There's More to It Than Planting Flowers
Landscaping is about more than just planting a few flowers and bushes around your yard. It's about planning and creating an environment that’s easy to get to — and hard to leave. Your first step is to get inspired. It can be a movie, a native flower or a planter you just couldn’t resist. You can also find inspiration from different gardening styles. Just find ideas you love and build from there.
You’ll want to choose plants that will flourish in your geographic area, so check with your local nurseries before you buy. You can also enlist the help of a professional landscape designer. Either way, it helps to know the lingo and the common pitfalls to avoid.
With the right information, inspired ideas and, perhaps, a fabulous landscape designer, you’re on your way to creating a lush and beautiful environment that adds depth and color to your back yard.
The Start of Something Good
You’ve got a landscape design in mind and you’ve found the perfect landscaping professional to help make your dreams a reality. Now, you’re ready to begin the transformation. Before taking that next step, review the guide below to avoid some common mistakes made by homeowners as they begin the process.
Sound Planning, Maximum Results
Always have a plan: You need to know what you want when consulting with a landscape professional. The relationship works best when they know your style and needs.
Don't Assume: Don’t assume the landscape you admire in your neighbor’s yard will work for yours. The best landscape design is a sound assembly of the natural area of your lot, your home and the existing elements. A landscape professional can help determine the best design suited to what already exists on your property.
Make the commitment: The most beautiful, well-kept yards require year-round care. Of course, fall and spring are integral seasons for landscaping, but your commitment to retaining your beautiful yard should be constant all year long.
Strive for balance: Don’t forego functionality for attractiveness. The best yards have a perfect balance of both. Landscape professionals can help you determine the best ways to achieve that balance.
- Think about the design in proportion to your house. Avoid blocking natural scenery, and make sure the sizes and styles are right for your home.
- Use trees and shrubbery to frame your home.
- Use historical items as focal points. For instance, a historical brick or other family heirloom can make a perfect centerpiece.
- If you’re going for an elaborate backyard, make sure pathways are part of the design, allowing visitors to enjoy the area without damaging it.
- Don’t forget about seating. Benches or furniture sets create the perfect place for relaxation.
Common Landscaping Mistakes
Avoid These Pitfalls When Planning Your Poolscape
How hard can it be? Plant a few trees, bushes and flowers, then add some mulch and your pool area is landscaped, right? You might think so, but common landscaping mistakes are easy to make. Being aware of these common mistakes can put you on the path to a great looking yard and pool!
Different Takes on Landscape Edging
Landscape edging is functional in retaining gravel and soil in flowerbeds, and in preventing grass and weeds from overflowing and growing onto the paths and driveways. Traditional and conventional options consist of steel, concrete, brick and stone, wood, aluminum and plastic. Though most edging is installed by professional landscapers, you can also do it yourself and save both time and money.
Colors and Tones
Different tones of a same color can be used to visually stimulate textures, and combined with plant height, can add dramatic impact. For instance, hedges are a good option. They can be grown to fit any design and can be trimmed to whatever shape, size or height needed.
Rocks and Recycling
Rocks can also be great for edging. Rocks of different shapes and colors can be used for an informal look and provide a natural edge to flower beds. Square cobbles of granite create a very finite edge and bring an “earthy” touch. Flat stones like flagstone and bluestone can be stacked using two or three levels. Their irregular shapes and thickness also create texture and add to the visual dimension.
Another landscape edging idea is to use mismatched or left over bricks. These can be placed against one another in a straight line with a right or left slant. Bricks can also be planted into the soil to create irregular designs. Other materials, like glass bottles, can be recycled and used as edging when they are planted bottom side up in the soil around a flowerbed.
Mistake No. 1: First Impressions
Our backyards are our sanctuaries — the space where we relax with family and friends. So, it makes sense spending time and money landscaping your backyard. But your front yard is what creates the first impression of your home. By spending some time and effort on curb appeal, you can make your home more inviting and it may help increase the value of your home!
Mistake No. 2: Traffic Stop
Before you begin a landscaping project, take note of the traffic patterns of your family and friends. Your landscape should enhance your living, not create barriers. Retaining walls are visually appealing, but not if the little ones keep trying to climb over them. Walkways should be planned for high traffic areas, not through the middle of the kids’ football field. Spend some time thinking about your layout and sketch it on paper. Show it to your family to make sure is meets everyone’s needs.
Mistake No. 3: Keeping It Straight
Don’t drive yourself crazy by trying to keep straight lines when creating gardens and planting areas. Nature isn’t square. Gentle curves look more natural and are easier to maintain. The idea is to work with the land, not against it. The goal is to create a landscaping you can enjoy!
