The Importance of Landscaping
(It’s much more than you may think)
As I sit down to write about “landscaping” I hesitate even at the word. “Landscaping” can mean so much. It’s actually a way of life for many people who value gardening as a hobby. The term might bring to mind images of outdoor entertaining, fine dining or even travel to exotic locations and famous gardens. “Landscaping” means many different things to different people. It’s not just mowing grass, shearing hedges or even planting “bushes” across the front of the house. It’s more than just trees and lawns. To some the term “landscape” might conjure up visions of rolling hills and golden sunsets in an imaginary land.
Actually, when I talk about landscaping, I’m thinking about something between these two extremes. Yes, you should dream a bit when planning your home garden, but of course your plans must be rooted in reality. The landscape is actually all of the above. It’s the total outdoor environment. The landscape might refer to large parks and open spaces or smaller urban areas. As individuals we don’t have much control over design of the larger landscape. However, we have total control over our “yard” or the immediate environment around our home. Why not make the most of it? Make it more appealing, more enjoyable. Make it special!
Actually, I prefer the term “home garden” to “yard” or “landscape”. My idea of a garden is not just a vegetable bed. When speaking of the home garden I picture images of walkways, outdoor seating areas, open views or privacy screens, interesting small spaces with eye catching features such as statuary, a novelty plant or a water fountain. It’s all that and more. It’s the view from the street or the view from the kitchen window. With this in mind, landscaping is MUCH more than just decoration. We can make it whatever we want. Your outdoor living spaces should be a continuation of the home’s interior and should not only match, but add to the style of the home. Your outdoor spaces should be as unique as you are!
Our typical American style of landscaping puts emphasis on the appearance of the house from the street. The “public area”, the perspective from the street, is typically designed to decorate the home creating “curb appeal”. However, in many other countries around the world, there would be a wall near the street with the plantings inside the wall creating a garden view from inside the house. Think about it. Your home IS your castle. It’s your biggest asset. It is your refuge from the “jungle”. It’s where you relax, recuperate and entertain friends. It’s where you live! Make the most of it. Make your home environment welcoming to visitors. Make it comfortable, pleasant and interesting. Make it exciting!
OK………..now that we’re starting to see the big picture, how about this “rooted in reality” idea? A well designed landscape should do more than just decorate your house. Properly placed trees will cool or warm your house as needed. Well-designed beds will make mowing and maintenance much simpler. Walkways should facilitate movement around your house and welcome guests. Are you starting to get the picture? So many landscape features can either be an asset or a liability. It’s all a matter of what you plant and where. I think you’d agree it’s important enough to deserve a well thought out plan.
As mentioned above, the well- designed garden space should provide beauty, privacy, relaxation, entertainment and enjoyment for many years to come. It’s not a short term proposition. Garden development takes years. We’re dealing with trees here. Unfortunately, in our mobile American society many people think in the near term. We often plan on moving in a few short years for various reasons. But, even in this case, proper landscaping will provide a few years of enjoyment and a return on investment when you sell. But the big rewards come after many years of growth and development of a properly planned, installed and maintained garden. More than just increasing your property value, “the right plant in the right place” can truly result in an increase in your enjoyment and quality of life!
Sadly when driving down just about any residential street in America I see many cases of plantings done with little or no forethought. Often potentially large trees are positioned where they will crowd the house, walks or driveway. I see shrubs sheared into boxes and balls to keep them in bounds. But I also see shrubs growing up into the windows or plants that are colorful for only a short time in summer located in the public area where they are seen year around, even when they are dormant and not very attractive (more on this later). Or maybe it’s combinations of plants with no thought to their flower colors, flowering sequence or the general appearance in all seasons of the year. With better knowledge of plant material and a well thought out design, this picture could be pleasant in every season with far less maintenance. One secret to low maintenance is to strive for a natural appearance. A natural look can be a little “loose on the edges” and not so structured or “man-made”. With the right plant in the right place heavy shearing isn’t necessary. The chosen plants should fill in their allotted space, choking out many weeds in the process.