Landscape Design Tips
January is a good time to plan for the new gardening season. If it’s too cold, wet, windy or freezing to walk in your garden, walk inside and check the view from your windows. Take notes on what you enjoyed last year and definitely write down what you would like to change or improve when time permits. With the leaves of most trees and shrubs, you can see the bones of your garden, including harsh landscapes, and decide if you need to improve certain areas. The gardens are never finished and are constantly changing and evolving. Plants you placed in a sunny spot years ago may need to be moved because the trees you also planted have grown large enough to provide enough shade to require totally different plantings. Gardeners are generally optimistic and look forward to each new season with the hope and faith that it will be the best ever. Here are some ideas to keep in mind when planning a landscape.
• Make a simple plan on paper. It is much easier to use an eraser than a shovel.
• Trees should be used to frame the house and provide a backdrop. They should not block or hide the house. Don’t plant too many trees that will outgrow them, and don’t plant them too close to the house. Pay attention to the type of trees you plant (see OK PROVEN.ORG). For various reasons, definitely stay away from willows, poplars, Bradford pears, sweetgums, silver maples, old common elms, black walnuts, holm oaks and sycamores. If the trees get so big they won’t let the sun in your windows, they’ll have roots that will ruin your sewage system, they’ll constantly drop limbs, they’ll grow in every corner and nooks, will fill your pool with leaves or they will get so big they will overhang your roof or blow off your roof, they are a chore instead of a pleasure and will be very, very expensive to remove and repair the damage that they cause.
• Simplicity is the key to good design. You don’t want to have crowded plantings, ornaments, lots of small beds, or shrubs scattered around the lawn without being part of a larger bed or border. You’re going to have to mow or weed around them, and that’s not much fun in August. Use curves instead of sharp angles. They are easier on the eyes and you can mow around them more easily.
• Border plantings can be used alone or in conjunction with fencing to define property boundaries and provide needed privacy and reduce noise. This is the perfect place to plant native plants to attract birds and butterflies that you can enjoy indoors as well as from your yard.
• Don’t place all your best plants against the foundation in the front yard where only the neighbors can see them. Plant for your enjoyment by placing plants where they are visible from your windows. A nice bed around the mailbox might be appreciated by you as well as your postman.
• Don’t plant the typical builder’s box hedge in front of your house. It’s called the ghastly “green collar” look. It’s boring, and you probably have better things to do with your weekends than cutting them off.
• You don’t have to plant the entire foundation of the house. Foundation plantings were originally used because houses had tall, ugly foundations that needed to be hidden. Ground covers between small shrubs will tie the plantings together. In general, don’t rely on a foundation planting of only perennials, annuals, and deciduous shrubs in front of the house. You need a few small evergreens for winter color and interest.
• Keep everything mulched. Not only does mulch improve the appearance of plantings, it retains weeds, keeps the soil cooler in the summer, retains moisture and improves the soil as it breaks down. Use natural hardwood mulch instead of faux mulch dyed red or black. Not only are they fake and ugly, but they are often made from old, ground up pallets which can contain harmful chemicals such as arsenic.
• To make the entrance welcoming, do not place large shrubs near the door. Use larger shrubs or small trees near the corners of the house and gradually narrow them to lower them near the doorway. Don’t plant shrubs that will grow so tall that they will cover your windows.
• When planning your landscaping, try to achieve a year-round effect and choose plants that bloom at different times. Choose evergreens and shrubs with berries for winter interest and to provide food for birds. Plant things with beautiful fall colors as well as things that bloom in spring and summer.
• Choose plants that will grow well in your area. Use reliable native plants and proven Oklahoma plants as base plantings and gradually add new things each year.
• Create focal points and points of interest. It could be outstanding plants, a view, a pergola, or some tasteful statuary (certainly not 20 plastic flamingos from the dollar store). The entrance is the usual focal point in front; however, it is important to have a focal point in the backyard for your enjoyment as well. Statues, benches, and water features can be used as focal points, but choose them carefully and don’t use many of them.
• The most important thing is to have something that you like and that suits your family and your region. Something as simple as having easily accessible water taps with hoses you can access and a place to keep your tools handy makes gardening easier and more enjoyable.
• Most importantly, remember that gardening should be fun, not just work. Don’t forget to put a little seating area under a shade tree so you can take a break and enjoy the beautiful view you’ve created. Stay safe and happy gardening!