Plants and Trees
Plants and trees provide beauty and privacy around the backyard. If you grow plants that are tall enough, they will form privacy screens around the backyard. But plants must be chosen wisely. Strive for low-maintenance plants. For instance, you don't want large deciduous trees around backyard enhancements such as swimming pools, as you will end up constantly fishing leaves out of the water. Even needle-bearing evergreen trees can be messy. A good alternative is a broadleaf evergreen such as holly. Avoid fruit trees: not only are they messy, but the fruit attracts bees. And as beautiful as flowers are, be aware that they, too, can be bee-magnets. Even worse, plants with invasive root systems can damage decks and swimming pools over the years.
Remember to also make considerations if you have a saltwater pool. You will need to choose a salt-tolerant plant. A less-messy choice would be either a winterberry or a Bar Harbor juniper. Plant trees on the south side of the pool for added shade and a feeling of lush coolness. Remember to avoid shading the whole pool area so you’ll still have a place to sun yourself on cloudy days.
It is interesting that something as commonplace as grass could have such appeal in landscaping. The green tint of grass is beautiful, and the soft feel of grass brings back memories of childhood. Today, grass is also appealing because it is good for the environment; it absorbs rainfall into the soil and prevents erosion. You may not plan on planting any grass seed. Whether you use grass seed or not, however, you'll have one of two types of grass: warm season or cool season.
Warm season grass mostly grows in the southern United States and is at its best during the summer, or, more accurately, from April to October. Bermuda grass and buffalo grass are two popular warm season grasses.
Cool season grass grows in the central and northern regions of the United States, and it flourishes during the spring and fall and slows during the summer. Kentucky bluegrass and fescue are well-known cool season grasses.
Your home area will determine which category of grass you can support, but within each category, you'll have several options. At this point, personal preferences of grass coarseness, color, and hardiness will govern your decision. You should also consider how much shade and water particular types of grass will require. Of course, an entirely different option is to purchase synthetic grass. Synthetic grass (i.e. Astroturf) looks like grass, but it is made of plastic. It's incredibly easy to clean and you can have it in any part of the country.
Neatly mulched beds improve the appearance of any landscape. Beyond its appearance, a layer of mulch provides many other benefits. Mulch protects the plants' root systems and can add much-needed nutrients to the soil. Mulch also prevents the erosion of topsoil. Though applying mulch may seem like a chore, it can actually save you effort later in the season. Because mulch helps to prevent weeds and retain moisture, you'll spend less time weeding and watering your garden and more time enjoying it. In order for mulch to work and look its best, you must choose the best material for your garden and apply it properly. Mulch is available in both organic and inorganic material:
Compost is one of the best mulches for providing benefits to the soil, but the rich medium also provides a great place for weeds. Some compost is not very attractive. If appearance is important, use compost as a soil amendment and find a more visually pleasing material to cover it.
Wood Chips or Shavings are visually pleasing and provide all the characteristics of mulch. Like sawdust, it is advisable to use older, decomposed material. Wood mulch that has not been properly aged or turned regularly can contain toxins and acids that are harmful to young plants. Fungal contamination can also occur with unseasoned wood mulch.
Bark is sold as chunks, nuggets, or shredded. Bark is one of the most attractive (and more expensive) mulch materials, so it may be best used in more visible areas. Pine, cedar, and cypress are the most common varieties. In addition to its appearance, bark provides good weed prevention and moisture retention. Also, bark nuggets will last for years.
Straw is the leftover stem portion of harvested grain. It is lightweight and therefore not always easy to apply. It decomposes quickly and therefore needs replacing more often than other mulches. Its appearance may not make it a top choice for the landscape. However, straw does make a good cover for newly seeded lawn areas.
Hay - the stem portion of grasses, is often confused with straw. Hay is likely to contain weed seeds, so use it with caution. Both straw and hay are good plant nutrients and work well in the vegetable garden where weeds can easily be pulled.
Pine Needles are sold in bales like straw which makes them relatively easy to transport and apply. They are long lasting and attractive.
Plastic warms the soil and blocks air and water. Plant growth is accelerated by the added heat and moisture retained underneath the mulch layer. Since plastic is solid, moisture must be provided by an irrigation system underneath or by careful hand watering. Usually sold in rolls, either black or clear plastic can be used. Black is impervious to light, while clear plastic has been known to let weeds germinate and grow beneath. On the downside, plastic can overheat the plant's roots or retain too much moisture, particularly if the plastic is covered with a layer of organic mulch for appearance sake. Plastic will freeze, so you may need to take it up in the fall. If used on slopes, any material placed on top of plastic will wash away or slide off. Plastic is well suited for use in vegetable gardens.
Brick or Stone is a long-lasting mulch that offers a neat appearance but may not blend with every landscape design. These hardscapes offer some weed control. Brick and stone (especially lighter shades) will reflect heat back up towards plants, which may be harmful. Take caution - if pieces are strewn into the lawn, they can become potential hazards when mowing.
Landscape Fabric is purchased in rolls and provides good weed control. Unlike plastic, the fabric allows air and moisture to penetrate into the soil and plant roots. Overall, it's the best inorganic mulch for long-term use. Roots can become enmeshed in the fabric, making removal difficult, so be sure to remove weeds as soon as you see them.
