Jul 15

So, I just realized that my last post was placed almost two years ago! I guess my intent to provide regular website updates has not occurred as planned. The simple reason is that we have been extremely busy with work! That’s a great problem to have, but leaves our website and communication with potential clients behind the times.

I’m often asked what The Penland Studio is working on at the moment. Here’s a partial list:

  • Several local Churches
  • Several mid-sized hotels in the Southeastern US
  • Plans for restoration of a damaged aquatic buffer
  • A new Greenway along Neyland Drive
  • A new riverfront park in South Knoxville
  • Several residential Master Plans
  • A new Chipotle restaurant
  • Several residential improvements such as a custom potting shed, landscaping new homes, correcting drainage problems
  • A new Fine Arts facility on the ETSU campus
  • Various consulting

Yes, life gets a little crazy when working on projects at vastly different stages of development, summer vacations, scout camps and planning boards, but I LOVE IT!

I hope to find time to update photos and projects on this website soon. Besides showing new projects, it’s fun to see photos of sites and landscapes as they mature. One of my mentors once said, “Architecture looks the best it ever will on the day construction is completed, but Landscape Architecture looks the worst it ever will when construction is completed.” I’m sure there are plenty of exceptions, but it is true that well-designed plants and the landscape tend to improve as they mature.

Oct 13

It’s been a little crazy at The Penland Studio with an abundance of new work. I’ve had great plans to provide regular posts on a variety of topics related to landscape architecture, but there always seems to be something pressing.

A lush, green lawn is a beautiful thing. Everyone has different standards and ideas when it comes to lawns. Some tolerate weeds while others bend over backwards for perfection. There are a variety of sustainable concepts which include landscapes with no lawns, use of native grass species, subterranean drip irrigation and MUCH more.

In my opinion, however, lawns are critical design components which allow vistas, carpet outdoor spaces, provide opportunities for passive and active recreation and enhance the beauty of planting beds and beautiful edges. In the mid-south and northeast, fescue is often the lawn species of choice. It tolerates a fair amount of shade and maintains it’s green color throughout winter, concealing many of the winter weeds. A thick, healthy lawn will choke out many weeds.

This is the best time of year in the Southeastern US to seed, patch, overseed or repair fescue lawns. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Fescue seed needs to germinate before the first frost. Ideal planting times are from mid-September to mid-October
  2. Fescue can be planted in spring and will do fine, but the roots don’t have enough time to develop before summer, so lawns seeded in spring generally don’t establish well and look awful by mid summer. Sod is often used to avoid this, but costs much more than seed.
  3. Personally, I’ve not had much success with seed mixes designed specifically for shade. My advice is to use a good quality blend of fescue cultivars selected for your area. Most garden centers carry such blends.Using a blend of 3 cultivars gives your lawn a better chance for success during season variations such as the heavy rainfall we experienced this summer.
  4. Aeration is a good idea before overseeding. Grass seed must be in direct contact with damp soil to germinate. Aerating not only provides deeper water and oxygen for the entire lawn, but it provides some soil surface for the new seed.
  5. De-thatching is a method of removing excess, dead clippings to expose more soil surface. Raking is great exercise, but can be daunting for large lawns. De-thatchers can be rented, but a simple, quick & inexpensive solution is to use a back-pack blower pointed close to the ground. 
  6. Keep the soil and seed damp until it germinates. Germination generally takes about two weeks.
  7. Once the lawn is 1.5-2″ tall, reduce water to more typical levels (deep watering 2 or 3 times per week or let nature do it’s thing.)
  8. Wheat straw is not required, but does slow down the evaporation of water and gives the young seedlings some shade while building strength. I generally don’t recommend straw for overseeding, but prefer it for bare patches ore new planting areas which have no other vegetation.
  9. Starter fertilizer is applied at the same time as seeding. The high nitrogen content helps the top, green part of the plants grow more quickly and deepen in color.
  10. Fescue is a cool-season grass. It grows readily in temperatures from 40-75 degrees. In winter, it goes dormant, but retains it’s green color. In summer, it grows until becoming too stressed from drought at which point it goes dormant and often turns brown. Keep in mind that the roots are usually still alive and will produce new blades of grass in fall.

Best of luck with your lawn. Please do not hesitate to contact The Penland Studio or your lawn-care professional with questions or concerns.