I remember when I first moved to Florida, looking at the landscaping and thinking it was all so new… the grass looked different than I was accustomed to, the planting different, the soil different… I didn’t know where to start. One thing most of us can agree on is that we like a beautiful yard… but how to get (and maintain) one can be a tougher equation. Certainly, outsourcing the entire job is one option. However, some people find lawn work to be a great outlet.
For those that wish to actively engage in their landscaping (or those that just want to know enough to watch over others doing it), here are some tips:
UPFRONT PLANNING: Take the time to develop a plan for the space. What do you want it to look like? How do you want the space separated/partitioned if at all?
LOOK AROUND: Drive by some homes that have plants that you like. Take pictures and stop by your local nursery to ask about the plants (type, upkeep/maintenance, size potential, soil compatibility, hardiness, disease prone, drought resistant, etc).
COST: Work up a tentative plan on what plantings (and any labor) would cost of initial install but also for ongoing maintenance. Some plants require more care and oversight.
OUTLOOK: Sometimes what looks good initially takes on a life of it’s own after it has grown. That cute little bush may look like a beast in a year. Make sure that you are considering the ultimate size of plantings in your spacing and layout.
HOA/COUNTY REQUIREMENTS: Be sure to inquire about any local guidelines that are in place and must be adhered to. You would hate to have to remove something after it is planted. Many communities have an architecture committee that would need to review the landscaping plans before any significant modifications.
Here are some additional thoughts to help you with your planning:
More plants less flowers - Consider using plants versus flowers for the plant base. This way you will have more consistency with your plants, whereas flowers come and go more frequently… this will allow you to have a more consistent year-round look. And if you still want some accent flowers, you can consider potting with them at your front door.
Accent colors - Look for plants with accent colors. Most people like flowers because of the pops of colors, you can accomplish a similar effect with bright, colorful plants. Variegated foliage often has stripes or splashes of red, yellow, and orange. You can also consider simple garden ornaments or art pieces to add pops of color and interest.
Larger Plants - Fill open areas with larger plans. Large plants allow for the use of fewer plants, and fewer plants require less maintenance.
Ground cover - Low-growing, sprawling groundcovers cover larger areas can reduce the need for many small bedding plants.
Full plants - Look for plants that maintain their fullness and color year round. Clusia is one of my favorites when it comes to lushness with its hearty, rich leaves. It makes a great privacy/perimeter planting too.
Natural form - Using plants with an attractive natural form reduces the need to trim for appearance. Most plants need some annual pruning for health, but pruning techniques should maintain the natural plant form.
Repeat plantings - Repeating the same types of plants in several plant beds simplifies the maintenance with the same care requirements. Be sure to group the plants according to similar water and sunlight needs.
Dense plantings - Dense plantings keep weeds down from lack of sun and can also prevent moisture evaporation from the soil, requiring less irrigation.
Overhead structures - Use overhead structures to provide shade. Arbors, pergolas, and trellises can create shade in areas. Overhead structures are also useful in areas where trees should not be located, such as close to buildings and utility lines. Remember, trees have roots that can cause disruption to driveways. Trees also drop leaves creating more maintenance.
Use plants to hide unwanted - Hide or disguise unattractive areas. Some areas of the yard may be difficult to maintain despite your best efforts. You can use your plantings to hide things that may not be as attractive such as utility equipment. You can also use large rocks, stone pathways, and garden structures to cover bare spots.