Archive for Durango Colorado Landscape Architect

Durango Landscaping Contractor Gardenhart Landscape Design Recommends Recycled Plastic and Steel Edge

Durango Colorado Landscaping Companies Use Quality Edging Products for Results

When we look at landscapes everywhere, various elements are delineated by landscape edging, grass areas from perennial beds, vegetable gardens from the compost pile, gravel walkways from shrub beds and many other applications.  I think that the material we use is an important piece of the design.

First, before we discuss the different materials , I should say that here in Durango Colorado, our ground freezes in the winter, so we need to use an edging material that will resist frost heaving.  This process will tend to push some edging material out of the ground, creating an unsightly and dangerous situation.  An installer should use the pins or stake materials provided with the edging.

Lets discuss the general types and their suitability.

1)  Steel, usually available in 10′ sections, green and brown, they are easy to transport and not to difficult to install.  They have slots for the stakes to hold them together and to hold them in the ground.  Gardenhart Landscape & Design has installed hundreds of them over the years as it was the only option.

steel edge Durango Colorado landscape ideas

Stakes hold pieces together and in the ground

Landscape architects Durango Colorado

Defines grass from plantings

Durango Colorado steel edge installation

application next to sidewalk

Steel edge application for sidewalk

2) Aluminum, available in 10′ as well, not easy to find, need to purchase pins to hold it in place and only comes in silver.  Can be difficult to cut and work with.

landscape ideas durango Landscape architect

aluminum edge separates grass from plants

Landscape Architect Durango Colorado  ideas edging

pins similar to steel edge

3) Plastic, comes in a roll, 10′ long ,black , comes with stakes to hold it down and dowels to join the pieces together.  Inexpensive and available in big box stores.  I find it difficult to work with and does NOT stay in the ground, however well installed.

gardenhart landscape & design durango colorado

plastic edging in ground

landscape architect Durango Colorado

edge separates materials

4) Recycled Plastic, 20′ piece, tan in color, difficult to transport for most people, rather expensive and requires special pins to hold it in the ground. I have used it in several applications and am starting to prefer it over steel.  Lots of Gardenhart’s clients like the recycled aspect of the product.

recycled plastic edge ideas landscape how to install edge

installed above grade

Durango landscape ideas borders planting areas

similar to Trex but for edging

In summary, we at Gardenhart Landscape & Design, strive to use products that represent the wishes of its clients while providing a high quality landscape design and installation.  We are open to learning about new developments in our industry and providing them to our clients in the Four Corners area of Southwestern Colorado.


David Hart

Gardenhart Landscape & Design

Durango, Colorado


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Selecting a Landscaping Professional: What Questions To Ask in Durango Colorado

Questions to Ask a Landscaping Professional in Durango Colorado

In a previous blog, I was writing about how to select a landscape architect, designer or contractor to design and complete landscaping projects on your property.  I am assuming that you read that post and now you are ready to actually call someone and set an appointment for them to come to your site and talk about what you want to accomplish.

One of the first things you should notice is do they answer their phone or promptly call you back. It should not take them days to return your call, by the next morning if not sooner. Once you have them on the Landscaping Durango Colorado Gardenhart Landscape & Designphone, they will probably ask you a few questions about what you are hoping to achieve, how you got their number and then they might want to schedule and appointment to meet at your house.

This is where you really can decide whom you want to work with, you can get an understanding of them as a person. Do they listen to what you want and ask lots of questions or have they decided what you need? A good designer will gather as much information as possible about how you hope to use the land and incorporate that into their planning.

If you did not discuss their qualification before meeting them, you should do so now, asking about schooling and what area of the country have they done most of their work, are they familiar with the soil, plants, climate attributes specific to your geographical area?

Check out this article for even more details.

I recently looked in our local Durango, Colorado yellow pages and counted over fifty companies listed under Landscaping Contractors, obviously, they have different levels of experience, some who have been in the industry and this locale for many years and have numerous references. There are others who have a shovel and a pickup truck and can plant a bush. Your job is to determine who will give you the best value, a functional outdoor space for an appropriate price.

