Landscape Design, Stress Free (as can be)
One of the greatest values of the landscape is the sense of peace it provides. Our yards should supply privacy, sustenance, flowers, texture and a small window into nature. The more time you spend surrounded by the green, the more in touch with our planet you become.
Our landscapes are an extension of our home and an asset to our lifestyle when executed correctly. From the smallest space to the largest, a plan helps direct us to the visual we desire.
Functionally a space needs to work as well as make a statement. Rocks should be used sparingly (below they’re used for controlling erosion on a slope) and the balance should make sense with the design.
Paths should be created to make the space inviting and practical as well as to keep you and others out of the beds you’ve prepared. It’s important to lead our guests into the depths of our garden. There should be more views than just from the patio. We own the whole property so why not take advantage of unique perspectives.
Seating in various places make the space seem larger and makes it more functional over all. Remember to use consistent materials throughout the landscape to establish continuity. Add lots of great composted soil to your beds and avoid sandy loam.
Understated seating, native rocks and step stones blend in well with the landscape. Rocks and stepping stones are an excellent filler and once completed are little to no maintenance and a great way to eat up water hogging sod.
In the last many years life has certainly had its share of challenges, but your landscape shouldn’t be one of them. Neither the exchange with your contractor or the process of installation should be something less than exciting. If you’re feeling pulled in and are confused about your choices, it’s time to take a step back.
Here are my top 5 points to a successful landscape with little stress and maximum rewards.
1) Don’t Let Your Contractor Twist You in Knots.
You and your perspective contractor should be speaking pretty much the same language. From the beginning you should be getting the feeling that they’re adding to your experience and not taking away from it. If this isn’t your first reaction, keep moving; the process isn’t going to be easier during construction. Take your time and reach out to your personal sphere and neighborhood groups for solid references and let them know how you found them. This also tells them a bad review can be shared as well.
2) If It’s a “Do-it-Yourself” Project, Start Your Process in Bite-Size Pieces.
Rome wasn’t built in a day and your garden won’t be either. Landscapes and successful gardens are a lesson in deferred gratification. Planning to execute over the course of several seasons can make your project more manageable, enjoyable and successful overall. Many times I encourage my clients to start with the hardscapes (rock, stone and permanent fixtures) and move forward with the plants and mulch as you can manage it. When you install the plants, work your way “out” of the beds to avoid trampling your new soil.
3)Choose Native and Adapted Plants and Trees Only.
Choosing indigenous plants and trees greatly reduces the stress factor when choosing plants. This also means you have to choose plants for your correct sunlight. Take photos of your space at various times of day to determine rather it’s shade, part shade, or full sun. If you can make proper selections to begin with, the stress for both you and the plants is greatly reduced. Remember Xeriscape means low water garden, not necessarily cactus and rocks. Always select deer resistant plant varieties when needed. Then leave plenty of room for each plant to grow to maturity.
4) Plan Out the Installation in Proper Order.
Hardscape such as rock, stone, metal or projects like raised beds, patios, pools, paths and pergolas should be the first part of the project. The “softscape” such as plants and lawn should be added at the very end for best results. While the plant part is very exciting, putting them in before the fence is replaced or concrete was brought in can simply mean you’ll be replacing them later.
Pace your project in the order of priority and consider the impact each aspect has on its surroundings. Planting in Central Texas should only be done in cooler temperatures that are well into the 80’s of spring and fall and trees should be planted over the fall/winter months and as late as early spring.
5) Create a Cohesive Plan.
Use your survey to create a square foot grid and calculate the actual number of yardage for each material to see the reality of your vision. Bring in various contractors to give bids on those ideas and then execute them as the budget allows. Create a simple concept design (below) as a vision board. Reduce the variety of materials you introduce to the space as too many substrates can look chaotic. Stone can change from the rock yard to your space so ask for samples of each material from your contractor or visit a local rock yard and take your selections home to be sure the color is correct from morning to dusk.
Even the most rudimentary layout can start the conversation with a contractor or give you direction for where to begin yourself. If you’re looking for something more definitive, contact an educated Landscape Designer like me to draw out a long term plan. If you have challenging topography a Landscape Architect may be required.
Here are some landscape designs for motivation.
And here are some finished projects that will give you ideas on materials that can be used.
In conclusion, remember to take your time, use lots of rich composted soil in your beds and quality top soil beneath the sod. Use only native and adapted plants and trees. Start with the Hardscapes and finish the project with the softscapes for best results. Hire a contractor you trust for the difficult tasks and save the fun stuff for yourself.
Take several bids and get EVERYTHING in writing. The details matter when you’re paying good money for a product and your contract should include the full amount of materials and timing of each task. Negotiate the payment allotment in a way you feel comfortable with even if it means the contractor does small projects at a time to earn your trust.
Make it your own, but consider the resale benefits of the changes you plan to make. Always address runoff and grading issues with intelligent design. If you’d like help with a design feel free to contact me at Lisalapaso@gmail.com.
Create a space you look forward to enjoying for years to come. Enjoy the ride and be thoughtful about it’s value to resale and functionality and you’ll be off to a great start.
Lisa’s Landscape and Design
”Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time”
- Posted in: Austin Xeriscape ♦ Central Texas Gardens ♦ Education ♦ Gardening in Central Texas ♦ Hardscapes ♦ Landscape design austin ♦ Native and Adapted Plants ♦ Soil Preparation ♦ Xeriscape ♦ Xeriscape design austin
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