19 Landscape basics

first_imgBy David BerleUniversity of GeorgiaCreating a functional and attractive landscape can be rewardingin many ways. Unfortunately, so many landscape design articlesand books abound that the task can be daunting.Simply choosing which information source to follow can drive youto hire a professional to make all the decisions. Somewherebetween the glossy magazine pictures and a hired professional isthe well-informed, creative homeowner: you.An old saying, “there is no such thing as a bad plant, only onethat is misplaced,” is true to a large extent. No matter how badthe overall design, it will look good if the plants are happy.Another old expression is, “I never met a plant I didn’t like.”Everyone has his own preferences for colors, shapes and texture.It’s easyGiven the diversity in the plant world, it’s not hard to findhome landscape plants that suit anyone’s tastes, no matter whatthe trends are in California.The best place to start is your neighborhood. Drive around andlook for both good and bad examples of your ideal landscape.Visit some of the many public gardens and displays, too,throughout Georgia and the Southeast. Make a trip to localnurseries and garden centers to see what’s available. Make afolder that includes pictures and articles that describe a lookthat suits both your location and your own taste.With some idea of how you want your landscape to look, theseplant-selection guidelines will help ensure your landscape ishappy.Plant the right stuffFirst, always use plants suited to the local environment. Thatincludes concerns about cold hardiness, frost dates, soildrainage, rainfall and even site-specific problems like deer andsalt water. Having locally adapted plants is better than anyplant guarantee the nursery can offer.Second, become familiar with the site and the individualrequirements of your favorite plants. Observe the pattern of thesun and the movement of water during a heavy rain. Locating aplant in the wrong light or drainage situation can be the kiss ofdeath and ruin any good landscape design.A plant requiring full sun means at least six hours of directsunlight per day. A shade-loving plant can tolerate no more thanfour hours of direct sunlight. A plant that is tolerant of “wetfeet” may not like growing on a dry hillside.How big will they grow?Third, consider the mature size of the plants you’re using andlocate them accordingly.One of the biggest mistakes in landscape design comes when it’stime to place the plants in the ground. Every landscape plantlooks small in a tiny nursery pot. Sometimes that little roundshrub in the pot turns into a giant beanstalk, growing tallerthan a two-story house.There’s always a temptation to bunch small container plants closetogether or up close to a house to make it look fuller in thebeginning. But the result is overcrowding and serious maintenanceconcerns down the road.Knowing how tall and wide a plant will grow must be coupled witha willingness to give the plant time to reach that size. Someplants grow so fast they must be pruned constantly. Others takeyears to grow a few inches.Trust your instinctsIf any landscape design trend were ever worth following, it wouldbe the trend toward personalized gardens. Your landscape shouldbe a reflection of what you like and how you want to expressyourself.The landscape is an open palette, waiting to be filled with yourfavorite plants and landscape features. As long as the plants youuse thrive where you place them, you alone can decide what looksbest.You can find more information about locally adapted plants andguidelines for plant selection at your county University ofGeorgia Extension Service office.(David Berle is an Extension Service horticulturist with theUniversity of Georgia College of Agricultural and EnvironmentalSciences.) Volume XXIXNumber 1Page 19last_img

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