Learn from the Experts: Petro Design Blog


Kathleen Litchfield President of Petro Design/Build, Inc. Kathleen Litchfield
President of Petro Design/Build Group, is one of the Washington area's leading landscape and garden design experts. Her insightful advice on landscape design, construction, and practice has been published and quoted innumerous regional and national magazines. She has developed and taught accredited courses in horticulture and has lectured for garden clubs, the National Association of Remodeling Industry, the Landscape Contractors Association, the Smithsonian Educational Series, the George Washington University landscape design program, and the Washington Design Center.

Kent Richard Abraham, Principle Architect with Abraham/Petro Kent Richard Abraham,
Principal Architect with Abraham/Petro a division of Petro Design/Build He is a member of the US Green Building Council 2006. His education includes Bachelor of Architecture, 1970, University of Nebraska, With Honors (Cum Laude),Awarded the Faculty Award, Outstanding Senior Student; Master of Architecture, 1971, University of Pennsylvania, Studio of Louis Kahn. He has served as Chair, Thesis committee school of Architecture and Planning, The Catholic University of America Washington, DC since 1978.


Archive for the ‘Landscape Design’ Category

D.I.Y. or NOT

When it comes to doing something myself; either for the adventure of it, as means to create a healthier product or just save some money, I’m interested. Sometimes my efforts and time prove to be worth it in the short and long term. Other times, things have not gone as smoothly as planned or promised and end up costing me much more in time and money.

Because of these experiences, and what I have seen the average homeowner implement over the years, I’m more than happy to direct my clients on practices and/or projects that would make sense for them to do themselves. In landscaping and landscape construction, this means leaving the initial ground work and design to someone who has either the right conditioned muscles or design or horticultural experience. I believe that I have ‘fixed’ as many D.I.Y. projects for homeowners and property managers as I have implemented anew. Sometimes just having a new perspective by someone, not intimately involved with your site, can help you with the details and the whole picture.

I’m always very careful about asking who was responsible for the existing work, as I know that I am sometimes dealing with embarrassment, pride and even marital conflict. Once I had a very motivated client decide that he would build the 6’ retaining wall that we designed to level his rear yard and provide more space. He was semi-retired and had the time. The wall construction seemed to progress well and then, just needed to be backfilled. He rented a machine to backfill and compact the wall – himself. The long and the short of it is that the wall blew out with the weight of the machine sending the machine over the wall and into the woods below. I met his wife a few weeks later and inquired about his progress. She just started sobbing.
This is certainly an extreme example but sometimes even a small patio set incorrectly can cause extensive problems later.

So; what is a good DIY project when it comes to your landscape?

Obviously, everyone is capable of planting trees, shrubs, groundcover, perennials or annuals. Just remember that the big stuff always takes longer than you think and, if this is not something you physically do on a regular basis, be ready with the Advil.
Good bed preparation is necessary grunt work. Access to a rototiller may not be available or manageable for the average homeowner.

Assisted DIY Gutter Cleaning

A few Do’s and Don’ts on basic maintenance:
Do:
• Clean your gutters
• Resecure downspouts that may have become detached
• Watch drainage patterns within your yard for possible amendments
• Remove or cultivate excess mulching
• Cut suckering from trees (*make sure your pruners or saw is sharp and sterilized)
• Prune old growth from flowering shrubs (*) Timing is important for both above items.
• Acquire a soil analysis for your beds and turf areas

DON’T:
• Clean second floor gutters without assistance
• Assume that it is necessary to mulch your beds just because everyone else is.
• Use a chainsaw if you are not experienced
• Add chemicals to your yard or plants – in untrained hands, these can lead to deadly personal and environmental hazards

Nothing can help you budget your time and money better than a well thought out design. Even a 1 hour on-site consultation can save you hundreds in possible misplaced plants, structures or drain lines.
Once you have a game plan, or some experience advice, the areas should be tackled according to priority – which is different for everyone.

To get you started and working towards a landscape plan:

DO:
• Create a base sheet of your site or area(s) that you would like to renovate or enhance. Scale this on a piece of paper using a minimum of 1/8” = 1’0” scale. (1/4” = 1’0” is better).
Include:
      o Existing features (patios, walkways, spigots, etc)
      o Existing trees and vegetations (and whether you want them or not)
      o Window heights along our foundation (if this in an area of interest)
      o Storm water patterns/paths
      o Utilities (a call to a utility marking service will identify the main lines)      o Where the sun is at different times of the year (sun set/rise)
      o Views you would like to hide (look from the inside of your home as well)
• Make a list of how you would like to use the space(s) – Entertainment, small parties, play, sports, gardening, etc.

DON’T
• Assume that your plot plan is accurate. For new construction and/or fencing, a site survey is necessary.
• Neglect elevations in relation to your desired and existing structures and or your neighbor’s site

Site mapping is a time and cost saving DIY.
Site analysis and design should be implemented or, at least, consulted on with a professional.
The step-by-step or phased approach will follow in a DIY and assisted schedule.

