By Susan Albert
Whether starting from scratch or redoing an existing landscape, it pays to do some planning before heading to the garden center. Here are some practical ideas to revamp your yard.
With paper and pencil in hand, draw your existing landscape elements such as trees, shrubs, patios, sidewalks, etc. Then think about how you want to use the space, whether for entertaining, playing ball, or relaxing. Also consider how much time you want to spend maintaining the landscape. Then add your ideas to the drawing. It’s usually best to start with a simple plan -- you can always add more later.
For a basic design create large, sweeping beds with a mix of trees, shrubs, and perennials on the backyard perimeter. Curved edges are easier to mow around, and are more pleasing to the eye than straight edges. You can maintain the central part of the yard as a lawn area.
Consider color when deciding on plant material. Contrasting foliage color, shape, and texture adds interest to your design. In the foundation planting pictured at the top of this article, Dean and Katharina Reiss chose contrasting tree and shrub color, accented by a bold application of annual begonia, dusty miller, sweet potato vine, and purple-heart plant.
Another example features lime green next to purple or red foliage. These Japanese maples make a striking combination.
In this photo, Jim and Rebecca Liehr have created a functional landscape. Their mix of plant material provides seasonal interest that also supports wildlife.
Most homes have patios or decks off the back door, which are excellent spots to add container plants for a punch of color. You could add flowerbeds around the patio, but those increase the maintenance chores of planting, deadheading, fertilizing, watering, pruning, and dividing.
Take advantage of vertical space for vines or climbing roses with arbors, trellises, and sturdy fences. Small yards can really benefit from vertical elements.
For foundation plantings, soften your house’s hard, angular edges with curved beds, as well as a variety of plant material, including evergreen and deciduous shrubs. Take care to choose low-growing shrubs under windows so they don’t grow tall and block them. Plant shrubs at least 3 feet from the house to allow for growth and clear the eaves.
To reduce maintenance chores, choose plants well adapted to your area. Check with your county extension agent for suggestions. Include easy-care native plants such as the attractive paw paw tree, pictured, which is a good source of edible fruit. If your county is experiencing drought, choose water-wise plants such as ornamental grasses; shrubs such as Althea, crape myrtle or mugo pine; and trees such as Chinese pistache, bald cypress, and Oklahoma redbud.
For more ideas to enhance your landscape, drive through established neighborhoods, attend yard tours, and visit your local library or extension office.
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