive product, as long as it’s durable.

Solar lights are relatively new on the market, but almost none of them provide enough light for any purpose. Fortunately, today’s residential landscape lighting is almost all

low-voltage (12 volts) so it doesn’t pose a danger to small children, pets, or anyone else, and it’s relatively simple to install. Most state codes simply call for the wiring to be dug under ground a few inches; check your state code for specifics.

Aside from fixtures, bulbs, and cords, transformer boxes are the only other thing you need to set up a lighting system. They transform your home’s electricity from its interior 120 volts to the 12 volts needed for outdoor lighting. The boxes, which you attach to the exterior of your house next to an outlet, include a timer that lets you program the system to go on and off at certain times‹or at sunset and sunrise. With inexpensive kits, the

transformer comes with the fixtures. More expensive systems require you to buy a transformer separately, which costs anywhere from £50 to around £300 depending on the amount of wattage the transformer can support. Some transformers will support five lights, while others can handle 30 or more.

When your project is finished, you’ll see the advantages immediately. After the sun slips away and you put down the pruners, you can enjoy the art of just sitting in the garden. And for many of us gardeners, that’s an enlightening experience.

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Plants

Rose Campion

Rose Campion

Take a subtle but striking neutral color, then add a brilliant dash of color. No, it’s not a fashion tip—it’s the reason rose campion is so appealing. This easy-care plant forms basal clumps of softly hairy, silvery gray-green leaves topped with many branching stems that bear bright rosy magenta flowers. Each flower lasts only a day but there are plenty of them, and the bloom period lasts from late spring through midsummer. Rose campion self-seeds readily; you may have to pull seedlings, but allow some to remain so they can replace the short-lived parent plants.

Common name: Rose campion

Rose Campions
Rose Campions
  • Botanical name: Lychnis coronaria
  • Plant type: Biennial or short-lived perennial
  • Zones: 4 to 8
  • Height: 2 to 3 feet
  • Family: Caryophyllaceae

Growing conditions

  • Sun: Full sun
  • Soil: Well-drained, loamy or sandy
  • Moisture: Average to dry

Care

  • Mulch: None, or a thin layer (1 inch) of organic mulch
  • Pruning: Deadhead to reduce self-seeding, if desired.
  • Fertiliser: Apply compost in spring.

Propagation

  • Seeds

Pests and diseases

  • No major problems.

Cultivars

Lychnis Coronaria Alba
Lychnis Coronaria Alba
  • ‘Alba’ has white flowers.
  • Gardener’s World (‘Blych’) has ruffly, double red flowers that look like miniature carnations.
  • ‘Angel’s Blush’ has white flowers with a pink eye.

Garden notes

  • Rose campion is a great choice for informal cottage gardens, difficult dry sites, and any well-drained garden that needs a bit of neon colour.
  • Make the most of the silvery foliage by shearing back top growth after flowering; you’ll reduce seeding and end up with a nice mat of foliage for the rest of the growing season.
  • Gardeners with a taste for drama may combine the vivid colour of rose campion with other shockingly bright flowers like orange-flowered Maltese cross (Lychnis chalcedonica) and purple-flowered clustered bellflower (Campanula glomerata).

All in the family

Dianthus Spp
Dianthus Spp
  • Rose campion is a member of the pink family (Caryophyllaceae), which includes such familiar garden flowers as dianthus and carnations (Dianthus spp.), baby’s breath (Gypsophila spp.), and various campions (Lychnis spp.).
  • Some taxonomic references now list rose campion under the botanic name Silene coronaria.
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