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Proper landscaping requires detailed planning

If the winter kill has you thinking about a major renovation in your yard, now is a good time to start planning. There are a number of questions you need to ask yourself before deciding on a final plan.

First, it's important to understand the difference between landscaping and planting. Landscaping is laying out property according to a definite plan. This saves time, money and labor. Two of the most important "tools" you use will be a pencil and paper.

Before getting started, ask yourself these questions:

What type of landscape do I want? Are you more comfortable with a formal or informal design? School yourself about the differences. Look at houses similar to yours and see which design makes you more comfortable.

How much maintenance am I willing to do? Do you want a design that requires low, moderate or high maintenance? Be honest with yourself. Remember we have long, hot summers. That design requiring hours of work each week may not be so appealing when it's 90 degrees with matching humidity.

What's the orientation of my house? It's important to know how the sun moves across your property. This will affect where you place your outdoor living space as well as which plants you choose.

How much lawn am I willing to maintain? Grass is a fairly high maintenance item. How much mowing, watering and fertilizing do you want to do? Do you need large expanses of lawn for children or pets?

What functional areas does my yard need? Do you need a service area for garbage cans, wood storage or a clothesline? What about areas for play, outdoor entertainment, pets, work or gardening? It's important to define the roles your yard will play before you start digging. Ask your family members what they expect from the yard.

Is there anything else?

Are plantings needed to help reduce noise or to ensure privacy? What plants do you truly like and want in your yard? Are there any plants you are adamant about not including? Will you include any specialty plants such as bulbs, roses or others?

If you take the time to answer these questions, your design will be much easier to create, and you'll be much happier with the results. If you work with a landscape professional, she should ask you questions such as these so you end up with a design you can live with and maintain.

Another important aspect of landscape design is unseen elements, namely drainage and underground irrigation systems.

We receive a lot of rain in Florida, and good drainage is important for the health of your plants. Improve drainage by changing the slope of your yard, adding French drains or using perforated pipe to carry the water away from unwanted areas.

Underground irrigation systems can save precious time and water when installed and used properly. If you're a novice, you might do well to ask for professional advice. Just one quick tip — sprinkler zones should include plant materials with similar watering requirements. This allows for a wiser use of water. And don't forget to include a rain gauge.

Designing a landscape doesn't have to be overwhelming. Take it one step at a time. Do your homework, ask questions and seek professional help when necessary. You don't have to do it alone.

Mary Collister can be reached at

Proper landscaping requires detailed planning 02/11/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 5:54pm]
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