What does it take to create a nice, attractive landscape planting?
What is the number one thing that many people do wrong?
The secret to an attractive landscape design is you have to be bold and daring. Take off your “conservative” hat and toss it in the fire pit!
What do most people do wrong?
1. They don’t make the planting beds large enough. Be bold, make those beds big. Look at some landscape designs you like, get out of your car and step off the bed. I think you’ll find that the nicest landscapes you see are beds are much wider than what you are thinking.
My advice is always the same, take all the money you have allocated for the project and build the beds. You can always add more plants later, but it’s much more difficult to add soil to the beds or make the beds bigger later on.
2. People don’t raise the beds high enough. You don’t have to make the beds 24″ high, but you do need to make them at least 10″ to 12″ high. The plants will do better, and the landscaping will show off more.
3. Design your beds in such a way that you can mow your entire lawn without the use of a weed whacker or a trimming mower. Pam does most of the mowing at our house because she likes our yard to look nice and she likes mowing the grass. (I think) I bought her one of those zero turn mowers and she’s a wiz on that thing. She gets it out the garage, rides around the yard for about 20 minutes and puts it back in the garage. That’s it, she’s done. Now trimming and absolutely no weed whacking. Or string trimming as some would say.
The above photo is a bed design that was laid out by me so I can maneuver around this house at the nursery with ease and quickly cut the grass. Nice gentle curves that are manageable with a riding mower.
Know the Potential of the Plants that You are Using.
Look at the above photo. Does that look ridiculous or what? The Emerald and Gold Euonymus that are supposed to be accent plants around the Dappled Willow are bigger than the plant that is placed in the center as a specimen plant. Why would I do that??? Because I know what the potential of the willow is, and trust me, it will catch up and do it’s job here in a matter of weeks.
And the reason it is so tiny is because I pretty much butchered it last fall just to get a few cuttings from it. More about that in another post. So if you want to say something really mean about me doing that, go ahead. I know what I’m doing.
Every Landscape Planting has a Focal Point.
The focal point is the point of view from where most people visiting the home will see the landscaping. So each bed is likely to be viewed from a different focal point. Know what it is before you start and keep that in mind not only as you design the landscape, but also as you place the plants and which way you turn them as you plant them.
I took the above photo from the focal point. This is the old house at the nursery and this is what you see as you turn into the driveway. With that in mind I heavily weighted the landscaping to this side of the house. Is it out of balance? Yes, and I don’t care, few people see the other side of the house, the next door neighbor on that side is a field of nursery stock. The house sits really close to a busy highway so anybody that sees the house from the front view will be traveling at 50 mph. Pretty much a blurr. But they will see it nicely from this focal point.
I know this landscaping looks lame right now, and to a degree it is. It’s a rental house, and it’s on nursery property. Many of the plants that you see in this photo you probably can’t really see because they are just now coming out of dormancy. Remind me and I’ll publish updated photos later in the season.
As the landscaping matures it will come into it’s own. In this photo there are two specimen plants that just need a little time. A beautiful Laceleaf Weeping Japanese Maple and a Single Stem Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick. Hard to see, but they are there. There are also about 16 Peaches and Cream Japanese maple in this photo, you just can’t see them. (I’m using this side bed as a growing area!)
I never grow bored of admiring beautiful plants in a well done landscape planting.
Think of Your Landscape Design as the Stairway to Your Home.
A good landscape design will stair step from low to high, starting with the very front bed. Actually your lawn is step one, then the bed, then low growing shrubs, then medium high shrubs, then the taller plants in the back. In a bed that isn’t against a wall it should stair step from all sides with the middle of the bed being the high point.
Specimen plants are the exception to the stair stepping effect. A specimen plant like a Lavender Twist Redbud Tree or a beautiful Japanese maple are planted in the center of a bed, and accented with lower growing plants that sort of act like the picture frame for the specimen plants.
Break Some Landscape Design Rules! It’s Your House.
Ya know, back in the day I used to be really adamant that a landscape design had to be exactly right. But as I started acquiring more and more beautiful plants for my own landscape, it became impossible to stick to those strict landscape design rules and I started planting what should have been specimen plants somewhat helter skelter in my landscape with only minor consideration of good landscape design. I loved the out come!
Now I put as many specimen plants in my landscape as I desire. It looks great, I love it and we get tons of compliments about it. For instance . . .
In this photo of my house you can see five beautiful Japanese maples and that’s just from this view. As I took this photo I was standing next to a Lavender Twist Redbud tree in full bloom and a Crimson Queen Laceleaf Japanese maple beaming with red color.
No Landscape is Complete without a Couple of Rubber Chickens.
This is living proof that I am not right. I put these posts in the ground to hang a sign for the nursery. The township told me that I had to landscape the sign, so I did. But I was waiting on the sign and I said to my friend that was helping me; “Gee I wish I had a rubber chicken.” He was a little perplexed so I explained; “If I had a rubber chicken I’d hang it from this post until I get my sign, you know, just to mess with people that are paying too attention to what I’m doing here.”
Next day my friend Blair shows up with two rubber chickens! I didn’t have a choice, I had to hang them up after he ran all over to find them for me. I promise they are coming down soon! If the signs ever show up.
Okay, sorry about the rubber chickens, but I hope this helped you a little with some landscaping ideas. I have more for you in this area, probably next week.
Questions, comments, post them below. -Mike McGroarty