Thursday, June 17, 2010

STOP, LOOK, READ Or how to avoid landscaping mistakes!!!

KCB is a professional gardener and friend who does wonderful work in the Greater Portland area. KCB is also an accredited Master Gardener by the Cooperative Extension Service and we are honored to have KCB as part of our Skillin's Garden Log family. KCB can also be found at the awesome Finishing Touches website.

Wow, what a title!? Lots to live up to but then, there are a lot of mistakes landscapers make. I’m not pointing fingers, mind you; I would be pointing more than one at me. I just want you to learn from my pain. This is the same pain I see in countless gardens when I am commissioned to renovate garden beds. What you are about to read has been said before. Some of you may know it in your heart but figure ‘it could never happen to you.’ It may already have.

First, allow me to digress. Years ago I saved an article entitled ‘Landscape Mistakes’. The other day I reread the article for the first time since added to my collection. Luckily some of the mistakes are no longer an issue. We have learned. Still a long way to go. Here is my list.

• LACK OF PLANNING. Oh there she goes again. Impulse buying may be good for the soul nevertheless, without knowing what it is you want, need or even have room for, can wreak havoc with budget and sanity. You know the drill.

• OVER PLANTING. You have a plan, perhaps yours or a professional's. We live in a world of instant gratification so I cannot truly fault either party. We all want the best bang for the buck. Too much of a good thing can be too much. I am working on 2 landscapes that could easily landscape 4 other areas of similar size. Friends and families are benefiting from this expensive blunder. Plants, shrubs and trees grow. It may take 3-5 years for an ornamental perennial bed to come into its own. Landscape designers offer a concept of the final outcome. Nature will take care of the rest.

• TOO MUCH. This is different from above in many ways. One ‘too much’; too much color. Incorporating every possible bloom and flower color can create a chaotic affect. It is too busy for the eye. Keep it simple, buy 3, 5, or 7 of one plant variety, combine it with one or 2 others. Keep in mind to purchase at least 3 of each plant. There are many theories why designers use the ‘odd rule’. It works. Coupled objects appear static; odd numbered groupings come to life. When areas with different light requirements must be incorporated for a cohesive look, focus on color, textured and height vs. actual plant. More ‘too muches’; mulch, lawn, garden ornaments.

• BAD PROPORTIONS. A large house needs large beds, shrubs, trees even containers. A small house can forego a lawn for the cottage garden look; just keep plantings, especially trees in proportion. A 3 story 4500 square foot home commands more than dwarf Alberta spruces or weeping cherries. The steps of an Arts & Crafts Bungalow would be dwarfed by large containers planted with giant agapanthus Lily of the Nile.

• HOUSE HUGGING. Somewhere between the 1960s and 80s landscapers and homeowners felt the need to cloak the foundation with shrubs, primarily evergreens. Shrubs planted too close to the home may hinder electrical, cable or other utility contractors to access meters or wires. Overgrowth will eventually block windows and may even be a security issue. Out of control shrubs could serve as a hiding place for intruders. Additionally, ornamental beds that hug the house cannot be enjoyed from the inside. See below.

• EVERYTHING AT ONCE. If you want a complete over haul of your landscape, it may be ideal to have it all done at once, especially if your budget can handle the expense. Prioritize. What area is the most bothersome? Do you want curb appeal? A backyard sanctuary? Beautiful vistas from inside your house?

• FEAR. Yes, fear. Especially if a home is purchased with established beds. ‘I was afraid to do anything’ is almost a mantra when I meet a homeowner for the first time. 3 years appears to be the litmus test. If nothing is pruned, divided or otherwise maintained within this time period the gardens become overwhelming. Don’t be afraid take out anything you don’t like. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask for assistance. Your local family owned garden center are full of associates eager to assist. If more help needed, hire a garden coach. Someone to guide you while you perform the work.

Now I must continue to correct so many mistakes, so little time……..

KCB for Skillin's Greenhouses
(written in May 2010, finally posted by Mike Skillin: June 2010!)

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