Get The First-Hand Experience
Step into the shoes and experience what it’s like as a designer at Moon Valley Nurseries and how involved our designers are with your yard from start to finish. Colleen Johnson, a designer at our Surprise Nursery, shares one of her favorite projects below!
One of the many perks of being a Moon Valley Nurseries Landscape Designer is the incredible relationships established with our clients: our customers become friends and ultimately become Moon Valley family. My job is never a chore, but a craft, in delivering beautiful sanctuaries for homeowners to retreat to from the clamor and hassles of everyday life. There is no greater responsibility and honor for me than when my customers entrust their property to my design concept. A task I willingly accept.
I am here today at my customers’ home on a balmy, sun-drenched spring morning in the northwest part of the Valley of the Sun to add one more tree that will complete the customers’ yard. Incorporating the design with layers of textures and colors, finding the perfect placement of trees and shrubs, complimenting the hard lines of travertine and pool water features, comes the Magnum Opus to finalize the homeowners’ project.
In the rising heat of the morning sun, my wonderful customer hands me a freshly squeezed ice-cold lemonade with lemons picked from the Lisbon Lemon tree Moon Valley planted one year earlier. They invited me to sit. We are waiting together as I “lounge” on the customers’ swing hanging from one of the sculptured beams of the pergola, with iron chains oxidized through monsoon seasons creaking ever so quietly with rusty repetition.
Custom Designs for Your Yard
My original design with plants and trees planted late in the fall season covers the pergola’s upright posts with Moon Valley’s most aromatic Star Jasmine vines with tendrils weaved and laced around each one filling the air with a sweet jasmine aroma that even Chanel could not replicate. Near to the pergola we planted our 48” specimen Jacaranda tree, now in full bloom, with cascading violet flowers wafting in the breeze in concert with their soft fern-like leaves.
The Jacaranda’s wispy, delicate canopy has become a majestic showstopper of color and beauty contrasted against the harsh backdrop of the desert terrain. In the southwest corner of the yard, a stately Southern Magnolia tree adorned with leathery, dark green leaves was also planted and is providing much-needed shade to this particular section of the yard. To the joy of the homeowners, magnificent virgin white blossoms have bloomed, emitting a delicate lemony fragrance that can incite any discouraged soul from its malaise. From one bloom to another, scores of industrious bees, graceful butterflies and whizzing hummingbirds gather the sweet nectar of the gods.
Banished far from any close proximity to the pool in an area dedicated only to this plant is my favorite shrub – the much-maligned Bougainvillea. It is wild. It is messy. It is beautiful. For me as a designer, this plant, hands down, is the one plant that will provide the most singular pop of color and the most dramatic effect to any landscape design. The Bougainvillea bloom is truly beautiful despite its unfortunate, less than tidy reputation.
Off in the distance, in the southeast corner of the yard is Moon Valley’s planting crew. Voices carry over the breeze of English and Spanish, laughter and talking as these hardworking men dig the hole for the crown jewel of the yard. Sounds of shovels and picks striking the hard, impenetrable ground coincides with the chatter of men.
By far, our planting crews are the hardest working people in the company. Day in and day out, in extreme heat and cold, monsoons and haboobs, hail and scorching temperatures, they dig, and they dig, and they dig. They are the labor and the final caretakers and deserve not only a thank you, but also a firm handshake given in admiration and respect.
The Crane is Here and the Planting Begins
The rise of commotion and flurry of digging faster and deeper is the result of the news that the crane has arrived. While the men finish digging the hole and amending the soil with our Soil and Water Conditioner, John, the foreman, and two other men hurry to the front to meet the crane operators to discuss the particulars in raising the tree and moving it over the house into the sweet spot in the backyard.
Everything down to the smallest detail is determined so that in symphonic harmony the tree is hoisted into the air and gingerly placed directly into the hole without mishap or error. No one is complacent even though Moon Valley planting crews plant large trees such as this every day of the week. No tree or crane job is ever the same.
John moves the truck into position while the crane operators place the counterweights to stabilize the crane. The two crewmen climb into the Moon Valley truck and ready the tree for lifting. Once the tree is firmly tied up, the crane operator slowly lifts the massive tree from its side and lifts it vertically to stand upright. The tree hovers about 3’-4’ off the bed of the truck. The men quickly work to cut the metal straps from the container and begin to break down the sides and the bottom of the box freeing the immense root ball from its confinement. The homeowners and neighbors gather around all the while taking videos with their smartphones.
Ever so deliberately, the tree is raised by the telescopic arm of the crane – the boom - and unhurriedly is transported over the house and finds its way into the backyard. With radios, the crane operator onsite gives instructions to the operator in the cab to move the tree exactly in place. The whole process is like a fine Swiss watch that is perfectly timed in logistics and coordination: a sight to behold of impressive workmanship and technology.
The tree finds its new home and is turned and placed to the homeowners’ satisfaction. The planting crew finishes the planting of compacting the earth, building a well and watering and feeding this most spectacular tree our Moon Juice.
What is the feature tree, the Magnum Opus, planted in the backyard? We planted our absolute evergreen, Moon Valley exclusive 60” specimen multi-trunk Indian Laurel, aka the Ficus Nitida. This beautiful waxy green leaf tree with a vibrant white trunk, in my humble estimation, is the Dom Perignon of Moon Valley trees.
The thick dense canopy provides a block of shade that not even the magnificent sun can penetrate. The Ficus Nitida grows ever so wide, ever so dense, ever so beautiful. It truly is the central masterpiece, a prized perfection of a tree in any landscape. But for these homeowners, the Ficus Nitida is the showpiece that completes their dream yard and home.
While the homeowners stand in awe at their new tree as it fits so perfectly with the rest of the plants Moon Valley has planted, I hurriedly drink the rest of my lemonade and jump into my car with the hopes of making future Moon Valley guests happy and satisfied customers.