Stewart Woodward, REALTOR Selling Metro West Real Estate

Posted by Stewart Woodward on 2/15/2018

If you were to look at a photo of a suburban neighborhood from the 1950s and one from today, you would notice many similarities. The houses have gotten much larger, but they still have perfectly manicured lawns and milky white fences. American culture has come a long way since the days of nuclear families. An emphasis on conservation and environmentalism has added recycling bins to many of our homes. But by and large our backyards remain mostly unchanged. Some people are electing to deviate from those norms to make their homes and yard more eco-friendly. Part of that change has been to adapt natural landscaping techniques that make your backyard seem less chiseled-out and more a part of its natural environment. With proper planning and care, natural landscaping can give your yard both a modern and natural look, and it won't look messy or overgrown. Here are some tips to get you started on natural landscaping in your backyard.

Native planting

A big part of natural landscaping is understanding your local plant life. Planting flora that is native to your area is not only helping your yard look more natural but also helping your local plant and wildlife. Often we bring in "exotic" plants and flowers without understanding the ecological issues that can arise from invasive species, both on other plants as well as on the local animals. So what are some ways you could alter your yard to house more local plant life? That depends entirely on your taste and on your local flora. If you live in a coastal, warm area, you might choose a sand or shell path in your yard that leads through tall grasses. If you live inland it might make more sense to choose stones or pebbles for your walkway and a variety of shrubs, flowers, and grasses for around the yard.

Lawn dividers

You won't find any white picket fences naturally occurring in the woods. But nature has its own barriers that can be adapted for use around your property. Vines, trees, bushes, and even rocks can all be used as natural barriers. People have used rock walls to mark of their property for centuries, and for good reason: they last forever (with some occasional maintenance) and they compliment the natural environment of your yard.

Make your lawn livable

Your lawn should be hospitable for your plants, your local wildlife, and for you. Using natural wooden benches, tree swings, and maintained paths will make your backyard look like the walkthrough gardens that we see in old English manor houses. But you should also keep in mind the birds, bugs, and other animals that will frequent your yard. By not using chemical insecticides or weed killers you're already helping your local wildlife thrive. But you can attract even more birds by setting inconspicuous feeders in the trees around your yard.

What's to gain from natural landscaping?

Aside from looking nice, natural landscaping has countless other benefits. When you're growing plants native to your area you know the plants are predisposed to grow well in your yard. That means less maintenance, watering, and less money spent buying replacements for dead plants. You'll be helping the local wildlife fit in, and you'll be helping yourself by giving your yard a refreshing, natural look.

Posted by Stewart Woodward on 12/22/2016

800px-Bougainvillea_FlowerPresenting spectacular masses of brilliantly colored bracts, bougainvillea is an outstanding addition to most any home landscape. The ornamental plant is celebrated worldwide for its utility and beauty, adorning gardens in the subtropics and tropics. A hardy shrub tolerant of most any soil or climatic condition, bougainvillea is a useful background planting for along fencelines or walls. If you live in United States Plant Hardiness Zones 7 through 11, you will find a diverse array of bougainvillea varieties that will flourish in your locale. A common ornamental plant, bougainvillea is cultivated worldwide. You can let bougainvillea grow rampant and uncontrolled in a wild display of color, or trim and prune as a small tree or shrub. When bougainvillea is allowed to grow as it may, it will climb a tree or creep over a fence or rocky surface as a creeper or climber. Bougainvillea is easy to control, and it is no problem to direct growth over unsightly areas in the garden that you would prefer to hide such as a utility shed or rocky or barren patch of soil on a hillside. Bougainvillea plants are available for purchase online or from local home and garden supply stores and nurseries. Plants are available in shades of red, plum, pink, orange, burgundy, and purple. Native to South America, bougainvillea was first discovered and introduced to Europe in 1880 by French botanist Commerson, who located the plant in Brazil. Commerson named the plant after Louis Antonine de Bougainvillea, a famous French navigator that Commerson accompanied on a voyage around the world with during 1766 through l769. Most garden bougainvillea cultivars have been derived from mutations and hybrids brought to Europe and North America from Central and South America. Bougainvillea Cultivation What’s not to love? Bougainvillea is disease free, easy to grow and propagate, presents a magnificent display of color for up to nine months out of the year, and can grow in poor soil subject to drought conditions. Bougainvillea can be pruned and trimmed into any shape or size, making it an ideal windbreak or patio screen as well as a cheerful foundation plant. A fast growing shrub, bougainvillea varies in height and width dependent on the variety of species and cultivars. While there are single and multi-bracted bougainvilleas, garden experts prefer the single petal variety over the double for two main reasons. Single petled plants tend to be more prolific and dry, and dead flowers fall off the plant immediately. Doble petled plants retain the dead or dying flowers, presenting a less than a tidy appearance in the garden. Although bougainvillea will survive in less than ideal growing conditions, it does best in a sunny location with nutrient-rich soil and good drainage. Bougainvillea does not like to have “wet feet” and has a tendency to decline if planted in an area subject to standing water. Like most other ornamental shrubs, bougainvillea will benefit from a twice yearly application of well-aged herbivore manure (sheep, goat, horse, cow). Work manure well into the top soil and water well. When a mass planting of one color of bougainvillea is established, it forms a perfect backdrop for special planting of smaller plants with flowers of a contrasting color. Try white day lilies showcased by a planting of scarlet bougainvillea or combine sunny yellow annuals such as marigold around the base of your bougainvillea shrubs.

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Posted by Stewart Woodward on 8/21/2015

Not only does it make your landscaping look good but mulch is important to the health of your plants.  Mulch is any type of material that is spread or laid over the surface of the soil as a covering and is most commonly made of compost, bark, wood chips, leaves, seed hulls, grass clippings, nut shells, newspaper, cardboard, or straw. Besides improving the look of your landscape mulching has lots of other benefits here are just a few: -Helps maintain soil moisture. -Helps control weeds. Use a layer of mulch that is 2- to 4-inches to reduce weeds. -An insulating blanket for plants by keeping the soil warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. -Improved soil aeration and drainage over time. -Improve soil fertility. -Plant diseases can be inhibited. -Attractive look for landscaping. -Replenish nutrients for the soil. So go ahead and mulch away!