In the garden

4 most common landscape design mistakes

 

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

“It just doesn’t feel right,” one woman said during a landscaping consult. “It’s almost like there’s a disconnect somewhere.” Another client pointed to trampled plants and asked, “Why can’t the kids stay on the walkway?” An exhausted retiree cried, “They’re supposed to be low maintenance but these things are so huge I have to shear them all the time!”

But my favorite was a young mom gazing on a mid-season vegetable garden. “They didn’t tell me the plants would look so crummy. I want the really pretty gardens on Pinterest.”

If any of these statements rings true at your house, maybe it’s time for a change. Read on to discover the four most common landscape design mistakes and how to avoid them.

•  It just doesn't feel right. When you look outside your family room to the garden, your brain takes in both the room and the exterior space beyond. If the feeling presented by the interior decor palette isn’t reflected in some aspect of the exterior space, there won’t be any visual flow-through.

Creating a palette of colors, textures and materials that is shared by both inside and outdoor spaces helps you feel the connection before you realize it consciously. The more you blur that dividing line at the threshold, the whole becomes far greater than the sum of its parts.

•  Staying on the walkway. It has always been my contention that kids and dogs find their own routes through life and space. They are the barometer of how well your landscape circulation is functioning, or not. Both creatures always take the straightest line between two points. They also fail to recognize corners that aren’t logically or efficiently laid out. The result is not only trampled plants, but damaged sprinkler heads, altered spray patterns and a perennial mud hole.

To resolve this you must change the design using filler paving or objects to deter traffic. Had it been done properly the first time, such conditions rarely present themselves.

•  Monster plants. Professionals know the biggest cause of unnecessary yard work is plants too large for the space provided. It’s usually caused by plant selection based on flower or leaf without knowledge of its ultimate size.

I draw each plant on my plan at its MATURE diameter so I know it fits into the space I have designated. That takes training and knowledge to select a good candidate. Get that right and every plant grows into its natural form without pruning so you can go play on the weekends instead of perpetually hacking away at the monsters.

•  Food gardens. Everywhere you look there are beautiful photos of raised-bed veggie gardens as prim and tidy as a French parterre. Truth is those plants don’t look like that for long. Any experienced vegetable gardener knows how rangy plants become over the season. Tomatoes get huge, vines ramble and climb, and those quaint little colored lettuce heads you love suddenly bolt and flower.

The problem is created when raised beds or that kitchen garden plot is given a high visual priority in the landscape. When it gets ugly at season’s end, it stands out like a sore thumb. This is why food gardens are traditionally placed at the far end of the yard.

In landscape architecture, we’re trained to avoid these problems. I always consider the interior rooms when designing adjacent outdoor space. We learn where and how to intuitively lay out walkways, edges and connections so there’s no need to cut corners. At least two semesters of plant identification teaches students the parameters of most landscape species in design, and details of how they differ in size and form. And though food gardens are hot right now, that doesn’t mean they belong next to the patio.

Good design is worth paying for because it frees you from anxiety, keeps your home cleaner, reduces maintenance and ensures a beautiful view every day of the year.

Maureen Gilmer is an author, horticulturist and landscape designer. Her website is www.MoPlants.com.

Read more Home & Garden stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
Trays are a great and stylish way to keep your home organized and beautiful.

    Decorating

    Style at Home: 5 terrific ways to use trays

    If you went on a scavenger hunt for a tray in my home, you’d find one in every room. In the 33 years I’ve worked in interior design, some of the decorating foot soldiers I use to style my home have come and gone (anyone remember tassels?). But trays are here to stay.

  •  
 <span class="cutline_leadin">BUTTERED UP: </span>The glass dome on this Victorian butter dish is known as ‘Rubina.’

    Treasures

    Unusual Victorian butter dish still valuable

    Q: This butter dish was given to my grandmother over 50 years ago. It is 5 inches in diameter. The markings on the bottom part of the metal are “Rogers Smith & Co.” with “Meriden Ct, Quadruple, 7, USA.” Are you able to give us any information on this piece?

  • Washington Report

    Is spring the time to list your home?

    It’s common knowledge verging on holy writ in real estate: Spring is the absolute best time of the year to sell a house.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category