Happy Memorial Day from Roanoke Landscapes

I very recently started working for Roanoke Landscapes as an office and social media manager. When I was hired, I had next to no knowledge about landscaping, and so I found myself asking the question “Why is landscaping important?”

Both of my parents have always enjoyed gardening. When I was younger and still lived at home with them, we would spend one weekend every spring mulching and getting the garden ready for the upcoming season. That weekend was more often that not Memorial Day weekend. As a kid, I considered this a complete waste of time. Why spend hours laboring in the dirt when there were hotdogs to be eaten and games of corn hole to play? Isn’t Memorial Day supposed to be about having a good time? Mulching, mowing, and stressing over the yard were not activities I associated with fun.

The more somber connotations of Memorial Day were not clear to me until I was older. I had friends and distant family members for whom the holiday was spent grieving rather than celebrating. They had lost a father, a sister, a child, and thus could no longer spend a long weekend “as a family.” Realizing this, I thought a bit harder about the many hours I had spent working in the garden with my parents. In truth, our time together was about much more than gardening. Together, we were were working to create a shared, beautiful place that we could all enjoy. Through mulching, planting, and the (totally backbreaking) pulling of weeds, we were celebrating the opportunity to be with each other. Not every family is so lucky. In the face of loss,  the “little things” in life become much more important: the simple and profound beauty of my mother’s flowers, the effort my dad put into growing new grass, and the time spent in good company. I cherish those memories now.

So, when thinking about why landscaping is important, I would have to say it is one of those “little things” that helps us appreciate what we have and hold dear. It is about creating a beautiful, safe place where families and friends can enjoy each others company. It is a labor of love and a celebration of life, color, and the places that we call home. This Memorial Day, I hope you enjoy your landscape fully and take the time to appreciate all the work you’ve put into building it. Step back and consider the individual efforts that have gone into every flower, every tree, and every patch of grass. Appreciate the small moments that make life beautiful, and remember to give thanks to those who made the ultimate sacrifice and the families who are still grieving. Without them, we wouldn’t have so much to celebrate.

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Creating Drought-Resistant Gardens

In the midst of a hot and dry summer, keeping flowers and grass alive and healthy can feel like more trouble than it’s worth. Water bills soar, time spent laboring in the garden goes up, and there’s no guarantee that your plants will even end up surviving the harsh conditions. In climates where drought is common, the idea of a “drought resistant” landscape has bloomed. Some landscapers have gone as far as taking out traditional lawns altogether and replacing them with grass-free lawns. In southwest Virginia, this isn’t typically necessary, but incorporating some drought resistant elements into your gardening plan can be a simple and relatively inexpensive way to combat unpredictable weather patterns while also conserving water and energy. Here are some ways you can make your lawn more durable and hardy this coming season:

Enhance Your Soil

In the hottest months of summer, soil can begin cracking and drying under the sun. This decreases the grounds ability to retain moisture and puts your plants at risk of dehydration. Laying down compost, mulch, or shredded leaves create a natural remedy. These organic elements are filled with plant-healthy nutrients and microbes, and they add long-lasting moisture to the ground. A yearly or biyearly application of these soil helpers will support garden durability and drought-resistance.

Better Homes and Gardens: How to Make Compost

 

Choose Hardy Plants

Grasses and flowers are beautiful to look at, but they also require a lot of watering and upkeep. Luckily, there are drought-resistant alternatives to most kinds of plants. For instance, traditional grass can be replaced by ornamental grasses such as thyme, catmint, and clover. These grasses are beautiful, fragrant, tough against weeds, and they are very low-maintenance. Water-hogging flowers can be replaced with plants like lavender, butterfly bush, and various kinds of succulents. Though they are not exactly typical garden decorations, some carefully planted succulents or cacti can add depth, uniqueness, and resilience to your landscape.

Ten Awesome Succulents

Change Your Emphasis

You might be unwilling to give up traditional grasses and flowers completely, and that’s totally okay. For an easy compromise, consider changing around the emphasis of your landscape. Add roses or iris’ as colorful accents amidst succulents and herbs. Plant grass scarcely in strips around walkways or patios. Create more room for some interesting hardscape designs, such as statues, stone or gravel paths, and retaining walls. This will preserve the lushness of your garden without raising your water bill through the roof.

Responsible Irrigation

When you do use irrigation, do so conservatively. Certain irrigation heads are able to conserve more water than others. For instance, consider getting drip heads installed in your flower beds. These feed water directly to the roots of plants for ultimate efficiency and water saving. At Roanoke Landscapes, we can help you irrigate your lawn in a responsible and cost-effective way. We can also provide you with drought-resistant landscaping plans that stay true to your goals and visions. A beautiful garden and yard is important, but there’s no reason it has to break the bank.

