Gardening is an extremely rewarding endeavor. In many cases homeowners have great ideas about the various elements of a landscape design, but aren’t sure how to implement them. Planning a landscape for optimum use and ease of maintenance is a specialized skill. Hiring a pro to design your landscape can save you time and money in the long run. We’ll go over a few avoidable mistakes in landscape design to help you get the best out of your home landscape.
- Going Completely DIY at the Design Stage
Use of a professional landscape designer in the planning stages can enhance your enjoyment of your home landscape, even if you intend to do seasonal the maintenance yourself.Landscape design is a profession employing skills in long term visual planning, horticultural knowledge of appropriate and long lasting plants, and the ability to look at the big picture. A living, growing landscape involves thinking about how things are going to look in all seasons, not just during the glorious spring and early summer peak flush. Training and vision is required to see how the landscape plan is going to look in five years, ten years and longer.
Professional landscape designers have expertise on tap to make your yard maintenance tasks easier, year after year. They will know how to choose the right plants, soil amendments and materials for your climate and site, and provide a cohesive design with functionality, focal points, and low maintenance. Professional landscape design is a worthwhile investment in your home’s value and curb appeal and will pay for itself over the years by saving you the expense and labor of replanting if things don’t work out.
- Choosing Great Plants—for the Wrong Area or the Wrong Use
Every gardener knows how easy it is to go overboard at the garden center when picking out plants. However, just because that plant looks gorgeous under the TLC of the nursery staff doesn’t mean it’s going to work well in your garden. You’ll want to take into consideration factors such as the amount of light or shade, the amount of time—and desire—you have for their care, what type of soil you have and whether you have kids or pets. With the latter, you will of course want to stay away from poisonous plants, but you may also want to steer clear of those rare, exquisite (and expensive) prize plants that could cause family issues if trampled on or kicked up. Your yard is not just a static view—it’s a place to be used by you and your family, a place to grow memories as well as plants. Don’t make those memories be about the time the dog dug up your rare miniature Hosta collection. Save your passion for Oleander bushes until after the kids are grown and you’ll rest easier.Challenging conditions can usually be ameliorated: soils can be amended, and trees can be pruned to open up the light at ground level. Drip irrigation can be added if you are the type of person who forgets to water the garden—or you could bypass that whole issue by choosing drought tolerant landscape varieties. These are all things to think about during the early planning stages of landscape design, and a professional landscape designer can help you make the right choices for your yard, taste, intended use, and lifestyle.
- Going to the Extremes
Overuse of commonly available plants is something to avoid, as is the other extreme of going with too many hard-to-care-for exotics. First though, do your research, both online and at the garden center. Look for plants that thrive in your climate zone. Refer to the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map for precise information about average winter temperatures. This map is the standard by which gardeners can determine which plants are most likely to thrive at their location. The Kansas City metro area is zone 6a, but just north of Kansas City has a 5b rating (a bit colder). These temperature ratings will affect what will grow best in your area.It’s great fun to think about growing exotics like citrus trees or other tropical plants in your home garden, but any landscape professional will tell you that these plants are not going to overwinter here. Happily, there are many native plants that can be unusual and interesting.
Garden centers sell a lot of impatiens, geraniums and marigolds, but not necessarily because they are the best choice for the landscape. Often it’s because they are an easy choice for the grower, with quick propagation, reliable shipping and “shelf life” in small flats. Do use these easy-to-flower annuals for the summer splash of color, but look beyond them at native perennials for that touch of the unusual.
- Not Considering Edibles in your Landscape Design
It’s tremendously satisfying growing your own fresh, delicious food, and it’s easier than you might think. Consider dwarf and semi dwarf fruit trees such as apples and pears, and nuts such as hardy almond and filbert. Evaluate other edibles that can work in a permanent landscape plan, such as grape vines and berries. These can be highly ornamental as well as functional.You can see some interesting tropical fruit trees in garden centers every spring, but think back to that USDA Zone Map. You’ll need to bring these plants indoors during the winter months or they will die off after the first year. Containerized small trees are an option, but think about how much room you have inside for them 5 months out of the year—and whether you have the ideal conditions that they need (humidity and direct sunlight are musts).
If you plan to grow edibles here, you won’t be limited to a plain-Jane apple tree. There are a large number of heirloom apple trees, and new varieties such as Honeycrisp apples and Asian pears are now available. Cherries, pecans, almonds and filberts will also grow well in our area. Concord grapes, berries of many varieties, and strawberries can be integrated into a landscape design with lovely results. The Chicago Hardy fig tree is productive and easy to grow, and bears fruit on new growth, which means that a bitter winter die-back won’t affect yield so thankfully there are many options here in the greater Kansas City area.
Make sure that your fruit trees are self-pollinating, or choose several varieties to pollinate your edible landscape.
A well-designed landscape will give your home beauty and increase your property value. Careful preliminary planning will ensure visual integration of your home and yard as a whole. Before you get out the shovel and trowel this spring, consider calling the landscape design professionals at Second Nature Outdoor Living and Landscaping. We will give you a free quote for landscape design, landscape maintenance, and the mundane yard chores that keep you from having the time to enjoy your yard, such as mowing, trimming, fertilizing and pruning. We know you have limited time, so why spend it mowing the grass?
Our goal is to provide you with long-term enjoyment of your home landscape. We have hundreds of happy customers in the greater Kansas City metro area who will confirm the effectiveness of that claim!