Whether you’re moving into a new home or simply ready for a change to your yard’s landscape, the best place to start is with a design that plans for the long term. Making a plan that takes into account your entire property will result in an aesthetically cohesive, pleasing effect, and will also help you avoid the pitfalls that can result from planting in a random fashion. While it’s tempting to fall in love at the plant nursery or home improvement center and buy — and plant — on impulse, you’ll save money and enjoy more functional outdoor spaces when you approach landscaping with a purpose in mind.
This plan should factor in any hardscapes, patios, walkways or trees that can be utilized best in your space. It should also factor in themes, overall look, gathering areas and how everything comes together in the final drawing.
One of the most common mistakes homeowners can make is to skip this step. According to Howard Roberts of Liquidscapes, Inc.,“Too many times over my 36 year career I have seen homeowners try to skip the design process, which has cost them dearly down the road by not thinking the ‘Big Picture’ through. Or they piecemeal it and hire individual companies to perform separate services related to the project, but nothing seems to come together in the end because no one was steering the ship.”
Our blog post — “How to Avoid Common Landscaping and Yard Care Mistakes” — covers this issue in greater detail to help you avoid a rocky start on your landscape design plan.
What to Consider When Planning Your Design
As mentioned earlier, there are many considerations when planning long-term for your yard. The University of Florida’s Gardening Solutions website provides some important factors to look at before buying that pretty plant you saw at the nursery.
Know your yard — This includes the average temperature, the type of soil you have, and your yard’s terrain. You’ll also need to consider the four types of microclimates that range from deep shade to full sun. Using the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map is a great place to start.
Think about who will be using your yard and how they will use it — For example, will children be using your yard? Do you have pets? Are you hoping to use your yard for outdoor entertaining? Remember, you can create different spaces for different uses in your landscape using strategic plantings and hardscapes. Walkways can be used to move people from one area to another.
Think about care and maintenance — Since you will be maintaining your yard (or hiring someone to maintain it), consider your maintenance style and budget. How much time will you really have to put into your landscape? Or if you won’t have the time, will you be able to afford to hire a lawn care service? How much do you have to invest in your landscape? Determining the answer to these questions will help to ensure the success of your landscape for years to come.
Think about themes — A good place to start is by looking at the architecture of your home. Try to complement the lines and style of its architecture in your yard; after all, your yard is an extension of your home. Themes can help guide how you place and select plants, decorations, hardscapes, and structures. Do you want neat, geometric shapes and structures in your landscape? Do you want softer lines and a more natural feel to your space? Do you want a landscape to include only specific colors? Asking yourself such questions will help you choose a unified theme for your garden.
Popular landscaping themes in Central Florida include tropical, country gardens (which includes butterfly gardens), and Florida paradise (think azaleas and other Florida-hardy plants).
Link spaces — It’s important to maintain balance in your yard and keep the flow moving. Using pathways is a great way to lead your guests through the “rooms” of your backyard.
Make your plants work for you — Plants can provide you with fresh fruits and vegetables, beautiful scenery, lovely aromas, privacy, and much more.
As the University of Florida notes, “Plants can be used as barriers to define areas within your landscape as well as identify where your landscape ends. You can use plants to create physical barriers in your landscape by blocking both views and access to an area. If you want to keep your views open, but maintain some barriers, low growing plants can be used to create implied barriers, blocking access but not the view.”
Structure — Structure is at the heart of a successful landscaping design plan. According to the University of Florida, “Consider your various visual planes when selecting plants. Starting from the area above you, think about the overhead plane, this might include archways and trees. Moving on to the vertical plane, consider how closely spaced or far apart plants will be, how plants will be layered or staggered (generally larger plants are used behind smaller plants), as well as the individual and massed heights and widths of your plants.
“Don’t forget about the ground plane (including how smaller plants will be grouped and arranged as well as groundcovers and hardscapes). Repeating similar shapes and structures in your garden will give you a unified view throughout your space.”
Highlight — Draw attention to a specific area in your landscape with unique plants, structures, sizes, or colors that capture the eye.
