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Even a Master Gardener can gain new perspective
working with a talented landscape designer

By Chris Warren & Monica Mullens, Inspirations Magazine

As a master gardener, Gretchen Pugsley knows a lot about plants. But even a certified green thumb sometimes needs help in the yard (a comforting fact for the rest of us). Pugsley and her husband, Charles, wanted to update their front yard while making it as low maintenance as possible. After two designers from other companies didn’t work out, the Pugsleys found Jamey Gutierrez, a senior landscape designer with English Gardens. “We were impressed with Jamey immediately,” Pugsley says. “She brought up things we hadn’t even thought about. One of the first things she asked was, do you have allergies?”

The Complete Picture

Landscaping is about more than just vegetation, and Gutierrez’s first task was to connect the Pugsleys’ front porch with their new concrete driveway. “I wanted to give them a safer and more inviting walkway,” says Gutierrez. In addition to bordering each side of the driveway with bricks — giving the appearance that the driveway and walkway were planned simultaneously — Gutierrez used a slate inlay to add visual interest. Perhaps the most creative touch was using bricks with varying colors, which have the added benefit of looking extra vibrant after a good rain. “Gretchen gets compliments all the time, even from the UPS guy,” Gutierrez says. Often, good landscaping is as much about subtraction as addition. For Pugsley, that meant getting rid of a couple of problem trees that had outlasted their appeal. “They were wonderful early on, but I couldn’t see anything but branches,” she says. “I wanted to look out and see something blooming outside my windows.” Gutierrez planted a serviceberry tree in front of the house, which yields both visibility and a sense of privacy. “It’s an open tree, so they can see through it,” Gutierrez says. Next, she planted the hedges — ‘Green Velvet’ boxwood, and behind those, ‘Annabelle’ hydrangeas that produce large white blooms from May to September. The two varieties present a double-layered look while maintaining crisp lines, which Gutierrez softened by using a curved bed edge.

Beauty in Simplicity

The simple design required a total of just eight plant varieties. The landscape includes ‘Vanderwolf’s pine’, ‘Sum and Substance’ hostas, ‘Grosse Fontaine’ grass, and a long-blooming plant, perennial geranium ‘Rozanne’. “I wanted to give them a maximum amount of color and texture with little care,” Gutierrez explains. After completing the plantings, Gutierrez brought in some large accent boulders, which she incorporated throughout the hedge to break up its straight lines. “They’re angular, with lots of different colors. Even though they’re a natural product, they have a lot of blues and greens and pinks in them.” The choice surprised Pugsley at first, but she’s pleased with the result. “I wasn’t interested in rocks,” she says. “But she picked out great ones. Sometimes you just need someone to show you or tell you what works.”

Worth the Wait

Perhaps the biggest challenge for Gutierrez was that the Pugsleys had to wait several months to see everything in full bloom, since the project was completed in the fall. “In a sense they had to trust me,” she says. “But Gretchen is a Master Gardener, so she knew it would come to life.” One thing Gutierrez didn’t have to wait long for was recognition: the project won a Gold Award from the Michigan Green Industry Association in 2009. For Pugsley, the enjoyment she gets from her new yard is more gratifying than any award. “All the plants are doing well, and we are so happy with them,” she says.