Architecturally, today’s residence is a great deal more an element of the great outdoors than was the case in the past. Large picture windows, glass walls, glassed-in sun porches and terraces all blend to help make your garden an important part of the home. As a consequence, that view becomes that much more important. A magnificent garden, a luxuriant turf and healthy blossoming trees all add just as much to the inside of your home as your drapes or wallpaper. The time and effort you spend on your lawns and gardens will repay you in each and every way, indoors as well as out. Any time you plan your grounds you will find yourself influenced by many of the guidelines you make use of in decorating your home. Proportion, texture, color, line, harmony, function. These are terms that pertain to landscaping as well as decorating. And if you have extensive grounds you will profit from careful planning just as much as will the one who owns only a third of an acre.
Gardening books are packed with conventional blueprints for perfect gardens and grounds, but you should take time to consider not just the perfect garden itself, but the one particular plan that will be perfect for your particular family. Research your family, its needs and habits; then fashion your grounds to best satisfy its prejudices, dreams and expectations. Obviously, you may be influenced by considerations of cost and available space. Draw a plan of your property in fairly large scale, about inch to the foot. Now make an inventory of the things that the family wants, say, for example a barbecue, tool house, drying yard, rock garden, fences, playhouse, badminton court, better lounging facilities.
If you aren’t fortunate enough and have spacious grounds, you most probably won’t be able to work everything into your scheme; but with Planning it is possible to do things gradually. You are able to plan in advance so that your garden never looks bare and yet is always spacious enough for the additions you are going to make in the coming years. Some projects provide more than one function. For instance, if you want a driveway and you have young children, a blacktop that you can use for hopscotch and bicycle riding offers a double purpose, and easily justifies its cost. Or a fence that reduces a less than perfect view might also act as a windbreak as well as a handsome background for a lounging area. A retaining wall can be used as a rock garden when planted with hardy dwarf shrubs along with other rock-garden species.
Typically, most grounds are divided in three ways:
(1) The public area, the area that can be observed from the street.
(2) The service area, which consists of garage and parking facilities, delivery facilities, clothes-drying equipment, outside storage space and garbage disposal.
(3) The private area, ideally located at the rear of the house. Here is your outdoor area, available for games and lounging; a terrace or outdoor dining area; the children’s playground in addition to a garden with flowers, fruits, vegetables, walks and, perhaps, pool.
In each division there will be some things to aim for and some to avoid. Within your front, or public area, to provide an example, arrange for a minimum of care. Choose flowers and shrubs that will help you present an appealing look for the passer-by at any time without having undue maintenance on your part, in order that when you can’t find a way to give so much time as you would like to your grounds, the front of your property is still presentable.
In your service area, prepare for off-street parking for deliveries that may be made without intrusion inside the privacy of your lawn or terrace.
For your personal private area, make use of the largest part of your plot; take full advantage of established trees as well as the shade afforded by your house and garage for lounging spots. Have seating in pleasant corners and screen off the children’s play areas from the other parts of the garden.
Without a doubt, landscaping design is definitely a never-ending adventure, an activity which is as gratifying as it’s beautifying, for the creation and proper care of flowers and trees, vines and shrubs, lawns and fences, brings luxury into the home, happiness to the family, and pleasure to everyone who observes the beauty of a “well-dressed” house.
For the most eye-catching and rewarding usage of your grounds, I suggest you include in your plans almost all of the factors outlined in this article. Such essentials like a really good lawn, thriving shady trees and paths and walks are in most cases taken for granted, however often they are the most difficult to achieve, and may even absorb a significant part of your early effort and resources. At the same time, these types of project such as an outdoor living room, having its cooking and entertaining facilities, was probably overlooked in past times simply because it seemed too difficult to accomplish. However such “thought to be difficult” features will add tremendously towards your enjoyment and may even, depending on what type you choose, be achieved with relatively little effort and cost!
The use of trees.
Perhaps if any one feature could be singled out as basic to successful landscaping, it’s the existence of fine trees. The regrettable tendency of developers to cut down trees in a wholesale manner, and also the growing use of treeless fields for brand new building, has focused attention on the homeowner who must start out with nothing when it comes to trees. Architects agree that a single shade tree, even of medium height, can certainly make very great difference in the comfort and liveability of a residence. It truly is amazing to find out exactly what a tree can do for a house. A tree in leaf, for instance, can aid in reducing noises from the street. A tree tall enough to throw shade covering the rooftop can materially reduce heat in summer. Trees can help reduce the quantity of dust around a house and will shield you from winds.
But there are additionally the many esthetic considerations. Properly located, they are able to greatly alter the lines of your home. They are able to give a small house dignity; appear to decrease the ungainly height of any tall house; soften the lines of a new house and provide you with welcome contrasts in color and texture. Plan right from the start to plant new trees, which will coordinate with the colors of your house and best suit its architectural style. When you are planning for new trees bear in mind the annual cycle of the tree; how long it holds its leaves, what its colors are during blossoming, whether it is in fruit or full berry, as well as in fall, when its leaves change color.
