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Developing a Landscape Gardening Style

When starting a new landscape garden project or reshaping an old one, you want to build it around a particular style: your style. Where does this style come from? Well, it could be as simple as seeing a photograph somewhere or visiting public gardens and taking mental notes. Whenever you see a landscape it will either appeal to your senses or not. You want to lock into what you like.

Your landscape style should exude a sense of place and belonging. Nor should it be alien to your property and the neighborhood. You can incorporate variations of designs you've seen to make them work for you and your property.

Ideally, the new project should be one that you can easily maintain without spending every free moment working to keep it healthy and looking good.

It should enhance your home, not compete with it. This is a great time to enhance your home without expensive remodeling.

The decision whether to make it a formal or informal garden is entirely up to you. This is pretty much the heart of landscaping. Landscape design orchestrates all of these elements along with all the construction factors, biological details of healthy plant growth and maintenance, and then that unknown factor we call art.

Your Property's Landscape

Officially, landscape design is the arrangement of your outdoor space for your best enjoyment and satisfaction. Many people think of landscaping as the placement of plants. This is not quite true. Landscape design is really creating outdoor rooms that are functional, maintainable, and good to look at from different points of view.

A well-designed home lawn and landscape is both aesthetically pleasing and functional. Aesthetically pleasing means that it should give the viewer a pleasant feeling, comfort, with a sense of well-being. That's not too much to ask is it?

The landscape should also be functional

If there's no purpose to the landscape, there's no reason to venture into it. You can just stand at the window and admire the view. A good design invites the viewer out and encourages them to walk about and stay a bit. That purpose could be just comfortable seating, a place for entertaining and dining, or just a place for the kids to play.

A place for the family and neighbors

Your landscape should provide enjoyment to your entire family and add to the quality of your life. A well thought out landscape should compliment the surrounding neighborhood. Follow these guidelines and the landscape will only add to your property's resale value. Not bad for a little planning and a few plants.

Compliments the neighborhood

White Eastern Redbud Ideally, a good landscape design should not detract from the neighborhood, nor cause problems with your neighbors (putting a mulberry tree right next to your property line and up against your neighbors patio). A good landscape should obviously not reduce your home's value. In fact, good landscape design should increase your home's value.

With a little planning, you can organize and design your landscape square footage for maximum use for all your family members including the family pet. A good plan better organizes your outside property so that it creates a pleasing visual relationship between your house, property and the neighborhood.

Planning is the most important part of any landscape

Planning is often neglected in the rush to get some green stuff in the ground. Some residential builders stick a tree in the middle of the front yard and cover the rest of the dirt with sod on sterile soil as part of their "total landscape package."

In time that single tree grows so large it dwarfs the house and sometimes hides it completely from view. The grass uses up whatever nutrients it had in the original soil mass that came with the sod and starts a slow spiral into weed heaven.

Walking through the neighborhood you can see the evidence of thoughtless landscape planning. Five year old properties might have a few scattered shade trees that don't really provide any shade in the right areas; foundation shrubs usually planted on either side of the front door are now becoming overgrown—all indications that little or no thought was given to a landscape plan.

The resulting landscape rarely looks good, may be expensive to maintain, and probably doesn't serve the homeowner's needs nor anyone else's in the neighborhood. The only good thing going is that it looks just like the rest of the neighborhood.

Good planning leads to a satisfying environment

When you begin landscape planning, think about the entire space and overall effect your plan might achieve after installation/planting and down the road as plants mature.

The plan should include more than just trees, shrubs, and some a lawn. Patios, decking, screening, outdoor lighting, walkways, or parking areas are all features that should be integrated into the big picture before you ever get your hands dirty.

What if you already have things planted?

FernsThink future and not immediate. A plan helps do this. A plan is a guide for you to decide where to put things as money and time allows. A plan doesn't mean that every thing has to be installed this year or even next, nor does it mean that the plan is written in stone. Modifications can be made as time goes by. A good plan will incorporate existing plants.

Preparing the final plan

Once the planning is finished and the various design concepts have been considered, you're ready to begin designing a plan that works not only for your family, but also becomes a valuable asset for the entire neighborhood. Even though your neighbors didn't help in financing the project, they certainly we enjoy your efforts almost as much as you and your family.

