Monday, November 26, 2012

Will My Client Plant a Copper Beech?

So, I have this client, a friend of a friend, and a really incredible graphic designer. And she has this AMAZING piece of property in the south suburbs of Chicago. Her lot is about 125' by 320'. Huge! Part sun in front, and full sun in back. Lots of room, and she could include basically anything in the space as far as landscaping is concerned.

This is the kind of space that makes my heart race a little! I'm used to working in spaces that make the plant palette limited - dwarf this and compact that. I love the types of challenges that those spaces present, and I love making the most out of small spaces so that my client can use every last inch. But this property? I can select something that will get BIG.

The first thought that came to mind, since the client is young, newly married, and wants kids one day - is Fagus sylvatica (Copper Beech). It's purply, coppery foliage is stunning, changing colors at different times of the year. The bark is incredible, smooth in spots and as it ages, it gets wrinkly, like elephant skin. I see this as a "legacy tree," something the client can plant now, right in the middle of the yard where they can see it from the back windows, and have it age with them as their family grows. The Copper Beech will grow to 50-60' tall and 30' wide. I can imagine a super comfy chair underneat it, providing shde and relaxation for a busy family.

The client wants to attract more birds to the property, and will do so with this tree. Copper Beech provides beech nuts, an important food source for birds.

I plan to suggest it when I present the full design, and I hope she goes for it!



Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Euphorbia, Will I See You in Spring?

I consider myself lucky to have been able to enjoy my Euphorbia 'Ascot Rainbow' (Cushion Spurge)for a second year. While this perennial succulent is classified as zone 6, it is frequently sold by the big box stores here in zone 5. I knew it was a gamble when I purchased it, but it was on sale for under $2 a plant, so it was worth the risk. Luckily, we had an unusually mild winter, and I have it placed in a somewhat protected spot next to my potager wall. It survived!

Euphorbia 'Ascot Rainbow' has done really well in my garden for the last two years. Its form is distinctive, with the whirled leaf pattern and upright habit. And the color, wow! In spring and summer the leaves are a variegated chartreuse and dark green, turning to pink and burgundy in fall. The summer flower is cream, lime and green, and seems to hover in a cloud above the plant. And it's evergreen and has never needed supplemental watering!

But alas, I might have to say goodbye this year, depending on the harshness of the coming winter. I've given it some extra leaf mulch at the base to give it a better chance. A better choice might have been Euphorbia 'Bonfire', which is used by Roy Diblik in his landscape at the Art Institute in Chicago, and is classified zone 5.

These shots were taken in July, when it's red color really stands out against the bright greens of Sesleria autumnalis (Autumn Moor Grass) and Sporobolus heterolepis (Prairie Dropseed). I might have to use this in my front yard when I go grassless, as it really fills in densly, shading out weeds.

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Monday, November 5, 2012

Sustainable Landscaping at Glenbard West Memorial Field

The Glen Ellyn Women's Club 1927 memorial stone at Memorial Field, Glenbard West H.S.

Last week, work was completed on the installation of a new, sustainable landscape at Glenbard West High School's Memorial Field in Glen Ellyn. I was thrilled to design the landscape for this project, not only because I knew that the new plantings would make a big difference in the look of the west side of the field, but also because of the historical significance of the location and the wonderful people I was lucky enough to work with along the way.

A Brief History
Village President Amos Churchill initiated the purchase of the land where Memorial Field and Memorial Park now sit from the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad in 1895 with the intention to build a park and train depot. The theme of the park turns to honoring Civil War veterans, however, in 1911 when two cannons, a flag pole, and a cast iron horse trough were added.

A ball park was added after Glenbard West High School opened in 1923, and a rich tradition of sporting begins on the site, while veterans continued to be honored there. In 1927, the Glen Ellyn Women's Club has 170 crabapple trees planted in the creation of a Soldier's Pathway in the spirit of environmental conservation and to honor WWI vets. The trees have since died, but the memorial stone was found and returned to the site. In 2010, the Pathway was paved with concrete and dedicated concrete pavers and a state-of-the-art turf field was installed.(1)

Back in early spring, 2012, I worked with a group of interested folks, including school staff, members of the community, and donors, to develop a number of goals that drove my design:
  • To remain true to the original intentions of the Glen Ellyn Women's Club and other interested groups by continuing to honor our local veterans and promote environmental conservation;
  • To add more spring and fall color;
  • To soften the effects of the lights on neighbors; and
  • To include low-maintenance and native plants.
With those goals in mind, I included native plants like serviceberry, switchgrass, prairie dropseed, black chokeberry, amsonia, and sumac. A large, diseased, berry-dropping mulberry tree in the circular patio cut-out was removed and replaced with an 'Accolade' Elm, developed locally by the Morton Arboretum. Improperly planted and dying crabapples were replaced. Dense evergreens and lilacs were added that will eventually minimize some of the light and noise. Lots of low-growing grasses were included to eliminate mowing, reduce water run-off, and provide a long season of interest.

DigRightIn Landscaping, Inc. out of Brookfield, completed the installation of the design. Not only was the owner, staff, and crew exremely knowledgeable, courteous, and conscientous, they also use a variety of sustainable practices. Compost was added to amend the soil, the area was top-dressed with corn gluten for weed inhibition, and a process for planting using spot-tilling disturbed the soil less than tilling everything, thus resulting in less weed seed germination.

So, without further ado, here are the before and after photos. I can't express how much I enjoyed working on this project with everyone involved, and I can't wait to see the plants mature and fill in next year!




And after...




(1) Historical information taken from the Memorial Field Rededication brochure, compiled by Ron Aubrey and the Glen Ellyn Historical Society.

Tina Koral is a landscape designer and owner of Tina Koral Gardens.

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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Jamie Oliver: Teach Kids to Cook

Okay, so I'm being a bit of a slacker here on the blog. I've been swamped with landscape design work, starting and co-leading my daughter's Daisy troop, getting GardenWorks 2013 up and running, and the million other things that we all juggle in our daily lives. So, the blog has been neglected a bit.

I'm so excited to share before and afters from my project at Glenbard West High School's Memorial Field in Glen Ellyn. I just have to get the after pics together, so look for that post later this week. Or, if you're in the area, just go have a look!

Until then, I'd like to share a video that I came across while jogging on the treadmill. My husband says I turn up the TV too loud when I'm on it, so I've taken to watching TED talks with headphones on my tablet. This one is Jamie Oliver's 2010 TED Prize speech about the state of obesity in America and how change can happen if people cooked their own food and taught their kids how to do it too. It goes hand in hand with my personal notion that everyone should be growing their own food. Take a look, it's a good way to spend the next 18 minutes.