By Marilyn Pribus – It’s always important to plan for the future when landscaping your yard. You want it to be nice for you today and you also want to keep an eye on the resale potential because a well-landscaped yard adds to that all-important curb appeal.
How Much Landscaping Should I Have?
“It’s very much a personal preference what you want,” observes REALTOR® Brian McCauley, with Montague Miller & Company in Charlottesville. Still, he points out, an overgrown jungle of a yard is not only unattractive, it could hinder a sale in the future.
“Some people have extensive landscaping,” he continues. “Always remember, though, that it may be a passion for you, but a burden for the next person. In addition, it’s always important to remember that you want to fit into today’s trends and your neighborhood environment. You don’t want your yard sticking out.”
How Can a Landscape Designer Help?
When people buy a new place, whether it’s new construction or just new to them, they often want to put their imprint on the property. New yards in particular offer a blank page so it’s tempting to go overboard.
“It’s so easy to get caught up in the excitement of choosing plants at the local nursery,” cautions local Horticulturist Karyn Smith. She and her husband are currently building in Stanardsville and will have one of those blank pages. “It’s easy to forget that the pretty little shrub in a one-gallon nursery pot can eventually grow to 20 or 30 feet high.”
This is where a landscape designer can help. “Designers not only have knowledge of the types of plants that grow best in our area,” she says, “they also know the eventual size of each plant as well as its potential pitfalls.”
A plant can have pitfalls? Well, take buddleia. Also called butterfly bushes, they are popular for deer resistance and their colorful blossoms which attract butterflies all summer long. However, they shouldn’t be planted near swimming pools or children’s play equipment because they are also enticing to bees.
Another example is certain trees including maples, poplars, and willows, which can cause major problems when planted too near a building’s foundation, sidewalks, driveways, water or sewer pipes, or septic field. Their water-hungry roots can buckle cement or clog water lines.
How to Decide What’s Right for Your Yard.
Homeowners must determine what they want their yard to look like in the end. “That typically means laying out on paper a design of shrubs, trees, and flowerbeds,” Smith explains. “The plan should reflect how they will appear at full maturity.”
Here are four good tips from Charlottesville landscape contractor Graham Howe of The Great Outdoors:
- Plan (and plant) for the big picture. “A common mistake is planting trees too close to buildings or walkways,” Howe cautions. “Consider overhead power-lines, walkways, buildings, and lawn areas and be sure to space trees and shrubs in a place where they can grow to their full potential. If space is limited, look to dwarf varieties or another selection.”
- Always consider hardiness. “Nurseries will sell beautiful plants,” he says, “but they may be only marginally hardy for our area and after the first winter, they are dead.” An internet visit can show the best plants for our region.
- Maintain seasonal interest all year long. Right now, for example, daffodils and early flowering trees are in their spring glory. “You want flowers in spring,” he suggests, “fruits in summer, fall colors in autumn, evergreens and subtle bark beauty in winter. Don’t forget to include each one.”
- Put the right plants in the right places. “Plants’ requirements for climate, soil, and weather conditions can be crucial to their development,” Howe says, “Sun and shadow, wet and dry, humidity and aridity can influence a plant’s condition and appearance.” He says the most happy and healthy plants grow where their needs are satisfied.
What About “Green” Planting?
Of course, most plants are green, but we’re talking ecology here and these days there is increasing interest in maximizing native trees, shrubs, and plants. This is wise for several reasons. Already adapted to our climate, native plants are usually less susceptible to pests and require less water and feeding than non-native species.
Non-native plantings, on the other hand, often require extra watering, pesticides, and fertilizer which can result in weak plants with increased susceptibility to pest attacks. Even worse, some fertilizers can destroy useful microbes in the soil, and run off into waterways.
Another important consideration is the strategic planting of deciduous trees which can provide shade in summer, yet invite sunlight into the dwelling in winter when the leaves fall. Trees can significantly lower heating and air conditioning bills.
The Bottom Line
It’s crucial, says Smith, to consider how the plantings can all come together to create an overall mood or theme through the growing season. “Sometimes,” she says, “as we search for the perfect plants for an area of the yard, we can forget how we want them to work together.” A designer, however, will consider the same elements of design used by artists—composition, color, texture, and relationships of size and space—to bring the yard together as a whole.
“Aesthetics are really important,” she concludes. “Your yard can be a work of art with the property as the canvas and the trees and shrubs the palette.”
Marilyn Pribus and her husband live near Charlottesville. Cheerful daffodils are blooming around the mailbox now and later in the season Coneflowers and Black-Eyed Susans will be in their glory.