Check back soon for more summer landscaping tips and ideas!

Garden Pests and How to Stop Them

Virginia had an unusually warm winter this year. This means there could be an increase in the amount of garden pests terrorizing your plants and flowers this summer. Because of the unseasonably high temperatures, many pest populations that would have been killed off by consistently freezing temperatures survived, and now they are ready to eat and reproduce at full force. To help, we’ve compiled a list of common garden pests and how to (simply and quickly) keep them away using homemade remedies.

1. Aphids: Aphids are tiny, light-green insects that suck up plant juices for food. Though they are small, their insatiable appetites can cause foliage to dehydrate and eventually die. When they’re done eating, they excrete a sticky, sugary substance that attracts other garden pests like ants. Additionally, they multiply rapidly, and can quickly form large colonies on individual plants and completely take over large gardens. Letting these pests linger for too long often results in complete disaster.

To remove aphids from plants, dilute a tablespoon or so of dish soap in a small bucket of warm water. Put the mixture in a spray bottle and gently spray the infested plants gently and thoroughly.  Be sure to also spray under leaves where aphids typically lay their eggs.

2. Earwigs: Earwigs can both be beneficial and destructive to gardens and crops. On one hand, they are the natural predators of other garden pests like aphids, larvae, and snails. However, earwigs also have an appetite for leaves and flowers, and often bore small holes in foliage that can end up causing trouble for your plants.

 

To kill earwigs, you can fill a shallow can (like a tuna fish or dog food can) in your yard and fill it with vegetable oil. Vegetable oil attracts earwigs, but they won’t survive taking a dip in the greasy liquid. You can also use old newspaper as a makeshift trap. Role it up like a tube and place it in your garden over night for best results.

 

3. Grasshoppers: The voracious appetite of an adult grasshopper has caused problems on farms and gardens throughout America. They can eat one-half of their body weight per day in leaves and foliage. When allowed to breed uncontrolled, they can defoliate entire fields of crops in no time.

 

Conveniently, grasshoppers are repelled by the smell and taste of garlic. It won’t kill them, but it will keep them off your plants. Crush up about two bulbs of garlic and mix it with a half-cup of water for a potent solution. Let the mixture sit for 24 hours and then spray it onto plants and flowers.

 

4. Slugs and Snails: Slugs and snails are ubiquitous in American gardens. They thrive in dark, shady areas and feed on decaying plants and flowers. They often thrive around foundations, rocks, and in freshly mulched, damp soil. In addition to feeding on dead plants, they chew large holes in living foliage and can completely destroy fruit. Almost every kind of plant is fair-game for slugs and snails. They are not picky eaters, and this means trouble for your garden.

Salt is, of course, the age-old remedy for slug infestations, but you can also kill off slugs with beer and milk traps! Simply bury a tall cup in the soil, leaving the rim ½ inch off the ground. Then, fill the cup halfway up with beer (preferably, a kind you don’t like drinking very much) or milk and wait for slugs to collect.

 

5. Stink Bugs: If you ask me, there’s nothing worse than the foul-smelling, loud, and terribly common Asian stinkbug. These pungent creatures will invade your garden and your home. They have a very versatile diet that includes almost every kind of vegetation, and their nibbling can cause discoloration, early decay, and other plant maladies. Not to mention, stinkbugs love sneaking indoors, and nobody wants a stinkbug infestation in their bedroom or kitchen.

 

Stink bugs can be easily trapped and killed by mixing detergent and water. Find a large bucket or container, fill it 1/4th of the way full with water, and then mix in one teaspoon of detergent. This concoction works for trapping stinkbugs both in and outside of the home.

All of these tricks will help control pest populations in your lawn and garden; however, the most effective form of pest control is prevention. A healthy, well-watered and well-trimmed yard is a great form of prevention. Roanoke Landscapes can keep your yard healthy and free of dead plants and debris so that you can focus on creating a beautiful outdoor living space. And, if the pests continue to bother you, we can help with that too. Major infestations should always be handled by professionals. Give us a call and we can help you prepare for whatever the summer has to bring!

What’s Blooming in May?

Spring in Virginia is full of surprises. For instance, these strange weather patterns might have you wondering whether to wear a heavy rain jacket or break out your flip flops and swimsuit. Day to day, the climate here can be rather unpredictable. But there are few places where the beauty and breadth of the seasons can be experienced more fully. The large variety of flowering shrubs and trees that thrive in the Blue Ridge Mountains make our springs particularly delightful, despite the chaotic weather. For fellow flower-lovers, we’ve compiled a list of blooming plants to keep your eyes on this May. And, with any luck, it’ll be nice enough outside to actually enjoy them!

