SEDONA HUMMINGBIRD GARDEN DESIGN BASICS

Now that you have a list of suitable plants that will grow in the Sedona area (USDA Zone 7), which plants you use will depend on design principles based on the plant’s form and purpose. If you are looking to simply create an area that you will call your hummingbird garden that will be quite easy to design. It would be based on the size of the space as well as the amount of sunlight it gets. But before selecting which plants are suitable for your particular space, let’s look at the general form of each shrub. Not all the plants will be suitable for any space within your garden.
If you want your garden to not look like a hodgepodge of plants, you have to spend some time thinking about this basic principle: Select the right plant and put it in the right place.
What this means is you have to understand the growing requirements of the plants such as how tall and wide do they get, what kind of sunlight do they need and water and soil needs. Also, research and understand the aesthetic characteristics of each plant such as the flower color, texture, size and form.
Once you have a palette of suitable plants to work with, where do you place them? This is the art and science of planting design and there is a process that you must go through to achieve a thoughtfully designed garden.
The key to a successful “hummingbird” garden is to not rely solely on plants that have flowers that attract hummingbirds. Use other plants that provide the necessary structure, form, textural and seasonal interest to your garden. For instance, if you have a 12 x 12 spot that you want to create your hummingbird garden and select all perennials, what will it look like during the winter? A garden in Sedona must be designed with a balance of evergreens and perennials. This balance is key to the placement of the plants.
Start with analyzing your garden, its various spaces, the site conditions such as the amount of sunlight, slope, soil type, existing structures and elements you want to keep. Many of the ridge line properties in Sedona are rocky. You may have to rely on using containers instead. If you have sloped areas, consider using low terraced retaining walls which will allow you to add good soil to plant.
What are the functional elements such as a sitting area, patios, walkways, focal points, fountains or fences that may be included? Laying out the “hard” surfaces will define the areas available for plantings.
Perennial gardens are typically planting beds that are intended to create a flower show. For a hummingbird garden, you may want to designate a certain spot for this special bed or it could be a series of beds that border a walkway. You can also locate specific hummingbird plants throughout the garden so not all the excitement happens in one particular area.
In order to create interest place the plants based primarily on their form.  Categorize the forms based on trees, tall shrubs, medium shrubs, low shrubs, ground covers, spiky accents, evergreen vs. deciduous, annual and perennial. Conceptually layout each particular planting area based on the forms, then pay attention to the grouping, the layering and the massing of the plants.
Vertical layering is the escalation of height from the front to the back of a bed or a vantage point in the garden. Small low plants go up close and taller, bolder textures go in the background. Midlevel shrubs go in the middle.
Horizontal layering is the massing of shrubs and the repetition of shrubs to fill up a void. It is not a good idea to create horizontal layering with too much variety. Repetition of the same or similarly formed shrubs is best. You can break up the monotony by using vertical accents to break the linearity of the repeated shrub texture and form. I like to do this with spiky accent shrubs like Liriope, Red Yucca or Agave. Note that the Liriope and Agave are not hummingbird plants. Limiting your plant palette to all hummingbird plants is not a good idea. Use them as accents for when they flower, but not as the primary structure of the garden.

Here is a list of trees and shrubs that will do well in the Sedona area which should form the plant palette that will comprise your Sedona Hummingbird Garden Design.
TREES
Mimosa (deciduous)
Desert Willow (deciduous)
Vitex (deciduous)
Crape Myrtle (deciduous)
Pomegranate (deciduous)

PERENNIALS
Agastache
Bee balm
Canna lily
Daylily
Delphinium
Flame acanthus
Coral bells
Nasturtium
Petunia
Red columbine
Russian Sage
Penstemon
EVERGREEN SHRUBS
Autumn Sage
English lavender
Spanish lavender
Red Yucca

VINES
Halls honeysuckle (semi-evergreen)
Coral honeysuckle (semi-evergreen)
Red Trumpet vine (deciduous)

Include feeders in your Sedona Hummingbird Garden Design
Don’t overlook the use of feeders to provide hummingbirds with a food source in addition to the flowers. Not all flowers will be blooming, nor have sufficient nectar. Place the feeders in shade and/or near sitting areas of to view from inside the house. Having more than one feeder will help attract more hummers. For more information about the use of feeders check out the Sedona Hummingbird Society web site.

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Sedona Hummingbird Gardens

Sedona Hummingbird Gardens are easy to create. You just need to include some of the hummingbird friendly plants that will grow here in Sedona.

 

Hummingbirds are fascinating birds that seem to mesmerize us while they suddenly buzz into our Sedona gardens and search out suitable flowers to feed on nectar. They hover like winged insects suspended in the air grasping at miniscule gnats in the air, but also require the nectar from flowers. This act of feeding on the flowers in our garden is what is so thrilling to watch. They dart from flower to flower with such speed and accuracy, if you are not paying attention, you could miss their visit.

