By Steve Boehme
We spent a recent Saturday exploring a dozen private landscapes in and around Columbus, recharging our creative batteries with lots of fresh landscape ideas. A varied assortment of projects, by some of the best landscapers in Columbus, opened to the public as the Columbus Landscape Association hosted its annual Outdoor Living and Landscaping Tour. A few readers of this column were paying attention and took advantage of the free tickets we offered several weeks ago. Ticket sales benefitted Hope Hollow, a non-profit sanctuary for cancer patients and also a stop on the tour.
So, what do the newest custom landscapes look like? This is the second time we’ve taken this tour, and we spotted some trends worth watching. Some of the homes we visited were very expensive, with landscape budgets in six figures. Others were more modest, but clearly landscaping was a big part of the quality of life in these homes and there were lots of unique ideas on display.
One thing that struck us was that the more affluent the owner, the more boxwoods, hostas, and ground cover plants dominated the landscape. One reason is that luxury homes tend to have lots of large trees and plenty of shade, so ground covers for shade are widely used in nice neighborhoods. The use of color is more tasteful, with evergreen plants as a background, for a very classy upscale effect.
We saw lots of extensive hardscaping; retaining walls, paver walks and patios (even driveways), natural stone, and water features. Slate patios, stone bridges, rock outcroppings, and sturdy privacy fences covered with vines were everywhere. City dwellers who want privacy surround themselves with large woody plants like viburnum, holly, hemlock and arborvitae. Unlike most rural and suburban landscapes, these backyards had plantings all around the edges, not just close to the foundation.
The owners of these homes have big landscape maintenance budgets, so they can afford to cram lots of plant material into small spaces and keep it clipped, pruned and sheared constantly. The landscape companies clearly aimed for “instant results” rather than spacing for the mature size of plants. We chuckled at the mass plantings of roses underneath young weeping cherry trees, lots of taxus yews, hostas in sun, grasses in shade and other obvious mistakes. Most of the landscapes were recently re-worked, so the inevitable culling and casualties haven’t happened yet.
Our favorite stop was an older home overlooking the Scioto River, with mass plantings of Hosta among stone walls originally built by the WPA many years ago. A tasteful waterfall and stream had been added, which will blend nicely into the natural setting as the stones age.
Another treasure was an intimate Japanese garden tucked in behind the Muirfield golf course. Slate pathways, a stone bridge, and yes, more hostas, were artfully arranged to disguise just how close the house was to its neighbors. We also admired a lovely stone mansion in Bexley, laced with formal borders of miniature boxwoods and carefully clipped ivy. Yes, ivy hedges as a formal border. The opposite of low maintenance, but certainly charming.
Last stop was the Learning Garden at Chadwick Arboretum on the Ohio State campus. You have a few more weeks to check out their annual cultivar trial gardens, full of new varieties being tested. There were standouts and duds. Very interesting, and certainly colorful. Well worth a stop next time you’re near the OSU campus. Go Bucks!
Steve Boehme is the owner of GoodSeed Nursery & Landscape, located at 9736 Tri-County Highway, near Winchester, Ohio. To e-mail your landscaping questions click “Contact Us” from their website at www.goodseedfarm.com or call (937) 587-7021.