If someone asked you to describe your ideal backyard, what would you call it? Your oasis? A playground for your children? An agility course for your dogs? Maybe it’s not any of those things yet, but with good landscape design, it very well could be. We pose this question, because all good landscape design is a combination of form and function. If it looks pretty, but doesn’t fit your lifestyle, then it is only a matter of time before disappointment sets in.
Further, you should also take climate conditions into consideration. You don’t want a beautiful yard that won’t be able to survive in Michigan’s unpredictable and often-harsh weather conditions. That said, we have compiled some basic landscaping dos and dont’s to keep in mind when it comes to your upcoming landscape design project.
1. When in doubt, work with a landscape design professional. A local landscape professional knows the local climate conditions inside and out, which can set you up for years of enjoyment right from the start. Further, a good landscape design professional knows how to manage a design process from start to finish, ensuring you don’t get bogged down halfway through and wind up with a half-finished project that becomes a bigger burden than if you had just not started it in the first place. In short, a good landscape design professional takes much of the time and hassle out of the equation. This is especially helpful if your career and family place a significant demand on your available time. As they say, time is money. By spending some money on a landscape designer, you can free up more time for the rest of your life and also ensure you’ll enjoy the finished product.
2. Think long term. How green is your thumb? Some species of plants can be very high maintenance. Sure, they may look wonderful, but they will need care; some more so than others. That said, consider plants that won’t be hazardous or require a tremendous amount of maintenance time. This is especially true if you have other commitments. Some plants don’t care about your commitments; they are going to do their thing, regardless. Also consider what the size of a mature plant will be before you buy it. Some plants that look nice in June may look like something from Little Shop of Horrors by late August. Do your homework.
3. “Big picture” appeal matters. The appeal of your home’s exterior is as equally as important as its interior appeal. Friends, acquaintances, and even potential buyers don’t just focus on your front yard. If you backyard looks like it could be wild animal sanctuary, well… people will notice. If you are in the market to sell, it could even costs you some offers.
4. Low maintenance is a good thing. How much time do you currently have to care for plants? Is there something on the horizon in your life that that might change that? The term “stay-at-home mom” places way more emphasis on “mom” than it does “stay-at-home.” If you are a stay-at-home mom, be realistic now about how much time you have to devote to your landscaping. It will save you added stress later. What is your experience with plant care? Are you a green thumb or will you be learning on the fly? If it’s the latter, expect some trial and error to go with that process. These are just a few of the very real questions you need to consider when it comes to making choices about plants. Don’t set yourself up for heartbreak by dishing out your hard-earned money on plants and flowers just to watch them wilt and die because your over-estimated the time and/or expertise you have to care for them.
5. Keep an eye out for weeds. This is something we can’t stress enough: weeds growing in your yard will undermine all of your landscaping efforts, particularly if a garden is involved. Weeds, such as dandelions—yes, dandelions—are invasive. They rob nutrients from your lawn, plants, flowers, and vegetables. They are also unsightly. Sure, your kids might like picking the dandelions and blowing the seeds all over the yard. Who didn’t? That simple act means a lot more work for you, though. The best solution is to prevent them from being there in the first place—the weeds, that is, not your children. To help you in the fight against weeds, you might want to consider applying some pre-emergent herbicide on the garden beds from the start.
1. Introduce invasive species. Sure, they might be pretty. With invasive species, one of two things is going to happen, though. If the species is not well-suited to your climate, it will die… often quickly. Then you’ve just wasted money, because you will either have dead flowers there or you’ll have to replace them with something else. The other thing that could happen is that the invasive species could actually thrive in the climate… to the point where is quickly takes over everything else. Talk to a professional about plant choices to ensure you have the best plants and flowers for your environment. You’ll be happier. The plants will be happier. That landscape professionals will be happy. Really, everybody wins.
2. Allow “lawn creep.” Kids and dogs love big green lawns. If you are a gardening enthusiast, though, you should consider adding more shrubs and gardening beds while decreasing lawn area. If you do have kids and/or dogs and keeping the lawn is a priority, be sure to keep it well-manicured. If your schedule doesn’t leave you time to mow regularly, find someone to mow it for you. It’s that important.
3. Plant trees right next to your house. Never—let’s repeat that, never—plant trees too close to your house. You open yourself up to several possible problems, including plumbing problems and/or roof repair. Before putting a tree in the ground, first take into consideration how far its branches will reach when it is fully mature. Short trees should never be planted closer than 20 feet from your house. Taller trees? You are looking at up to 50 feet.
4. Ignore overgrowth. Whether its flowers, shrubs, or trees, if they are overgrown, they are going to depreciate the aesthetic appeal of your landscape design. If you find the maintenance is getting to be too much, take them out. It doesn’t matter if you planted them with good intentions or if they were already there. Take them out. You want a beautiful yard and overgrowth is one very effective way to undermine those efforts.
This is really just the tip of the iceberg. Still, it is enough to get you started. If there is one rule that stands above all others, though, it’s to make your yard your sanctuary. If that means it’s place to run with your dogs, entertain guests, or enjoy fires in the evenings, that is up to you. Your yard. Your sanctuary.
At E.P.M., our landscape design professionals can help you make that happen. Give us a call today at (517) 990-0110 to get started.