Fall weather has finally arrived, marking the point where we transition from our summer landscaping to winter. We have switched to an every other week winter mowing and leaf removal schedule. This will continue until April 1 of next year.
We will be removing the Impatiens and planting winter Pansies at the front entrance sometime this week. It is too bad the Impatiens are not cold tolerant. They look the best they’ve looked all year.
Fresh pine straw will be installed within the next 4-6 weeks. We are currently getting estimates and checking reference sites for material quality. We budget nearly $6,000 per year on pine straw and want to make sure we’re getting the best quality material for a good price. Prices are up by roughly $1 per bale over last spring, but it looks like we can do better than the $6.50 per bale price we budget for. We also considered painting the pine straw, but prices for this are up considerably. The value of painting diminishes as it approaches $2,000 per application.
We will soon be making repairs to the rock wall around the waterfall and rear entrance posts to reattach parts of the rock facade that have fallen off. This may extend a little if we’re unable to locate all the rock (vandals like to throw them into the waterfall). Thankfully, this isn’t too noticeable unless you’re looking closely at the wall.
We are having the Loropetalums and Clyera shrubs removed from around the posts at the rear entrance. These shrubs are too large and grow too fast for that area. It has been a struggle to keep them pruned frequently enough so that they do not block the signs. The landscaper will remove them, prep the area around the posts, and put out fresh pine straw. We will plant smaller shrubs in that area in the spring.
We recently replaced the lighting fixtures at the rear entrance with new wet rated fixtures with non-serviceable LED bulbs. These new fixtures are rated for 35,000 hours. If they work as advertised, the bulbs should last for 6-8 years based on 12-15 hours of use each day. This duty cycle is 3.5 times longer that of the A20 LED bulbs we’re currently using. The duty cycle of A20 bulbs has dropped from 20,000 hours to 10,000 hours in recent years as manufacturers push to lower the price of LED bulbs. We’ve definitely noticed a higher frequency of failure as the duty cycle declined–from ~3.5 years to ~2 years per bulb. At a price of about $19 per fixture, we should save a little money on these new fixtures if they hold up as advertised and we won’t have bulbs out as frequently. We’re still far below the $700-$1000 we were spending each year to replace incandescent bulbs before switching to LED.
Earlier in the year, we looked at sodding the bare spots at the front entrance. We put this on hold during the heat of summer and again this fall due to a water bill for over $14,000. The extreme water bill was due to a leak we had in the back flow connection on the front sprinkler system. The landscaping crew caught this leak in July, but not before we lost a lot of water into the wooded area along the right of the entrance. We’ve applied for a leak credit with City of Columbia and hope to recover some of that expense. We will consider the sod work next spring.
Feature image: Maple tree in my grandmother’s front yard that was planted by my great grandmother in the 1970s.