Every element in your landscape should fulfill some purpose. Nothing should be there just because some clever advertising made you buy it or because you're trying to impress the neighbors. For example, a ground cover planting may help control erosion on a slope, a patio can offer a place for you and your family to hang out, and landscape lighting makes your property safer at night.
Many landscape elements serve more than one purpose. That ground cover isn't only holding the slope. It's also providing nectar for the bees, producing oxygen, and perhaps adding fragrance to be enjoyed by people. In the permaculture world (see the nearby sidebar "What's permaculture?"), getting multiple benefits out of one action or element is called stacking functions.
When your entire landscape is composed of things that serve one or more purposes, and when all the elements are skillfully combined into a single, highly-functioning whole, you'll have a landscape system that offers maximum benefit to you and to the environment. So when you're making choices of what to put in your new landscape, run things through the "What does it do?" filter. You'll be glad you did.
Sometimes the answer to the "What does it do?" question can be, "It makes me really happy" or "It's beautiful." Don't feel bad about that. Your happiness is important.
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