Constructing a Natural Stone Patio or Walkway

Hardscape elements can add much beauty as well as serving a function in your outdoor space. Creating a natural stone patio or walkway can add an extra dimension to your landscaping and can be accomplished in one to two days, depending on the size of your area. There are a series of necessary steps that must be followed in order to ensure the stability and lifetime of your project.

back walkway through gate

Walkway Construction

Before starting your project, clear your space of any grass, stone or debris and level the area as best as possible. There should be a slight pitch for water drainage, but no more than a five degree slope is recommended.IMG_5667

After leveling, construct a border for your walkway using a standard steel or plastic landscape edging. Lay a layer of landscape fabric to cover the area in order to keep out soil and prevent weeds from coming through. Use metal anchors to keep the landscape fabric in place. (Note:  Steel Edging comes in 16 foot sections.)IMG_5665

Once the edging and landscape fabric are in place, install a 2-3 inch base for your stone to sit in. Here a 3/4 inch pea gravel base is being used. Rake out the gravel to create a level surface.IMG_5663

Now you are ready to lay down the irregular bluestone slabs into the gravel base.  A recommended size for the bluestone slabs is approximately 2′ x 3′. Move the stones within the gravel to ensure they are level and comfortable for walking and push the gravel up around the edges. Your new walkway is now complete and ready to enjoy!

Completed Patio

Irregular Bluestone Patio on RCA Base

To construct an irregular bluestone patio, first clear the area of any grass or debris.


Level the area and install a base of three to four layers of RCA (recycled concrete) while tamping down after each layer is deposited.  A solid layer of approximately four inches is recommended.IMG_5729

Afterwards, add a layer of clean sandbox sand and use a level to make sure the area is flat.IMG_5742

Once the base is fully prepared, using a stone saw, carefully  cut and piece the irregular bluestone slabs together to fit like a puzzle.  This can be a bit tedious but better to take your time.  Once all the stone is laid, fully clean off any dust or debris and wash down the new patio with a hose and allow to dry.  Once completely dry, it is time to brush polymeric sand into the grooves of the stone without getting any onto the surrounding area.  The polymeric sand will form a permanent bond between the pieces of stone to complete your patio project. Wet down lightly with a spray nozzle and let set overnight. (Note: Polymeric sand hardens like a cement and will not come off the surrounding patio once set with water.  Take caution when applying to ensure the area is clean of any remaining dust or debris.) Once these steps are completed your new patio is ready to enjoy!

Following these simple steps will help guide you into creating a welcoming patio or walkway for your landscape to enjoy for years to come. For other design and hardscaping ideas,  be sure to check out my book A Guide to Northeastern Gardening, which is available on Amazon.

 As Always…Happy Gardening!


A Guide to Northeastern Gardening; Journeys of a Garden Designer Zones 3-9

Author: Lee@A Guide to Landscape Design & Maintenance, © Copyright 2016. All rights reserved

The Late April Garden: Bursts of Spring Color!


The month of April is abundant with blooms as we start off spring, and one of the wonderful aspects of my job as a landscape designer is that I get to be surrounded by them on a daily basis.  For early spring color the use of flowering trees and shrubs such as Weeping Cherry, Kwanzan Cherry, Flowering Plum, Eastern Redbud, Magnolia, Viburnum and Ornamental Pear along with spring blooming bulbs such as muscari, hyacinth, crocus, tulips and daffodils bring bursts of color to the landscape. Add some early blooming perennials such as ajuga and phlox to the mix and you have an array of color! Here are some of the more popular flowering species for your early spring garden, followed by information for each individual plant.