More to come….

The 'Game Plan' for a successful DIY or staged project

The ‘Game Plan’ for a successful DIY or staged project

Beware of the “End-of-Season Nursery Sales”

The weather has cooled, after a record hot summer, and what a perfect time to get your yard back in shape.  It’s always the best time to plant (warm soils with cool air) and the nurseries are desperate to reduce their inventory before winter sets in.  The sales are irresistible!

Specimen plants with a canvas of mulch do not 'frame your home or guide you to the front door'

Specimen plants with a canvas of mulch do not ‘frame your home or guide you to the front door’

A confusing, high maintenance bargain.

A confusing, high maintenance bargain.

Nurseries are inspiring places and you can easily lose yourself in the end of season energy and crisp oxygen high.

For some, finding something unique could be the very thing to enhance their; well… “I’m not sure where I’ll put it but “IT’S JUST SO COOL!” 

Remember, plant material is not furniture or accessories.  They are living, growing and sometimes invasive, disease/fungal carrying, damaging long term additions to your real estate.   They are not something you can easily move to a different location or re-cover if you change your mind about their color to coordinate with the new color of your shutters.

Landscape design is most cost effective when considered on paper first.  There are lots of questions to consider that start with your basic premise for wanting plants in the first place and end with how much maintenance you are willing to commit to.  As a rule of thumb; your front plants should frame your home and guide you to the front door.  Flexibility can be used in the rear yard extending the views from the inside – out.

Before our initial meeting we request that the homeowner complete a 5 page questionnaire to help them organize their thoughts, needs and desires, on paper and provide us with the background information we need to guide them in the right direction for their site and personal taste.   Even a one-on-one consultation on site with an experienced professional landscape designer and/or horticulturist could help you avoid costly impulse buying at the nursery this fall.  Yes, nurseries do have horticulturist and, sometimes, landscape designers but remember – they need to move their stock.

It seemed like a good idea at the time

It seemed like a good idea at the time

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First Impressions…

AFTER

 

BEFORE

As Spring approaches let Petro Design/Build getcreative and design a custom “First Impression” for you…

The new entry seen below practically beckons you to enter.  The doorway is highlighted by beautiful Upright Hornbeams, while the rest of the architecture is softened by the additional plant material.  The previous gravel drive was transformed into a drop-off area for guests.  A garden bench is tucked into the perennial garden for a visitor’s respite.

 

Spring Garden Inspirations

Are we ready for spring yet? The good thing about lots of snow and ice is that it does make you appreciate spring even more. I’m planning my garden tours, lectures and articles while sitting by my fire at home.
I just received the latest Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage Tour schedule. What a great opportunity to see some of the most beautiful homes, estates, historic sites and gardens in the state! My interest is in the details (good and bad) that I gather for lectures and articles. Things like – ‘great ways to deal with drainage and erosion issues…or really bad ways; interesting ways to screen utilities; the use of plant materials in unusual circumstances and the like. Very fun and educational.

Go to www.mhgp.org for information on the upcoming House and Garden Pilgrimage

Early Spring in Timonium

Feel, smell and see spring early this year at the Maryland Home and Garden Show. Petro Design/Build has been on the judging panel for over 10 years and, it’s true that the displays ‘just keep getting better and better.’ This years theme is ‘Beautifying your Outdoor Living Space’.  Go to www.mdhomeandgarden.com for dates and times.

Inside Looking Out…

What is your seasonal window view…?

…Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…

The view to the outside changes dramatically through the seasons.  Are your views taking advantage of what Mother Nature offers every year…?

Extend your residence from the interior to the exterior by properly taking advantage of your viewsheds.  A landscape does not always need to be experienced by exposing oneself to the elements but can be enjoyed through lovely framed “views” from your cozy interior.   Add a focal point , perhaps some lighting, and your views can give you something to look forward to during the short winter days.

Take a glance out your window…walk through your home…sit it in your favorite chair… Are the views to the exterior maximizing their potential…?  Let Petro Design/Build help plan for all seasons!  Contact us  info@petrodesignbuild.com  or  301.249.9000

Before

After

Petro designers and production teams like to think LOCAL!

Petro designers and production teams like to think LOCAL! 

patio

We promote the use of Low impact materials.  These are materials that require less energy for production, transport, and operation than NEW products OR those that come from outside of the local or regional economy.  They have lower impacts throughout the product life cycle, including production, use, and disposal.

It also helps to choose products that will not be damaging to your health and to the environment!

Let us guide you in choosing products that can be recycled or deconstructed and can be reused on-site or at nearby sites rather than disposed of in a landfill.  Using shade constructed surfaces with structures or vegetation to reduce heat islands and effects on microclimate and wildlife habitat are also helpful.  Additionally, choosing paints, sealants and other related products that contain reduced amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOC’s), which contribute to air pollution, are better for you and the environment.

Petro uses low impact materials in several of our projects currently in the works. Shown in the photos below, recycled stone was used for several wall structures at a residence in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

Low Impact Material Baker Fountain Stone