How To Avoid the 5 Biggest Mistakes of Home Landscaping
If you are a homeowner, you have most likely encountered a landscaping mistake. It might be a mature tree or shrub that sits too close to the foundation or plants that overlap walkways and have to be cut in ways that ruin their natural shape. It's an all too common problem that most of us have been guilty of creating. A basic plan and some easy research on plant specimens is usually enough to get started.
Plan a personal landscape design from your home computer.
Start With a Basic Plan
A home builder wouldn't think to build a house one room at a time even if he didn't have to submit blueprints beforehand. A yard should have a plan also. This might include hardscape like patios, walkways, and water features as well as irrigation and the largest plant selections. The actual planting doesn't have to be completed all at one time. Working in stages is far easier on the budget, and isn't as overwhelming. There are easy to use landscape design programs for the home computer. The important thing is to stick to a plan in order to insure the continuity of a theme or an existing layout.
The beautiful New Zealand flax shown here in a great location has had to be hacked back in a poorly chosen spot.
Know Your Plants'Growth Potential
It is so important to know both the growth habits and the dimensions of a mature plant when making selections. While browsing the grounds of a nursery, you might be drawn to a 2 ft. blooming plant in a 5 gal. container and think it perfect for that bare spot under the bedroom window. That same shrub, however, would eventually grow to a height of 15 ft. and obstruct the view completely.
The lovely scented jasmine in its spring glory would be a lovely, fragrant welcome in the entryway, but it is an ugly tangled mess when the short-lived blooms are gone.
Take special care when choosing palms, cycads, phormiums, ornamental grasses, and succulent agaves. These specimens can grow quite large, and it is difficult to trim these without ruining the shape and integrity of the plant. There is the added problem of a passerby beng injured on a deadly thorn, irritated by itchy fibers, or scratched by stiff fronds.
Attracting pollinators is wonderful, but choosing a shrub full of bees in the entryway, by the pool, or near a child's play area would be poor planning. The same is true for having trees which produce sticky flowers, rain sap, and drop leaf litter and over-ripe fruits as choices for patios, outdoor rooms, driveways, and carports.
Other considerations might be allergies, toxic threats to pets and children, and the pros or cons of attracting wildlife. Do some easy research and ask questions before buying.
Beware of Unsuitable Plants For Your Region
As garden lovers, we can't help but admire the unusual variety of plants we see when visiting out of state! We want to bring them home to cultivate in our own gardens. Aside from the fact that some species are invasive to non-native areas, they may actually introduce problem pests and diseases. Plants which are not listed for a particular region will always struggle for survival.
If a nursery in your area can't get a plant for you, it's usually a pretty good bet that it's a poor choice for your garden. Choose plants that will flourish. Weak plants will harbor both disease and insects that can spread to the rest of your garden.
Avoid plants that are invasive. These choices go way beyond your own garden and threaten the environment at large. Each state has a published list of "enemy plants" which can easily be found online.
Overly large shrubs can hide a home's attributes.
Use Proper Spacing Between Plants,Structures, and Hardscape.
It is understandable to want to fulfill that vision of a thick green privacy screen, but don't expect instant gratification on a shoestring budget. If you want a tall, tight hedge to keep out a nosy neighbor, be willing to pay more for mature shrubs.Another option is to choose fast growers that are well suited for your landscape .Avoid buying unsuitable plants on sale then jamming several too close together. Proper spacing between plants and structures is very important for specimens of all sizes. All plants need good air circulation for healthy growth. Fungal infections, insect infestation, and burned foliage from radiated heat are common plant problems associated with poor spatial planning. Walls and foundations also need air movement to properly dry out after rain and snow. No one wants mold, rot, and termites.
Large trees near foundations can affect air circulation on roofs and cause premature damage to shingles, eaves, and fascia. Overhanging branches become pathways for roof rats and squirrels while tall ones interfere with power lines and cables. Plan ahead.
Install Effiicient Irrigation
Older homes often come with sprinkler systems designed for large lawn irrigation. Watering methods work best when adapted for the individual needs of drought-tolerant gardens, flower beds, shrubs, and trees. Grouping plants with similar moisture needs is good planning.
Water is only as effective as its percolation through the soil. This is usually achieved with longer, less-frequent irrigation. Roots will grow where the water is, so minimal penetration encourages surface rooting of trees and shrubs. This can result in weakened tree stability, cracked foundations, and buckled driveways and sidewalks.
Consider areas where water could collect near foundations and cause seepage and structural damage. French drains may need to be installed to prevent this situation. Also think about run-off from slopes. These areas may benefit from cycle watering to allow better absorption of irrigation. Evaluate the situation before installations.
Often houses come with long- established trees and shrubs,so not everyone will have the luxury of starting with a blank slate. Removal of all plants is both expensive and shocking to the creatures that depend on them for food and shelter. It is still very rewarding to work on customizing your garden areas, but it takes time to narrow down the vast number of choices. Think about whether you want a formal look with neatly clipped shrubs and roses, a minimalist contemporary look with flowing grasses and succulents, or something in between. Be creative! Work with the design elements of your home, but combine and vary shapes for more interest: tall and straight, tight and round, open and branching, loose and feathery, for example. Consider layering for seasonal color and bloom.Group for similar water needs and sun exposure.
Have a vision but be patient since it will take a few years for your garden to really reach its full potential. If you remember these guidelines on how to avoid the most common mistakes, you can feel confident that your landscape design will be an enjoyable success.
© 2011 Catherine Tally