In Virginia, Busch Gardens Williamsburg landscapers have repeatedly won the annual “most beautiful park” award — 22 times to be exact — from the National Amusement Park Historical Association. This year, they decided to share some of that talent with a lucky homeowner.
Earlier this year, the park used its Facebook page to announce the Landscaping Giveaway, inviting homeowners to submit a photo and story about why they deserved a new look for their yard.
Tammy Bennett of Washington, N.C., wrote this winning essay:
“We bought our house right after my kidney transplant — my [lovely] husband generously donated me one of his kidneys, which I desperately needed.
“We thought with a second chance at life, we would buy a house and fix it up. And we started remodeling the house, but then we weren’t able to continue and do the outside due to financial stress. The financial burden of my anti-rejection medication, plus all our other medical bills meant the house would have to wait. Unfortunately, it’s still waiting and I would love a chance to win this!”
The Busch Gardens landscaping team approached the project in three phases — consultation, demolition/turf removal and installation — according to landscape director Erick Elliott.
Before design and installation, the team learned Tammy had fond memories of her grandmother’s garden where something bloomed all the time. She asked that the yard include a pear tree for spring blooms and some herbs, as well as flowers. A native white-flowering fringe tree was also chosen.
“The team spent a good amount of time reviewing the invasive plant/flower list for her area, before making plant selections,” says Elliott.
“Due to the wind and the agricultural nature of the area where she lives, the team avoided plants with issues with wind-borne seed or berries that could be transplanted by birds out into other areas.”
Plants in the design, which features a stone paver walkway and bench, include:
-- Bird-friendly plants — coreopsis, hypericum, pennisetum and baptisia.
-- Butterfly host or nectar plants — carex, baptisia, salvia, lantana and verbena.
-- Low-water plants — daylilies, lantana, lavender, rosemary, coreopsis, hypericum, juniper, bignonia and salvia.
First, the team eliminated more than 1,000 square feet of lawn, as well as an old tree and stump. Fragrant plants were placed along the walkway and by the bench. The couple will have flower color in parts of the garden until frost, says Elliott, and any trimming can be done with hand pruners — except for the Knock Out roses, which require loppers for year-end pruning.
The garden is also meant to be a habitat that provides shelter, nesting and feeding places for birds, as well as diverse plant material for beneficial insects to thrive, Elliott says.
Here are tips from the Busch Gardens Williamsburg team that you can use for planning and doing your own landscaping:
-- Think about what you want to accomplish in the space. Are you reworking an area for a more attractive entrance for your home? Are you creating a space for entertaining? Maybe things are overgrown or damaged. Or do you just need a new look?
-- Perform a soil test to help you determine what plants will perform best in your soil and any nutrients you might need to add.
-- Consider the moisture conditions where you will plant. How quickly does the soil drain after it rains? Plant groups should have the same water requirements, with those needing supplemental water closest to the house or your easiest water source.
-- Plan to better manage the natural rainfall that your property receives. Even if you don’t want rain barrels, your plant choices and grading decisions can make use of rainfall and allow it to percolate into the soil rather than running off into storm drains.
-- Work native plants into your gardening plan. Natives can be more forgiving with soil and water variability and create a favorable habitat for bees, birds and butterflies.
-- Keep notes on what you already have in your garden so you can expand it into more seasons without disturbing the plants you already have in place.
-- Incorporate annuals into your landscape, including your perennial garden, each season to add color and a fresh look.
-- Find out what plants are invasive in your area. Many favorite garden plants were introduced from other parts of the world and now endanger native plants; visit www.invasive.org for information on invasive plants.
-- Consider the long-term maintenance of plants you intend to use. Ask yourself: will your tree placement create a problem with underground lines, overhead wires or impeding walkways as it grows? Can many gardening tasks be managed in a short daily walk through the garden, with the remaining time for mowing? Will you spend every Saturday enjoying working in the yard or dreading the weekend’s chores?