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S19 E4: Landscapes Across America

Jenn Nawada explains how various climates across the United States impact the design, care, and maintenance of different landscapes, which includes discussing USDA Hardiness Zones and native plant species.

Previous episode: S19 E3 | Next episode: S19 E5

In this episode:

In this special episode of Ask This Old House, Jenn explains how various climates across the United States impact the design, care, and maintenance of different landscapes, which includes discussing USDA Hardiness Zones and native plant species.

Kevin explains the USDA Hardiness Zone map and how it can help a homeowner determine which plants will work best in their backyard.

In any landscape design, Jenn recommends looking for natural cues in the surrounding area to recreate in a controlled way in your yard.

In Phoenix, Arizona, Jenn learns which plants work best in desert climates.

In Cheyenne, Wyoming, she works with a rangeland ecologist to help a homeowner care for his prairie grasses.

Jenn returns to her home state of Florida to help a homeowner design a tropical backyard.

For the harsh, New England winters, she works with a homeowner to select foundation plantings that can survive the cold.

Jenn suggests breaking a landscape down into separate sections and coming up with a game plan for each section, regardless of whether you plan to work on that section immediately or not. That way, as you add more to the landscape as time and budget allows, everything will connect nicely and not feel disjointed. Also, by breaking the landscape down into sections, it’s easier to give each section a specific purpose or function.


How to Create a Desert Landscape

Jenn heads to Phoenix to recreate the desert in a homeowner’s front yard.

Where to find it?

In any landscape design, Jenn recommends looking for natural cues in the surrounding area to recreate in a controlled way in your yard. In this case, she identified an abundance of small stones coating the ground, plants spread far apart from each other, and undulating hills. Those cues informed the design in the homeowner’s front yard.

Jenn installed boulders, red yucca, lantana, bougainvillea, a few variety of cacti, and a Chilean mesquite tree. These can be found at nurseries, particularly in the Southwest region of the US and in zones 9 and 10.

Expert assistance for this segment was provided by Rod Pappas and Xeriscapes Unlimited, Inc., A-1 Materials Phoenix, All Season Nursery, and Horizon Irrigation.


How to Grow Grasses on the Prairie

Jenn partners with an ecologist in Cheyenne, Wyoming to learn about different types of prairie grasses and how to care for them.

Where to find it?

Jenn learned that the local conservation district can rent many of the tools required for planting a yard with prairie grasses. Some of these tools can be rented from home centers, as well.

Expert assistance with this segment was provided by the Laramie County Conservation District, the University of Wyoming Extension and Wanda Manley.


How to Design a Tropical Landscape

Jenn returns to her home state of Florida to help a homeowner design a tropical landscape for his backyard.

Where to find it?

Jenn suggests breaking a landscape down into separate sections and coming up with a game plan for each section, regardless of whether you plan to work on that section immediately or not. That way, as you add more to the landscape as time and budget allows, everything will connect nicely and not feel disjointed. Also, by breaking the landscape down into sections, it’s easier to give each section a specific purpose or function.

In Room 1, Jenn called for artistic concrete to be poured to give the patio a more finished look. The artistic concrete was Pacific Tile in Siberian Haze, with Sandstone grout lines, which is manufactured by Creative Resurfacing. The shade sail they installed to cool off the patio was manufactured by Creative Shade Solutions.

In Room 2, Jacque brought a wide variety of Florida-friendly plants, including coontie palm, nandina, smooth cordgrass, and an andonidia palm, which can be found at Zone 9 nurseries and garden centers. For mulch, Jenn and Jacque used pine straw, and for the walkways, they used pine bark mulch. Both of these materials can also be found at nurseries.

Expert assistance with this project was provided by Power Lawn Care in Winter Haven, FL, and Playground Services by David Bloom.


How to Plant Hardier Foundation Plantings

Jenn helps a homeowner replace and improve foundation plantings that have been crushed by snow piles.

Where to find it?

Jenn noticed that a lot of the foundation plantings the homeowner had around her walkway could easily be smothered by the snow when she shovels in the winter, which probably explains why they weren’t faring well. To alleviate this issue, Jenn picked plants that go dormant in the winter for the areas most vulnerable to snow piles.

Jenn planted a variety of plants, including dwarf fountain grass, lady’s mantle, stonecrop, coneflower (echinacea), Blue Hill Salvia, Rose Marvel Salvia, and windflower. These can all be found at nurseries and home centers.

The other tools and materials Jenn used to plant the foundation plantings, including the wheelbarrow, shovels, and mulch, can all be found at home centers.

Shop Outdoor Garden Center Supplies at The Home Depot

Original Air Date: Oct 25, 2020 Season 19; Ep.4 23:43


Products and Services from this Episode

Concrete Pavers:
Creative Resurfacing

Shade sail:
Creative Shade Solutions

Expert assistance:
Xeriscapes Unlimited, Inc.
A-1 Materials Phoenix
All Season Nursery
Horizon Irrigation
University of Wyoming Extension
Laramie County Conservation District
Power Lawn Care in Winter Haven, FL, and Playground Services by David Bloom

Landscaping supplies:
The Home Depot