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Love Your Landscape

When it came time to devise a landscaping plan for her newly installed backyard pool area, Martha Salsman of Bardstown knew she wanted something that would be attractive year-round.
“Color is the important thing to me,” says Salsman, a Salt River Electric member. “I like to have something growing that will be showcased each season. So you start with a green background, and then put in your pops of color—whether it’s red tulips in the spring, or purple petunias in the summer, or gold mums in the fall.”

To develop the look she was after, Salsman worked closely with Kim Fritz, a director with the Kentucky Nursery & Landscape Association and general manager of Village Green Nursery, which operates a wholesale business in Springfield and a garden center in Bardstown. (Learn more about Village Green Nursery online at
.) The two pored over sophisticated photograph-based computer models of Salsman’s back yard for months before installation ever began.

“I’m very pleased with the final result,” says Salsman. “We carried through the same basic plants—lots of boxwoods, taxus, and holly, mixed in different patterns—from the front of the house to the side to the back near the pool. And we kept the same color palette throughout, with reds, purples, and yellow-gold kinds of tones. That helps give everything a cohesive flow.”

Four-season color
In her pursuit of year-round color in her landscape, Salsman is far from alone.

“Four-season gardens—where there’s always something of interest in the garden, no matter winter, spring, summer, or fall—are a definite trend right now,” says Richard Weber, owner of Springhouse Gardens Garden Center and Landscape Services in Nicholasville, a Blue Grass Energy Cooperative member.

To get that year-round appeal, Weber likes working with clients to devise what he calls “mixed borders” within their landscaping, which integrate a combination of perennials with interesting shrubs and evergreens that stay looking fresh even in the winter, when everything else has gone dormant.

Splash of color, smaller scale
Blooming plants are all the rage in landscapes right now, says Denise Ball, a landscape designer with Laurel Gardens in Keavy, near Corbin. “People want plants with large blooms. It’s a way to pack a lot of color into your landscape. And they like that they can snip the blooms off and take them inside and enjoy them in an arrangement.” (Get inspiration on the Laurel Gardens Web site at

Homeowners are also increasingly incorporating edible berry plants into their landscapes as another way of adding a splash of color, says Fritz. “Serviceberries (Amelanchier) are a nice landscaping shrub that is very colorful. You get the white bloom in the spring, red-orange fall foliage, and the berry is edible. Blueberry plants also have a very vivid fall color,” she says.

Another top trend: going small-scale. Thanks to newly introduced compact varieties, now you don’t have to have a huge space to incorporate tried-and-true garden favorites like hydrangeas, butterfly bushes, and roses. Even ornamental grasses, boxwoods, and needled evergreens are now available in dwarf varieties.

“People want compact shrubs. They don’t want something that takes over their yard,” says Weber. “And in today’s smaller landscapes, people just don’t have the room to give up to something big and gangly.”

Smaller, compact hydrangea varieties like the popular ‘Little Lime,” first released in 2010, are supposed to top out at between 3 and 5 feet tall, with a 3 to 5 foot span. “They sell out as fast as we can get them in,” Weber says.

Ball loves the look of the Little Lime as well. She paired Little Lime hydrangeas with dwarf mondo grass in a London, Kentucky, landscape installation last year. The plant duo filled the space surrounding a custom-made urn water feature she often develops for clients.

New compact varieties of roses called Drift roses are another favorite of both Ball and Weber. Available in a range of colors, Drift roses have long blooming seasons and are just as easy to grow as Knock Out roses, but are much smaller—topping out between 2 and 3 feet tall. Ball incorporated ‘Pink Drift’ roses alongside green mountain boxwoods near the front entrance of her client’s London home last fall.

The Blue Chip butterfly bush, a dwarf variety that grows to only 3 to 4 feet instead of the 8 to 10 feet of its full-sized counterpart, is another in-demand dwarf shrub. And Weber says even more dwarf butterfly bushes should be available later this year and into 2014.

Ease of maintenance
“‘What can I put in that’s low-maintenance?’ That’s usually the first thing that people ask me,” Ball says. In addition to hydrangeas and Drift roses, she recommends boxwoods and hearty perennials like coneflowers and ‘Rozanne’ geraniums.

To cut down on watering demands during the summer, Fritz points her clients to drought-resistant plants like crape myrtles and perennials like Shasta daisies and Black-eyed Susans, she says.

Container gardening remains a popular trend as well, Fritz says. And the smaller, manageable spaces of a container garden make it easy to combine and maintain a mix of plant varieties. For a nice summertime pop of color, Fritz likes the look of combining annuals with herbs in patio containers.

Backyard “stay-cation”
Both Fritz and Ball say they’ve noticed another landscaping trend in the wake of the economic recession: more homeowners are foregoing vacations and instead allocating funds to make their own yards feel more like a restful retreat. Think of it as a backyard “stay-cation.”

“We’ve seen a lot of pools going in,” says Fritz. “People are spending more time at home now, instead of traveling for vacation,” she says.

A hot-ticket item at Laurel Gardens, where Ball works, are the garden center’s unique, custom-made animal-shaped topiaries, which clients seek out to add whimsy to their patios or decks. Ball and her co-workers fill the wire topiaries—in the shape of everything from dogs and rabbits to butterflies, roosters, even a 3-foot-tall gorilla—with moss, then add ornamental grasses, flowers, and herbs that can last throughout the spring and summer growing season.

