Post details: A Landscape from Scratch


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A Landscape from Scratch

How thoughtful landscape planning can make your new home a neighborhood showplace.

Complement NatureComplement Nature

Thoughtful architects, builders, and homeowners are increasingly concerned about blending new houses with existing plants and terrain. A landscape addition should be designed to complement nature.

"The fundamental idea is to preserve the character of the land and design the house and plants accordingly. This includes using plants that are native to the area," says Connecticut landscape designer A.E. Bye.

The formality of linear flowerbeds and sculptured hedgerows may complement a rigidly traditional home, but most landscape pros favor a softer touch. The goal is a balanced, interesting, and natural appearance.

Plan early

The biggest landscape mistake new owners make is in timing -- contacting a landscape professional or planning their own design too late, says Diane Cagle, a landscape architect in Tulsa. "Landscaping needs to be an integral part of the house design process, incorporating the trees and plantings with the outdoor structures such as patios and decks, and the house itself," she says.

Landscape designers work with the architect or builder to achieve a desired effect, forgoing the rigidity of a traditional shrub-bordered lawn in favor of plants and grasses that are low maintenance and functional.

Landscape designer Neil Diboll of Troy, Michigan, is a great proponent of this approach. Seed mixes for perennial plants mixed with a few annual flowers can be "an investment that often outlasts the homeowners," Diboll says.

Ground covers such as ivy, pachysandra, and spreading plants can readily replace a grass lawn and are especially good for awkward slopes that defy mowing.

Ornamental grasses -- clump-forming relatives of lawn grass -- provide ever-evolving beauty in places where the lawn is dormant for the winter.

Aesthetic basics

Conventional landscape theory suggests dividing the property into three categories -- foreground, service space, and private areas -- each of which serves a specific purpose, but as a whole fits neatly together.

Sometimes called the streetscape, the foreground usually comprises the lawn, walkway, foundation plants, and some trees. The service space includes the house itself, plus outdoor structures or screens that usually hide trash cans, play equipment for the kids, or that rake that never quite gets put away.

Private areas include the backyard and courtyards, and such secondary structures as gazebos.

Better Homes and Gardens



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