Wtih The Augusta Chroncile since Dec. 20, 1995 covering courts and legal issues. Now serving as part of the projects team that focuses on investigative reporting.
Posted November 19, 2009 09:45 am

Welcome to the fall garden - Crystal style

By Sandy Hodson
Staff Writer
If you’re the type of person who is thrilled to get a pallet of rocks for Christmas, you’re going to love this new series.

For gardeners, one of the hardest objectives to accomplish is keeping the yard looking good and interesting throughout the year. To help us with that, Lifetime Master Gardener Crystal Eskola has agreed to share her garden through the four seasons. We’ll visit with Ms. Eskola throughout the year to see how she does it in her fabulous and creative yard.

For the first season, we have fall.

Entering Ms. Eskola’s National Hills yard is like stepping into a magical place. The disappearing view of any neighbors is intentional. She started with two pine trees and a Crape Myrtle in the front yard in 1992. It’s hard to imagine how it might have looked then. Now there is a rich tapestry of plants that fill the spaces along a chipped bark pathway. Ms. Eskola uses a lot of evergreen plants to keep the yard full of life throughout the seasons. She also makes use of layers, blending plants together such as placing shade-loving gingers under taller ferns planted under ornamentals and trees.

An interested mid-size plant near the center of the front yard is now putting on a terrific show. It’s called hearts-a-bustin’. In the fall it has these very red casings that open to reveal orange berries.

When thinking about adding a plant to the landscape, investigate what it will look like in all four seasons. Witch hazel is beloved by many because it usually has the first blooms after or even during winter. But seeing its fall colors, like the one that shimmers in Ms. Eskola’s yard, is enough reason to bring one home.

Having good bones is important in the non-traditional blooming season. Ms. Eskola uses cedars a lot. “I love cedar trees. I think they’re the best trees in the world.” She has some beauties, too, like the weeping varieties.

The truly amazing part of Ms. Eskola’s yard is the backyard, a private oasis that Ms. Eskola and her husband, George, hate to leave regardless of what the weather is.
Off the back porch is the pond that Ms. Eskola built, thanks to the pallets of rocks she received one Christmas and birthday. The pond is self-sustaining. The leaves fall in and decompose, providing food for the goldfish which dart between the water plants. A huge bunch of horse tail, and pots of orange tea olive and walking stick give the area height. Below are several varieties of ferns and gingers.

Ms. Eskola built paths that meander through the back yard. Plants were chosen not only for her enjoyment but to provide food and shelter for the birds and other wildlife. The birds flitter between the native Azaleas, cedars such as the black dragon, beauty berry bush and bear breeches, for example. The backyard is a certified Wildlife Habitat. The birds and other wildlife helped themselves to figs, blueberries and paw paws when they’re in season.

In the center of the back yard are sections of traditional flower beds. She has a full container of lettuces growing, their shape contrasting with nearby plants to provide interest without bold colors.

Ms. Eskola adds additional color for yearlong interest by accenting with art work and beautiful pots filled with plants. Ms. Eskola makes use of dead wood in interesting shapes. The birds love to use the dead tree sections as perches, she said.

Ms. Eskola has yearlong interest by choosing plants whose peak times fall in the different season, and by using shapes and textures that compliment each other.
For once, I can’t wait for winter to see the changes in the landscape.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 orsandy.hodson@augustachronicle.com