David Hart
Gardenhart Landscape & Design

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landscaping a patio timber walls compaction sand plate compactor flagstone patio

Compacted sand ready for flagstone to be laid o


The purpose of this post is to outline how Gardenhart Landscape & Design cuts and fits flagstone, for use either in a patio situation or pathway application.  There are probably other methods in use by different contractors, but this is the technique I learned thirty years ago by a Master Stonemason.  Of course, I have my own take on what looks proper and it will vary with the individual who places and cuts the stone.

We will start with the assumption that you have determined the location of the patio and proper drainage issues resolved, you have also decided what material will contain the sand base ; natural stone, treated timbers or some manufactured flexible edge product.  You have also properly compacted a sand base to set the stone upon and allow you to level the individual pieces of stone.

Tools Needed to Build a Flagstone Patio or Walkway

A quick review of your tools might be helpful here, the most important one being an angle grinder with a diamond blade.  Lots of you might have a grinder and you only

Durango Colorado landscapers cut flagstone tools used

Hand tools used by Gardenhart Landscape & Design to install and cut flagstone

need to get to the hardware store for a diamond blade. Before you go to the store, make sure you also have the following tools on hand: safety glasses, hearing protectors, dust mask,gloves, stone mason’s chisel, hammer, carpenters pencil with hard lead, tape measure and a level.

The first thing I do is to unload about half of my stone from the pallet and lay it out around the work site so that I can see each piece, but be sure not to put them in the patio area just yet.  This helps me find pieces that will naturally fit in specific locations.  Then, starting at the edges, I place the most obvious pieces first, curved pieces against the curved edge or square pieces along straight area or in corners.  Always keep in mind how to fit them naturally together and how much cutting will be required to fit them together.

Cutting Stone:

So now you have placed all the easy pieces of stone, the ones that fit for the most part

flagstone patio Durango landscaping patio design outdoor hottub area flagstone patio

Place pieces that naturally go together, starting with the edges.

and might require minimal cutting and you have used most of the pieces you unloaded from your pallet.  Time to get the pencil and start marking where you will cut the pieces  so that they fit well together.  I make my gaps between individual stones about the width of my thumb or a little larger, try to be as consistent as possible.  Mark with your pencil where you will cut , put your safety gear on and start cutting along the line you marked.  Do not be in a hurry, let the blade work its way into the stone, if it sparks you might be trying to go too fast or pushing too hard.  Do not worry if your blade does not cut completely through the stone, you will be able to break it.  Now, you have cut several pieces and broken the waste off with your chisel and hammer you can slide the stone next to its neighbor and start to see what your patio is going to look like.

colorado flagstone walkway and patio

After cutting, all pieces should fit with similar sized joints

Repeat this process, unload more stone , find ones that seem to go with what you have already cut, place and mark them and then cut them to fit.  Soon, you will come to the conclusion that they all do not fit without being cut on at least three sides and the fast progress is over.  Try to minimize the cutting and waste, remember that you paid for stone by the pound and you do not want to go back for more.

Of course,we at Gardenhart Landscape & Design offer this information in the hopes that you decide that this process requires experience and skill and you will hire us to do your landscaping instead of doing it yourself.  As with many things, there is always details that are hard to share but easy to see in the finished product.  We have a you tube video that shows this process too!


David Hart

Gardenhart Landscape & Design


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Hiring A Landscape Architect, Designer Or Contractor in Durango Colorado

Choosing the Best Landscaping Professional in Durango Colorado

You may be confused by the many companies and individuals listed under the general heading or an internet search for landscaping.  Not surprisingly, there are different skill sets for architects, designers and contractors. In this post I hope to offer some understanding of the differences between them and help you to hire an appropriate

Gardenhart Landscape & Design builds rock wall skid steer moves boulders for wall landscape design

Landscape Contractors use equipment to construct the design

company or individual for your project.  One note of caution, currently Colorado does not license or regulate the title “Landscape Architect or Landscape Designer” so anyone can use these titles to describe their abilities, regardless of their education and work experience.