Arrange to contrast flowering deciduous trees with evergreens; slimmer trees that owe a great deal of their virtue to the color and line of their trunks and branches; the white clump birch, for example, with trees that happen to be chiefly beautiful in mass, for instance the weeping willow or the new purple fringe. (The latter is a tree that looks similar to a cloud of smoke when in bloom.)
Should you be considering views for large grounds (and this is a useful rule even for smaller spaces) have within your design a foreground, a middle ground and also a background. A background is most naturally composed of large trees. Here you may choose to use a number of the varieties of rough and irregular growth which might not look too well close up. These trees will provide a delicate texture to what would alternatively be an unbroken and monotonous background surface.
In the foreground use flowering shrubs. Then, towards the middle ground, take advantage of the many medium-sized trees and large shrubs which can be singled out for colorful foliage or blossoming.
These suggestions apply primarily to new planting. Should you have just bought your premises and therefore are considering removing a tree that blocks a view, or is otherwise undesirable, I ask you to wait no less than a year. Tolerate the tree, observe it in its various colors throughout the season’s and carefully consider its advantages along with its disadvantages, bear in mind a tree once destroyed is not easy or quick to replace.
Apart from the ornamental features of trees, two of the most important ways in which they can improve your property are by screening and giving shade. Perhaps you are overlooking a chance to use one of the shade trees on your grounds for a pleasant gathering spot. Put down some paving, place a few deck chairs there, and come summer everyone will gravitate to this spot. Use the shade of your trees for the children’s area, and if you don’t have a tree on the south, southeast or southwest side of your house, plant one or two there. If you are using trees to screen off an unpleasant view, use evergreens, which will undoubtedly do the trick the entire year round.
In deciding what trees you would like to acquire, or preserve, consider their ability to thrive in your particular climate and soil conditions. Also, check out their rate of growth. If you have a brand new house you’ll be wanting quick-growing trees and shrubs that bloom within two or three years after transplanting. Sometimes however, much like foundation planting, a slower rate of growth is helpful. This could mean the tree isn’t going to be bothered by crowding. Also take into account the shape, color of blossoms and foliage, height and spread. Also it is advisable to steer clear of trees that spoil a lawn or terrace with seed droppings or insects. Don’t consider only the old favorites but also any of the best new Oriental and European importations, and the many colorful new hybrids as well. And do not discount the value of fruit and nut trees as ornamental trees, for many are lovely, particularly in the spring.
Have a Good Lawn
A really good lawn is a basic need for attractive and enjoyable grounds. At the time you plant a tree you choose to do so realizing that you are planting for many years, even for generations. Few realize, however, that lawns need to be planted in the same spirit. The lawns of numerous celebrated estates were planted over 100 years ago, and this type of turf, luxuriously verdant, is invariably an inspiration. Today’s lawn builder is fortunate. The battle against weeds and poor soils can certainly be won, on account of the development of the latest chemicals. And modern spreaders, mowers along with other tools will help you establish a park like lawn.
But ending up with a first-class lawn is sometimes a considerably more problematic matter than scattering seed or plucking weeds. You will want to have your soil analyzed, and after that, quite possibly, change its make-up. Perhaps you will need to drain or grade. Prior to selecting your seed formula, consider the use to which your lawn will be put. Would you like a general-purpose area or will it be a showplace within your garden where you will strive for a putting-green lawn? Apart from problem lots in suburban areas, where the living quarters outside is small and may have to be paved, the lawn is definitely the broad canvas on which you paint the picture with flowers, shrubs, trees and walks. Keep it larger than any other area, certainly two or three times the width of the respective borders and beds.
You’ll be wanting flowers for cutting and flowers for contributing gaiety and charm within your grounds. The objective of the successful gardener is to have a succession of flowers from early spring to late fall. You can easily plan right from the start to have perennials which bloom at different seasons, (for example, iris, which has the peak of its bloom just as the peony season begins). Know accurately when the perennials bloom and then plan to fill in the gaps left by their passing with prolific and quick-growing annuals. You can arrange to have a potting bed, perhaps in your vegetable garden or perhaps in a sheltered spot behind your tool house or garage, where you could grow extra annuals in addition to those perennials that do not mind being transplanted. Then when the tulip season passes, for instance, you are able to fill in with another tall bulb, a summer-flowering one, like for example, the canna lily.