Weeping Cherry

Weeping Cherry  (Prunus subhirtella Pendula)

Plant Type: Flowering Tree
Deciduous/Evergreen: Deciduous
Hardiness Zone: 5-8                Hardiness Zone Map
Light Needs: Full Sun
Water Needs: Low
Mature Size: Height 15-20′ x 15-20′ Wide
cherry blossom

Weeping Cherry Blossom

tulips 3

Red Tulip

tulip, pink

Pink Tulip

tulip, orange

Orange Tulip

yellow tulips

Yellow Tulip

Plant Type: Bulb (Tulip Assorted)
Deciduous/Evergreen: Herbaceous
Hardiness Zone: 3-9    Hardiness Zone Map
Light Needs: Full Sun
Water Needs: Moderate
Mature Size: 12-18″ tall
prunus kwazan cherry

Kwanzan Cherry (Prunus serrulata ‘Kwanzan’)

Plant Type: Flowering Tree
Deciduous/Evergreen: Deciduous
Hardiness Zone: 4-8   Hardiness Zone Map
Light Needs: Full Sun-Part Shade
Water Needs: Moderate
Mature Size: Height 20-30 ‘x 20-30’ Wide
Creeping Phlox

Creeping Phlox

Plant Type: Perennial, groundcover
Deciduous/Evergreen: Herbaceous
Hardiness Zone: 3-8   Hardiness Zone Map
Light Needs: Full Sun
Water Needs: Moderate
Mature Size: 4-6″ tall x 16-24″ wide
Viburnum Fragrant 2

Fragrant Viburnum (Viburnum x carlcephalum)

Plant Type: Flowering Shrub
Deciduous/Evergreen: Deciduous
Hardiness Zone: 6-8   Hardiness Zone Map
Light Needs: Full Sun – Part Shade
Water Needs: Moderate
Mature Size: 6-10′ tall x 6-10′ wide
Growth Rate: Moderate
Ajuga 'Burgundy Glow' Flower

Ajuga ‘Burgundy Glow’

Plant Type: Perennial, groundcover
Deciduous/Evergreen: Herbaceous
Hardiness Zone: 3-9   Hardiness Zone Map
Light Needs: Full Sun – Full Shade
Water Needs: Moderate
Mature Size: 4-6″ tall x 12-18″ wide
Krater Plum Blossoms 2

Krauter Plum Blossoms (Prunus cerasifera ‘Krauter Vesuvius’)

Plant Type: Flowering Tree
Deciduous/Evergreen: Deciduous
Hardiness Zone: 5-8   Hardiness Zone Map
Light Needs: Full Sun – Part Shade
Water Needs: Moderate
Mature Size: 15-20′ tall x 15-20′ wide


Try some of these beauties for spring delight in your landscape. For much more information on flowering trees, shrubs and perennials,  check out my book A Guide to Northeastern Gardening, available on Amazon.

 As Always…Happy Gardening!

Author: Lee@A Guide to Landscape Design & Maintenance, © Copyright 2016. All rights reserved

Book Launching: A Guide to Northeastern Gardening


I am excited to announce the publishing of my book, A Guide to Northeastern Gardening: Journeys of a Garden Designer. The idea of writing a book stemmed from my two blogs, A Guide to Northeastern Gardening, which I started in 2010 and this one, A Guide to Landscape Design & Maintenance, which made its debut in 2013.

Over the years, I developed a determination to put all my experiences into words in the form of a published book, and in 2013 I started this endeavor. After much persistence and determination the goal that I had set out to accomplish has finally become a reality. The publication is an accumulation of knowledge combined with personal experiences from over twenty years of being a landscape designer, with a focus on landscape design and plants hardy in a range of zones from  3-9.  The book derived its name from my original blog from back in 2010 and there is a story to be told about how it came to be.

A little bit about the book:

A Guide to Northeastern Gardening is a comprehensive guide of valuable information on plants hardy in a range of zones from 3-9, and gardening techniques backed up by my own personal experiences as a professional landscape designer, along with answers to frequently asked questions. Learn about landscape design principles, butterfly gardening, deer resistant plants, long blooming perennials, globe and weeping evergreens, flowering trees and shrubs, native plantings, shade gardening and more. Whether you are a novice or experienced gardener, A Guide to Northeastern Gardening will help you to create your own dream garden. Come along on my journey into the world of gardening!

A little bit about the author:

Lee Miller is a professional landscape/garden designer involved in the horticultural industry since 1996. Having started a gardening blog in 2010, she is the author of over 150 articles on general gardening, landscape design principles, gardening tips, planting, pruning, garden maintenance, feature plants and more. Her published book, A Guide to Northeastern Gardening, is an accumulation of information touching on a wide variety of gardening topics, all backed up by her own personal experiences.

