Consider Mature Size When Installing Plants

Have you ever seen a huge Norway Spruce overwhelming a small hundred year old home or shrubs planted too close to a building? Many times, mature plant size is not considered in the design process.  Plants will be out of proportion to the size of the building or entryway.

Sometimes, a homeowner or builder will plant too many plants of immature size to make the building look ‘presentable’ immediately. Proper plant placement, keeping mature size in mind, is especially important …

Using Accent Plants to Create Emphasis

Accent plants can be used to draw attention to a particular feature or features in the landscape such as an entryway, stairs, water, seating, statuary or even other plants. They should contrast with the surrounding plants or other elements to create emphasis or focal points.

Specimen plants, a form of accent plant, are individual plants that are used singly to show off some special feature of the plant such as flowering display.

Accent plants, on the other hand, can be …

Plant Size Impacts on Sun and Shade

Plants in the landscape are constantly growing, changing, and dying. Larger plants will eventually shade out sun loving plants beneath them. Be prepared to replace sun loving plants with more shade tolerant plants when needed.

Large trees will have the biggest impact, followed by medium and small trees, and large shrubs. Conversely, if a large tree is removed, consider the impact of sun on shade loving plants. Some will adapt well while others may show signs of sun scorch or …

Landscapes: Natural Plant Succession Considerations

Natural Plant Succession

Plant communities grow and change over time through a natural process called succession.  These patterns occur gradually over long periods of time. When a landscape is disturbed in some way, a general process of plant recolonization occurs.

The first plants to grow tend to be fast growing “pioneer” species that establish quickly on disturbed soils. Many plants humans consider weedy fall into this category. Given enough time, more complex plants such as herbaceous perennials, trees and shrubs …

Designing Around Drainage Areas

Designing around drainage areas can be challenging. Drainage areas are any area where water naturally flows downhill and collects in a basin or catchment area.

Drainage areas can be small areas in a home landscape or they can be the size of a watershed that drains an entire region.

Drainage areas can also be sources of pollution and erosion especially when the flow becomes concentrated as in storm events.

Natural ravines and other topographic features as well as designed water …

Elements and Principles of Design for a Water Wise Landscape

Planting design is unique among the design fields because plants change over time.  Not only do they change seasonally, but they grow, mature, and die like all living things.

The elements and principles used in planting design are the same whether the landscape design will be traditional or water wise.

The Basic Elements of Design

An element is a distinct unit that is a piece of a larger whole. The basic visual elements of any design include; line, plane, and …

Creating a Practical Pleasing Outdoor Space

A practical and pleasing outdoor space is one that satisfies user needs, is aesthetically pleasing, and is relatively easy to maintain.  The space can be a small, quiet, private space, or one that provides expansive views.

1. Satisfies user needs 

Once site inventory, analysis, and family needs are identified, the types, shapes, and sizes of spaces needed can be determined.  Remember to create spaces. Avoid placing objects in space. This is a common mistake of beginning designers.

Fleshingout the space(s)

Microclimates in Water-Wise Landscapes

What is a microclimate?

Microclimates in landscapes are small localized areas that differ in temperature, precipitation, and wind protection from the greater surrounding area.  Structures, topographic features, and plant orientation can create microclimates.  They can be naturally occurring or intentionally designed.

Examples of Existing Features that can Create Microclimates

  • Topographic depressions – influence temperature, water and snow retention, and wind
  •  Hills and berms influence temperature, snow melt, and wind
  •  Slopes influence runoff and temperature depending on orientation to the sun

Using Sustainable Hardscape Materials

Sustainable hardscape materials are those materials that are produced in a way that is least damaging to the environment and allow water to penetrate into the ground.

Some hardscapes are more sustainable than others. Some materials may be less sustainable to produce but can be used in a sustainable fashion in the landscape. These include permeable asphalt, permeable concrete, and recycled concrete.  Recycled rubber mulches are not recommended.

Permeable Hardscape

Permeability, or the ability for water to penetrate into the …

Tips for Using Plants to Reduce Noise in the Landscape

Unwanted noise can lead to a variety of health problems, including anxiety and hearing loss. Using plants, berms, and solid barriers together with water wise plants is an effective way to reduce unwanted sound.

Plants and other soft surfaces absorb and scatter soundwaves. Plants are also aesthetically pleasing. Using plants alone, however, is the least effective method for noise reduction in places with limited space.

Although expensive, if space is not a constraint, creating a natural or forested area might …