Category Home Landscape Design

The Sustainable Sites Initiative™

The Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES™) is a new national effort to create voluntary guidelines and benchmarks that pro­mote sustainable land design and construction practices. Jointly sponsored by the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, and the

U. S. Botanic Garden; SITES™ provides a ranking system that awards points for comprehensive sustainable land practices for built projects. The program is complementary to LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System, and it is anticipated that the SITES™ criteria will be incorporated into future versions of LEED®.

SITES™ has nine areas of focus—hydrology, soils and vege­tation, materials, monitoring, operations and maintenance, construction, pre-design a...


Eight simple tips to create an easy-care yard

Although there is no such thing as a no-maintenance land­scape, here are a few suggestions to minimize excessive land­scape care.

1. Reduce the total amount of unused lawn area.

Beautiful lawns are expensive and high-maintenance. In addition to the mowing, rolling, watering, fertilizing, liming, thatching, and pesticide, fungicide, and herbicide applying that are used to maintain a healthy lawn, lawn edging and raking can consume an extraordinary amount of time and expense. Maintaining proper play and open lawn space are important for many homeowners, yet reducing unused lawn portions can save time. Easy-to-care-for trees, shrubs, and groundcovers are excellent alternatives to excessive open lawn space...


Establish priorities for implementation

After you have completed your use areas and planting areas to your satisfaction, it is wise to make a list of priorities to accomplish the plan. Decide on the areas that need to be developed first, and tackle them one at a time as your budget and time allow. Here are a few suggestions to help you accom­plish your goals:

• Finish all land leveling and grade changes first.

• Correct all drainage problems before beginning installations.

• Complete all permanent hard surfaces, such as patios, walk­ways, driveways, and structures, first.

• Because trees take time to mature, consider planting them first.

The Low-Maintenance Landscape

With today’s busy lifestyles, homeowners are seeking ways to reduce maintenance in the home landscape...



Does your landscape plan include:

1. Trees that allow summer shade and winter sun?

2. Evergreen trees that provide protection from winter winds? (Locate these trees on the north and west sides of the residence.)

3. Dense evergreen trees or shrubs to screen undesirable views?

4. Tree placement that allows a clear view of the front entrance of your home?

5. Color or accent plants that provide interest and lead your eye to your front entrance?

6. Evergreen, low-maintenance shrubs as the basis of your foundation plantings?

7. Plants with an appropriate mature size for their locations in your landscape?

8. Seasonal interest with plants chosen for their blooms, bark, fruit, and foliage?

9. The right number of plants, appropriately spaced, to prevent overcrowding?


Copying your planting plan

Store your original plan in a safe location, and make copies of your plan for outdoor use. You can make a copy of your planting plan overlay and base map together on a copying machine because light will pass through tracing paper. Place a book or magazine on top of the plan and flatten it against the glass to provide weight while copying. Adjust the darkness setting on the copier so that the base map is clear on the copy. Adding color to a copy of the plan helps identify masses of plants, bloom colors, or a plant’s prominence in the design.

Base maps for large properties can be created by taping two 8.5 x 11 sheets of graph paper together and printed on a copier that accommodates 11 x 17 sheets of paper. If your property will fit on an 8...


Labeling the plants on the plan

If you have room on your plan, you may want to draw a line to each plant that indicates its common name, quantity, and the container size or height. This saves time spent search­ing for symbols in a plant key. You may also want to include the Latin name of the plant. However, there is not always space available to include all of this information. A shorthand method of using the quantity and first letter or two of the plant’s common name (or Latin name) can be used where space is limited. For example, if the plant is an azalea, it could appear as "12 – A" or "12 – Az." The important part is that your method of labeling is clear to you or the people who will install the plants.

4. Creating a plant key

A plant key is a list of the symbols used in your design, along with the plants they repre...


Spacing plants

The mature size of a plant is very important to consider when creating your plan. If plants mature at 5 feet wide, it is not advisable to locate them 3 feet apart (also called 3 feet "center to center" or "on center") just so they will look nice and full after planting! When locating several groupings of different plant species within a bed, avoid placing the masses of plants too close to each other. Instead, leave some room for a transition between plant species. Draw your planting sym­bol to represent each plant’s mature size and resist placing them too closely. As you locate plant symbols, remember to leave enough space for maintenance and access to utilities, such as water spigots and utility meters.

3. Locating plants on the plan

Deciding the first plant to locate on your plan may se...


Formal or informal

Beds that are symmetrical or have angles are perceived as formal, while asymmetrical or curvilinear beds have an infor­mal appearance. Even numbers of plants generally have a for­mal appearance, and odd numbers of plants tend to be infor­mal. However, the same number of plants can appear either informal or formal, depending on their arrangement. See Figure 27.

Figure 27. In general, even quantities of plants create a formal appear­ance, while odd numbers of plants produce an informal effect. However, the same number of plants can be arranged to provide either a formal (top row) or informal (bottom row) appearance. Image and planting symbols by Pat Drackett.

Outlining the planting beds

The geometry of some beds will be dictated by the shape of your residence and adjacent hard sur...


Foundation plantings

Resist crowding your residence with too many plants. Closely spaced plants may be attractive right after planting, but poor air circulation will lead to disease and pest problems. You want a long lifespan for your landscaping, not to have to replace it every few years! Know the mature sizes of plants to be used in your foundation plantings. The beds surrounding your residence are visually critical because they provide visi­tors with a first impression.

Place accent trees with broad crowns, such as crape myrtles, far enough away from buildings that the canopy has ample room to grow. Determine the mature width you can expect for a tree you would like to use, and divide that width in half. Measure this distance out from the building and mark it...


Landscape Themes

Landscape beds can be com­posed of a collection of plants with a specific theme, such as an herb garden, a wildflower gar­den, a rose bed, or a perennial bed. Those who enjoy flower arranging may wish to create a "cutting bed," where perennials and annuals are grown solely for their blooms. If you like to observe birds, butterflies, and other wildlife, see MSU Extension Publication 2402 Natural Resource Enterprises Wildlife and Recreation, Mississippi Recreational Gardens: Establishing a Backyard Wildlife Habitat, which lists suitable plants and explains how to arrange them to attract wildlife to your yard. Theme gardens are often better suited for private areas of the yard, such as a back yard, rather than in a public area.

Section Two: Consider before beginning your planting design