THIS IS A NEWLY DESIGNED HOME PAGE FOR SOUTHEAST TEXAS GARDENING.
Basics of Home Landscaping
for the Southeast Texas Area
This page will try to help
you think through the process of planning and constructing a home landscape
assuming you are willing to do the actual construction of the landscape
Three major phases
Planning / Plant Selection /
The Planning Process
major feature to any landscape is the attraction of the eye to it.
Therefore, in planning your landscape, be thinking of how your
landscape can "stand out" from others in your area. Use of less
common and "interesting" plants and a design that "draws the eye to
it" will achieve this.
start, have a well thought out plan on paper before you begin any
construction activity. A good plan begins before any drawings are
made. It should include the following:
General rules of thumb to follow
paragraph describing your concepts, assumptions, description of
the entire landscape as you would like to see it, choices, total
budget, and time frame.
List of required equipment and materials needed
alternative plant selections (generally completed after design is drawn)
potential sources for plant and other needed materials along with estimated
construction schedule (work breakdown structure in priority order)
As part of the
planning process, do the following:
Selection - Criteria to Consider
Assess the natural
resources, existing plants and trees, drainage patterns, soil conditions,
natural light conditions throughout the day, and potential problems (e.g.
underground utilities). Draw a scaled plot indicating these conditions and
showing existing structures and significant trees. Plant selections will be
very dependent on the existing or potential environmental conditions initially
identified. Many micro-environmental conditions may exist within your yard
that create exceptions.
Choices to make include
formal vs. informal vs. naturalized landscape, degree of maintenance you are
willing to undertake once constructed, landscape theme desired (predominant type
of plants preferred), intended future use of all yard areas and acceptable
restrictions, and what special features would you like to integrate (e.g. an
aquatic pond/garden, butterfly/hummingbird attractors, fruit trees, other
peripherals such as decorative containers, bed bordering materials such as
Develop an aesthetically
pleasing planting or bedding areas as an addition to your scaled master plot.
Avoid squared-off looks, use curvature or other angles and shapes to the extent
possible. Often the creation of "Island" beds among trees adds interest and
diversity. Allow for seasonal variations in planting areas - using both
permanent and seasonal plant materials to add variety from year to year. Place
taller plants to the rear and add both vertical, horizontal, and a sense of
depth to the planting arrangement (a 3D effect so to speak).
The final step in
developing a landscape is the selection of plant candidates - looking at all
suitable alternatives and selecting those that reflect your personal
preferences. This topic follows:
If you live in Central
Texas which is subject to drought, high temperatures, low humidity, and
stressful growing conditions, consider
Select several suitable
alternatives for each planting area. Get the advice of a knowledgeable
horticulturist or independent source that doesn't have a conflict of interest
(e.g. a nursery would most likely recommend plants they stock for sale).
Personally view each plant
recommended to ensure that it suits your personal tastes. Although landscaping
is done for the neighborhood, you look at it every day and must be the
ultimately satisfied customer.
Mix different plant
textures, sizes, colors, and growth forms to add diversity and visual/artistic
interest. The combinations of plants that would go well together are numerous.
Mixture of plants should
promote a sense of 3-Dimensional depth in addition to diversity. Never line
plants up in a row, and allow sufficient spacing for the plants ultimate size,
not to achieve an instant effect. Consider how the landscape looks from all
evergreens for frontal or public areas. When using deciduous plants, surround
them with other evergreens to provide interest during dormancy periods.
Deciduous plants can also be effectively used as backdrop plants.
Be prepared to acquire your
plants from multiple sources. No single commercial source will have all the
plants you need at any given time. You can also compare quality and prices
from various commercial sources while making the rounds.
Bed or planting area
preparation is the most important key to successful planting of any landscape.
For the Gulf coastal areas with hard compacted clay soils, roto-tilling or
shovel turning/breaking of soil to 12 inch depth, topping with 6 inches of
mixed soil (1/3 sharp sand. 1/3 topsoil, 1/3 ground mulch) then roto-tilling/turning
soil again will ensure a good foundation for any area to be planted. Another
technique is to plant in raised bed conditions, either by bordering with
landscape timbers, rocks, etc, or by mounding up at least 6 to 12 inches using
the same recommended soil mixture. Gulf coast clay soils are nutrient rich but
very poor draining. These preparations mainly deal with the drainage problem.
Inland from the Gulf 50+ miles, the soil changes to a sandy loam or more friable
texture requiring less preparation effort. For Central Texas gardeners, the
same problems can be solved by planting in raised beds. Central Texas
conditions vary but may include a dry hard clay soil or a shallow soil base
bottomed with limestone that drains very well.
In constructing your
landscape, be prepared for the long haul and don't expect your completed job to
look "finished" for some time afterward. It takes time for plants to become well
established and grow to desired characteristics. Never plant for "instant
effect" but visualize the potential several years away. It will take up to
several years for the potential to be realized.
Plan your construction work
into easily divided phases (a work breakdown structure) so it can be done over
time depending on time of year, availability of materials, available personal
time, and stage of construction (e.g. bed preparation vs planting).
As a general rule, the best
time to plant any tree, hardwood shrub, or hardy perennial is in fall
(Oct.-Nov.) for the Central Texas or Gulf Coast areas. This allows the plant to
concentrate on strong root development during winter months before the spring
growth spurt. There is ample moisture during these months and a reduction of
stress from the summer heat to allow the new plants to become well established.
Spring planting should focus on tender and seasonal plantings, plus the addition
of any tender plants over wintered out of the ground. Such exotics and tropical
plants can add a lot to the summer landscape when blended with permanent
The final thought on home
landscapes is "An ounce of prevention beats a pound of cure". Take the time to
do it right, thoroughly research your choices of plant materials, and assess
your environmental conditions to match them with the best plants for those
conditions. The time it takes to prepare your beds properly will provide years
of trouble free growing and save you money in the longer run. Also, don't expect
instant results - a good landscape takes time to develop. Be prepared for
additional maintenance time for every landscape addition you add. What gets
constructed must get maintained or you're back to square one.
Most people think that Home
Landscaping refers to the front end appearance of the home to beautify it for
the betterment of the neighborhood. But what about your personal enjoyment?
HERE IS ONE
ASPECT OF HOME LANDSCAPING THAT IS OFTEN OVERLOOKED!
Don't forget to landscape
your back yard also. The front may be for the neighborhood effect but the back
yard is for your personal pleasure, so a beautiful landscape in the back area as
well, full of gardens with your favorite plants and creative touches will add
much pleasure to your home owning experience. See Examples of "Backyard
Landscaping below. We transformed a barren back yard with St. Augustine grass
and a fence into what you see below, in less than one year! It has become a
mini-botanical garden with space left to roam.
A three-tier cacti and succulent
display garden - stacked limestone rock, lined with screening and filled
with porous, sandy soil
Small fish pond with aquatic plants and
surrounding bog garden.
Top Right: Border bedding for
tropical plant summer garden. Bottom Right: Hanging Pots on fencing
displaying Bougainvillea, Bromeliads, and other flowering plants.
Looking for software to draw
landscaping designs? Try Excel - making column widths equal to row
heights produces instant graph paper. Create landscaping symbols using the
drawing toolbar on PowerPoint. Copy and paste into Excel. You don't need
special "landscaping" software to draw good designs. Simple drawing tools and
standard shapes will do.
For a sample using Excel,
Requires Excel 5.O or later version .
Twelve Landscaping Mistakes people make - in our humble opinion.
Another good site to visit for General
Landscaping Tips is
Home Landscaping - Texas A&M