A Good Landscape Plan Reflects Lifestyle
Landscapes tell a story, a story of life. Kent Fisher, president of Greenleaf Landscaping & Lawn Care, referenced outdoor living spaces as our mini retreat; consequently, every aspect of our landscape should reflect our lifestyles.
Our residential landscapes speak of the ever-changing Indiana weather, the play area for the kids, a relaxing area for morning coffee, romp room for Fido, shade for the front windows, all while blocking out old man Peterson poolside in his Speedo.
Mark Tucker, designer for Greenleaf, believes it is in the planning of the design that makes the difference. “In my opinion, planning is the key element for a successful landscape transformation. Whether using a professional landscaping company or doing it yourself, homeowners would be wise to research carefully what they want out of the functionality, aesthetics, and cost of their areas. This type of planning pays off in great dividends at the end.”
When considering the functionality of an area, a homeowner should think of all the members that will be sharing the outdoor living space, including pets. Cats don’t seem to be much of a problem, with the exception of getting into uncovered sandboxes. Creatures of habit, dogs love to run, play, chase, and dig. Many homeowners enjoy planted landscapes in corners of their yard, but their dogs love to run the fence line. What is a homeowner to do? “When a customer wants a corner planting and they own a dog, I pull the design away from the corner on both sides enough to give the dog his running path. It has a great look to it, and everyone is happy.”
According to Mark, one of the biggest mistakes we make in our landscape planning involves not looking into the future. “If a homeowner is thinking of putting in a pool in two years, it doesn’t make sense to put in a huge water element or fountain in the only front corner that big equipment will need to go through to dig the pool. I suggest to my clients to consider the water element in the other front corner of the house. This is how planning can help.”
Future dreams of having children should be considered in a landscape plan. Young couples, hoping to have children someday, will eventually need room and shade for play equipment. Most homeowners wouldn’t want to place an expensive garden art sculpture in the only place possible for an eventual play yard. “Swing sets, sandboxes, trampolines, and tee ball practice all require plenty of space and some shade,” said Mark with a look of parental concern in his eyes. “Safety is the first consideration in a design for a children’s play yard. Their area needs to be where parents can keep an eye on them and also be contained with the use of fencing, walls, or plantings.”
The functionality section wouldn’t be complete without talking a little bit about hardscapes. The employees of Greenleaf refer to hardscaping as the structural elements of your outdoor living space. Those elements that help create welcoming spaces or gathering areas include: patios made from cement or pavers, mulched paths, fountains, outdoor fireplaces, fire pits, or retaining walls. While most of these items are strictly done by professionals such as Greenleaf, both the homeowner and the professional need to be aware of the out-of-sight elements, such as septic systems, wells, irrigation systems, invisible dog fences, or secondary gas or electric lines. “I have seen too many incidents where companies did not get the answers to these questions and hardscapes have had to be torn out to fix a septic system problem for example,” said Mark. Knowing these concerns ahead of time will allow for a tranquil and fun landscaped area later.
Aesthetics plays a big role in creating the mini-retreat feel. Magazines and the internet give a homeowner a chance to dream and contemplate whether a certain look fits their lifestyle and space. Curved landscapes with ornamental grasses waving in the wind can be calming to some, where others relax in a paradise of color. So, homeowners must ask themselves:
- What colors do we and don’t we desire in our landscape?
- Are there specific plants (trees, shrubs, flowers, grasses) we want to use?
Mark suggests when designing an area, a homeowner needs to know the mature heights of plantings, so flowers, shrubs, and trees can all be displayed in an eye-pleasing layout. Do not plant trees with expansive root systems near a home because they can cause structural damage. Another plant consideration is their climate and watering needs. With plants, it is also important to know their watering needs. A homeowner doesn’t want to drown some and dehydrate others; grouping together plants that have the same climate and water hydration restrictions is recommend.
Whether doing a landscape all at once or phasing the project, Mark advises to compare prices for everything. For instance, if you’re doing the job yourself, it might be cheaper to purchase mulch for the required 3” depth in bulk rather than by bags.
As garden writer and designer Don Engebretson once said, “Your property serves many functions. A good design [plan] results in a landscape that works and plays with you, not against you.”
Tonja Talley has called Center Grove home since 1993. An 11-year bi-lateral lung transplant survivor, Tonja enjoys speaking on behalf of the Indiana Organ Procurement Organization. She also volunteers for the CF Foundation, byTavi, and her church.