Planning — published on March 9, 2008

The Many Faces of Landscaping

Landscaping is good for your health and one of the most cost effective tools for improving and sustaining the quality of life, whether in the city, the suburbs, or the country. Landscaping is often associated with urban parks like those of the Niagara Parks Commission. Such parks boast acres of land and rolling hills decorated with towering trees, bountiful flower gardens and lush courtyards. But even for your home, landscaping is more than a few trees and shrubs plopped in the ground. For example, the goal of energy-conserving is to regulate energy flows from the sun and the wind. Climatic elements, such as sun and wind, can be regulated by landscaping.

There are many types of landscaping. Drought resistant landscaping is also termed as xeriscaping, and is an approach that uses minimal amounts of water and yet maintains the look of a traditional garden. Permeable Landscaping is that which allows water and air to penetrate the soil, and is part of the sewer system for storm water. Natural landscaping is an opportunity to reestablish diverse native plants, thereby inviting the birds and butterflies back home. Edible landscaping is the use of food-producing plants in a construction, principally residential, is as old as gardening itself and has undergone a recent revival. Interior landscaping is the practice of designing, arranging, and caring for living plants in enclosed environments.

Foundation plantings are often the first feature homeowners think of when landscaping is mentioned, and a common element in xeriscaping, is the reduction of lawn grass areas, since lawn grass is often one of the worst offenders against water conservation. Another widespread tactic in xeriscaping, is the deployment of indigenous plants, since they are adapted to the local climate and consequently require less water.

Natural Landscaping is another way to demonstrate support of the environment, and is gaining more and more acceptance each year. The major savings, is the low cost of maintenance. In theory, it should be adapted to the climate, geography and hydrology and should require no pesticides, fertilizers and watering to maintain, given that native plants have adapted and evolved to local conditions over thousands of years. In some planned developments, it is the requirement.

Water smart is a concept were you select the right plant for the right place, which means choosing plants that are well adapted to the specific conditions where they are to be planted. One of the principles of “water smart” is maintaining functional lawn areas, which is about much more than rocks and grasses. Another part is “green”, where you consider your irrigation options. Drought resistant landscaping is actually becoming popular in the Toronto area as our climate becomes more prone to drought.

There are many different aspects of landscaping. Having many areas of interest, it is not just about planting and flower picking. Keeping up the appearance of a home not only makes the owner feel good, but it also significantly increases property value.  Although it is considered an easy do-it-yourself project, serious problems occasionally  arise with landscaping. It is a good idea to have your landscaping assessed periodically by a professional to ensure a healthy and quality condition is maintained.

Planning — published on March 6, 2008

Home Landscaping 101

A practical landscape plan will make your home grow more beautiful and valuable over time.

A good home landscape is both beautiful and functional, with plants and features working together in harmony.

The Big Picture

The ideal landscape provides your family with recreation, privacy, and pleasure — even as those needs change over time. What’s more, the landscape should add to your home’s value and its curb appeal in all seasons, especially fortunate at selling time. Here’s how to get started with your plans.

Think of designing a landscape for the bare lot surrounding your new home as an adventure in creativity. Perhaps your property needs only a few small, easily doable projects to make it more attractive. Either way, it’s important to consider how each change will relate to the big picture. Stand back from time to time to see the entire landscape and how each part fits into it.

Begin at square one, whether you seek to perform landscaping magic by transforming a new site or you are refreshing an established one. Starting at square one means that you first see what you have to work with. Look at your landscape as if through a giant magnifying glass — scrutinizing every detail. Then allow yourself to dream. Soon you’ll be conjuring up all sorts of ideas and sketching out some rough plans. By gradually working through the initial stages, you’ll move on to planning and eventually have a finished design.

Developing a Master Plan

Landscape professionals will tell you that a master plan is the key to any landscape project or solution. A master plan is more than a drawing or a design — it’s a well-thought-out plan of action that includes a design. It enables you to feel confident that you’re on the correct path toward building the landscape that’s right for you and your property.

Any project becomes more attainable when you’re willing to accomplish the plan in stages. Be realistic about how much you can accomplish each year. Many people like to work — and budget — on the basis of a five-year plan.

Although detailed and complex, the process can be enjoyable if taken a little at a time. You won.t regret spending the time to do it right. When finished, you’ll have a master plan — or a masterful design — to show for your efforts. In the event the words “master plan” seem set in concrete, you may find the idea of “long-range plan” less fixed though no less useful in accomplishing the small and large goals that add up to a satisfying landscape.

Putting Plans into Action

Before putting pencil to paper or planting flowers, spend some time figuring out what you want to accomplish in your landscape. Much of the planning and designing will occur in your head as you consider ideas and think about what appeals to you most. Brainstorm and take notes on paper. As you proceed with each step in planning and design, be sure to adapt the plan to your particular conditions and desires instead of trying to follow lots of rigid rules.

Before you spend money on materials or contractors, explore different ways to reach your goals. Learn new skills by volunteering to help a friend build a deck. Watch a professional pour concrete or build a retaining wall at a new homesite. Be inspired rather than intimidated by opportunities to learn.

At any step in your decision-making, don’t hesitate to ask for expert advice from landscaping professionals. When you reach the final design and are ready to begin the actual work, continue to ask for help when you need it.

After all, landscaping is a practical yet personal process, and you want the outcome to be wonderful. What could be more rewarding than designing your home’s landscape, transforming your plans into reality, and enjoying the results for years to come? Trends such as butterfly gardening, heirloom vegetables, old roses, and ornamental grasses can be the icing on the cake in keeping the whole process fresh, appealing, and exciting.