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Musings About Family, Travel And Gardening With Allen Martinson.

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It’s becoming pretty clear that travel and vacations are not going to be easy to plan for and probably just won't be the same as they used to be. Mimi and I know it’s a good thing to take a break, and we love to go anywhere with mountains in the summertime. Those mountains and beaches are faintly singing to us; it’ll get louder and louder the deeper into summer we get. Taking trips is how great memories are made. I couldn’t tell you what I did last week or last month at work, but I can tell you exactly what I did on every day of a good old seven-day hike through the mountains with my family.


I think lasting memories can be made by creating big projects in your yard, no matter the budget. It’s a great time to make your yard one that looks like a good option for a staycation. The initial money spent will last for years to come and will make your decision to go or not to go an easy one.



There are so many ways to make your yard become your oasis, not once a year, but every day for every season. Some projects you might be able to do yourself, whether it be a shady water garden to congregate near in the evenings with your favorite person or a vine-covered arbor complete with hammocks for listening to music and hanging out, where you can close your eyes and pretend you are on some beach anywhere you want to be. These areas have to be planned out in advance so when your lucky break comes and you get some time away from work, your mental vacation spot awaits you comfortably without a lot of effort. No airports, no hotels, no overpriced restaurants, no crowds, no rules. That’s what I call a backyard oasis.


Some projects are going to require professional help. If an outdoor kitchen or a swimming pool is in the budget, you probably know just where you want that to be in your yard, but you’ll need a landscape architect to design it since there is more to it than just a pool with some concrete around it. The flow of things is very important, and a landscape designer with experience can make a big difference. You may want to transform your yard into a beautiful park-like setting with a fire pit area nestled in a great spot to kick back. That can be as simple as a limestone area with a couple of Adirondack chairs and a nice fire pit. With an architect's help, you may wind up with a planted, lighted pathway leading to a round wooden deck where you can kick off your flip-flops and relax.



The great thing about getting a landscape plan for your yard is that you can get the work done in phases depending on the budget. You can prioritize the parts of the design plan that matter the most to you and have these parts of the yard done first. You may want the paths done first with chop block edges and pea gravel or limestone, whichever you prefer. Once the paths are created, you will have a great base to do your thing with a cut flower garden or a perennial garden to watch the ever-changing flowers do their thing. My mind gets blown when I see the walkway and path ideas on Pinterest and Houzz—very inspiring. The next phase could be big swaths of plants that follow the curves of your paths through the yard with some trees to create shade that will give you some great lighting opportunities. A landscape architect will provide you with the master plan that deals with the drainage in your yard, irrigation, retainer walls, lighting, fountains, and the right plants for the right places.


There are some landscape designers who do a great job of designing your dream spot but don’t have their own installation crews. They will tell you who they like to use for installation. Our landscape architects at our company design and install. I like this because it allows you to come to the nursery to see the plants that are in the plan in case you are unfamiliar with some of the names. A landscape architect that designs and installs will have experience with the practicality of the plants in the design and will likely include plants that do well in the situations they are being drawn into. The hardiness of a plant in a particularly wet or shady area, or an area that receives blistering heat and lots of wind, maybe near a lake, can only be known by an architect with lots of experience. The designer who installs wants the plants in their design to do great for you. They don’t want you to have to call them three months after the job has been completed, having shelled out your vacation money to pay for it, to tell them that the plants are having problems. A landscape architect with lots of experience in our region is less apt to design a plan using plants they are not really sure about.



Fortunately, Mississippi has quite a few really great landscape companies to choose from. If you have patience and time, it is wise to get to know two or three of them before deciding on the one who will be responsible for forever changing your world into one that you love and enjoy. You need to have a good feeling about the landscape architect that you choose. You need to feel like they are listening to you about your lifestyle and the goals of the project and hear you loud and clear about your budget. You need to feel like you are working with a reputable company that you will be happy to see working in your yard and that you will have a great relationship with well after the project is complete. You want to be able to use the same architect over and over again to keep the flow correct as the next phase comes.


To start your search for the person that will help you create your dreams, going to their website to get a feel for their style is a good start. Some architects have a free-flowing style with lots of boulders and rock walls; some have a more formal style that might suit you. I would ask to see three of their projects that they are proud to call their own and go take a look at some of their well-established projects to see if it rings your bell. We have two of our area’s finest architects with five crews that have a lot of experience installing landscape designs. We’ve been changing landscapes since 1960; there are five or six landscape companies in our area who have been doing it that long, and there are numerous very good younger companies in our area. Many of the younger companies' architects grew up installing landscape projects while working for some of us companies that have been around a while. That can be a very good thing because you know they have done all the types of work that come along with installing a design. They will have a very good idea of what a successful landscape will need because they have real experience doing all levels of the craft. Real experience is hard to beat.


I would suggest before you make an appointment with the architect that you have chosen to do some homework so you will have some idea of what style you would like. Driving around looking at yards that appeal to you and taking notes, flipping through garden magazines, and checking out Pinterest or a site called Houzz are great ways to have some ideas of what you want to convey to the designer you choose. This will save a lot of time and money by giving them some idea of what your goal is. Hopefully, you may wind up in your own Shangri-La and take your trips without ever leaving home. It’s so much fun to see the progress these guys can make with their good equipment and experienced crew. Watching the plants establish and grow to full size as the plan dictates, you will have added a forever-changing form of entertainment to your own spot in this world. Having your own spot to call your own will give you a sense of peace all day while you are doing your “have to” stuff. You can know when your day ends you will have this to come home to. We have to really live a little—why not every day instead of once or twice a year?

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