 

Hummingbirds are different than most other bird species in that they feed primarily on nectar whereas other birds feed on insects, nuts, berries and seeds depending on their beaks. Hummingbirds, therefore do not compete with other bird species for food resources. They do however; compete with each other for territories that include adequate food, shelter and hiding places. Where there is adequate food sources such as a yard with multiple feeders hanging in the garden, there may be overlap to these territories since there is plenty to go around.

 

In Sedona, we have several species of Hummingbirds, the most common being the Anna’s Hummingbird which tends to be tolerant of cold temperatures and hangs around during the winter. Other species are migratory and tend to show up in early spring and peak out in midsummer. Because of the migratory behavior of most hummingbirds, they will tend to return to the same feeding spots every year. So having flowering plants and hummingbird feeders will keep them coming back to your Sedona Hummingbird garden.

 

When you understand that hummingbirds have the highest metabolic rate of all vertebrate animals with a heartbeat that can reach 1000 beats per minute, you will see why they are constantly feeding on nectar. The sugar is what they need to fuel their high rate of metabolism. Hanging a feeder is not frowned upon as the feeding of other animals species is. In fact, they need it and you are helping them to survive. Having flowering plants is just icing on the cake.

 

Do they really need red colored sugar water in the feeder? Hummingbirds are certainly attracted to the color red, but the nectar need not be colored with red dye. All hummingbird feeders are colored red as it is, so no need to buy that special hummingbird feeder mix.

 

So ideally, it would be good to have both feeders and flowering plants since you may not have enough flowers blooming to support them. The sight of watching a hummingbird feeding from a flower that is in full bloom can’t be matched by the bird – feeder combination. It’s just not the same.

 

My Sedona clients often request a hummingbird garden, or at least some plants that will attract hummingbirds to their garden. It’s simple to just hang a feeder on your porch or outside your kitchen window, but better yet to wander through a thoughtfully designed garden and watch the hummers feed from your assortment of hummer friendly flowering plants.

 

What kinds of shrubs have flowers that will be attractive to your Sedona hummingbird garden the most?

hummingbird pomegranate

Photo credit: Nancy Buron

There are numerous shrubs that are named after their hummingbird attractiveness. Here are three examples of hummingbird bushes:

 

Agastache species (about 15 different species, also called Giant Hyssop, Hummingbird Mint)
Hamelia patens (Firecracker bush)
Anisacanthus quadrifolius (Flame Acanthus, Hummingbird Bush, Desert Honeysuckle)

But there are many more with different flowers that attract hummingbirds and not all of the flowers are red. Some are blue, pink, yellow or white.

 

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Landscape Lighting Can Add Drama and Elegance
You’ve seen those million dollar mansions on the cover of the luxury real estate magazines. There is always a collection of design features that give it the wow factor. Building the wow factor into your landscape is no different. Here are five design features that give your landscape the wow factor.

Sophisticated Design

A well designed and professionally built landscape will exude a type of appeal that reflects the designer’s touch. Good designs follow the fundamental principles of design including balance, contrast, color, scale, movement, cohesiveness and focal points.

A well designed landscape will reflect the designer’s thoughtfulness represented in the way all the elements and spaces work together in a stylish yet uncluttered fashion. Each of the principles of design can be observed if one knows what to look for.

Elegant Simplicity (keep it simple)

Elegant simplicity is a term I devised for my design questionnaire in which I am attempting to appeal to those clients who prefer simple, unpretentious design. It is a type of look that is beyond the starkness of Zen or the staleness of contemporary mundane. “Less is more” is also known as understated, yet in order to rank in the wow factor category; it has to have something about it that gives you that stirring emotional response. This is often difficult to put into words or a finite set of guidelines since it has more to do with your reaction to the objects, their placement and the setting.

Unique and Creative (not cookie cutter)

There is nothing unique about having a cookie cutter kidney shaped pool built in the center of your backyard. This is the essence of having a customized design that not only is functional and serves your needs, but also is reflective of your personality and style. Unless you want to be like everyone else, why not add something unique and creative that is out of the ordinary yet tasteful? Sometimes creative features in landscapes are the result of “accidental design” often unique solutions to a problem on site. Not all creative and unique design features are thought about on paper.

Vanishing edge concrete pool designed by JSL Exteriors Landscape Design Build

Infinite edge pools add drama and excitement to the backyard landscape adding to the wow factor

Have you ever been to a garden that is like a paradise? What makes it feel like a paradise is the emotional reaction you have to the elements and spaces. The garden itself is not paradise; it’s the term you use to describe it in terms of how you feel.

Gardens also need strong visual components that keep you engaged and interested. It could be a focal point, the bold use of color, the fragrances or statuary that is symbolic of something profound.

