Landscaping - Part I

Planning & Principals

What we have learned from the last 2 months is “Home” is very important. Now that we are spending a lot more time in that home, we suddenly notice what is missing. Is it time to move? Do you need a home office away from the kitchen/family room? Maybe, we noticed how great our home is and enhancing our existing space could be the right plan. This month we are going to focus on the outdoor living space that we already have and how to enhance that space visually and functionally to enjoy our home even more.
Landscaping is the exterior decorating of the home and just like the interior decorating of the home, it speaks volumes about the homeowner. And, as we have mentioned in several earlier posts, landscaping and curb appeal are Act 1 in selling or buying a home. If the house doesn’t have curb appeal then you will potentially miss buyers before they even enter your home. This month we will discuss some general rules about landscaping that hold true for any home and any environment. Next month we will discuss landscape features that will build off these principals.
Landscaping design rules don’t tell you how to create a plan for your yard, they are more useful towards the end of the planning process. So before you can start thinking design rules, you must have done the following:

  • You have drawn a starting plan that shows your house and the yard’s main features

  • You have also considered practical issues, such as what you and others will do on the yard. Will children be running on the grass, or will people often be walking in specific areas? You have also marked this on your plan.

  • You know precisely what you can and can’t do, after having checked every issue with your city or municipality, with your co-owners, spouse or whoever might have a say in your project.

  • You have made a list of the features that you want to have in your landscaping. Do you want a patio to lounge outside and have drinks and meals? Do you want a fountain or a bird bath? Are there plants or trees that you definitely want to have?

With this information in hand, you are now ready to make major decisions about your project:

  • What look and feel, what style you want for your landscaping.

  • What you want to remove or change (soften the slope on the corner, change the backyard patio, clear the old vines growing in the back of the yard, etc.).

  • What you want to add in terms of structures or surfaces (change the driveway, add a stone path leading to the backyard, etc.).

  • What kinds of plants you would like to have (a lawn, specific varieties of trees or bushes, drought tolerant plants and no grass, flowers, etc.).

Mixing Colors and Shapes

Landscaping design rules are there to lend a hand when it comes to assembling those building blocks. So the basic rules are as follows:
Aesthetic factors, such as shape and color are important, but what is most important is to have the right plant in the right place. So you should always choose plants that correspond best to each specific location in terms of natural conditions and space. Only then, will your plants really thrive and look their best. In my past, I planted Hydrangeas in the sun and fought for their survival. Once I accepted that they needed shade and lots of water, only then did I have a beautiful Hydrangea garden. Learn what plants need shade and what ones thrive in sun.
Landscaping design rules are not laws that apply the same way in every case. Tastes in terms of shapes and colors can vary a lot. Generally speaking, women tend to prefer plants that have lots of multicolored flowers, while men enjoy trees and bushes that have fewer flowers and colors. Some people find gardens that have only shades of green extremely beautiful, while others find them very unattractive. Choose a given theme for the whole project or choose various themes for different sections.
When mixing colors, it is often best to choose complementary colors, as shown on the color wheel below (complementary colors are on opposite sides of the wheel). Or if you are like me, I love an all-white garden. I prefer the tailored, classic look of green and white.
Most people prefer groups of plants and colors, so it may be better to have a bunch of tulips here and a bunch of daffodils there, or a patch of red here and a patch of yellow there, than to mix everything together and to spread things out over a larger area. The same can be said for trees. A big bunch of lilac trees in a corner looks better than a few small trees stretched out before a wall of fence.

Creating sections within your yard using a fence and gate or garden arch may also give the impression that the yard is bigger than it is, plus it attracts attention and stimulates curiosity.
Consider views and probable points of view. The most obvious point of view is just in front of your front door. If you stand there and look at your house and landscaping, what will you see and how well will you see it? Everything should be planted in a way that makes the best impression.
When choosing plants, try to make a selection that will provide beauty over the whole growing season. Imagine a landscaping with nothing but tulips. Once spring is over, there is nothing left to admire.
Try to find ways to draw attention away from what you don’t want people to see and attract the eyes to what you do want people to see. Hiding bad looking bricks behind a beautiful honeysuckle vine may be a very good idea, for instance. Planting beautiful white flowering plants below your beautiful bay window will attract light and make the house even more beautiful.
Asking around is rarely a bad idea, especially if you are uncertain about your own sense of taste. Better nurseries have employees who know a lot about gardening and landscaping. They will often be happy to give you a few pointers.
The following landscaping design rules are also important, although they do not apply to specific styles, such as the French or contemporary styles:
You should try to make things look natural. In nature, you will never see plants lined up in parallel lines or circles. Your flower beds may be perfectly round or square, but your plants should follow a more natural pattern.
Also consider drawing curves rather than straight lines. It somehow gives the impression that the space is larger than it really is.
As you can see, landscaping design rules are often rules of thumb, not to be taken literally and applied in every case.
A color wheel may help you mix colors. Red goes well with yellow because they are on opposite sides of the wheel. Red mixed with orange or purple looks rather monochromatic, but I tend to like mixing red with orange and purple with red when you enlist a third color opposite on the wheel.
Next month we will put these ideas to work and discuss particular features for your landscape plan.

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