Your plan really should be made on paper, with the shape of the bed or border sketched in, along with the position of the plants indicated. Perhaps the most widespread and feasible design for the average 60 x 100-foot lot, and even the half-acre lot, is the border running the length of the rear wall of the backyard. This is usually a mixed border of summer-flowering bulbs, perennials and annuals, backed by shrubs. Other designs can be planned for the center of the lawn, for the foundation planting, for the pathways to the house and for the sides of the house. Semi-formal or formal gardens could have borders or beds created alongside of and divided by walks.
In planning your border, provide for tall screening plants that can form a background for the shorter plants. The screening plants may need staking but they should be sturdy. If you have a wide border, over 6 feet, you will need a narrow path in front of the screening plants for cultivating and tending. The center border plants are of medium height, and can be chosen for vivid color. If you are planning a wide border, relatively tall plants such as iris go here. In the foreground is your edging, composed of such neat and plainly visible flowers as: clipped green perennials, or low-growing petunia, ageratum, pansies, dwarf marigolds or sweet alyssum.
The special planting carried out close to the house is called foundation planting and is very important since it improves and enhances the proportions of your house as well as relating the house to the grounds. Evergreens are frequently used for foundation planting, not necessarily just because they can thrive within the shade of the dwelling, but because of their year-round beauty.
If you haven’t used evergreens elsewhere, though, it’s actually a mistake to suddenly make use of them at the foundation. The contrast will be too sharp; the evergreens are inclined to look forbidding. There remains lots of flowering shrubs, dwarf fruit trees, roses and cushion chrysanthemums, which may lend color to your foundation design in spring, summer and fall. Japanese redleaf barberry, floribunda roses, flowering quince and forsythia are among the bushes and plants that you can use.
Though it may be tempting to try one of each of the nursery’s evergreen specimens as part of your foundation planting, this ought to of course, be avoided. Having said that, contrast tall and low-growing types: use stiff-needled pines with feathery juniper with broadleafed laurel and rhododendron.
As part of your preliminary planning, draw to scale the relationship between your house elevation and the foundation shrubs and trees as they will look at mature height. Perhaps a few of those you have selected are going to be too tall for your specific house, obscuring your windows and making the house gloomy inside. In that case, you wouldn’t want them.
Generally speaking, since your entrance is the most important feature of your property facade, you start your planning with it in your mind, using shrubs that direct the eye toward the entrance. The planting in front of the house is usually bowl-shaped in its overall outline. This gives the appearance of a broad base to the house. Every now and then, let the wall show to the foundation. Locate the tallest shrubbery at the corners of your house.
Outdoor Living Room
These days, when building costs make large houses prohibitive, one technique to extend your house is to use your outdoor area to full advantage. And quite a few contemporary houses make many a room look larger by visually extending it directly into the lawn or garden. Tricks which include glass walls, employing the same wall material inside as for a continuing wall on the terrace, and using the same material for the ceiling inside as on the extended terrace eaves help to do this. Your living room or dining room and even your bedroom or your children’s bedrooms can flow right outdoors on to “floating” decks of wood, bricked terraces or sodded, lattice-roofed loggias.
However you do it, by making use of vine, fences, shrubbery, shade trees and flowers you are able to your terrace a wonderful place for entertaining, sun-bathing and relaxing. Having a barbecue another dimension is added, for with your personal fireplace or barbecue any terrace, lawn or garden spot will offer the blithe enchantments of dining under sun and stars.
In planning your terrace, consider installing an electric powered outlet for lighting, portable radio, electric spit for your barbecue, etc. Use vines for a lattice roof (grape vines, for example, leaf out late when shade is wanted and drop their leaves early at the outset of cool weather, giving delicious fruit as bonus). Choose a rapid-growing vine like grape, hyacinth or the gourd vine.
Relate your terrace to the remainder of your grounds with flowers and vines grown in pots, baskets and tubs. In the event the wall of the house next to your terrace seems bare or the profile of your cement or asphalt paving seems too sharp in contrast against the grass, soften the line with pots of plants. Have dwarf trees upon your terrace and blossoming shrubs in the terrace-retaining walls. Create interest with changes of level; build flower beds around trees, steps and walls.
For a terrace where everybody in the household assembles, have play space for youngsters, a sand box which, is capable of being filled with plants later on, or a little square pool for sailing small boats (this can create a sense of luxury even after the children are adults).
You need not depend upon trees alone for shade. Create a self-bracing terrace roof in an egg-crate design, utilizing the side of your house and wood, masonry or metal pillars. Corrugated plastic and reinforced glass are frequently used nowadays since they will be watertight, yet let the sunlight through.
Becoming more popular these days – particularly in hot climates – is the “parasol” roof, extending out of the walls of the property some 4 feet and even further to give pleasant shade to the vicinity. Since glare reflected on bare grounds is a source of heat, a carpet of shaded grass under the parasol roof helps to keep the property cool.