Creative use of fire and water can add the element of drama that conjures up feelings of excitement or tranquility.

Another emotional component of a garden is whether you feel safe and secure or does it make you feel like you are on display? Are there private areas for seclusion? Does the whole garden give you a sense of sanctuary – protected, safe and secure free to let your mind wander or focus of friends and family?

All the Bells and Whistles – (the E-ticket ride)

Pools, spas, ponds, fountains, outdoor kitchens, gazebos, ramadas, fireplaces, fire pits, sculpture, artwork, accessories, synthetic grass and other amenities can all be designed into a backyard. If that is what you want or want to feel like you have your own resort backyard entertainment paradise, then you will have to have all the bells and whistles.

Of course, the available space must be able to accommodate all the elements so it doesn’t look crowed. It still must possess cohesive design so all the elements work together instead of appear like a showroom or some kind of garden Disneyland.

The key here is to design it in a way so that it does not appear cluttered with too many things going on. The mind’s eye needs to come to a rest at some point and not get a sense of chaos.

A garden with all the bells and whistles will naturally possess the wow factor; it just has to be toned down so it doesn’t become an “Oh my God!” factor.

Invasive Plants of Sedona

TREE OF HEAVEN

Tree of Heaven

There are two species of plants in the Sedona area that top the list for invasive species and they are the Tree of Heaven and Vinca which is a ground cover. The difference is that nobody deliberately plants Tree of Heaven, however Vinca is widely available at nurseries and is planted often.

Plants that grow out of control or spring up in unwanted spaces are a nuisance to the average gardener. Naïve homeowners who plant these species in the first place unknowingly are creating a potential maintenance headache. Some of these invasive species are so difficult to eradicate completely, that only containment is possible.

The Tree of Heaven or Alianthus is one of the worst culprits to fit the category of invasive plants of Sedona. It is also invasive across the entire United States and is extremely difficult to kill, let alone keep under control. It spreads from seeds that are so prolific and blow through an area, easily germinating in almost any conditions. Once it takes hold, it starts what is called a “colony”.

There are chemicals that are used to both spray the foliage as well as to inject or spray into a wedge cut into the trunk. Personally, I have tried using RoundUp on some small seedlings, but all that does it cause the leaves to wither and not really kill it down to the root. Best way to control young Tree of Heaven is to remove the entire plant. Knowing what these look like is important so if one pops up in your yard, you should remove it right away.

vinca major

Vinca aka Periwinkle

Vinca major, also called Periwinkle is an evergreen ground cover that likes shady areas and can be seen all over Oak Creek canyon under the shade of the Sycamores and Pines that line the canyon. In a garden, it can quickly take over by sending out new runners and rooting along the way. The good thing is the roots are not that difficult to remove and a patch out of control can be removed or contained provided you pay attention and spend the time to do it. 

Another invasive plant of Sedona that I see much of is the Trumpet Creeper. Having an orange tubular flower in spring and summer, it is a popular deciduous vine that clings to walls. The problem is it seems to like to spread underground as well. It spreads like it has rhizomes for a root system. Fortunately, Trumpet Creeper does respond to RoundUp. I would not plant this plant in the first place though. It is perhaps better used as a container plant against a fence or wall.

Bamboo Horror Stories

Bamboo is a type of grass spreading by rhizomes that stem out from the mother root rhizome mass. Some are considered “clumping” while others are “running” types. For a thick screen, many people opt to plant the running kind because it will spread and fill in gaps better than the clumping varieties. The problem with the running bamboo is when a shoot comes up in a spot you don’t want it to. But it can be controlled by simply cutting the rhizome. Enough space must be given to allow the running bamboo to spread. The problem is not understanding how bamboo rhizomes grow and not paying attention.

golden bamboo

Bamboo – you either love it or hate it

Typically, the only bamboo you will see for sale in the Sedona area is Golden Bamboo or Phyllostachus aurea which does well in our Zone 7 climate. Bamboo is usually planted to create a screen. Golden bamboo typically reaches about 12 feet high. Planted along a property line or fence can be risky if it is not contained with a rhizome barrier. You wouldn’t want it popping up in your neighbor’s yard and answer to their complaints.  Therefore, it is best to be prudent and do provide some kind of containment or barrier to the boundaries that you would like the bamboo to spread and cover. Thick plastic material that comes is rolls 24″ wide is available specifically for the purpose of containing bamboo or other root systems.  The key is to not ignore the growth of your bamboo, rather keep an eye on it so that you will notice any new shoots popping up where you dont want them and then can easily cut the rhizome. The reason bamboo is feared is that most people plant it and forget about it until it is too late to be easily controlled.

Heavenly Bamboo (Nandina domestica) is an alternative that does not spread and would have to be planted fairly close together to provide a screening effect. If you like bamboo because of its Asian theme, consider planting it in containers in groups, otherwise do use a rhizome barrier and keep an eye on it.

