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Design, Construction and Planting

Landscaping by rules does not take into account individual family needs and the site into account. Built-in design limitations occur by such so-called rules as: always plant shrubs in groups of three or five, and, never plant annuals in the public area.

Good design rarely results from following rigid rules.

Concept design

This article does not provide rules or recipes for landscape design. Instead it offers concepts to be drawn upon selectively to meet individual landscape needs.

Consider the site analysis, the style of architecture, and the family's personal landscape needs when creating the design. What you're looking for is to have a pleasing visual relationship between the landscape site's specific features and the site itself.

Creating defined spaces are important in accomplishing this objective between pleasing visual relationships, family needs and specific site features.

Establishing priorities prior to beginning the project will give you the goals that you can measure your efforts against. The finished design should reflect these defined priorities to satisfy your aesthetic values and functional requirements.

Tulips naturalized

Group plantings to emphasize

One common technique used to create a pleasing visual harmony in the landscape is to create groupings of the same plant. These mass plantings help create a calming effect that makes you feel comfortable when viewing the landscape.

Some good examples might include rhododendrons, azaleas, and dogwoods which can be mass planted in informal beds. Locate the plants so that a natural scene is created as they mature. Plant shrubs or trees together in one large bed and mulch well. This would form the base of your landscape. Once that base is established, you can additional elements that compliment the overall area.

Add bulbs for seasonal color and successive plantings of different annuals that bloom at different times throughout the season so you'll have a continuous progression of blooms throughout the season that will come back year after year.

Including privacy elements

If the Site Analysis reflected a need to screen unsightly views, provide a noise barrier, or just to create a sense of privacy in the landscape, plant evergreen shrubs or build a screening fence. If room and time allow, a natural evergreen hedge may be the best answer. For immediate privacy and low maintenance, you might choose a fence. Check with local zoning codes before purchasing to ensure compliance.

Quality Landscape Design

Consider the fencing material and the maintenance required to keep it in good shape. Any wood fence will require periodic staining / painting. Unprotected fencing turns a graceful gray over time, but the life span of the fence is greatly reduced and will lead to rot much sooner than the painted/stained option. Avoid having the bottom of the wood fence come in contact with the earth, which will invite wood rot.

Live fences become more beautiful with age, but they will not keep a pet from roaming outside the property line. Also, live fences are prone to have sections become damaged from weather conditions and pest/disease infestations. To avoid this problem, consider making the fence up from various type plants so that you don't have a continuous line of like plants. Then if a problem occurs with one section and it has to be replaced, the aesthetic value will not be diminished.

Specimen plants

Landscape tree & tulipsConsider quality, not quantity in selecting landscape plants. Plants used should be of specimen quality and not purchased at rock-botton prices from dealers with unknown reputations.

Place specimen plants where they create focal points in the landscape and draw attention to special areas. Remember the mature size of all plants and plant accordingly allowing plenty of room for the garden to grow.

Energy conservation

While not a major consideration, if you have extreme weather conditions, landscaping design can be adjusted to incorporate some energy saving benefits.

For example, deciduous trees (drop their leaves in the winter months) could provide summer shade while they are in leaf, and also allow winter sun to reach an area after the leaves have fallen. If you live in an area that has prevailing winds, trees can be used to create a windbreak if necessary.

Mature large trees take up a considerable amount of space both above and below the surface which should be accounted for in the design. Don't plant trees that may cause foundation problems either in the house or the outdoor hardscaped areas. Remember too, that large trees do create shade, shade also makes it more difficult to grow grass. While there are a variety of annuals and perennials that will grow in shade, grass is not one of them.

Avoid trees such as sugar maples that have extensive root systems that grow just below the surface. As these trees mature and the roots grow in diameter, they break through the surface making it difficult to walk on and mow as well as making it difficult to grow anything else under the tree.

When considering a large tree for the landscape, the ideal location is on the south side of the building / patio area. This will provide the maximum sun blockage during the hot months, and when the leaves fall off, it allows more sunlight in to help warm the area during the colder months.

Combining these landscape ideas with proper insulation and conservation habits can decrease energy consumption.

Landscape Design

Plot plans ...

The first step in landscape design is to draw a plot plan of the site showing the boundaries and physical features that will affect your design. The plan should include property lines and angles; show the placement of the house on the property; and indicate the location of driveways, utilities, easements, and any other limitations. Read more at:

Site Analysis ...

A Site Analysis is just taking a little time to study your site or property and analyze its basic features.

A Site Analysis helps understand unique problems associated with the property and how they can be best used to create a functional and enjoyable outdoor living space. Read more:

Special Use Areas ...

Refer to the list of family needs and decide where to locate the areas for various uses. Try to provide enough space for each activity. Following this step divides the site into several separate areas, each serving a specific purpose but all combined into the overall design.

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Family Needs ...

Identifying personal needs and wants is an important step in the pre-planning stage of your landscape design. Considering the entire family's personal needs will help create a garden/landscape that is both aesthetically pleasing, enjoyable to walk and relax in, entertain in, and is still functional for the entire family including the family pet. These include walkways, driveways, parking, outdoor entertaining, play areas, maintenance, storage, and of course: gardens.

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Read: The Edible Landscape ; Landscape Construction Materials