For five years, Yuliya Bellinger did nothing but watch. She watched how the sun hit the property around the classic center-hall Colonial in Glen Ridge that she and her husband Michael had purchased in 2003. She observed the soil, looking for drainage problems. She made note of how she and Michael spent their time outdoors.
Finally, she sprang into action. Over the next 10 years, Bellinger, a professional landscape designer, transformed her half-acre lot—front, side and backyard—into a masterpiece.
It was, she says, an “ordinary suburban yard. Just a large lawn and some beautiful trees.” The beautiful trees remain, but Bellinger has added a number of unique features, including an ever-changing flower border and a small koi pond adjacent to a backyard patio. The patio is perfect for entertaining or for intimate times together. Bellinger also planted a vegetable garden where she grows lettuces, radishes, kale and tomatoes—“All the staples for salad,” she says.
The garden along the side of the house is particularly lush. “That’s where we get the most sun and can grow colorful perennials and annuals,” says Bellinger. It’s also where passersby can best view her creation. “Every day,” says Bellinger, “people are stopping by and asking questions.” She is more than happy to oblige. To share her garden guidance with an even wider audience, she created Y Garden, a YouTube channel where she posts instructional videos.
Bellinger, who earned a master of science degree in landscape design at Columbia University, warns that in addition to know-how and good ideas, in gardening, good things come to those who wait. “People nowadays, they want it done in 30 minutes like on HGTV,” she says. “It’s important to be patient. Creating a beautiful garden is truly a journey to be enjoyed every step of the way.”
TIPS FOR YOUR OWN BACKYARD MASTERPIECE
Yuliya Bellinger shares some of her top tips for do-it-yourself gardening:
Plot a theme
“I always have a plan in mind, even if it doesn’t always work out,” Bellinger says. “Otherwise it can become haphazard.”
“They add so much structure to the garden, even in the winter,” says Bellinger. Her garden has a Japanese maple that’s more than 80 years old. “Every person who visits our property is stunned by its structure,” she says.
Smother weeds preemptively
Bellinger suggests using sheets of newspaper with at least two inches of mulch on top in all planting beds.
“Plants get hungry and tired if you don’t feed them,” says Bellinger. She suggests fertilizing perennials once a month. Some annuals, like petunias, need to be fed weekly. Bellinger recommends organic, slow-release fertilizers.
“You’ll get another flush of blooms,” she says. “You can do this with salvias, catmint, shasta daisies and many others. They respond really great to shearing.” Bellinger suggests cutting them down to 2 inches off the ground. “They will rebloom profusely at the end of summer.”
“Install drip irrigation where it is possible,” Bellinger suggests. “It’s a more efficient way of watering plants and saves your precious leisure time.” Additionally, Bellinger suggests including drought-tolerant plants like echinacea, Russian sage, sedums, catmint and ornamental grasses.
Mark the spot
Put golf tees where the spring bulbs pop up, Bellinger suggests. “That way, you’ll never dig them up as you plant annuals or perennials in your planting beds.”
They’re generally what adds the most color to a summer garden. Bellinger’s favorites: petunias, alyssum, cleome, angelonia, zinnia and larkspur. Her advice: “Visit your local garden center to find flowers that make you happy.”
Resources: Yuliya Bellinger, Y Landscape Design, 917-825-8987.Click here to leave a comment