I will outline  the skills involved in each of these areas as well as their education and what situations they are most suited for.  Of course, there is always some overlap within all aspects of professional life, but this will get you started.

Landscape Architect: Most likely with a Master’s degree from an accredited university, a member of a large firm that does large-scale public works projects, parks, airport design, regional transportation designs etc.  Capable of guiding public meetings and creating numerous concept and design drawings.  Also able to produce residential design and planting plans as well.  They are more often hired by municipalities and developers for their abilities to promote and sell the concepts to the public or investors.

Landscape Designer:  Hopefully holds either a Bachelors of Arts or Science in Landscape Architecture from an accredited university.  They may also hold horticultural degrees from colleges or vocational schools, but it is important for them to have some formal schooling.  They are capable of producing detailed drawings, to scale, showing all aspects of the proposed work, along with recommended plants and hardscape materials.  They will be more informed about what plants do well and the climate demands of the specific location.  They may not want to install the project, but want to sell you the design and let you find someone to do the rest.

Landscape Contractor:  The owner will often have some schooling in landscape or horticultural programs and has learned lots by working in the industry for several years, figuring out things as needed but many of these contractors may or may not have design experience beyond what they have seen others do. Many landscape companies do lots of different types of work, sprinkler installation and repair,  tree care, aerating and fertilizing , lawn mowing and weeding etc.  Other companies will specialize by installing landscape features such as retaining walls, water gardens, flagstone patios, outdoor kitchens along with lawn and planting areas.

If you have read this far, you probably are interested in finding out about me, David Hart owner at Gardenhart Landscape & Design, working out of Durango Colorado, in the southwest corner of the state. To be clear with regards to the above post, I consider myself a “Landscape Designer”.

landscape renovation repair of retaining wall durango landscape designerColorado landscapingl

Gardenhart Landscape & Design re-builds a boulder wall near Durango Co.

I graduated from Utah State University with a B.S. in Landscape Architecture in 1983 and have lived in the Durango area ever since.  Gardenhart Landscape & Design is a design-build firm, providing comprehensive oversight from start to finish.  We incorporate a natural, native look into all of our projects, using best practices in the industry.  These include native plants and stone, low water and fire resistant design principles and a deep understanding of the local soils and climate.


David Hart

Gardenhart Landscape & Design


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Landscape Watering Dilemmas in Durango Colorado: How Much?

Wildlife Resistant Landscape

How Much Do I water these Trees and Perennials?

How much do I water my SW Colorado landscape?

There is a very similar outcome when you water too much or too little.  One way to really decide whether to water or not is to actually feel the soil.  If you will dig down about three inches and grab a handful of soil and try to squeeze  it into a ball.  If it sticks together, then it still has sufficient moisture.  The problem with over watering is that the water molecules replace the oxygen in the soil and causes distress to plants.

Durango Landscaping Services by Gardenhart Landscape & Design

Sod & Grass use different amounts of water than many Trees and Plants

Signs of Over watering from Gardenhart Landscape & Design

It seems to me that my garden has not been growing very well and perhaps it is because it has been over watered.  The soil at my house is very hard packed river bottom and even though we have  tilled the garden area and applied compost and soil amendments numerous times, we still do not have a “well-drained soil”.  Watering here is difficult, too much and it runs off and not enough we water only the surface, which encourages shallow roots.  Ideal soil will absorb water down to about eighteen inches or deeper, then allow it to gradually dry out over a predictable period of time.  The plant roots will seek the moisture by going deeper in the soil,  thus they are less susceptible to dry times.

Durango Colorado Landscaping Companies help figure out how much to water

How Much Water Does Sod Need?

In summary, watering is very site specific, depending on your soil composition and the requirements of the individual plants.   As long as the soil will absorb water, deep watering is preferred.  You must pay attention to what is going on with your plants and the soil they are trying to grow in.