A preview of my book is now online at Amazon and the publication is available in printed format as well as for kindle. I hope my readers will find A Guide to Northeastern Gardening to be both informative and enjoyable, and wish them all the best in their gardening endeavors!

 As Always…Happy Gardening!

Author: Lee@A Guide to Landscape Design & Maintenance, © Copyright 2016. All rights reserved

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Proper Planting of Trees & Shrubs in Burlap or Wire Basket


Very often larger landscape trees and shrubs will arrive either wrapped in burlap or burlap encased in wire baskets.  These allow the tree to be picked up by the root ball instead of the trunk and are used to protect the roots during transportation and handling.  Also, on many occasions large tree spades are used by growers to dig the tree for transportation. These giant spades will cause surrounding soil to be pushed up higher around the trunk way past the flare.  When planting, burlap or wire baskets should be removed completely or pushed down as far as possible to allow for the tree to develop new feeder roots and the root flare should be visible. Care should be taken both during the arrival and planting of the tree to ensure its survival. Here are some recommendations.

burlap off

Some horticulturists recommend removing at least the top 12 to 18 inches (two or three levels) of wire from the root ball, or the entire basket. (Source: University of Florida Horticultural Department). Dig the hole the tree is being planted in wide enough so that the wire basket can be cut and folded down around the plant.  Cut and remove any top burlap and do the same, pushing the burlap as far down as possible (if not removing it completely). It is alright to leave the bottom portion of the burlap or basket intact if the root ball does not appear stable enough to remove it. Wire baskets are known to degrade slowly in soil, and can be intact up to 20 years after planting; however, the welded joints tend to degrade sooner. Natural burlap typically tends to rot in the soil, with the exception of some of the drier parts of the country (regions receiving less than about 20 inches of annual precipitation).  Synthetic burlap does not decompose.  To distinguish between natural and synthetic burlap burn a small portion with a match. Synthetic burlap has a smoother feel and often smokes and melts. Natural burlap is coarser and usually burns with a flame and turns to ash, while synthetic does not.


 Photo Credit:  Garden Web

When positioning the tree check for the root flare (see diagram above) and remove any soil that may have been pushed up when digging.  The root flare is pointed out as the lower line on the diagram where the trunk gets wider. The tree will develop new feeder roots near the top of the root ball enabling the tree to receive water, undergo oxygen exchange and obtain minerals. It is not uncommon to see the tree’s root ball covered with additional soil. If not removed the tree will be buried too deeply and will often send roots growing straight upward where conditions are better. Over time this will cause the tree to stress and slowly suffocate due to a lack of water and oxygen or girdling root (roots wrap around the base of the tree and suffocate it).


      Photo Credit: Colorado State University  

Now that the burlap and wire are pushed away from the roots it is time to plant.  Position the tree slightly above the grade (1-2 inches) to allow for proper drainage and mulching once the tree is planted. This will also ensure proper transportation of water, oxygen and minerals, as discussed above. As a general rule of thumb plant one inch above grade for each inch caliper of tree trunk.  For example, a tree with a one inch trunk caliper (diameter) should be one inch above grade, and so forth.

placement In a heavily clay soil it is recommended to plant even a little higher to allow for proper drainage,  If drainage does seem to be an issue, it may be in your best interest to dig pilot holes two to three feet down and add a gravel base so that water percolates downward, instead of having water sitting right at the roots.  Trees in standing water will lose their feeder roots due to suffocation and will quickly decline. treesFollowing these simple planting techniques will ensure the longevity of your trees for many years. The same guidelines apply to the planting of deciduous trees or plants in plastic containers. Remember it is important to mulch your tree to protect the roots but prevent the mulch from being right up around the trunk to avoid any issues.  I see way too much of this! (see articleNursery

Now that we have covered the proper techniques it is time to go out into the garden and get some trees planted!

As Always…Happy Gardening!

