Winter is the Perfect Time to Design Your Landscape
Another year has passed and winter is officially here. With the beginning of the season, many of us have made New Year's resolutions with the intent of reaching a goal or finishing a project. For the homeowner, this resolution may be as simple as updating features in your yard or facing the challenge of designing your landscape from the ground up.
Now is the time to start the design process, as spring will be quickly upon us. A well planned design will help accelerate and simplify your landscape project when the time arrives. To begin the design process, it is necessary to create a sketch of the area being worked on. This can be done simply with the use of a tape measure, ruler and some graph paper for small areas. For projects that incorporate large areas of the yard, it is beneficial to use an overall site plan of your property. This will allow you to have a scaled drawing of the project site you are working on. Site plans can usually be obtained from the builder or town building department. Don't forget to indicate directions on your map. Place a north arrow on your drawing so you can identify planting zones later.
Once the project area has been defined with an accurate sketch of the site, the fun begins. The first step in creating the design is knowing what you want and understanding what is realistic for your area. There are many wonderful plants that can be grown in our northern climate. Local bookstores and nurseries offer a variety of landscape books and magazines that can provide useful information. Use these resources to research landscape styles and find what fits your taste and needs. Make copies and keep clippings of photos and ideas you may want to incorporate into your yard. A professional landscape designer can also help with this process.
Now that you've selected a style or theme you'd like to incorporate in your landscape, you can begin drawing on your plan. Take a look at the direction your project site faces. This is important as every plant has different needs. If your area faces south it will receive the summer's hot afternoon sun. Make sure the plants you are placing here are able to withstand the direct sun. A project that faces north will only receive morning light so plants need to be more shade tolerant. This can be difficult if you are not familiar with the plants that thrive in our climate. We recommend that you visit local garden centers and use your local resources (cooperative extension, libraries, landscape designer) to help answer any questions.
Once materials and grass are designated for the project area, you are ready to think about plant quantities and spacing. If you over plant an area the vegetation will suffer over the years as plants compete for space and water. Think about the mature size of the plants and space them accordingly. Most plants are sold with growing information and can also be found online and in garden books.
When placing the plants, keep a rhythm with the planting and try to create a balance in the landscape. This means keeping a good ratio of deciduous and evergreen plants in the yard. For a formal landscape this could mean creating rows of the same plant type. For a more eclectic feel you can create drifts of plant material and not place individual species that will get lost when placed in the landscape. Take note of the plants' respective heights before you finalize their placement. Place the taller plants in the back to create a layered effect and enable all plants to be seen. These methods will create a sense of flow in the yard and your eye will move easily across the entire landscape.
Now that the design has been created you can contemplate various mulch types that can be used to compliment your planting beds. From decomposed granite to decorative rock there are a variety of mulch choices to choose from to top dress your yard. Some may choose to explore the benefits of bark mulch and compost. These types of mulch will provide nutrients for your plants as they breakdown and incorporate into the soil. You can mix and match materials or just choose one as each mulch will create a visual interest and help conserve water, too. Visit a local rock yard or nursery to see the choices that are available.
With a plan in hand you are getting closer to seeing your new design installed. At this point you will need to decide how you want to implement your project. The do-it-yourselfer will want to start researching water and irrigation needs. You may wish to hand your plans off to a licensed landscape contractor and watch your ideas develop before your eyes. Whichever method you choose, take the time to enjoy the design process and learn more about the landscape being placed in your yard and the many plants we can use to create your ideal landscape.
Feel free to call Mike today at 781-585-6182 to discuss your next landscaping design and construction project.
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