Ensuring your yard comes together completely depends on many small details. Consider how the visuals of your yard balance each other to create a cohesive landscape. Also, take into account how the passage of time will affect your landscape plants. When selecting plants, make sure you consider the plant’s growth rate, maintenance needs, and eventual mature size. Make sure you provide your plants with enough room to reach their mature size. Last — but certainly not least — by choosing resource-efficient plants, consciously managing water, and choosing environmentally sound hardscapes, you can help protect and preserve the environment.
Planning for Shade Trees
Shade trees can provide a natural, leafy barrier between Florida’s relentless summer sun and your recreational areas so you can relax and enjoy your yard. However, research the tree (or trees) you plan to add. First, locate your sewer line and plant well away from it. Some trees have aggressive root systems that seek water sources. Sewer pipes also carry “fertilizer,” which tree roots seek as a source of nutrition. Tree root intrusion is a common reason for sewer pipe clogs. Without intervention by a plumber, the roots can eventually break the pipe.
Other concerns in Central Florida are hurricanes and severe summer thunderstorms that can topple diseased trees and break off limbs that crash through the roof or windows — in addition to causing other types of property damage. Be sure you know the eventual height and crown diameter of the tree to avoid overhanging branches.
Our semi-tropical climate is friendly to a wide variety of shade trees. However, the following five species are especially well-suited for thriving in Central Florida.
It’s important to select trees that are capable of surviving in Central Florida temperatures.
- Bald cypress — Unique because, unlike other coniferous trees, it sheds its leaves in the fall. It’s perfect for medium-sized yards, as it grows 50 feet tall with a canopy range of 25 feet. They prefer moist, sunny spots, but if no water source is around, you can irrigate the tree to encourage rapid growth. Contrary to popular belief, the bald cypress grows well on dry land when properly irrigated. To prevent root damage, leave at least 15 feet between it and your house, or at least 10 feet between the tree and a walkway.
- Southern live oak — Stays green all year, and while it does shed, it’s never bare due to newly developing leaves. Its branches tend to grow at odd angles, so pruning early is essential for uniformed growth. Live oaks grow up to 65 feet tall and have extensive root systems, which makes them stable in storms and windy conditions. They prefer moist, well-drained soil and can tolerate some flooding.
- Florida maple — The Florida maple can grow in full sun or partial shade. It will also tolerate occasional flooding. It requires minimal care as long as it has plenty of water, and can reach up to about 40 feet tall at maturity. One downfall is its roots will breach the surface of the soil. Mulching around the tree, rather than planting grass, can minimize this concern.
- Loblolly pine — Not your average pine tree, as it takes on an ovular appearance and can grow between 60-100 feet with a 30-foot wide canopy. This fast-growing pine prefers full sunlight and can tolerate many types of soil. Small wildlife will be attracted to its seeds for food.
- Tabebuia (trumpet tree) — Produces trumpet-like flowers in many varieties that can vary in color and size — pink and purple being the most popular choices. Depending on the variety, the tree can grow to be anywhere from 25 feet tall to 160 feet tall. It prefers full to partial sun and can tolerate most soil types. Regular pruning is required to keep it healthy.
Planning for Maintenance
Planning for future maintenance might seem daunting, but we return to Howard Roberts, who offers these three sage pieces of advice. Following them will help you account for every possibility in your design to ensure you conserve money, time, and resources.
- Run extra conduit underneath patios and pathways. This will make it easy for you if you ever choose to add lighting or change your irrigation setup. This is a very inexpensive cost if you plan ahead of time, but not if you do it later.
- Leave room for machinery such as a riding mower to access your backyard. Removable fence panels, wide gates, and an access path will make it easier to maintain your landscape.
- Plan for maintenance. Just like your home, your landscape needs regular maintenance in order to look its best and function well. Make sure you understand the maintenance needs of your new landscape before you install plants, hardscape, etc., to ensure you’ll be able to keep up your investment over time.
It’s very important that your landscape design enhances the beauty and function of your property, and as long as you follow these steps, you are sure to succeed. Now that you know what’s involved in landscape design and would rather leave it to the pros, our experienced, talented team at Daniel’s Lawn Service & Pressure Washing, Inc. can work with you to achieve your goals and bring your vision to life! Our full-service company provides tree installation, tree trimming, yard maintenance, pressure washing and so much more. Contact us today!