When laying mulch, a one - two inch layer of fine mulch should be sufficient, while a coarser material should be three - four inches deep. Too much of either type can suffocate your plants. In areas where you simply want to keep anything from growing, lay it on as thick as you like. Coverage will vary greatly based on what type of mulch you use and how deeply it is layered.
In general, one cubic yard of mulch will roughly cover 100 sq. ft. at a 3 inch depth and 160 sq. ft. at a 2 inch depth.
1 cubic yard of mulch = 27 cubic feet = (9) 3 cu. ft. bags or (13.5) 2 cu. ft. bags.
Use our landscape calculator to determine how much you will need for your specific area.
When landscaping, you want to have a nutrient-rich soil that is ready for planting. However, some soils need some additional help. Adding topsoil helps improve the existing soil in the yard. Topsoil is paramount in helping plants and trees grow because the trees and plants usually "dig" into the topsoil, where the roots become concentrated. The topsoil also is where vegetation gets most of the nutrients it needs to grow. When planting a garden, for example, it's important to rotate the topsoil so that it retains its nutritional value. If it does not get rotated, it will eventually be stripped of any nutrients that it contains. When a soil loses nutrients is known as topsoil erosion.
Mistake No. 4: Living for Today
The most common mistake made is not realizing how large a plant will be when it matures or how to maintain it in the future. Will you eventually need to prune that shrub? Will those flowers thrive in your climate? Are they perennial or annual? Research the plants you choose, read the tags on plants you are selecting, and talk to the nursery staff or landscaper.
Plan to leave enough room for your plants to grow. Landscaping is an investment. Selecting your plants with care will lead to more enjoyment and less upkeep in the future.
Ready to get started? If this all sounds a little overwhelming, don’t worry! Contacting a professional landscaper. Landscapers are knowledgeable about soil conditions, planting and the climate in your region. Landscapers can help you design a look to enhance your home within your budget. A landscaper has the equipment and staff at hand to get the job done right. Best of all, landscapers can quickly turn your idea into reality.
Design the Perfect Pathway To Your Pool
One of the main reasons gardeners and homeowners choose to implement a path or walkway on their lawn or garden is simply to provide better access to hard to reach places, such as gardens and flowerbeds. A walkway can prevent inadvertent damage to flowers, vegetables and other plants by providing a clear-cut path.
Paths and walkways are also perfect for redirecting your family's feet off your manicured lawn. If the best shortcut to the front door happens be straight through the front yard, you might want to create a path to prevent any damage.
Paths and walkways also add a new dynamic to your landscape. Paths and walkways give a calm, welcoming effect to your yard or garden. You have many different options when it comes to constructing your walkway, both simple and complicated. It all depends on how much time, money and effort you are willing to put into it. Below are just a few of the options you have.
A rather simple approach is to purchase concrete slabs, approximately 18 inches in diameter, from your local garden store. Simply position the slabs directly on the ground about two feet apart from one another along the pathway.
For a variation on this method, consider digging out an area in the ground for each stepping stone. Leave approximately one-half inch of the stone above ground. This will allow you to easily mow over the walkway as well as trim the weeds that will inevitably sprout up in the area.
Pebbles and Gravel
Another thing you might consider, instead of stepping stones, is constructing your walkway entirely of pebbles or gravel. This will eliminate the need for mowing around the walkway area at all. You may also choose to use pebbles or gravel in addition to your stone slabs. Either way, you should definitely consider first putting down a layer of landscaping fabric before you incorporate the gravel or pebbles. This will aid in both drainage and weed prevention.
A walkway consisting entirely of mulch, or a combination of mulch and stepping stones, is another solution to this problem. Just remember that mulch can be rather messy, especially on rainy days. However, it remains a good, inexpensive option for your walkway.
If you do decide on using mulch as your walkway, there are a number of ways to accent your path. For instance, wood or plastic edge pieces will give your walkway a more formal look. These inexpensive accents can be purchased at your local garden store and easily installed along the edge of your walkway with the use of a mallet or hammer.
If your walkway is located on a slight slope, you might consider using pine needle mulch, since the needles cling together much better and are more likely to stay in place during a heavy storm.
Bark nuggets are another great alternative for your walkway. Today bark nuggets come in various stains such as red, black and brown and are resistant to fading due to sunlight exposure.
Planting ground cover along your walkway is another great way to make your walkway look its very best. Carpet Bugle is very common plant used for ground cover along walkways. It spreads horizontally above stolons and produces crowns. It has foliage that reaches 4 to 6 inches in height as well as stems that grow up to 8 to 10 inches that, in the springtime, produce beautiful, purple-blue flowers.
Trailing Periwinkle is another great plant to use as ground cover along your walkway. It is a fast-growing evergreen that produces dark green foliage and blue flowers in the spring.