A well-landscaped yard adds greatly to the enjoyment of one's home. It also adds to the value of the property. It is difficult to put a dollar value on the landscape, but most real estate agents agree that the value can be somewhere between 5 and 20 percent of the value of the property. An average value is about 13 percent. From this, you can see that landscaping is good business.
Most homeowners take several years to plan and plant their yards. They may seek the help of a landscape nursery or prefer to draw their own plans and buy the plants that are needed. Landscape architects occasionally design home landscapes, but they are usually kept busy on larger commercial and public projects. Books have been written on landscape design and persons planning to do their own landscaping should study the topic as much as possible.
Most yards can be divided into three more or less distinct areas: the public area, the private (outdoor-living) area, and the service area. No sharp lines separate these areas, and the amount of space devoted to each depends on the placement of the house on the lot and the size and interests of the family.
The public area is seen by the public and normally includes the part of the yard from the front of the house to the street or public road.
The private area, or outdoor-living area, is an extension of the living area of the house into the yard. Privacy can be achieved by border plantings. A patio may be an important part of this area.
The service area accommodates things like the clothesline, garbage cans, tool shed, dog run, garage, and so on. It should be compact and simply planted.
The first step in landscaping is drawing the plan. This is followed by selecting materials and finally by planting and maintenance. Each of these steps is interrelated and each is equally important. The best landscape plan in the world is not worth the paper it is drawn on unless the choice of plant materials is proper for executing the plan. Without adequate maintenance, no planting will look very good after a few years.
Let us start with the landscape plan. The purpose of a plan is to let us make mistakes on paper and to determine exactly the number of plants of each kind that will be needed.
To help you with your design, we should consider the proper use and positioning of certain plants and structural features:
Trees are used for framing the house, for shade, for background, and for ornament. Framing trees are usually planted in the public area. They should be planted out from the front corners of the house so that they frame the house rather than hide it as they grow to maturity. Trees planted for shade should be positioned only where shade is really required. Consider the angle of the sun during months when shade is needed. Remember that sunlight may be as welcome as shade; this is particularly true for about 9 months of the year. Background trees can be planted toward the back of the yard. They should be tall enough to be seen above the house when viewed from the front. Ornamental trees should be used as lawn specimens and planted where they can be enjoyed both from indoors and in the yard.
Existing trees should be carefully studied to see if their location is appropriate. The kind of trees present should also be known. If an undesirable tree is located where a tree should not be, it might be best to remove it. In a small yard two trees may be all that is required. If the front yard is large, a number of trees may be needed.
Shrubs and small evergreens are properly used around the edges of the yard to provide privacy and in the foundation planting to blend the house with the yard. Scattered shrubs in the lawn are a nuisance as far as maintenance is concerned; an open lawn is far more beautiful and easier to care for. A mixed shrub border adds interest to your outdoor living room. Planting shrubs in groups of three to five of a kind looks better than having a collection of individual plants of different varieties. Spacing of shrubs should allow room for the plants to grow to maturity: 6 to 8 feet between large shrubs, 4 to 6 feet for medium shrubs, and 2 to 4 feet for small shrubs. In designing the border, try to avoid a stepladder effect. Arrange the background shrubs to give a varied skyline. Use taller shrubs where you wish to hide an unsightly view, lower shrubs where you wish to frame a view. Arrange the shrubs so that all are visible from the yard side. If your shrub border is to serve as a background for a flower border, the front shrubs should not be shorter than the flowers.
The foundation planting requires care in planning. The purpose of the planting is to blend the house with the yard. For a one-story house the corner planting should reach about two-thirds the height of the eaves. Taller shrubs are needed at the corners for a two-story house. Plants under windows should never grow taller than the base of the window. Plants on either side of the entrance should be lower than the corner plantings. It is not necessary to hide the entire foundation of the house if the style of architecture is pleasing. Do not plant too close to the foundation. This is especially important with overhanging eaves.
Needle evergreens are often planted in foundation plantings. If this is done, select types not susceptible to winter burn and those that do not require much restrictive pruning. A combination of deciduous shrubs and evergreens is often more interesting than evergreens alone.
Flowers can be grown in a flower border or in a special cutting garden. The flower border should be located along one side of the yard, preferably in the private area and where it can be viewed from both indoors and out. A suitable background should be provided for the flower border. This background may be an informal shrub border, a hedge, or an ornamental fence. The depth and length of the flower border depends on the size of the yard and the interests of the family. A curved border is more interesting than one with straight lines.
Features like patios, trellises, sundials, walks, clotheslines, etc. should be carefully considered. The patio should be conveniently located near the kitchen. Trellises can be located by the house or garage, or they can serve as a screen. The use of sundials, pools, statuary, etc. depends on the interests of the family.
You are now ready to develop your plan. Make a scale drawing on paper, showing the location of the house, property lines, utilities like power and gas lines, drives and walks, and existing trees and mature shrubs. Use cross-section paper or draw in V^-inch squares on a sheet of white paper. Depending on the size of your plan and the size of your property, select a scale like 8 feet to the inch. It is good to indicate on the plan the size and height of all windows. Tracing paper should be used for preliminary designing. You will seldom be satisfied with your first effort, and by using tracing paper you can start over without having to relocate all the permanent features.
Locate the major areas by drawing circles or ovals on the tracing paper. In general the areas within the circles or ovals would be lawn areas and the areas outside would be used for the shrub and flower borders. Outline where shrubs and small evergreens will be positioned and locate all trees and special architectural features.
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