Some rule-of-thumb in landscape design

Have a plan for your landscape, at least the basic framework of the landscape on paper before making any changes.

There are college degrees in landscape designs, bookshelves full of books and “professionals” who have learned from experience how to landscape a house or business. Even though there is all that expertise available many homeowners are interested in designing their own landscape. Here are a few rules-of-thumbs to follow when designing your landscape.

The most important rule-of-thumb is that all landscape designs should begin with a plan. Planning is essential to ensure a consistent, correct design. Determining at least the basic framework of the landscape on paper before making any actual changes will prevent costly mistakes.

Pick a style of landscape that suits your personality is another good rule-of thumb. For some, a productive food garden is a priority. A family garden provides a safe space for children to play as well as an area for flowers, vegetables and shade. Formal outdoor living room might fit the needs of a retired couple who enjoys having a few friends over. An open area with few trees and shrubs would accommodate a home where sports are a big part of the family activities.

The rule-of-thumb on garden backgrounds is to use hedges, screens, walls or fences to serves as a background and create lines to direct the eye toward a focal point. Remember to use compatible texture, colors and styles.

Plants that have a particular interesting shape or those with very attractive flowers, foliage, fruit or bark are best grown with enough space around them for them to be seen individually. Place them so they form focal points from the house, terrace or lawn. Some plants can be enhanced if grown in containers.

A much bolder and more harmonious effect is often achieved by planting in groups or drifts, particularly with small plants. This avoids the clutter effect that may result from “dot” planting of many different single plants. Growing a group of the same plants together provides a strong impact, especially when viewed from a distance.

A rule-of-thumb when looking for plants for the landscape, is look at all aspects of the plant including its contour, the color of the flowers, leaves, bark and stems, and any other interesting features.

The wide assortment of plants shapes provides almost an endless-possibilities to create a lively, well-balanced grouping. Keep in mind, however, that each plant has a natural growth pattern, and as they mature its shape may change.

The most striking color in plants come from the flowers with a dazzling range of colors and tints. Flowers are not the only source of color; look at the foliage for different shades of color. Many plants have attractive colors from stems, bark, berries or seed heads that usually provide their best interest in the fall and winter.

Texture of the plant can add interest to any landscape. This mainly is provided by foliage but other features such as fruit and bark and the outline of a plant’s shape may have interesting texture. When combining plants, consider how their varying textures will work together.

Another rule-of-thumb is when placing plants out for planting, allow sufficient space for each plant to develop fully to their potential. Planting too close will cause one plant to crowd or shade the other plant out, leaving dead spots in the landscape. Planting too far apart will make the landscape look weak and lacking.

The last rule-of-thumb in landscape design is select plants that are adapted to the growing conditions in which they are to be planted. A misplaced plant might exist happily for years in a particular area, but if it is not climatically or environmentally adapted it ultimately will die or severally damaged by unfavorable weather.

Jim Coe lives in Lawton.

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