Maybe you’re not too crazy about how your yard looked last summer. That doesn’t mean your only option is to rip out the whole sordid thing and start over. Sometimes a measured, partial, “surgical” strike is enough to whip a yard into decent shape. A trim here, a transplant there and a replacement or two might be all you need. Other times, if enough plantings are overgrown or flat-out ugly, a clean slate might be the way to go. Either way, give it some thought first — especially if you’ve just moved. You might regret wholesale knee-jerk changes after you realize why those apparent “mistakes” were planted where they are.
Here are seven points to ponder:
1. Get to know the lay of the land. This is especially important if you’re new to the property. Those evergreen monstrosities that you want to cut down might hide the neighbor’s chewing-tobacco billboard collection. Or that “messy” maple tree might be keeping the setting sun from heating up the patio after work. Pay attention to where the sun comes up and goes down. Watch where water pools after a rain. Where is it hot and dry? Are there windy spots? Are there pockets of particularly horrid soil? Your current plants might not be the prettiest, but they might be there to solve a problem.
2. Take a critical look at existing plants. Which ones do you like? Which clash with the house, are misshapen or otherwise annoy you? Any that demand more maintenance than you’re willing or able to give them? The answers to these will help you determine what can stay and what should go.
3. How do you use or want to use your yard? This will drive the rest of the landscape planning. It’ll help you determine where beds and trees should go (or not go), what kind of plants to use and what kind of structures go on your wish list (a pool? patio? shed? gazebo?). Start with practical needs and carve out a game plan that meets them.
4. Do the plantings match the character of the house? A lavender-lined picket fence and clipped boxwoods might be a fitting choice for a colonial-style house. However, a Victorian-style house might look better with sweeping beds of colorful perennials and annuals. Consider not only the house but also the surrounding environment. That doesn’t dictate what you have to do, but it’s a starting point.
5. What about the colors? Do the plant colors match the house trim or clash with it? Removing a few clashers might fix this one.
6. Are there views that need to be screened? Maybe you want privacy around your deck. Maybe you want a tall screen planting along the side property lines. Maybe you want the entire backyard or even parts of the front yard screened. These are prime real estate for dense evergreens.
7. Think about the not-so-little details. Maintenance is important. No sense spending a ton of money on a great new landscape when you really don’t like to garden, have no time for it and don’t want to hire regular maintenance. Better to be realistic and plan for plantings you’ll be able to care for.