A typical home landscape
consists of too much grass, too few broadleafed plants and too many unexploited
possibilities. It could have been a place where hummingbirds and butterflies
abound. It could have displayed an almost year-round progression of blooms.
It could also have been an individualistic interpretation of a forest,
meadow or rocky slope. But alas, it more closely resembles a hedge of overgrown
shrubs plastered against the house, surrounded by a monotonous expanse
So how do you go from the
typical green blob next to green blob next to another green blob landscape?
Observe, explore and learn. Take at least a year to know your site.
Begin by understanding the following:
1 Exposure, whether to sun
or wind, makes a huge difference. 2 Drainage is also an important
consideration. Learn the habitat requirements of the particular plants
to be incorporated into the landscape. And, to complete the three-dimensional
lanscape puzzle correctly, be aware of the various microhabitats within
Good landscaping is both
an art and a science. A beautiful design with inappropriate plants is worse
than a poor design with appropriate plants. There is no one correct style
of landscaping. Select the style that most appeals to you. Do a bit of
research and a great deal of planning. The steps below are an outline of
the process of designing an extraordinary landscape.
Prepare a site plan, drawn to scale, (usually one inch equals eight feet)
showing the house, driveway, sidewalks, fences, utilities and existing
vegetation which will be preserved. Add also the locations of underground
and aerial utilities. Draw a circle around each existing or proposed tree
delineating its canopy spread in twenty years. Determine the exact property
boundaries, location of easements and utilities (including overhead wires
and buried pipes and conduits). Note views that should be preserved and
those which need to be blocked.
Determine the nature, depth and quality of the soil. Observe drainage patterns
and record locations which are poorly drained or very well-drained. To
avoid excessive and expensive soil modification, select appropriate plants
for your site and its microhabitats.
Survey your neighborhood and list those plants which are thriving and those
which are not. Ask your neighbors about the local herbivores (from molluscs,
to insects to mammals). Ask them also about the peculiarities of your microclimate
(is it a frost pocket, wind tunnel, etc.?).
List your landscape requirements and priorities: children's play area,
vegetable garden, dog run, privacy screen, orchard, sprinkler system, rose
garden, swimming pool, west sun protection, water garden, storage space,
croquet court, compost pile, etc.).
Establish a five-year-budget for both time and money.
Make notes and take photographs of landscapes you like. Develop a list
of plants you wish to include in your design, and note their mature height
and spread, as well as the time and color of their blooms.
Start drawing or hire a professional to draw the design.
Place compatible plants together. All the plants in one bed or sprinkler
system zone should have similar water needs.
Consider the maintenance consequences of your design decisions. If figured
on a 20 year basis, installing the plants costs about 5% and their maintenance
Choose the right plant for the right site. Don't plant a shrub capable
of growing 20' high under a 3' window. Do not place a shade-loving plant
in full sun. Avoid placing a tall plant in front of a dwarf one.