David Hart

Gardenhart Landscape & Design


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Best Trees to Plant in Durango, Colorado

Gardenhart Landscape & Design Recommended Everlasting Tree Varieties to Plant in Southwest Colorado

There are many great resources regarding recommended trees to plant in the Durango area.  Gardenhart Landscape & Design’s recommendations are based on years of landscape design and installation and appropriateness in our area with special attention to deer & disease resistance, overall hardiness, ease of care, beauty and  size.  Gardenhart’s list includes:

  1. Ginnala Maple
  2. Wasatch Maple
  3. Western Hackberry
  4. Russian Hawthorn
  5. Green Ash
  6. Thornless Honeylocust
  7. Brandywine Crabapple
  8. Gambell Oak
  9. English Oak
  10. Schumard Oak


  1. White Fir
  2. Meyer Juniper
  3. Utah Juniper
  4. Limber Pine
  5. Austrian Pine
  6. Eastern White Pine
  7. Southwestern White Pine
  8. Scotch Pine

This link directs you to the unsuitable trees as recommended by the City of Durango.  The list of trees on the link are not planted in Durango because of one or more of the following undesirable characteristics: Prolific seed production, invasive habits, fruit, pods, thorn bearing, weak limbs and/or structure and insect and disease problems.

According to Ron Stoner, one of the city of Durango’s favorite trees is the Wasatch Maple.  It is very hardy and looks great!

landscaping in Durango Colorado

Fall Maple Color

Durango nursery lists all zone 3 shrubs and trees.

If you have other questions about type, location and watering schedule for certain trees, let me know.


David Hart

Gardenhart Landscape & Design


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Landscaping Can Prevent Damage From Avalanches in Southwest Colorado

Landscaping Tips to Prevent Damage From Avalanches in Durango, Colorado

This past January a snow slide hit a house.  This Durango house was adjacent to a cliff, with little landscaping above it.  If you are located in potential slide area, Gardenhart Landscape and Design recommends planting evergreen trees above and throughout the avalanche run out zone. Another thing that you could do would be to protect the home with rock outcrops above the home.  Overall the best landscaping tactic is tree planting, as the trees will slow down the overall run-out.

Obviously when looking at new homes, it is best to be wary of purchasing anything that abuts any cliff or dirt, especially brand new construction.  The amount of drainage from such area may be unknown, and destructive, plus weather patterns may change.  The major accumulation of snow would be the north side slope, but a west and south-facing slope may melt faster.


durango colorado avalanche damage how to prevent with landscapinglandscaping tips to prevent avalanche, mud and water damage


David Hart

Gardenhart Landscape & Design


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Durango Colorado Tree Pruning Tips

Durango has been designated a Tree City USA by the National Arbor Day foundation for 36 consecutive years.  In 1978 Durango City Council  adopted a resolution to assume ownership & maintenance responsibilities for trees on City property and in the Right Of Way.  Park Department personnel determined in 1980 that a formal tree management program was needed and they have taken the appropriate actions since.   The four requirements to obtain this designation from the Arbor Day Foundation:

  1. Ordinance for Tree Protection  and Licensing program
  2. Hold annual Arbor Day ceremony
  3. Establish Parks & Forestry Board
  4. Hire full-time Forestry Staff.

In the March issue of Lawn and Landscape Magazine they have focused on tree care.  This article on preventing tree topping gives several great reasons why this is not a sustainable practice.

Some photos of tree topping:

I notice this tree topping practice and cringe.  You might as well simply cut down the tree instead, because by utilizing this practice you are decreasing the health and vigor of the tree and thus make it  susceptible to diseases and insect infestation, thus it will  most likely die.  Fortunately, Durango has some control over the pruning practices that occur within city limits.  In order to prune trees in town for hire, the individual must obtain a licence from the city.  This process requires a written and a practical test overseen by the City Arborist.

If you are considering hiring a person to prune your trees and shrubs, be sure to ask for and see their licence from the city of Durango. You can call the city at 970-375-5010  to see if they hold a current licence or view their list.  This is a good way to determine the licensee’s understanding of horticulture and their skill with a saw and pruner. Also, you can report questionable persons or their work to the City Arborist, whose number is 970-375-7383.