“People aren’t traveling as much, and they’re splurging on special elements to make their home feel more beautiful outside,” Ball says.


The University of Kentucky Department of Horticulture’s Web site at offers a wealth of information. On the left, click on Home Horticulture to locate information about home landscape design, lawn irrigation, growing flowers and vegetables, integrated pest management, and more.

To see what local county Cooperative Extension offices offer, go online to, then click on a county on the map. If the local office offers horticulture services, you will see “Horticulture” on the black bar at the top—click here to find informative newsletters listing tips and classes, soil testing, photos, and more. (You can learn a lot from surrounding counties, even if your county does not offer this service.) Several offices list contact information to a local horticulture agent who is eager to answer your questions and provide education training and technical horticulture assistance to the community.

While online at the county level, check out information on the Kentucky Master Gardener Program offered in many counties through the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, which trains volunteer gardeners. Master Gardeners in turn help county Extension offices educate their community about horticulture topics. Many chapters offer online newsletters (such as the Northern Kentucky Master Gardener Program in Boone, Campbell, and Kenton counties) or blogs (see Shelby County). Or contact your local office to find out how you might hook up with a Master Gardener in your area.


Before you select plants for your landscaping, it’s important first to know the soil and the space you’re dealing with, says Richard Weber of Springhouse Gardens in Nicholasville. “Know what your soil is like. Look to see if it’s fast-draining or tends to hold moisture,” he says. “You also have to know the amount of sun or shade you’re dealing with.”

Also, have your measurements in mind. (If you’re working around a 4-foot-tall window you don’t want to block, you’ll know to avoid plants that grow to 5 feet or more.) If you’re landscaping around a home feature, such as a bay window or front porch, Weber encourages homeowners to snap some photos of the space on their phones or tablets and bring them into their local garden center, where professionals can look at their photos and help guide them to the right plants.
Remember to be aware of the position of power lines when selecting any trees for your yard. Don’t place any tree that reaches a mature height of more than 25 feet directly under a power line. And to help avoid damage from falling limbs during storms, it’s recommended that you plant any tree that will mature at 40 feet tall at least 40 feet away from nearby power lines. Fifty-foot trees should be placed at least 70 feet away from power lines.

Before you do any landscape digging, remember to call 811 a minimum of 48 hours in advance. This is a free service that will connect you with professionals who can mark your underground utility lines—so you know where it’s safe to dig, and where it isn’t. Learn more online at You can also contact your local electric cooperative directly if you have questions.


Scott Beuerlein, a horticulturist at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden and owner of Heritage Gardens Landscaping, encourages clients to stroll through public gardens—like those in parks or at the zoo—to discover the landscaping look that speaks to them.

“Go steal ideas and find out what plants you love,” he advises. “Then you can incorporate those into your own home landscapes.” Read about the plants that the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden uses online at

Also, he says, local plant societies (such as holly society, rose society, etc.) can be an invaluable source of advice, plant sharing, and gardening help.

“Seek out those experienced gardeners. Visit their gardens. Talk to them. They are typically so generous with their time. They are great resources, because they are in your community; they are dealing with the same weather and same soil type as you.”

Finally, Beuerlein advises shopping for your plants at nurseries and garden centers—rather than big-box stores—to ensure you’re getting plants best suited to Kentucky’s climate and growing conditions.

“It’s so sad to think of how many new gardeners go to big retailers and buy a plant that is stocked there, but which isn’t appropriate to our weather or our soil, and has no chance of surviving. And after one season, they give up on gardening altogether, thinking ‘I can’t garden.'”

Locate a landscaping professional
Search for members of the Kentucky Nursery & Landscape Association at You can sort the member list by 19 different specialties.

There is also a separate list of members who are Kentucky Certified Nurserymen—they’ve passed a test on a wide range of horticultural subjects. Read more about this certification and locate a list at

The following plants and trees are ones Denise Ball, landscape designer at Laurel Gardens in Corbin, used at a recent London-area landscaping installation. Typing in the shrub or tree name into Google will yield links to multiple photos and size details for the various plant varieties. Have fun browsing while you see which of these plants and trees might work in your own landscape plan as well.

‘Adagio’ Miscanthus
‘Brepo’ Dwarf Pine
‘Purple Haze’ Buddleia
‘Pink Knock Out’ Rose
‘Rozeanne’ Geranium
‘Double Play’ Spirea
‘Firepower’ Nandina
‘Green Velvet’ Boxwood
‘Pink Drift’ Rose
‘Green Mountain’ Boxwood
‘Dwarf Mondo’ Grass
‘Spring Promise’ Camellia
‘Sky Pencil’ Holly
‘Little Lime’ Hydrangea
‘Blue Beard’ Caryopteris
‘Jade Hinoki’ Cypress
‘Little Kitten’ Miscanthus
‘Limelight’ Hydrangea
‘Red Drift’ Rose

‘Autumnalis’ Cherry
‘Tuscarora’ Crape Myrtle
‘Heritage’ Birch
‘Royal Star’ Magnolia
‘Pink’ Dogwood
‘Ruby Falls’ Weeping Redbud
‘Autumn Blaze’ Maple
‘Sioux’ Crape Myrtle

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