2015 Lee@ A Guide to Landscape Design & Maintenance.7b6fd-blog2bdivider2bbird

Perennial Nutsedge Alert: One determined Weed

nutsedge 1

Nutsedge Perennial Weed

If you see an unknown plant emerging in your garden or lawn that looks like this…it is known as Nutsedge, also known as nutgrass. Nutsedge is an erect, grass-llke perennial member of the sedge family. It emerges as a pale green spike starting in late May and is similar in appearance to a grass seedling. When a shoot reaches the surface, it forms a basal bulb which grows into a new plant, including roots that develop new tubers at their ends. This process takes approximately three weeks and the plant spreads rapidly throughout the summer months. Nutsedge does die back in winter when frost kills all top growth; however, most of the viable tubers will survive and sprout the following spring.

nutsedge 2

Nutsedge Perennial Weed

If you see nutsedge in summer the best remedy is to remove it immediately, making sure to get all the roots and tubers. Tubers will be well beneath the soil and white shoots will be visible after pulling out the main plant.  Be sure to get all the new shoots and check regularly to see if any plants re-emerge.  The use of selective herbicides over the past twenty years has reduced competition from other weeds and allowed nutsedge to grow and spread more easily. Once established, this weed can be hard to control because its tubers have high energy reserves, multiple buds, and a long sprouting period. An addition, the tubers are resistant to systemic herbicides because the chemicals travel from the top growth of the plant into the roots and rhizomes but not into the tubers, which multiply. The most effective treatment is application of a pre-emergent in early spring.

nutsedge 3

Nutsedge Perennial Weed

When nutsedge matures in the perennial border it develops long shiny leaves that resemble the foliage of daylillies.  It also produces flower spikes in late summer as seen above, which can be misleading.  Keeping on the lookout, along with a little proactive maintenance, will prevent this determined weed from taking over your landscape.

2015 Lee@ A Guide to Landscape Design & Maintenance.


Care of Landscape Plantings

8 echinacea pow wow 5 After you have invested time and money into your landscape it is important to take proper care of your plantings.  Here is a list that I have compiled over the years that I share with my clients.  I hope you will find it useful!

WATERING:  Water thoroughly after planting and keep well watered throughout the first growing season. Be careful not to over water! Feel down by the roots to determine whether the plant is getting the correct moisture. Soil should appear moist but not wet or overly dry. Consider type of soil, time of year and amount of sun and rain. Make sure fall plantings get enough water until the ground freezes in winter and then when the ground thaws. If you do not have a sprinkler system the use of soaker hoses is recommended. Water should be applied at a rate of 3/4 inch of water every three days or 1 1/2 inches a week. (One inch of water goes down 6 ” into the soil.)

GENERAL:  Drip lines need to be run longer (2-3 hours) versus mist heads (30-40 minutes) Adjust accordingly depending on soil type, sun verses shade, etc.  Water thoroughly and regularly the first growing season until the plant’s root system is established.  Do not rely on rainfall alone.  Do not rely on lawn sprinklers alone, as they may not supply an adequate amount of water.  Watering by hand, two or three times a week to supplement your irrigation system is recommended in summer heat.

EVERGREENS: Most evergreens can be pruned at any time of year except when the weather is too hot or right before temperatures start to drop below freezing. Ideally the best time is believed to be in March before new growth starts. This also eliminates any winter burn that can occur during especially cold weather and gives the evergreen a good start for spring. Most evergreens will not take well to hard pruning.  The only exception is Taxus (Yew) which may rejuvenate over time. No plant is completely maintenance free so keep your evergreens trimmed to their desired size. This will also keep them full and healthy and prevent thinning out. NOTE: Evergreens will shed their needles or foliage in the Fall/Spring to allow for new growth. If any branches appear brown or dead after planting or after winter, trim them off and allow the plant to rejuvenate. When in doubt ask a professional.

WINTER CARE:  BROAD LEAVED EVERGREENS:  Some Broad-Leaved Evergreens such as Cherry, Skip or Mountain Laurel, Japanese Aucuba, Holly and Rhododendron can be subject to winter burn from dehydration due to water loss in the case of a cold and dry winter.   Care should be taken in the usage of an anti-desiccant such as ‘Wilt-Proof” Spray which should be applied around Thanksgiving and again if there is a thaw during the winter months.  Do not apply when the temperatures are freezing.

