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Home Landscape Design and Some Common Pitfalls

Posted by Tammy Sons on

By Tammy Sons

A do-it-yourselfer (DIY) has all the skills, energy, and intellect to tackle their landscaping project, new or existing. That is half the battle. The other half are the hidden pitfalls which a novice DIY will encounter. So, from past experience and research I have taken the liberty of collecting some major pitfalls which I address below:

a.) No plan, or as the Chinese would say 'no tickee, no laundry'. To many landscapes have been the victim of random planting a plant because there was room, or, it was a purchase that looked so cute.
If you are starting out with a blank yard, drawing a plan for your entire yard and stick to it will result in giving you the results you desire. Short of that, try at least to sketch a rough plan for one large area of your yard and put all your energy into working that plan this year.

b.) Lacking fall color in your landscape design. We spend spring and summer planting; yet, come fall realize that we forget to plant for fall. It is a season that holds tremendous promise for the DIY landscaper willing to plan for it. Autumn can present an abundance of color with the simple introduction into your landscape of the following; Arrowwood viburnum, Sumac, Fothergilla, Tor Spirea, American Bittersweet, Oakleaf Hydrangea, Virginia Creeper, Red ChokeberryViking,or Black Chokeberry

c.) If the fall is often neglected in landscape design; surprise, winter season really takes a hit. For us in the southern portion of the United States this is not such a serious offense; however, the north needs a yard decor that will bring a smile and serenity. The following plant list will offer a nice balance between the transition from fall to winter:

red twig dogwood or red osier dogwood
plume grass
cranberry bush viburnum
winterberry holly
birch trees

d.) Irrigation is the key factor in any design. We love how our plants are doing in our yards, yet we also need some vacation time. How are the plants going to their water? We can ask a friend or relative to take over our watering chore during our absence, but we all had experience that makes for a not too stable condition. You have expended a lot of effort, both in elbow-grease , money and not to forget the sentimental value. Solution, install an automatic irrigation system. Not only will it allow you to go on your vacation but it will also reduce your overall yard maintenance time. A good investment by my book.

e.) Have a steep slope in your yard making it tough to keep your topsoil during a heavy downpour? Plants do not seem to help the erosion; well, you may need a retaining wall. A retaining is built first and then your planting begins.

f.) The old adage, 'the best laid plans of men and mice have often gone astray' is befitting the principle of working with what you have. What do I mean? Is your yard rocky, have a lot of shade? Perhaps the summertime heat scorches all in its path? In some instances you can fight the terrain you inherited successfully as in the case of building retaining walls for slopes to fight erosion. An alternative, instead of fighting it, it's better to go with the general flow of your yard and work with what you have. The key is 'know your enemy' and what options you have. Research is your best companion.

g.) A crucial element for your home landscape project is using deer resistant plants. You carefully drew up a plan and stuck to it. The soil is fertile, automatic irrigation system,you've follow faithfully the plant instructions, applied generous layer of mulch around them. Then one day you come out of your house and find your plants in shreds! What happened? Deer had a buffet style snack of your plants at a speed faster than you can , “Bambi goes to market”. Your yard did not have any deer resistant plants. As an example of deer resistant plants I listed below some effective perennial ground-covers:

Allegheny spurge (Pachysandra procumbens) and Japanese pachysandra (Pachysandra terminalis)
Northern sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium)
Blue oat grass (Helictotrichon sempervirens)
Liriope or "lilyturf" (Liriope spicata)
Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans 'Atropurpurea')
Creeping myrtle, or periwinkle vinca vines (Vinca minor)
Deadnettle (Lamium galeobdolon)
Catnip plants (Nepeta cataria)
Sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum)
Creeping thyme plants, such as woolly thyme (Thymus pseudolanuginosus)

h.) A major consideration in home landscape design is functionality. When you dream up your landscape design you envision its' aesthetic qualities. Wrong! Functionality takes precedence over aesthetics. This does mean that one cannot have aesthetics and functionality, but the bottom line of any design is safety, convenience and usability.

In closing I would like to mention that the 'Books of Dummies' is an ideal research and information tool to have on your potting bench. My bookshelf has numerous editions of the infamous 'yellow and black' books, covering a multitude of subjects.

  • DIY Garden
  • do it yourself garden
  • Pachysandra procumbens
  • Japanese pachysandra
  • Creeping myrtle