Before deciding what plants to buy, determine what you want your overall landscape to do for you. Are you an avid gardener, have an active family, or want a landscape that doesn’t require a lot of maintenance? The answer indicates how you will use or interact in your landscape and that helps guide your plant options.
Included here are some functions that plants can perform in the landscape and the outdoor spaces where you would use them.
Screening and Defining Spaces
Evergreen trees are the go-to choice to define an outdoor space for quiet entertainment, open play, or to screen out an eyesore. Be sure to find out the mature size and shape of that lovely evergreen plant. A Leyland cypress, for example, in a 2 or 3-gallon container won’t screen much when initially planted, but it can grow up to 3 ft. a year! It can easily reach 70 ft. high by 15 ft. wide or more. Don’t plant them any closer than 15 ft. apart from each other and at least 8 ft. away from a vertical structure, sidewalk, or driveway. They can quickly crowd each other out and the whole group can quickly decline from competition for nutrients and space. The stress makes them vulnerable to insects and disease.
While you may want to screen your neighbor’s vegetable garden, those live Christmas trees that once fit inside your home will eventually grow to create too much shade for growing veggies. Consider the ultimate size of the tree and plant it so its full grown size is well within your property line.
|Did you know that neighbors can legally prune any part of a plant that is inside their property? See this article from the Maryland Risk Management Education blog.|
Shade trees are the staple of every landscape design, but consider the surroundings when deciding the exact place to plant them. Plant your shade trees with respect to the direction of the sun so the resulting shade will be exactly where you need or want it. Along with evergreens, shade trees help to define outdoor rooms by providing a perceived ceiling to the green walls.
Remember to find out the ultimate size of the shade trees before you plant. Sun loving plants that thrived initially when planted when these trees were young will ultimately decline as the amount of shade increases. Plan to switch to more shade loving plants as the trees mature.
Whether to define property lines or to bring an attractive element to the neighborhood, please know before you grow! You may not have any input as to what is planted on the neighborhood street but this demonstrates the need for awareness of the mature height of trees before you plant.
When these street trees were planted, did anyone consider their full-grown size? It is unfortunate that so many trees are planted under utility wires. This situation requires utility crews to perform regular maintenance for the sake of the utility lines. However, the trees will never look like nature intended. They are typically topped repeatedly or split down the center to keep the branches from negatively impacting the wires. The sight of mangled trees on the side of a rural road is too common. The unsightly appearance is not the only negative outcome to this practice. The unnatural and excessive pruning negatively affects the structure of the tree. This weakens the tree’s defenses, making it more susceptible to insects and diseases as well as breakage during storms.
Whether from inside the home or from the street or while walking around your own property, focal points are a great feature for visual enjoyment or to visually direct you through the landscape.
Direct Traffic Flow
Providing a route for foot traffic through the landscape doesn’t need to be boring. And don’t feel like turf is the only answer, especially in a shady area where it will never look good.
Once you have an idea of what type of plant you want to use to accomplish the purpose, fine tune your choice with the plant selection guide from my previous post to help determine if a particular plant is suited to a particular location.
Additional Resources from the Home & Garden Information Center
By Ria Malloy, Assistant Program Director, Home & Garden Information Center. This is the third in a series of articles on landscaping. Look for future posts on planting practices and plant maintenance.