FLOWERING SHRUBS: Prune flowering shrubs and flowering evergreens after the bloom (late August into fall) Flowering shrubs such as hydrangea bloom on the last year’s growth and will not bloom if cut back in spring. Shrubs such as Spirea improve bloom when cut back in Fall/Winter (March) before they get their leaves in spring. Renovate Lilac in winter and prune for shape after flowering in spring. Prune roses in spring to remove winter damage before new growth starts.

ROSES:  Apply an all in one systemic feed and insect control into the soil around each plant such as Bayer All in One Rose & Flower Care a few times throughout the summer to keep your roses beautiful and insect free.  Follow dosage on label. Deadheading on Knock Out Roses is not essential but doing so will keep your plants full.

TREES: Prune (or move) deciduous trees in fall after leaves have fallen and tree is dormant. Evergreens can be moved in either spring or fall and must be kept well watered.

GRASSES: Grasses should be cut back in late March before new growth appears. Leaving the grass during the winter provides nice interest to the garden.

PERENNIALS:  Deadhead perennials such as salvia though out summer for continuous repeat blooms.  In fall perennials should be allowed to die back then remove any unwanted foliage.  Pruning back perennials can be done in either late fall or early spring (March) before new growth appears but it is recommended in the Fall in order to prevent disease.  Note:  There are some perennials such as liriope (lillyturf) and coral bells (Heuchera) that can provide nice winter interest and can be pruned back in spring.

FERTILIZING: Feed plants in spring and Late Summer. Do not apply a full dose if feeding in the fall. Apply a half dose for root feeding only. For new plantings allow the plantings to become established then apply a slow release organic fertilizer or apply a “starter” formula when planting. For established plants there are several products on the market. Be careful not to buy a concentrated product that will burn the roots. A slow release or organic fertilizer such as Holly Tone is recommended. Once again when in doubt ask a professional.

INSECT CONTROL: Periodically check your plants for insect or fungal damage and treat if needed. It is advised to use a regular insect control maintenance program to keep your plantings healthy.

LAWN CARE: Ideally sod lawns are best planted in spring and seed best planted in the fall. Core Aeration and over-seeding are best done in the fall to help rejuvenate a lawn and give it a healthy start for the following season. Your lawn should also have a regular maintenance program to keep it at its best ask your professional.

2015 Lee@ A Guide to Landscape Design & Maintenance.

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June Garden Blooms and Design Elements

3 garden 13When designing I like to incorporate elements into the garden which will give interest all year round, and especially enjoy a burst of color in spring, as do many of my clients.  In the above garden I have incorporated colorful evergreens, deciduous shrubs and perennials together to form a flow of color.

Color WheelAccording to the color wheel above, colors opposite one another, referred to as warm or cool colors, complement one another best.  When laying out your garden try to combine warm colors (such as yellows, reds and pinks) with cool colors (including purples, blues and greens) and repeat the theme by using the same color combinations throughout the garden. This creates unity and flow throughout the landscape.

15 garden 26  In this driveway planting the cool blue hue of the Weeping Blue Atlas Cedar complements the warm hue of the Golden Oriental Spruce along with ‘Royal Burgundy’ Barberry, Nepeta and Coreopsis,  The nepeta (cool blue-purple) and coreopsis (warm yellow) will bloom profusely throughout the entire summer against the burgundy foliage of the barbery.

8 garden 23 Here Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’ is used along with a backdrop of evergreens and Gold Mound Spirea. Again the combination of warm and cool colors is used along with evergreens, which provide structure in the garden.2 garden 16In order to supply additional interest in spring and summer bulbs can be used to incorporate large blooms, such as these giant Globemaster Allium, which display eight inch blooms on top of two foot stalks and rising above the other plants in the garden.  A tip on planting bulbs would be to incorporate them along with other perennials that have full foliage as to hide the yellowing foliage of the early bloomers.  Here I masked the bottom foliage of the Allium with the lush green foliage of Daylily, which will jump into bloom afterwards.

These are just a few design tips that I am passing along. Until next time…

Happy Gardening.

You may also enjoy June Garden

  2015 Lee@ A Guide to Landscape Design & Maintenance.