Wednesday, September 01, 2010
From Weedy to Winner
Moneta couple’s extensive landscape transformation earns them our $1,000 contest prize
“Builder Boring” was the landscape genre John and Kathy Lietz encountered when they purchased their lakefront home in Moneta in 2004.
A thin, weedy lawn sloped down to the front door, and an uninvitingly narrow concrete path ran in a straight line across the front of the house from the driveway before doglegging at a right angle to the front door. A smattering of shrubs dotted the space between the path and the front porch.
“I wanted something more,” Kathy Lietz said.
She had a vision for her home’s landscape, and what she achieved is a garden worthy of being named winner of the third Lovely Laker Landscape Contest.
Inspired by the beautiful, flower-filled gardens belonging to her grandmother and her mother-in-law, Lietz pictured a seating area in front surrounded by blooming perennials. In addition to beautifying the front entry, her concept provided an outside-the-box solution to the couple’s desire to have a spot with a southern exposure where they could sit outside on mild winter days.
The question was how to realize the vision. To give herself the courage to do it and to get some guidance, she hired landscape architect Dan Chitwood of Roanoke to draw up a conceptual plan.
Chitwood’s design significantly enlarged the front walkway, making it much more graceful and welcoming. Beginning at the driveway, it opens wide, embracing arriving guests and drawing them into the space. It narrows and curves in the middle as it passes through lushly-planted beds on either side, and then opens into a circular patio near the front door. A comfortable space furnished with a cafe table and two chairs, the patio is delightful any time of year.
Once the plan was on paper, the Lietzes set about implementing it. To create enough level space, they bulldozed back the slope by a few feet, gently angling the degree of the remaining incline to create a pleasing sense of enclosure without having a steep precipice looming over the seating area. The result is a private “cup garden” where the plants are presented beautifully on the slope, each shown off to excellent advantage.
Lietz was concerned that the busy-looking house facade featured too many different materials, colors and textures. In addition to gray clapboard, a brown shingle siding, and gray stonework on various wall surfaces, the front porch was paved with an orange-colored material. To delete at least one color from the architectural scheme, she instructed the workers to remove the orange porch paving and replace it with the same stamped concrete pattern used for the path and patio. Now the paving material visually unifies the space from the driveway to the front door.
Once the front area was enlarged and graded, the path installed, and the soil amended, the fun stage began. Lietz, an aspiring artist, channeled the gardening lessons she learned from her grandmother and mother-in-law as she “painted” with plants on the blank canvas of the empty garden beds.
“I liked the idea of perennial plants,” she said, “because they come back. It saves energy – both mine and what it takes the nurseries to grow the annuals.”
Her color palette is primarily blue, yellow and orange with the splash of bold pink from the disease-resistant Knock Out® roses that bloom so well at Smith Mountain Lake.
“My personal tendency would be to go for the peach colors,” she said, “but I’ve learned that they don’t give as much bang for the buck in the bright sun at the lake. Orange and yellow show up well, and the blues look so good against them.”
Working with a budget, Lietz purchased plants from the Moneta Garden Club. She also enjoys trading and sharing plants with friends. The garden is filled with reliable performers such as black-eyed Susans, perennial phlox, Baptisia, daisies, shrub-sized crape myrtle, and the long-blooming, compact butterfly bush ‘Nahno Purple’. She also included a lilac for her mother who lived with them at the lake until her death.
“Lilacs were one of my mother’s favorite flowers,” Lietz said. “I loved that she could sit in the window looking out and enjoying the garden.”
Lietz also has succumbed to a few annuals, including cosmos and marigolds, that redeem themselves by self-seeding every year. And near the driveway she has a few stealth vegetables mixed among the flowers. Lietz has achieved what most gardeners aspire to: floral interest that begins in spring and continues through autumn.
In his book, A Love of Flowers, novelist H.E. Bates wrote, “The garden that is finished is dead.” Lietz shares that view, and has great plans for expanding hers, perhaps adding another terrace above the front walkway garden and patio.
“I have lots of plans, probably more than I can do in my lifetime,” she said.
As winners of the Lovely Laker Landscape Contest, the Lietzes will receive a $1,000 credit at Lakescapes Nursery.
Catriona Tudor Erler is a freelance garden writer, photographer and speaker who divides her time between SML and Charlottesville. She is the author of nine garden books, including “Design Ideas for Home Landscaping,” “Poolscaping: Gardening and Landscaping Around Your Pool and Spa,” and “Complete Home Landscaping.”