De­sign­ing the ideal land­scape for your fam­ily

Land­scap­ing De­sign

Manitoba Gardener Magazine - - CONTENTS - By Keith Lemkey

When you de­cide to land­scape your prop­erty a lot of com­po­nents, need to be taken into con­sid­er­a­tion. Mass and bal­ance, tex­ture and scale, sequence and rep­e­ti­tion, bloom­ing times, sea­sonal colour, the ar­chi­tec­ture of the plant it­self — all these fea­tures and more need to be ex­am­ined at the plan­ning stage to achieve the de­sired re­sult. Other items that should be in­cluded in the equa­tion in­clude main­te­nance con­sid­er­a­tions, fu­ture needs and your own per­son­al­ity. The yard should re­flect your fam­ily’s life­style, not the style of the de­signer or land­scape con­trac­tor.

Whether start­ing from scratch or ren­o­vat­ing an ex­ist­ing site, plan­ning is your most im­por­tant step. Where does the deck go? The bar­beque? The hot tub? The kids’ play area? How big a play area is needed? How big a deck? What kind of trees? How big will they get? The list of variables is a long one.

Plan your space to ac­com­mo­date your pri­or­i­ties. What is your most es­sen­tial re­quire­ment? A pool? A deck? The kids’ play area? Set aside the area your fam­ily will need to carry on that ac­tiv­ity. Not too big, not too small. (Ev­ery fam­ily’s needs will dif­fer, so don’t let oth­ers in­flu­ence your de­ci­sion.) Then pro­ceed down your list of pri­or­i­ties. You will find that de­ter­min­ing the func­tions you want to ac­com­mo­date, and then al­lo­cat­ing space for them, is a ma­jor part of the plan­ning process.

Now you can start to jug­gle the space al­lot­ments un­til you find har­mony be­tween one area and another, in the same way as ac­tiv­i­ties con­nect from one room to another in your house. (The lay­out is best done on a scaled draw­ing of your yard.)

Some hints:

1. A tran­si­tion deck is help­ful in tak­ing you from one space to another. A dif­fer­ent level adds an el­e­ment of in­ter­est to the land­scape. And your deck doesn't have to be against your house or garage, or even off the

pa­tio doors. It might be in the mid­dle of your prop­erty, reached by a walk­way, a bridge or a few steps.

2. Plants, trees and shrubs don’t have to be put in along the prop­erty lines in cute, curv­ing beds. It’s a pop­u­lar mis­con­cep­tion that this makes your prop­erty ap­pear larger. On the con­trary, it will draw in the perime­ter. A demon­stra­tion: look at a yard with no fence and com­pare it to one with a fence. That fence de­fines the ex­act point where your prop­erty starts and ends, elim­i­nat­ing any op­por­tu­nity of mak­ing the space beyond part of the gar­den deign.

3. There should be a rea­son or pur­pose to ev­ery as­pect of your land­scape. A tree should be po­si­tioned in a cer­tain place for a par­tic­u­lar pur­pose: to shade an area from the sun, to add pri­vacy, as a fo­cal-point spec­i­men plant­ing, or just to con­ceal a less at­trac­tive fea­ture in the sur­round­ing area.

4. Another con­cern at the plan­ning stage is sea­sons, in­clud­ing fall and win­ter. Plant ev­er­greens or dog­woods or birches to add colour and in­ter­est to even the drea­ri­est days.

5. Al­low for change. No one can pre­dict what your fu­ture re­quire­ments will be. You re­dec­o­rate the in­te­rior of your home; you buy new fur­ni­ture; you change the pic­tures on the walls. Al­low for sim­i­lar changes out­side. After all, your out­door area is just another room.

6. Fi­nally, con­sider health and age. If these mat­ters are ad­dressed now, you could save your­self time, ef­fort and dol­lars in the fu­ture. A young fam­ily may have a play area for young chil­dren (for ex­am­ple, a sand­box and play struc­ture). Once the chil­dren have out­grown this fa­cil­ity, the area could eas­ily be con­verted to a shrub or flower bed or raised to be­come an easy to reach veg­etable gar­den.

Your land­scape is an ex­ten­sion of your home, so ex­press your­self. Your house has a cer­tain style; your fur­ni­ture, dé­cor and colour choices make a state­ment about you. So, too, does your land­scape. Here are a few ways to make a pos­i­tive as well as a per­son­alised state­ment.

