Let Me Help You Paint Your Picture

By Jim Sollecito

The author’s sister, Kathy, likes to add color to her own landscape and canvas.
The author’s sister, Kathy, likes to add color to her own landscape and canvas.

Wow, the beginning of the fall planting season is already here. My favorite time.

People sometimes ask my favorite color. Fair enough, since I paint landscapes with all kinds of brush strokes. My favorite color is October. Really, it is. It’s the easiest time of year to get plants established and their full color potential is revealed in all its glory.

And I’m all about easier. It’s true that I like going to countries where chickens are commonplace on buses, but that is adventure. Right now I’m talking about digging holes and that borders on work.

As we age, physical work does tend to wear on our parts, if not in the short term then over the long haul. I usually feel the effects after a good day on our farm, now that I am 59.95 plus shipping and handling. Turns out, a lot of handling. I had thought growing older would take longer. I’m learning I need to balance where and how I spend my sweat equity. Pacing. Life is no longer the sprint I thought it was.

As you approach the best part of your life, and the easiest time of year for landscape improvements, I’m offering a few tips on enhancing the picture you paint in your own yard.

Sun-loving plants need six hours of sun to reliably flower. Any less, and you’ll get fewer or smaller flowers. Deer don’t like silver foliage. Woodchucks don’t like gold flowering plants. Maybe they have a contract with a jeweler to get these items elsewhere, but it just seems to work out that way.

People often ask how I go about designing a landscape. One exciting aspect is that the plants I use have changed over the past 46 years. Fully 80% of the varieties in our garden center were not even available 10 years ago. There is indeed an organized Cornell-based method that is not just happenstance. And I still use the same principals. Our strategy is to draw attention to the front door, using the tactics of grouping, repetition, edge definition and dominance. Incorporating as many triangles as we can (the most stable shape in geometry) and selecting plants that match the site. As opposed to trying to change the site to accommodate the plants you might want to grow. Take crepe myrtle for instance. Please, take it far away, to the south. Where it belongs.

Everyone wants lower maintenance and the key is grouping plants in clusters that will form a “closed canopy” within two years. The closed canopy will crowd out weeds by keeping light from reaching the bark mulch. The tighter the canopy grows, the less frequently you need to re-mulch. All very sustainable.

There is genuine joy in creating beauty, and everyone has a canvas ready to be painted with their own personality. If you aren’t sure where to begin, let me help you brush up your own landscape soon.

Jim Sollecito is the first lifetime senior certified landscape professional in NYS. He operates Sollecito Landscaping Nursery in Syracuse. Contact him at 468-1142 or jim@sollecito.com.