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 of lawn.
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:
Exposure, whether to sun
or wind, makes a huge difference. 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 a landscape.
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.
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.
6. 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.
7. Start drawing or
hire a professional to draw the design.
8. Place compatible
plants together. All the plants in one bed or sprinkler system zone
should have similar water needs.
9. Consider the maintenance
consequences of your design decisions. If figured on a 20 year basis,
installing the plants costs about 5% and their maintenance 95%.
10. 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.