Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Western Mountains and High Plains
February, 2007
Regional Report

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A pleasing landscape design utilizes the proper placement of plants for a dramatic effect.

Mistakes Can Spoil the Landscape

Finally the snow is receding and we can begin to see some of the lawn and other plants in the landscape. When there's not much to do outside but let the snow soak in, it's a good time to take a good look at your landscape to see if some changes might improve how it works for you. But before you decide to do anything drastic, it's important to consider some of the most common landscape mistakes that people make. Merely keeping these in mind can help the process of a good design come to fruition.

Selecting too many different kinds of plants. When the gardening urge hits, it is not unusual to want one of everything. This kind of plant collection will result in a "horticultural zoo" that may be high maintenance. Before you venture out to the local nursery, have a plan and select a limited number of different varieties of plants. It is more effective to choose several plants each of a limited number of varieties and repeat these throughout the landscape, than to plant only one each of many varieties. Having a list of plants that you like before visiting the garden center will prevent the urge to buy one of everything.

The one-season landscape. Many landscapes look great for only part of the year. It takes special thought and planning to create a year-round landscape. This is important for high-visibility areas. Though forsythia may bloom gloriously in spring and look pleasing in summer, the plants don't have much to offer in winter. So don't overdo an area with too many of one shrub grown for its flowers only. And "year-round" doesn't mean just evergreens. Select plants for various features including interesting and colorful foliage, structure and growth habit, bark color, texture, and persistent fruit.

Wrong plants for the area. Observe the conditions in your landscape for exposure, soil type, drainage, wind, proximity to buildings, etc. If it's too shady, too sunny, too hot, too dry, too wet, or wind exposed, plants will not grow properly. It is much better to match the plant to the growing site. Trying to change the conditions to suit a plant is not usually the most successful or cost-effective approach.

Wrong size plant. Very often plants will end up growing too large for the space in which they were planted. This happened many years ago when my father planted those "cute" little spruce trees near the building. Trying to confine a plant that is destined to outgrow its allotted space will lead to pruning disasters. It's important to know the mature size of a plant so you make the right choice about its placement.

Many of our landscapes can be tweaked to improve the overall look and functionality. Now is a good time to take a look around and make a plan. Spring will arrive before you know it.

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