The 5 biggest landscape blunders… and how to avoid them

Shirley was a stay‑at‑home mom with, crazy as it sounds, lots of leftover energy. When her kids would take naps, she would go to the front yard and start gardening — putting a fruit tree here, mounting a fallen branch there. Basically, it was her playtime.

Shirley didn’t have any formal training, but she used plants and flowers to express her own sense of style. For her, gardening was artistic expression.

“Eventually, my neighbors got curious,” she said. “They would knock on the door and ask, ‘Who landscaped you?'”

That’s when Shirley realized that she had a knack for landscape design. After her kids started school, she decided to pursue some formal training so she could turn those curious neighbors into clients.

For Shirley, there isn’t anything that can stand in the way of her creating a beautiful garden for somebody.

“I think it’s part of being a creative person,” she said. “I don’t see blank slates. I see trees. I see flowers. I see succulents. I see sculpture.”

In her line of work, she also sees mistakes people make when trying to landscape on their own. Here are some of the most common landscape blunders Shirley encounters:

1. Starting without a plan.

It’s not a good idea for a homeowner to start making holes and start tearing things down when they don’t know exactly what they’re doing, especially when they haven’t called utility services first. They may not know where the gas line or sewage line are, and it’s not fun to find them by accident.

2. Forgetting that plants require care.

People forget that plants need to be taken care of. Ask yourself, am I willing to keep up with the garden I have planned? If I want to go on vacation, is there a way to properly irrigate so I don’t come back to a dead garden?

3. Overlooking seasonal changes.

Trees and plants change with the seasons. A beautiful deciduous tree may seem perfect in the spring, but it could leave you feeling exposed in the fall and winter when it drops its leaves. Think through these seasonal changes so you’re not regretting your decisions later.

4. Working without a focal point.

Whether it’s an existing tree or a whimsical piece of art, it’s really smart to plan and design around a single focal area. By making everything around the focal point really subtle and quiet, you force the attention onto the item that you want people to pay attention to.

“When I moved into my house, I inherited a beautiful 40 year old pepper tree, and I absolutely love it. I knew that tree was going to serve as a focal area because it’s so grand,” Shirley said. “I decided to put in a pond and waterfall that would meander right to the side of the tree. Now, when you take in the tree, you also take in a beautiful feeling, a setting. It’s more of a package deal instead of a la carte.”

5. Not anticipating growth.

When you put a plant or a tree in your garden, you have to remember that it is going to need to put down roots, they is going to need room to grow. Many people put in plants without considering how they’re going to mature. When you first install your landscape design, you may finish putting it in, but it’s not in its finished form. Gardens get better with age, and you have to plan for the growing up that they do.

For Shirley, success is having a garden. And she would encourage anyone to try and plant one for themselves.

“With a garden, you see something through from start to finish,” she said. “Gardens, like people, go through ups and downs. They get sick. They look ugly. Sometimes they look beautiful. The point is, hang in there with your garden. Nurture it. Address your problems and issues. Don’t run away from them. Take care of them. And in the end, you’ll have a little bit of heaven on Earth.”

For more stylish insights into landscape design, visit Shirley’s website.

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