by Leslie Patterson
Most every neighborhood has a resident gardener.
Not necessarily a professional, but rather that one person who has the beautiful lawn, blooms spilling breathtakingly through fences or out of garden plots, and who loves to give and receive advice on maintaining the picture perfect landscape they laboriously tend. Neighbors can often be seen pausing to soak in the tranquility emanated by the garden, lamenting their desire of time or ability to create such a vista in their own yards. However, landscaping should not be seen as a privilege afforded to certain people; it should be viewed as making improvements on the grounds of any home.
Changes to one's yard can be made intuitively or be purposefully laid out in landscaping design. Most people use a combination of both to get their yards just the way they would like them, which is another fantastic point – your home's landscape should be beautiful to you. It is an expression of your home, so no two could ever be the same. Whether you are choosing to spruce up your yard or do a complete overhaul, there are some tasks to complete that can move you in the right landscape direction.
- Determine the traffic patterns of your home. This includes desired access to walkways, entryways, parking and driveways, shade, play areas, and decks or patios. Begin thinking about what you need in and near those areas to complement your lifestyle.
- Track light patterns throughout your entire lot. Where is there sunshine or shade at any given point in the day? Are there areas completely exposed to or denied the sunlight? If possible, track the light for an extended period of time so you can see how and when the patterns alter.
- Watch for the ground's reaction with rainwater. How long do areas stay soft and muddy? Does water pool anywhere?
- Complete a soil test to determine the pH balance. Inexpensive kits can be purchased at local gardening or grocery stores.
- Draw to scale a model of your yard as it currently is. Note where there are trees and hardscape such as pathways or fences. All details need to be documented including the location of the house and foundation. Then create a sketch of what you aspire to have in your yard. Will you work around elements already in place or do you intend to remove things?
The next step will be gathering your sketches and notes to bring to a nursery or other landscaping professional. Having these facts, and photos if possible, about your home will allow effective communication of what you have and what you want so the proper advice may be given. Plants are living things and as such thrive only in suitable conditions. Be prepared that something you had in mind may not work for your area, so flexibility is key.
To choose the plant life for your landscaping project, it is best to begin with what you like. Look at gardens around your area to find plants and flowers that appeal to you, as well as to see what flourishes. Do not be timid about asking questions pertaining to names, care, and recommendations; many gardeners are thrilled to share their vast knowledge. Use all your senses when considering plants. Many textures, colors, and scents pervade the gardening world, and each has its place.
- Annuals– These plants complete their lifecycle in one year and are wonderful plantings to fill gaps and smaller spaces as you need. They allow for flexible design as each year you can try something new. It is a good idea to save the labels from the planting containers. Throw out the ones for plants you did not care for, and save the ones you would like to buy again. This will ensure you remember the exact names when it is time to plant again.
- Perennials– Unlike annuals, these return year after year. It is best to find ones that comply beautifully with your climate and lot conditions to ensure healthy blooms over and over.
- Bulbs– Standard in most every garden, spring flowering bulbs are planted in the fall while summer blooms are planted in the spring. Bulbs are wonderful to plant so gardens evolve seamlessly with the seasons.
It is also good to seek out prominent horizontal and vertical plants, such as trees and shrubs, to begin defining your landscape. Smaller flowers and ground covers can fill in the gaps and other space. Container gardening is an option, but potted plants do require more maintenance. When consulting, be up front about the time you intend to put into plant care so you can ensure the longevity of your design.
Landscape design allows you to creatively transform your basic yard into whatever wonderland you choose. Depending on time commitment and budget there are limitless options with what you can do to your yard. A few favorite ideas include:
- Changing levels – You can use terraces, fences, walls and hedges, and even walkways to change levels by defining areas or highlighting focal features. This hardscape also ties the garden design back to the home, creating unity within your lot.
- Structure does not imply perfection! If you prefer informal gardens with over-hanging plants and unexpected colors do not hesitate to include them. Pulling out something you no longer like and replacing it is not a terrible thing; leaving plants that you dislike is a common landscaping mistake.
- White stands out and commonly draws the eye. Try natural colors for hardscape so the focus remains on the plants and design.
- Remember to use elements of light, texture, contrast, and scale to prevent monotony among your plant life. Color and shape are also important, but relying on them solely for your design could lead to unintentional uniformity.
- There are numerous quarried and composite stones to use for edging and paving in your landscape. Some are better for specific climates and designs, but do not be timid about mixing and matching these to draw the eye or indicate elevation changes.
Once you have determined what you want and where you would like to place it, all that's left is the labor. For large plants or extensive hardscaping, it is best to seek a professional. This will ensure that the work gets done completely and in a timely manner. However, planting smaller blossoms and ground coverings can be quite enjoyable and are considered by many homeowners to be a labor of love. You may even choose to sneak a few vegetable plants in appropriate places.
When all is said and done, every plant is in place and your landscaping is ready to be enjoyed. Do remember to keep up with necessary watering and maintenance so no issues arise among your hard work. Then sit back and soak in your very own sanctuary.
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