Research Before you Buy

Many homeowners may the common mistake of buying the pretty plant at the nursery because of its flower and general form whether it’s a shrub, ground cover, vine or tree. Think about this: why would a vendor selling a plant at a retail nursery put a description on the plant label that it is invasive? Of course it would put up a red flag and discourage the sale. Descriptions about the characteristics of plant growth are best researched online or in a good gardening book such as Sunset Western Gardening. There you will find objective useful information whether a plant is considered invasive or not.

 

 

Patio Surface Options for your Sedona Landscape

The choices for paving surfaces outdoors in the landscape are many and most homeowners moving from another part of the country to Sedona may not be aware of the choices for patio surface materials used here in northern Arizona.

It’s easy to get confused with too many choices let alone what color to select. You should take away from this article some tips and pointers about the pros and cons among all the different patio surface options for your Sedona landscape.

Natural paving materials include flagstone, travertine, slate, Cantera stone, wood, adobe, clay, gravel, and river rock among others.

Manmade materials are mostly concrete based and include poured concrete such as colored concrete, salt finished concrete, exposed aggregate, stained concrete, decorative concrete coatings, stamped concrete, interlocking concrete pavers and tile.

There are many criteria that affect which material is “best” for your situation. These factors below are objective criteria that can be assigned to each patio surface option.

Cost

Cost is based on material cost and the labor to install it. Most all natural stone needs to be installed over a concrete slab with a few exceptions. Typically, individual stones or tiles are fitted together with grouted joints. These steps add to the overall labor costs for natural stone making it more expensive than most manmade materials.   

Random, irregular sized pieces of stone such as flagstone, river rock or field stone needs to be manually cut in order to fit together. Precut stone tiles such as slate or travertine are easier to install because there is less cutting.

Maintenance

Natural stone is inherently porous and should always be sealed to keep water from undermining the stability of the stone and the sub slab. Flagstone and slate are particularly prone to flaking. The more porous the material, the more likely it will be harder to clean off stains.

Manmade materials such as concrete, concrete pavers, porcelain tiles are not as porous and may or may  not need to be sealed to maintain their structural integrity but may be recommended for ease of maintenance and cleaning.

Durability

Most any natural stone is subject to cracking and poured concrete is also prone to cracking as well. In fact, hairline cracks in concrete are considered “natural”. It is only when the soil is expansive or there may be moisture and/or drainage issues undermining the concrete that the slab can show cracks that are unsightly. These cracks may get worse over time. Cracking in concrete can show through to tiles laid over the slab.

Cracks within a slab under a decorative concrete coating cannot simply be repaired sufficiently. The underlying cause of the cracking must be fixed. This is why reinforcing steel is used in many concrete pours and expansion joints built in to create stress points so if any cracking is likely, it will hopefully crack along the expansion joint and not be visible.

Concrete pavers have a real advantage over concrete and manmade stone in that they do not crack. They are manufactured to be placed over compacted aggregate with sand between their joints. No concrete is used except sometimes to reinforce the edges. Concrete pavers are designed to be flexible if there is some ground movement and can be easily removed and replaced if there is a significant issue with drainage in the underlying soils.

Safety

Manmade materials are not any safer than natural materials. What affects safety are issues of slipperiness, heat absorption and uneven surface leading to trip hazards.

With some exceptions, materials that are generally considered slippery when wet are manmade tiles, honed and filled travertine and any smooth surface that has been sealed.

The darker the material the more it will absorb and retain heat making it not only hot to walk on with bare feet, but the overall areas around will be hotter due to the radiated heat. Heat absorption is always an issue when deciding on the decking around a pool.

No one wants to intentionally create trip hazards in their landscape, but using uneven and rustic stone surfaces can do just that. Consider the surface texture of the materials in terms of who will be walking on them. Will you be hosting gatherings where everybody will be in high heels? Do you walk outside barefoot a lot? Do the corners of the natural stone you are considering stick up above the rest of the surface? Keep in mind the more rustic the material, the more likely it will cause you to accidentally catch a toe.

So which is better? There is one more criteria to consider and that is aesthetics. In my next article, I will discuss why aesthetics is the primary factor in the decision making process when selecting a paving surface material.

Climate Concerns

Here in Sedona, we average about 4500 feet in elevation and the low temperatures in the winter can drop below 20 degrees.  Therefore, freeze – thaw is an issue for any patio surface material that can trap water. This is especially an issue when laying natural flagstone over a concrete slab where mortar is used to set the pieces. If the mortar is not set and cured, and still has a certain amount of moisture, it can freeze and expand and lift the flagstone. Same with anything that is set on a mortar base. Do time of installation is important to consider.

Those more porous materials which include flagstone, slate, travertine, adobe brick all need to be properly sealed to keep water out.

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Patio Surface Options

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