The design should include a planting plan and plant list and should show the location of all the plants (now and future) and give appropriate information about the specimen plants. This plan will also show necessary changes in the walkways or the driveway and include any additions to be constructed such as a deck or patio.

Once the landscape plan is completed, you'll probably be eager to begin work. Consider implementing the design over a period of time if the landscaping is going to be extensive and you're going to be doing some, if not all of the work yourself.

Do important things first

Decide what part of the landscape plan is most important and which part must be done before installing another part. Establish priorities—the landscape can be implemented in stages. Remember: always finish one project before starting the next. This will help keep you from becoming overwhelmed and giving up.

A note of advice: design is opinion. What pleases and satisfies you and your family is the only real criteria for a good design.

Landscape DesignWhen you hear the words Landscape Design, do your eyes glaze over and you immediately think: RULES. Well, landscaping by rules does not take into account individual family needs and the site into account. Built-in design limitations often occur by such so-called rules as: always plant shrubs in groups of three or five, and, never plant annuals in the public area.

Landscape design is really all about establishing priorities prior to beginning a project will give you the goals so you can measure your efforts. The finished landscape design should reflect these defined priorities to satisfy your aesthetic values and functional requirements.

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.

Read more about the important steps in landscape design

Outdoor lighting in the landscapeLandscape lighting used to be simple. A few recessed can fixtures lining the front path, a couple downlights tucked in the trees, and you were done. Not anymore. When it comes to the great outdoors, homeowners have seen the light.

Night-lighting your landscape offers a creative way to showcase your home and landscape after dark. Properly placed, lights can dramatize trees, highlight favorite shrubs and accent statuary, fountains and flowerbeds. Like any creative work, options abound.

A well lit home is also safer and more secure. Illuminated steps, paths and driveways prevent after-dark accidents. Motion detectors light up obscure spots when someone passes by. Photocells automatically turn on fixtures at dusk and off at dawn, providing protection even when you’re away from home.

Read more about improving your landscape with outdoor lighting tips

Landscape SoilThe prime ingredient in successful landscape gardens is an ideal soil. To understand what your soil is like, you have to spend a little time working in it. Digging is the best way to find out about your soil. Shoveling the dirt exposes the soil's texture, and how quickly it dries.

Soil consists of solid mineral particles, decaying organisms, living organisms, air, and water. Ideally a soil should be 45% mineral, 5% organic matter, 20% air, and 30% water. Most of the organic, air and water material is in the top strata of the soil. This is call the "topsoil". This is the coarsest, most fertile layer where most roots grow.

Soil texture is the relative volume of sand, silt, and clay particles in a soil. Soil texture affects the water-holding capacity of soil, movement of water through the soil, and ease of cultivation.

Healthy plants grow in healthy soils. Plant problems (disease, weeds, insect infestations) can often can be attributed to poor soils. Most healthy plants can fend for themselves in the world if given a fighting chance by providing a healthy environment for them to grow. Take away that healthy environment and they become weakened and these opportunistic pests can over take them.

Therefore you want to make sure your soil is always improving. You want to make it a haven for microbes. Microbe activity is the key indicator.

Read more about improving your landscape's soil

Landscape HardscapesLandscapes are more than just arranging plants and mulch. To be really functional, a landscape needs hardscaping.

Hardscaping is really anything that's not growing: ponds, decks, pathways just to name a few.

It is the hardscaping that helps integrate the landscape so it becomes more function for people.

Read more about hardscaping in the landscape

Landscape TreesTrees are usually expensive to purchase and install, and will be, in time, a major part of your landscape. Therefore, adding a new tree to the landscape should be done with a fair degree of consideration.

If selected correctly a quality tree can add considerable value to your property. Besides the economic value a quality tree can add, they also provide shade, privacy, and beauty.

Think of the tree as a lifetime investment. How well your tree and your investment in the landscape grows, depends on the type of tree and location you select for planting, the care provided when the tree is planted, as well as follow-up care the tree receives after planting.

The ideal time to plant trees and shrubs is during the dormant season-in the fall after leaf drop or early spring before bud break are the best times to plant.

Read more about tree planting