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Good plans put outside space to work

Spring is here, and many businesses look to invest in outdoor spaces, helping properties gain value and look attractive at the same time.

Professionals advise planning ahead is a key part of the process, while observing that a growing trend in the business of outdoor spaces is sustainability.

“The first thing you need is to have a plan,” Charles Daniels, a Georgia Certified Landscape Professional and manager at Herb Creek Landscape Supply’s Sandfly location, said. “The plan needs to be drawn by a landscape architect who has expertise in residential or commercial, depending on what you’re doing.”

It’s important that the landscape architect knows the vision for the project, according to Daniels. “You want the landscape architect to listen to you,” he explained. “Are you looking for an English Garden look? Or do you want something less structured?”

Once the plan is drawn by the landscape architect, the homeowner needs to walk through a nursery and look at the items selected for the yard or commercial project. “You may not like all of the things the landscape architect puts in the plan,” Daniels explained. “You need to walk through the nursery with a Georgia Certified Landscape Professional, who will know other materials you can substitute if you don’t like things chosen by the landscape architect.”

Utility planting

Hester and Zipperer, a garden center and landscaping business, specializes in vegetables, perennials, annuals, and trees. The company’s owner, Meredith Zipperer, said. “We’re seeing a trend in outdoor spaces of gardens going back to edible. Our biggest selling items are vegetables and herbs. Citrus trees are huge right now too.”

Zipperer explained that because of Hurricane Matthew, many people are looking to buy and plant trees this spring. “A lot of plants got destroyed because of the hurricane. Trees are big for us now. It’s good to plant them now before the heat kicks off. Right now in general, there are trends in trees. It’s just like clothing. People lost so many trees because of the hurricane, they just want big trees. They want shade.”

Zipperer added Hester and Zipperer is also seeing a lot of shrubbery, such as boxwoods and azaleas, being used in outdoor spaces.

Organic farmer and owner of Victory Gardens Kerry Shay agreed with Hester with the trend going towards edible gardens.

“We’ve been doing a lot of raised bed gardens, container gardens, and using fruit and citrus trees,” said Shay. “Citrus trees are trendy right now.”

Victory Gardens is a Savannah landscaping company whose founders believe that landscapes should be beautiful, bountiful, and ecologically sound. Shay explained that the company does conventional projects, but has recently been focusing more on detail-oriented projects that are unique and special.

“We’re doing historic courtyards downtown, and high-end custom pavers with brick and rain gardens. It’s more skilled and artisanal than just your basic landscape. I like this direction we’re moving in,” said Shay.

Victory Gardens created a large, modernist style patio in which the patio was circular and the joints between the pavers are grass. “People are using geometric pavers and patio designs where they’re set in the grass and grass grows around the pavers. That’s one style popular now.”

Updating in context

Shay continued that with Savannah’s historic residences, locals also ask for landscapes more traditional and formal.

“We’ll do rustic gardens that match the house – not so rustic that it’s like a barnyard, but more fitting of the historic feel of Savannah. For one client, instead of using concrete material, we used reclaimed brick from Southern Pine. It’s durable and meets the same requirements, but looks like it’s been there for 100 years.”

It’s crucial when working with clients to know what their dream spaces look like, explained Shay. “This is one of the fun parts of my job: taking our clients’ ideas and seeing what will work and what won’t.”

He continued, “If they want to transform a space that’s cluttered or really bare into something beautiful, doing a drawing with a landscape architect adds a level of planning that will deliver a great, cohesive final product.”

Thomas Angel is the owner of Verdant Enterprises, a landscape architect firm that specializes in native plants and sustainable designs. Angel recommends pre-planning for significant garden improvements. “Look at the intended uses and environmental nuances of the space, which will help inform a good plan,” explained Angel. “There are a few tenants: What are the zones on your property from a moisture, sun, and shade sun point? What are the functions within those subsets? Is it a lookout space, a walkthrough space, or a live-in space?”

Angel continued he also sees the trend going towards edible and native landscapes. “There is an increase in the use of edibles, natives, creative storm water, and pollinators. The general goal,” he said, “is to increase the biodiversity of the landscape suggests less use of lawn. Lawn is hungry and thirsty.”

Angel said there is also an emphasis on pollinators – plants that offer nectar or berries, or are hosts for birds and beneficial insects, such as butterflies and bees.

“There is a trend of careful water utilization. The extension of that is creative storm water design. Each property should look at having a passive water collection device like a rain garden or a swale,” he said.

Savannah receives 47 inches of rain annually, he continued. “The notion is use every drop of rain. We’re seeing an increase in people’s consciousness about not just getting rid of the water but keeping it and using it to sustain plants. Since Savannah is mostly flat, you can do subtle grade changes to help direct the storm water to these purposeful low points where the water can infiltrate.”

Getting started

Not everyone can afford a landscape architect, and thus, Angel advised, there are certain things people can do to properly plan their outdoor spaces.

“We suggest the homeowner or business owner sketch the existing conditions by creating a crude base map of the property using measurements,” Angle said. “Then make a sketch of the desired change.”

From this plan, Angel explained the homeowner can develop a plant list, and a list of hardscape or drainage improvements. “You need to consider hardscape and drainage improvements, as well as the plants.”

Anna Dean, a sales representative of Savannah Surfaces, said in hardscapes there’s a trend in using natural stone, such as sandstone, flagstones, blue stones, and a lot of things in grey or natural colored materials.

“We’re also seeing a lot of people do outdoor fire pits, kitchens, and stonework,” she said.

Erin Clay, the marketing coordinator at local lumber yard Guerry Lumber, observed there’s a trend of “bringing the outdoors in.”

“This is where fun meets functionality,” Clay explained. “People are extending their time outdoors and making their outdoor living spaces useful. For instance, they’ll put a new deck outside as an area to entertain friends. People are putting in outdoor kitchens with fully integrated work stations with appliances and storage.”

To prep for an outdoor living space project, Clay advised to do extensive research. “Do you want traditional wood deck or composite decking? Look at composite decking websites, because they have lots of information, and check out Pinterest. At Guerry Lumber we have also have a show room and a show porch so you can see the products on display.”

It’s also important to find a reputable contractor or builder. “Look on Houzz.com or ask your neighbor in Savannah,” said Clay.

Herb Creek’s manager Daniels agreed it’s an important part of the project to find a reputable landscape company to install the project. “Be sure the company licensed and bonded,” he added.

“Also, find out what the warranty is on the material and on the installation,” advised Daniels. “In other words, we may have a good plant but if it’s installed incorrectly, what is the warranty on the installation? This may come in handy down the line.”

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