Reading a post on landscaping earlier, the only informative thing was the title, “10 Rules….” or something like that. Working with a great many new homes and existing homes to resell, I have my own set of rules to follow.
1) We live in Florida, so water and using native plants should be a consideration. Companies like “Reflections of Nature”, specialize in native landscaping or xeriscape designs. Taking the time to plan a yard around water and maintenance makes a huge difference.
2) Use some specimen size plants. While everything grows, do you want to wait 10 years or have the basic appearance of a landscape in place immediately? I learned to put money into 1-3 full-size focal points at the beginning. You never know when you might need a great yard/appearance and you’ll enjoy the landscape while living in your home.
3) Never plant too close to the structure. Plants retain water, but can also collect leaves and debris in a way conducive to wood damage or termite entry. Considering this before planting is important.
4) Scale should be correct. The size of plants changes over time and plantings can suddenly overwhelm an entry or walkway. Consider whether your newly purchased home is still landscaped with plants the right size and shape for the space.
5) How do you plan to create a border or edge bedding? The best tip I pass on to clients came from my wife. Use the shape of the edge of a bed to create the edge, not visible plastic edging or any other visible border. Using a “V” shape at the edge of a bed, to create a bed with depth along the edge and a flat area in planted spots, does exactly what you see with wood, concrete, stone or plastic edging. I also like pine straw for mulch. After a few weeks, the pine straw settles in and remains in place.
6) The biggest mistake I see is in new construction. Some plants will grow to double, triple or quadruple the size in a short time. Viburnum grows quickly and is cheap to buy, but is rapidly far too large for most spaces. I recently sold a home with the entire front of the home lined in viburnum, less than 12 inches from the structure. In less than a year, the shrubs will overgrow the are and the new owner will be digging, cutting or replacing the entire front bed. We have a 15 foot wall of viburnum at our home….but not 12 inches away from the foundation. Think about growth rates and placement. What looks good now might be bigger soon. Plan for low maintenance and common sense plantings.
7) Think about micro-climates. Most plants thrive in a specific environment. Using a larger plant, you can create shaded areas where a greater variety of plants might thrive.
8) Hardscape should be simple. I hate seeing a yard with so much hardscape it looks like a retail nursery display. Simple additions like a small entry fountain, bench, rock or other focal point should not be intrusive. Think about whether your feature enhances the home or becomes the only thing you notice.
9) If at the beach, don’t try to change the natural landscape. Dunes look great and native palms or grasses look better than anything you might change. Besides, most of the areas you might try to replant are considered protected.