When it comes to landscape design, there’s the good, the bad, and the plain old boring. Unfortunately, a poorly designed or uninspired landscape can cost just as much as a great one. Wouldn’t you rather invest in something that will bring you years of enjoyment?
On the plus side, many landscape design mistakes are fairly common, and we bet you could pick a few out yourself as you walk down your own street.
Getting a sense of what makes a landscape “good” vs. the lesser alternatives will help as you plan yours. These are a few common mistakes to avoid, and how you should be thinking about your landscape instead.
Skipping The Master Plan
We can’t understate the importance of having a plan. This is more than just a wish-list of the plants you want to see and the places you’ll root them. It’s a living, breathing document that truly holds the secret to a gorgeous space.
But many homeowners make the mistake of going to the nearest nursery or big box store, buying a bunch of plants, then coming home to put them in the ground. The problem is that this approach doesn’t take into account the myriad conditions, challenges, options, and possibilities that exist.
It can fail to recognize problems, like drainage issues or poor soil. It can fail to address sun and shade conditions. It can fail to consider when things will bloom and how they’ll grow over time.
Instead of jumping into a bucket of worms head first, take some time to put your plan to paper. A professional landscape designer can work with you to document everything from your lifestyle to your preferences, making sure that your outdoor space is both useable and beautiful.
With a master plan you won’t have to guess what the end result will be. You’ll be able to see it, and more importantly tweak it, before you invest in something that is – at best – meh.
Working Against Nature
This boils down to a few simple concepts. If you have shade, install a shade garden or hardscape. Don’t try to grow sun-loving plants. If you have sandy soil, don’t plant your vegetable garden there. Choose plants that thrive in the conditions you’re working with. If you live in New Jersey, don’t try to grow palm trees!
While this may sound obvious, you’d be surprised by how many people fight nature instead of working with it. Working against the grain means headaches and high maintenance. You’ll probably end up spending a lot of time watering, tending, and babying your plants when you should simply be enjoying them. And it will likely lead to heartache when your prized plants wilt and fade in an environment that they aren’t suited for.
Instead of fixating on what you can’t have, focus on what you can. There are myriad and gorgeous plants, shrubs, trees, and flowers that will fill your space with scent and color throughout all four seasons.
Explore the best options for your space and your environment, and you’ll be rewarded with all the beauty your senses can hold.
Failing To Account For The Size Of Your Space
From walkways to patios and seating areas, it’s important to have a space that not only looks good but is usable, too. Whether your yard is large and sprawling or postage-stamp small, you need to be able to move around and live there comfortably.
If you put a large dining table on a small patio, you may discover you can’t comfortably push your chair back. If you make walkways too narrow, it won’t be any fun for you to stroll with a friend.
If your space is particularly small, oversized sofas will look awkward and out of place. Conversely, if your space is large, a bistro table in the middle of a sizable patio will feel lost and overexposed.
The same is true of plantings. When they don’t match the scale of the space they’re in, the result can be disconcerting and unpleasant.
Instead of creating a discordant view, choose plants, furniture, hardscapes, seating, and other elements to work with the size of your space. In small yards, this can be as simple as scaling down. Also consider using vertical space, by adding trellises, raised flowerbeds or stacked container gardens. Choose colors wisely to create the illusion of depth, and don’t be afraid to segment space. Multiple smaller spaces will actually appear visually larger than one larger space!
For large spaces, create separation between areas with walkways, tall grasses, retaining walls, bamboo, or structures like gazebos and pergolas. Even the largest space can contain the smallest and coziest of usable areas if planned correctly.
Forgetting That Things Will Grow
When you’re faced with the blank canvas of a space just waiting to be landscaped, the temptation is to fill it in with all the beautiful things you love and enjoy. But most plants are not fully mature at the time they’re planted, which means they’ll grow and spread over time.
In fact, you may look at a newly installed landscape and think that it looks a bit sparse. That’s for good reason! It would be a mistake to crowd plants and repent later when they begin to take over each other’s habitat, causing all sorts of maintenance nightmares.
The last thing you want is your lovely landscape to turn into a jungle of overgrown plants, not to mention that planting flowers, trees and shrubs too closely is a recipe for disease and a haven for insects.
Instead of filling in every bare spot available, plant with an eye toward the future. You may need a couple of seasons for everything to fill in, but you’ll be rewarded with a much better end result.
Neglecting Seasonal Change
When most people think of landscaping, they think of spring. It is, after all, the time when trees turn green again and flowers begin to bloom in earnest. Spring is a wonderful season, but it isn’t the only one.
Spring is when everyone gets excited to plant. But what happens as summer sets in, and the heat builds? What happens during autumn when temperatures dip and the rains come? What about winter, those coldest and darkest of months?
Different plants and flowers have different bloom cycles, which means those bulbs you love in spring won’t be around for your enjoyment come May or June. What then?
Instead of looking at a bland landscape, plant for seasonal appeal. Each season – yes, even winter! – has plants and even flowers that can bring beauty and visual interest. Capitalize on those by including seasonal change in your master plan. Bulbs for spring, Coneflowers for summer, Sumac for fall, Sedum for winter.
Consider plants that bring something different with each season, like the Paperbark Maple. It’s graceful buds unfurl in spring, giving way to deeply green leaves through summer and releasing its “whirlybird” seeds each fall. Then through the winter you can appreciate its luscious cinnamon-colored bark beneath gracefully peeling whorls.
There are so many plants that evolve throughout the seasons, that you should never expect to look at a dull landscape again.
These are just a few of the common mistakes that homeowners make when designing a landscape. If you’d like to work with a professional landscape designer, not just to avoid mistakes but to create something truly unique and beautiful that you can enjoy all year, contact us for a consultation. We look forward to making your outdoor dreams come true!