Creating a landscape that compliments your home through a variety of vibrant plants can be a challenge. Knowing what, where and how to plant is the key, which is why enlisting the help of a professional landscape designer can smooth the process.
Designers thrive on developing a custom area that fits the client’s needs and desires.
“Some people are not into the outdoors, so they only want it looking good from the inside looking out,” says Beth Hearn, director of operations at Blue Heron Landscape & Design in Parsonsburg, Maryland. “A lot of clients want to be out in their yards. They want a place where they can have a glass of wine, a place where they can pick flowers.”
No matter your preference, local designers have come across some popular planting trends that could make your landscape shine spring into fall. The time to plan is now, so if you’re doing it yourself…
A Rose is Sometimes More Than a Rose
With their striking colors and big hips, roses have never lost their appeal, but planted in the wrong areas, they can become infested with pests and fungus.
Enter the popular Knockout rose, a large shrub bred to be resistant to pest and disease, so they require little maintenance, says Rodney Robinson, principal of Rodney Robinson Landscape Architects in Wilmington. Those characteristics make the Knockout rose an ideal planting for this area. With blooms in pink, red and yellow, the roses bloom continually from June to early fall.
“You’re almost assured to have beautiful rose colors and beautiful foliage,” Robinson says.
The Flower Carpet rose is also resistant to disease and pests. This ground cover rose has a glossy leaf and blooms in white, pink, red, yellow and coral. The Flower Carpet leafs out four weeks earlier than other roses and also blooms earlier. Mass plantings will give your garden a deep soaking of color, says Christian Tauber, landscape designer for Old Country Gardens in Wilmington.
With the green movement surging and environmental awareness sweeping the nation, more native plants are sprouting in local gardens. Plants that have been growing naturally in a particular area since before European settlement provide nourishment to local wildlife such as birds, as well as insects that support the ecosystem. Allowing all species to flourish means more beauty through flora, as well as fauna.
Native plants have a great advantage over their exotic counterparts: Because they’re uniquely adapted to the environment and climate, they’re easy to care for. “They don’t require the vast quantity of watering that some plants need,” Hearn says.
Among the natives that can give your garden a natural look are river birch (Betula nigra), American holly (Ilex opaca), winterberry (Ilex verticillata), summersweet (Clethera alnafolia), Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica), black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta), lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina) and cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomea).
A calming garden can make the backyard an idyllic escape from everyday troubles, or an ideal spot for entertaining guests. Hearn says the light colors and fragrances of a nighttime (or moonlight) garden make for a relaxing, charming outdoor destination.
“We’ll do a lot of things that bloom white and really stand out in the evening with the moonlight,” she says.
Flowers such as angel’s trumpet, moonflower and azaleas glow in the moonlight. Add fragrance with rosemary, lavender or thyme. “It’s nice to plant fragrant creeping thyme along paths or seating areas so the scent is released as you walk across the plants,” she says.
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Gardening with perennials can produce a delightful combination of colors and textures. “It’s just a much more subtle landscape, but it’s still quite beautiful,” says Robinson, who has been in the landscape design business for more than 30 years.
Designers can create a perennial garden that is easier to maintain by the client, yet some gardeners prefer more intricacy.
“The English perennial border is an enormous favorite,” Robinson says. “Different perennial shrubs come in and out of bloom, creating a symphony of color. Those can be complicated so people who are really into gardening enjoy them.”
And gardens can maintain visual interest throughout the year through the blooms, seed heads or fall colors and leaf textures of the plants, says Laura Miller, landscape architect for Wallace Associates, Inc. in Kennett Square.
Complementing each other by bloom and color, the perennials Miller chose for a recent project in Chadds Ford included red coral bells (Heuchera micranthe) and green lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis), orange red hot poker (Kniphofia uvaria) and yellow daylilies (Hemerocallis), with a splash of garden pink (Dianthus gratianopolitanus) and blue meadow sage (Salvia nemorosa).
Planting your own garden is great for the soul, but watch out for a few mistakes DIY gardeners commonly make.
In their desire for an instant landscape, people tend to crowd their gardens, says Sarah Dodd of Wallace Associates. When planting trees, shrubs and perennials, place them far enough apart so that when they reach full size, they won’t be crowded by surrounding plants. Also beware of making garden beds too small, which gives plants too little room to breathe.
“If the beds are too small, the plants will end up looking cramped in the space,” Hearn says. “If you make a bigger bed, then the plants can be staggered more creatively.”
Planning for natural influences on the land—sun, wind and water—is important. Getting as much information as possible about the plants that catch your eye will help you choose the right ones for your environment.
Close to Home
The architecture of a home can play a significant role in deciding what and where to plant. Having your landscape echo the style of the architecture creates a holistically cohesive look.
“If you have a colonial house, you’re going to use traditional plants like boxwood, holly and old-fashioned perennials. You look for symmetry,” Tauber says. “With contemporary houses, there is usually no symmetry. There you can do lots of drama. You can get away with a selection of different, unusual designs.”
Whether your home is colonial, traditional or contemporary, you decide whether the landscape will reflect the architecture.
“A formal English garden would appear appropriate next to an English Tudor style house, but it is not the final factor in the design making process, says Dodd. “Our goal as landscape architects is to reflect the wishes of the client while still respecting the land that will be molded. A happy balance is the ultimate goal.”