Often an outdoor living space gets twice the utilization when it is made more accessible. A window in a family room can be transformed into a French door, that makes it more natural to step right out on the terrace as opposed to walking around the property in order to reach it. A flagstone, or any other path, leading to a terrace away from the house will raise the usefulness of the terrace. Some sort of hard flooring is of prime importance, whether it be brick, crushed rock, cement, wood block, or flagstone, because it makes it easier to maneuver the furnishings around and eliminates worries over tramped-on turf. In reality, it is a wise decision to create a terrace in a spot where you are experiencing difficulty with the lawn.
Outdoor living space is a winner, too, when it is sheltered-away from street noises and traffic, from the neighbors, and from the wind. By making use of fences and walls, an unused corner of the house or the garage, can turn into a sun-trap that will extend the season for outdoor living in both spring and fall. A louvered board fence, a basket-weave fence, or the traditional brick wall, all are pleasant backgrounds for planting and good screens against wind as well as other disturbing elements.
A play area designed to keep your young children in their own back yard, where you can keep a cautious intermittent eye on them, need not be an unattractive one. Incorporate a paved area if you can, for bicycle riding, skating, hopscotch, etc. The sandbox could be a sunken one, flush with the lawn, or it might be a raised box, an extension of a wall or fence which could be planted later. Such imaginative ideas as hollowing out and painting an old stump to be employed for a puppet theatre; obtaining an unseaworthy row-boat that could be gaily decorated for playing Robinson Crusoe; or installing a ladder for climbing the side of the tool shed or a garden wall, in order that climbing in other places may be out-of-bounds, are ideas that will keep the “gang” at your house.
Drying Yard and Service Area
Propose to have your drying yard and service area out of sight yet close enough to the house so that you will not be inconvenienced. Screen these areas with shrubbery or fences. The service area ought to include propagating beds, cold frames, a tool shed or storage locker and your compost pit if you have one. Hotbeds and cold frames need to be located in a spot where they will be shielded from north and northwest winds. Take care not to place your cold frame in a damp place except if you have first drained it thoroughly with drain tile.
A vegetable garden can certainly be a source of great enjoyment. It ought to be out of sight in a corner, or screened with shrubbery, on account of the seasons when there is nothing growing in it. But it can be a decorative addition to the garden, especially if there are grass walks and attractive flowers around walks so that they occupy a minimum of room and yet provide a sufficiently strong surface for the traffic they will likely bear, calls for careful thinking. The well-designed house and grounds include the garage near to the house and close to the street. The garage situated at the back of the property is a hangover from horse-and-buggy days when the stable needed to be remote from the house. Today when most of home owners have cars, space should be saved by using a garage path which also functions as the house path, or feeds into a short house walk. But although the driveway could be a short one, plan for off-street parking- have your driveway no less than 20 feet from the street.
Most home driveways fail under heavy service trucks and traffic because the soil beneath the driveway is wet. Adequate drainage for wet spots, therefore, is a necessity. Good driveway materials are stable, and should not get washed away by storms or shoveled up with snow. If, however, the driveway really needs to be long and does form an essential feature of your landscaping, a reliable material may need to be passed up in favor of one like gravel or crushed rock, which is able to blend better with the surroundings.
Well-designed walks with neat edgings, steps which appear to belong where they are placed, and intriguing little paths that lead you deeper into the garden, are capable of doing much to further improve your grounds. You can scarcely lay too much focus on your choice of material. Concrete paths and steps, for instance, while often exactly the required thing, can form too sharp a contrast with the surrounding turf and planting. Informal walks of wood butts (perhaps slices of telephone poles), flagstones, or tanbark may very well be a lot more suitable. Colonial houses are traditionally set off by brick; modern houses favor wood; small houses appear to make a call for flags.
Garden Pools and Fountains
Water, in virtually any form, enriches a garden and delights the senses. Modern houses are bringing garden pools directly into the patios and terraces. Ideal is water in movement, a splashing fountain or a narrow little brook running across the grounds and between flowers over clear stones. But even a spigot with a wooden bucket below it or a tub to fill with water and used for plunging cut flowers is able to bring a verdant, cool feeling into the garden. Using the sound of running water and the evaporative qualities of a fountain or pool to provide relief from the heat is a trick we have learned from the gardens of Japan, Spain and various other hot climates.
A pool in the garden highlights the positive attributes of your setting, and it should always be positioned so that its surface will be seen from a great number of points, or at a minimum from the most frequented spot in the garden. The contour and materials of the coping surrounding the pool have much to do with its appropriateness in the setting. Flagstone, brick and tile are all good depending upon the degree of formality of the pool. Sometimes the most effective option would be no visible coping. Fountains can be created with just a small source of flowing water, and the same water may be used again and again so long as you install a small motor and pump for an electric pumping system.
Keith Wheeler is webmaster at [http://www.secretsoflandscaping.com]. To take your landscape planning activities further, why not visit?
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