Style: Do you pre­fer a nat­u­ral, more rus­tic look? Then stay with those el­e­ments, use nat­u­ral stone, boulders, na­tive plant ma­te­ri­als and nat­u­ral ground cov­ers. Does an ori­en­tal flare ap­peal to you more? Lat­tice pri­vacy screens would be a nice touch, as would a small pond of wa­ter fea­ture where the trick­ling sound of the wa­ter blocks out the white noise. Per­haps a more bal­anced or struc­tured geo­met­ric form is more your fancy. In choos­ing a style, you have taken the first steps to ex­press­ing your per­son­al­ity through your land­scape.

Ma­te­ri­als: To add a fin­ished look to your land­scape choose spec­i­men plants that suit your style or theme. This se­lec­tion in the choice of colours, tex­tures, shapes

and even fra­grances, will be a state­ment of your per­sonal taste. You need only one or two spec­i­mens to make your own state­ment. You might choose the pink colour of a Nank­ing cherry’s bloom in the early spring or the red fire of an Amur maple in the fall or the red of the Siberian dog­wood’s bark in the win­ter. Or the shape of a Rosy­bloom crab, with its boun­ti­ful show of flow­ers in May. Or even the fra­grance of the feath­ery plumes of the Ja­panese tree li­lac.

Ac­ces­sories: Pa­tio fur­ni­ture comes in a wide va­ri­ety of colours, styles, shapes, even ma­te­ri­als, any of which could com­pli­ment your yard and pro­vide an invit­ing con­ti­nu­ity from the in­ner space of your house, like another room. Flower pots, stat­ues, wa­ter foun­tains, bird baths, sun­di­als, ce­ram­ics, stained glass, what­ever is to your taste can be in­cor­po­rated. If it feels right to you, it will likely fit in well in your yard.

Note: Don’t over do it. These should only be slight ac­cents. Use them to add your per­sonal sig­na­ture or per­sonal touch to your yard, like the or­na­ments in your liv­ing room.

Main­te­nance: This is the area that is most over­looked un­til it is too late. In most fam­i­lies today, ev­ery­body is busy, and no one is anx­ious to spend their free time weed­ing and try­ing to keep up with the yard. Proper plan­ning, with main­te­nance a ma­jor con­sid­er­a­tion, can cut your up­keep time to a min­i­mum and pre­vent most of the headaches that might come in the fu­ture. Ini­tial costs of your ven­ture might be slightly higher, but this spend­ing will more than play for it­self.

A few hints: Mow­ing time can be re­duced if you keep the plant­ing beds sim­ple. Large, curved, smooth lines are pleas­ing to the eye and sim­plify mow­ing. In­stall pre­fab­ri­cated edg­ing, pres­sure-treated wood or bricks around plant­ing beds or along the fence or sides of the house to re­duce trim­ming. These should be set flush with the ground, so the edge won’t have to be trimmed.

Prun­ing time can be sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced if you choose a plant ap­pro­pri­ate to a site, al­ways keep­ing in mind the ma­ture size of the spec­i­men. And your plant, then, won’t be dis­fig­ured by shear­ing. It will re­tain its nat­u­ral beauty.

Weed­ing and cul­ti­vat­ing can be re­duced if you use a weed bar­rier and stone mulch — though not in most flower beds. Avoid lime­stone, how­ever. Its colour is too bright, and it de­tracts from the plants; the brighter colour also re­flects the heat onto the plants. You can use nat­u­ral or­ganic mulches like shred­ded wood as a dress­ing. Of course, noth­ing will elim­i­nate weed­ing; heck they even come up through the ce­ment cracks.

Use qual­ity ma­te­ri­als at the con­struc­tion stage of decks, fences, pri­vacy screens, trel­lises, etc. to cut down on main­te­nance re­quire­ments.

Whether you are start­ing from scratch or ren­o­vat­ing an ex­ist­ing site, you must take many things into ac­count dur­ing the plan­ning stage. Use qual­ity ma­te­ri­als at the con­struc­tion stage of decks, fences, pri­vacy screens, trel­lises, etc. to cut down on main­te­nance re­quire­ments.

Whether you are start­ing from scratch or ren­o­vat­ing an ex­ist­ing site, you must take many things into ac­count dur­ing the plan­ning stage. Whether you work on your own or de­cide to hire a pro­fes­sional to help you, the in­vest­ment you make in your land­scape will re­ward you with great sat­is­fac­tion and joy for a life­time.

Keith Lemkey is a land­scape ar­chi­tect and owner of the award-win­ning de­sign/build firm Lemkey Land­scape De­sign Ltd. in Win­nipeg. llde­

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