The Top Landscaping Mistakes You're Making

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Deciding to renovate the landscape around a home requires a commitment of time and money. Landscaping is expensive. Even the smallest projects can mean a sizable investment for plants, lawn, grading, and hardscape. To insure the project turns out right, here’s several tips to help prevent disaster.

Not Having A Landscaping Plan The quickest path to landscaping disaster is beginning a project without a plan. Think about what kind of concept or landscaping look would work well for the property. You don’t want to spend thousands on a design that doesn’t fit your home’s style or won’t work with your climate. Then draw out your design to scale on grid paper. Keep in mind the scale and relationship of the yard to the house. Once the plan is drawn, it’s time to shop at the nursery. If the budget for trees, shrubs, and plants is more than expected, plan on reducing the scope of the project. Maybe the yard will work just as well with 5 shrubs instead of 7. Or, start with 1-gallon plants instead of 5-gallon plants.

Ignoring Curb Appeal No home gets a second chance for a first impression. The front yard is where curb appeal reigns supreme. Many homeowners spend all their efforts on the backyard and forget the importance of the front. Without spending a fortune, three ideas can make a difference out front:

1. Paint the front door a contrasting color from the walls and trim. 2. Keep the lawn trimmed, green, and lush. 3. Plant flowers for bright color accents throughout the year.

Forgetting About Seasons Plan your landscaping to provide color throughout the year. While at the nursery, ask which varieties of flowers and shrubs can provide seasonal color for the local climate zone. For spring consider: Azalea, Anemone, and Daphne. Summer choices could be: Iris, Rose, Hydrangea, and Dahlia. For fall look for: Aster, Chrysanthemum, and Cyclamen. Winter is the most difficult season for plants. Depending on the climate zone, possibilities might include: Skimmia, Cyclamen, Winter Jasmine, and Algerian Iris.

common landscaping mistakes  common landscaping mistakes

No Exterior Lighting Visualize the front yard after dark as well as in daylight hours. Adding several low-voltage lights can create drama, light a footpath, and highlight landscape elements such as trees and shrubs. Low voltage lighting systems are inexpensive to buy and maintain. Installation is a breeze for most yards and can be done with simple hand tools.

Scattered Color Artistic painters carefully plan their color palette for harmony. Do the same in the landscape. Start with a color that complements the house, trim or front door. Then, add accent colors that work well together. An orange Bird of Paradise, for instance, could be combined with a purple Iris and a Rocket Larkspur with light lavender and orchid coloring. Use colors to cascade through the garden and landscape. Resist the shotgun approach of scattering seeds or plants across the landscape. This will likely look messy.

Bad Pruning Just like a bad haircut, pruning can make or break a landscape’s appearance. Pruning is as much an art form as it is landscape technique. Make certain whoever is pruning has a grasp of what needs to be done and when to do it. Fall and winter are the best time for pruning, but check with the local nursery or better yet read about the care of trees and shrubs for your local climate zone. It is better not to prune than to do it wrong.

Picking The Wrong Plants Just because a plant is in bloom at the nursery doesn’t mean it is the correct choice for the landscape plan. Consider the climate zone, and the amount of light in the yard. Does it have direct sunlight all day? Or, is the yard covered in filtered light and shaded by large trees. In either case this will determine which plants and shrubs should be candidates for the new landscape.

Over The Top Lawn Ornamentation Avoid the mistake of too many decorative items in the landscape. Whether they are deer or gnomes, a little goes a long way in landscape ornamentation. Use restraint when choosing the ornament. One small whimsical statement will work much better than a hoard of gnomes.

Planting In The Wrong Area Read that little tag that comes with the plant from the nursery. How tall will this tree grow? Does it need full sun? Is the soil too damp for the shrub? Will it become the focal point of the landscape? And, should it?

Out Of Scale Landscape Elements Check the view from inside the house. Look through each window, at all angles, to the landscape. Place trees and shrubs where they look good from the curb. Also check them from each major window before they go into the ground. Is the scale of the elements pleasing? Or, is it too much of the same thing? A good rule to follow is to place the largest elements first; trees, followed by the mid-sized elements; shrubs, and then the smallest plants; flowers.

Don’t make one of these common landscaping mistakes. A little planning and strategic placement can make all the difference between an aesthetically pleasing, well landscaped home and a big waste of money.

Last Updated: May 13, 2012
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About Bill Washburn William "Bill" Washburn has a BA in advertising from the Art Center College of Design and has taught at the University of Southern California and Northrup University. Writing from a well-connected studio in the rural foothills of the west coast, he is a frequent speaker at local art associations and has published numerous articles discussing periods of art history and the fundamentals of drawing and painting. William is a master gardener who grows his own culinary herbs, organic heirloom vegetables and a variety of fruits. He writes frequently about his gardening experiences on his website Pioneer Dad. He is an accomplished advertising writer, fine art painter, and art director with more than 20 years' experience. 

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