For Designer, It’s What’s Outside That Counts
From The Rivertowns Enterprise – March 9, 2007
by Jamie Kyle McGillian
Sheri Silver’s favorite place is a fruit and vegetable market in the center of Rome called the Campo di Fiori (Field of Flowers). It’s a street market that bursts with intense colors and aromas. When searching for a name for her landscape design business, Silver chose fiori garden design.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, Silver has lived in Irvington since 1992 with husband, Michael, a technology analyst, and two children – Chelsea, 15, and Conor, 10. After receiving an architecture degree from Pratt Institute, Silver spent several years in the field, specializing in creating color palettes for high-end corporate and residential interiors. It wasn’t until she had a home with some land that she realized her true passion. Her first house in Irvington was right off Main Street, where she created a lush garden. “Actually, it was more like a lab. If a plant called for shade I put it in the sun just to see what would happen. The yard was fenced in, so there were no worries about deer”, said Silver.
After helping friends and relatives with their plantings, Silver decided that this was something she wanted to do professionally. She enrolled in the New York Botanical Garden’s School of Continuing Education. With her eye for design and her love of green, Silver started to get jobs while working toward certification in Garden Design.
The philosophy behind her business is “to provide each client with a sophisticated and unique garden, whether it is a small window box or a sweeping perennial border.” Relying not only on flowering annuals and perennials, Silver mixes ornamental grasses, shrubs with berries and boldly colored foliage, and trees with unusual bark patterns.
Horticulturalists say that adding some vegetation to your property will get you pumped for spring, and it may improve your mood. And consider this: Making a few improvements to your landscape can greatly increase the value of your property. Silver says, “The first thing a person sees is the outside of your home. Well-cared for gardens are an indication that your home is cared for on the inside as well as on the outside.”
In addition, Silver noted, intelligent landscape design “can provide you with cooling and shading in the summer, and insulation in the winter.”
Silver said that some people might not think they need a professional landscape design. They rationalize that they only have a small lot, or that they just want to fill in an area with some colorful flowers or shrubs. “But”, said Silver, “using a skilled professional takes the guesswork out of the project”. Silver says that working with a landscape designer means that you will have a master plan. “And if budget constraints mean that you have to do the garden in stages, I can show you what should be done first, and what can be done later. This is an important aspect for many of my clients”, Silver said.
Unlike planning an addition to your home, such as a sun room or a porch, the cost of your garden can be spread out over time. You can think of your garden as a work in progress.
Silver is struggling with the fact that she does not have a garden of her own at the moment, a result of her Tudor home being “under construction”.
What to expect
What could a landscape designer create for you? An herb garden (Look, that’s you picking fresh basil for dinner). Or maybe a romantic Asian-inspired garden. Or a tranquil rock garden. And if your green dream doesn’t quite match your budget, scale it back to a few to-die-for window boxes or breathtaking pots of flowers.
The first step is a consultation. The client then receives a written proposal outlining fees and design services. Once accepted, measurements and photos are taken of the site. Preliminary plans are drawn and presented with photos of all specified plants.
Then Silver customizes a master plan. Silver explains the site requirements, types of plants that will work best, and provides a sense of how much maintenance will be necessary to keep the garden healthy. She can then coordinate and oversee the installation of the garden, as well as provide ongoing maintenance. Another service that Silver offers is the gift certificate, which comes with a plant. Silver says this makes a great housewarming gift.
Dealing with deer
Silver loves her work. However, without a doubt, she says the single biggest problem in her business is not global warming, but deer.
Silver says plants with a pungent smell, such as catmint or sage, are usually deer-resistant. Temporary remedies to prevent deer from foraging on your property range from pantyhose filled with human hair to Irish Spring soap to coyote urine. Unfortunately, over time, the deer adapt and what worked last year may not work this year. Adding insult to injury, what works in Hastings may not work in Irvington.
“Deer may limit the variety of plants that you can use, but it doesn’t mean your garden has to look dull. Try using massings of plants that have been proven to be deer resistant for you. Use five to seven of each, so that they have real impact when in bloom. Incorporate plants with striking or unusual foliage. And if you find a plant that works, install several varieties. Peonies, foxgloves, and spireas, for example, are available in a wide range of sizes, bloom times and colors, which extends their season of interest.
“When incorporated with other tactics, commercial deer repellants can be very effective. I am a big fan of Deer Stopper. It is organic, has a pleasant, minty scent and works well when applied immediately after planting (or as new growth emerges) and monthly thereafter. I wouldn’t use it on tulips and expect miracles, but on my deer-resistant plants I’ve had consistently good results.
“Be a sleuth. The first thing I do when designing a landscape is to make note of plants that are up and thriving in the surrounding gardens. This is a good indication of the preferences of the deer in that particular neighborhood.”
Spring is around the corner. Silver shares a few tips for spring planting for the do-it-yourselfers.
- Think beyond flowers. Incorporate plants and shrubs with peeling or colored bark, winter berries, striking or unusual foliage and decorative seed pods.
- Discover ornamental grasses. They come in a wide variety of heights, colors and textures. They are low maintenance and often deer-resistant.
- Try going native. Native plants attract beneficial wildlife, such as as birds and butterflies. They require little maintenance and are highly pest and disease resistant.
- Irrigate well. Investing in a good irrigation system will eventually pay for itself by conserving water and delivering it exactly where it’s needed.