Gardening: Make a list of your landscaping priorities.
We spent a good part of the year getting by, recovering from the after-effects of the February cold.
We can now assess which parts of our gardens are most in need of repair, but for some of us it is a daunting task.
Who can we turn to for professional help with our landscaping? Where to find inspiring ideas?
With decades of work in the nursery and landscaping industry here in North Texas, I can offer some advice. This is the advice I would give a friend.
- Take note of those landscapes that you really like and take photos of the parts that catch your eye the most. You might even knock on the door and ask who they used. Most people will be flattered by such a question.
- Ask for names and references at your favorite independent garden center. They probably have a good working relationship with local landscapers. They will be happy to give you several names. Some of the most creative landscapes in North Texas are born from the minds of landscapers. They may or may not have had formal education in the field, but they have a great deal of knowledge about plants and a great idea of how to combine them into attractive plantings that will mature well together.
- Many nurseries even have their own staff who do this kind of design for a fee. Ask for addresses where you can drop by to see what their jobs are like. If they’re reluctant to share actual addresses, at least ask to see photos.
- If the nursery has a wholesale division (probably using another entrance, often at the back), they probably work with landscaping contractors. It is the men and women who are on the front line to collect the plants and deliver them, plant them and maintain them for their customers. They don’t have their own storefronts, but they are some of the most important people in the industry. They are in your neighborhood every day. Get to know the best who are working around you. Some of them have a good grasp of basic design principles.
- Certified Landscape Architects represent the ultimate in beautiful garden design training. They have received formal education and are licensed in Texas. If you need to have a bridge or a retaining wall built, and there’s some physics involved, they know how to design them. Plus, they include scale, proportions, balance, and even drainage – all of those things that we mere mortals might overlook.
- However, there are two places where I find landscape architects can fail. First, some of them are not as familiar with the plants they use. They were trained in architecture schools rather than in horticulture. And second, there aren’t many landscape architects working on residential designs – at least not everyday homes.
Things to collect when planning your design
Fall and winter are great times to work with landscaping planners. They aren’t that busy now, so you won’t feel in such a rush. Here are some suggestions for things you will want to consider as you prepare for the first meeting.
- Make a list of your landscaping priorities. Do you need a recreation area for children or grandchildren, or are you considering a swimming pool or greenhouse? Write it down. Have your needs changed as your family has matured? Maybe some of the old features need to be removed and replaced. Now is the time to do it. Put them on your list.
- As mentioned, collect photos of things you like and see in other people’s gardens. Make a list of the things you don’t like about your own landscape. Remember that you are creating another “room” in your house, not just painting a green stripe around its perimeter. Take full advantage of the effort.
- Keep in mind the sequence of upgrades. Long-term things that take years to mature or that would disrupt their surroundings if added later should be dealt with first. This list would include new landscaping (patio or terrace, walkways, fence, etc.), new grass (to be planted from next April), new trees or large shrubs, ground covers and finally annuals and perennials.
- Take this opportunity to create new models of beds. Maybe the old shrub and groundcover beds were undersized, or maybe they were long and rectangular (visually boring). This is your chance to create a garden in style.
- If you’ve paid close attention to what I’ve just written, you’ve seen your own number called several times during this process. Much of this planning has to start with you. Your landscape should reflect your tastes and your personality. It should fit comfortably. No matter who you hire to help you, it’s going to be a team effort, and you can be the quarterback or the receiver. Either way, you’ll need both to score the touchdown.
You can hear Neil Sperry on KLIF 570AM on Saturday afternoons from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and on WBAP 820 p.m. on Sunday mornings from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Join him at www.neilsperry.com and follow him on Facebook.