David Hart

Gardenhart Landscape & Design


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Durango Snow Removal Tips focusing on Ice Melt Products

Now that Gardenhart Landscape & Design has caught up from the last storm, the problem I am having is snow melting from my roof on the driveway and freezing into a solid mass of ice. I wonder if others are having the same problem and what solutions have worked. I used to get out there with sharp tools and flat shovel and work for hours chipping and removing it by hand.  Ice melt products have had a negative connotation for me until recently and I have begun experimenting with them at my home. I have found that they really do a good job with very icy areas.  It does take some time, but removing the hard ice is tough.

The Pro’s of using ice melt include less work, faster melting.  But the cons include granular rock type material around your walks and being tracked into the house.  The ice melt is made from a chemical composition that includes some of the items in the below table which are  potentially harmful to concrete, plants, pets or your drinking water if you have your own well.

Instead of “salting” your driveway, use types that are safe for pets. This alternative to salt for ice melting is more eco-friendly than salt. Many pet safe ice melt products don’t contain salt, but rather three organic ingredients.   You could also try using baking soda or kitty litter on the ice, which is a lot safer.

Chemicals Used to Melt Ice

Name Formula Lowest Practical Temp Pros Cons
Ammonium sulfate (NH4)2SO4 -7°C
Fertilizer Damages concrete
Calcium chloride CaCl2 -29°C
Melts ice faster than sodium chloride Attracts moisture, surfaces slippery below -18°C (0°F)
Calcium magnesium acetate (CMA) Calcium carbonate CaCO3, magnesium carbonate MgCO3, and acetic acid CH3COOH -9°C
Safest for concrete & vegetation Works better to prevent re-icing than as ice remover
Magnesium chloride MgCl2 -15°C
Melts ice faster than sodium chloride Attracts moisture
Potassium acetate CH3COOK -9°C
Biodegradable Corrosive
Potassium chloride KCl -7°C
Fertilizer Damages concrete
Sodium chloride (rock salt, halite) NaCl -9°C
Keeps sidewalks dry Corrosive, damages concrete & vegetation
Urea NH2CONH2 -7°C
Fertilizer Agricultural grade is corrosive

Ice melt products may cut  ice problems, but can really affect lawns. Most ice melts have a high pH level, and this burns the lawn, killing grass.  The problem area generally can be easy to repair. Gypsum may help reverse the damage because it has two key ingredients, calcium and sulfur, that help neutralize the soil.

Therefore, the overall conclusion that I have come to is to read the ingredient label on all ice melt products. I will purchase those that are the safest and stay away from those most harmful.  Calcium chloride and magnesium chloride appear the safest to use, but I will experiment with both baking soda and kitty litter. This will be good for our landscaping, pets, water and the earth.


David Hart

Gardenhart Landscape & Design


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Gardenhart Landscape & Design Sustainable Snow Removal Suggestions for Durango Colorado

Snow has arrived in Durango, Colorado this morning and it looks like it will continue for several days. These are the types of storms that require diligent snow removal and often tire out the average homeowner. Gardenhart purchased a large snow blower last fall and was able to keep many of its clients driveways and sidewalks clear and safe for pedestrians last year.

Snow removal  is a chore that does not always provide satisfaction,  like planting a new tree. You work for an hour shoveling the drive, only to have it covered again in the morning. Durango is known to have back to back storms that can deliver significant snowfall over several days.  So it is best to keep on top of shoveling before significant accumulations make it icy, thick and difficult to move.

Gardenhart Landscape & Design uses a snowblower, not a plow on their truck for several reasons. First, it is much more suited to driveways and sidewalks than a plow. Plows are  efficient for roads and parking lots, not smaller areas.  Another reason is that it blows the snow away from the area being cleared,  instead of piling it up at the edges. It also tends to do less damage to adjacent plants and sprinkler systems.

So,  give Gardenhart Landscape & Design a call at 970-749-1555 if you find yourself getting behind in the snow removal chore, we would be happy to help dig you out!  Find out more information about Gardenhart at and on Facebook for more sustainable landscaping tips.

Gardenhart Landscape & Design Owner David Hart using his Snow Blower

David Hart of Gardenhart Landscape & Design helps remove snow in Durango Colorado

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