  1. Abelia Shrubs

The glossy Abelia shrub produces trumpet-shaped pink and white flowers. These blooms are pleasantly fragrant and attract bees and butterflies. With enough sunlight and water, Abelia can grow more than eight feet tall, so be sure to prune every season! Capable of withstanding severe cold and blistering heat (and, in Virginia, we sometimes have both!), the Abelia is a beautiful and sturdy addition to any landscape.

  1. Baptisia (Blue False Indigo)

With a name like false indigo, it’s easy to underestimate this flowering plant. However, Baptisia shrubs can grow up to four feet tall and they produce hundreds of bright, blueish-purple flowers from late spring into early summer. They make a striking addition to lawns and gardens, and their blooms are so bright they were once used to make indigo dyes. If you’re growing Baptisia, remember that these plants do well in direct sunlight and are reasonably drought resistant.

  1. Foxglove

Foxglove flowers are loved for their dramatic tubular shape and speckled throats. These shrubs can grow up to five feet tall in height, and their blooms come in many different colors, from deep red to bright yellow. Luckily for lawn owners who live in heavily deer-populated areas, these plants are known for keeping deer away. Additionally, they require little maintenance and they multiply readily. This makes them a smart (and beautiful) garden flower.

 

  1. Crested Iris

The deep blue of the crested iris flower adds spectacular flare to a landscape, whether grown in the wild or carefully cultivated in a garden. These plants have dagger-shaped, dark green leaves that grow five or six inches from the ground. The iris does best in the shade, making it perfect for yards that don’t get a lot of sun.

  1. Catmint

Though related to catnip, the blooms of catmint are considerably more vibrant and dramatic. These perennials produce flowers varying in shade from dark blue to light pink. Their foliage is greyish-green and looks lovely even without flowers. Like Abelia, these plants are fragrant and attract bees and butterflies. They can grow up to four feet tall and consistently produce heavy blooms that will brighten your garden year after year.

Spring in the Blue Ridge

 These are just some of the shrubs you’ll see flowering around Virginia this time of year. Having one or many of these plants in your garden will keep it vibrant and colorful from late spring on into early summer. Though that heavy raincoat may be useful now, these flowers will help you look forward to warmer, brighter spring days!

Why Install a Retaining Wall?

At Roanoke Landscapes, we have done many memorable retaining wall installs. We’ve found that adding a retaining wall to a landscape plan can completely change the functionality and feel of a patio or yard for the better. So, we would like to let you in on what makes retaining walls so spectacular, and why you should consider having one installed.

What is a retaining wall?

Retaining walls serve two purposes: They are an aesthetically pleasing way to frame and shape a landscape, and they are also a form of highly effective yard protection. There are few structures that can add flare, functionality, and durability to your landscape all at once. Retaining walls are a versatile and easy solution to a variety of landscaping woes. And they can be customized to fit your unique vision in a variety of colors, shapes, and materials.

What are the benefits of a retaining wall?

There are many! Here are a few notable perks:

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Increase the versatility and usability of your yard: Retaining walls can be used as a barrier to separate different sections of your yard and optimize organization. Plant a flower garden on one side of your retaining wall and build an outdoor patio on the other, for instance. You can also use walls to level out drastically sloped backyards and increase usable space. They are a beautiful solution to unseemly slopes and dirt piles, and they can be integrated and customized into any landscape plan. Use them to construct vertical gardens, install outdoor light fixtures, or even incorporate a stone fire pit into one!

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Protect your landscape from erosion and flooding: Erosion and flooding threaten almost every climate. Either one can quickly destroy a carefully planned landscape. In addition to being attractive yard features, retaining walls also protect against the threat of flooding or erosion by holding loose soil in place and giving water a safe draining route. They can also protect patios and driveway from harsh sunlight and wind damage.

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Add a sturdy and reliable yard fixture that will be there for years to come: Luckily for yard owners, retaining walls require little maintenance after installation. They hold up well in bad weather conditions– especially when constructed from natural, locally-sourced materials –and they can withstand a large amount of wear and tear. Well-constructed retaining walls can handle a lot of weight without cracking or crumbling, which makes them safe for families with children and pets. When a wall is done right, you shouldn’t have to worry about it, and that is a huge perk for busy home and business owners.

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Roanoke Landscapes Retaining Wall that Won Belgard Award

Roanoke Landscapes is dedicated to creating the highest quality final product. We can construct whatever kind of retaining wall you need, no matter how big or small. Our focus is creating a beautiful, durable, affordable structure that you can enjoy for years and years. We use only the best materials from manufacturers like Allan Block, Techo Block, and Belgard. Recently, we won a Belgard Project Excellence award for using Belgard products to create an outstanding living space. Regardless of the design or purpose you have in mind for your retaining wall, we can make it a reality that you will be sure to marvel at and enjoy day after day.