Landscaping for beauty and utility

Landscaping, while I am no expert, is something I thoroughly enjoy.

Cat Among the Pigeons at Great Dixter!
antonychammond / Cat Photos / CC BY-NC-SA

I find gardening, and maintaining a yard, relaxing and good exercise. The results are usually very satisfying.

Many properties today, seem to use very similar landscaping efforts. Often, the yard will consist of nothing more than an expanse of grass with one or two shrubs or trees in the front, with the rest being concrete or asphalt. Of course, if you require parking for several vehicles, you may not have a lot of room left.

Checkered garden in Tours, France
A formal / GNU Free Documentation License

Many people seem to see landscaping as a well maintained lawn, with an ornament or two , and perhaps a little lighting. I prefer to see a lawn, as well as walks, as just part of a garden. Of course, a garden requires a little more care than a square of lawn, but I believe it pays good dividends in enjoyment and property value. To get a good effect for your efforts, careful planning is essential. It is necessary to project your plan into the future, and try to foresee the appearance of trees and shrubs as they mature. Try to envision the appearance of your garden in different seasons. Trees shrubs and perennials will provide a somewhat different look each year, and if well planned, will improve with age.

Striped Tiger [Explored]
Ajith (അജിത്ത്) / / CC BY-ND

A garden can be formal, consisting of mostly straight and well defined borders and beds. Colors, foliage and plants of different heights will be grouped in well defined areas. An informal garden, on the other hand, will be less well defined, and will contain many irregular shapes. Colors and textures may be mixed in seemingly natural patterns. A good result is still the reward of careful planning, though. It is possible to mix the two styles if done with care.

Pathways, walks and driveways can add a pleasing effect, if done with something other than plain concrete or asphalt. It could be something as simple as coloring the concrete and adding a stamped pattern.

There are several decisions to be made prior to beginning detailed planning.

Do you want to include a vegetable garden? It is inexpensive to buy fresh produce, but nothing compares to peas, young carrots or new potatoes, fresh from your own garden.

Do you want to use your garden for outdoor entertaining?

Do you want your landscaping to provide privacy to your outdoor living area?

Consider the purpose of the trees that you will be planting. Do you want purely decorative trees, or do you want shade, windbreaks or fruit?

It is my belief that the value of trees in creating pleasant micro climates is underestimated. They can cool the area under them considerably in summer, or they can give protection from cold winter winds. A cool drink in the shade of a tree, on a hot day, is pure bliss. Deciduous trees to the south of your house, can give you summer shade, while not blocking too much sun in winter. Trees for blocking winter winds should be evergreens that do not drop their leaves.

Hummingbird Portrait 7
fkowers attract hummingbirdsDanny Perez Photography / Flowers Photos / CC BY-NC-ND

I really like fruit trees ,and berry bushes, instead of purely ornamental trees and shrubs. They are beautiful when in bloom and they provide food for yourself and for birds. Even in our northern climate there are many varieties of fruit that can be grown successfully. Berry bushes can provide for many pies, or jams and jellies. We even make our own pancake syrup.

Perennial plants and flowers can provide beauty, without undo work. They do take a little time to establish, but can usually be inter planted with annuals for the first year or two. Most perennials do not bloom throughout the summer, so you will need to intermix varieties with different blooming periods, for continuous color. Choose varieties with interesting foliage for when they are not in bloom. Day lilies are one that have long bloom periods and attractive leaves. Use care to choose varieties suited to the location they will be used in. There are many micro climates within most garden areas.

Hanging baskets of annuals are very attractive but require a great deal of attention. If you don’t mind the cost, you can purchase them in full bloom, and ready for display.

Water features or fish ponds add another element. The sound of running water can be very pleasant. Birds may be attracted to the water.

Tree - leaf canopy
The luxury of shadeblmiers2 / Travel Photos / CC BY-NC-SA

Any area with trees and bushes for cover, and with food available, will attract birds. This may be one of your landscaping goals. You could provide a few safe nesting sites.

You may need fencing for some reason, but there is no reason why it has to be unattractive. You have the choice of building an attractive fence, or you can screen it with plants and shrubs. Often, just a few shrubs to break the monotonous line of a fence, can improve the look. Trees, or bushes, can also be used to frame a feature of your house. You can use climbing plants to screen fences or blank walls.

Tombstone squirrel
Trees attract wildlifeTjflex2 / Flowers Photos / CC BY-NC-ND

Some food plants, such as rhubarb or chives, can make an interesting addition to your yard.

To get the most from your garden, utilize lighting to extend it’s beauty into the night, or for evening entertaining.

Appearance is, of course, a major consideration when planning your yard and garden. Some of the other things to consider are, privacy, shade, protection from wind, use for entertaining, an environment attractive to birds and butterflies, and of course the time and effort required to maintain it.

Trees and plants withdraw carbon dioxide from the atmophere during the growing season. Trees store carbon in the fom of wood. Other plants store a bit as black dirt, if composted, or just worked into the soil. You may slow global warming just a bit with your gardening.

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