“But now in September the garden has cooled, and with it my possessiveness. The sun warms my back instead of beating on my head ... The harvest has dwindled, and I have grown apart from the intense midsummer relationship that brought it on.” – Robert Finch
“Ah, September! You are the doorway to the season that awakens my soul ... but I must confess that I love you only because you are a prelude to my beloved October.” – Peggy Toney Horton
As fall time nears and our landscape interests increase, it's time to focus on projects around the home and landscape. However, as plans are made for development and installations, be informed on positive curb appeal, proper plant selection, effective sustainability practices and necessary maintenance requirements.
As your landscape plans unfold, review basic information that should be considered to assist you in making the right plant selections and design decisions. Before you start any project, a good understanding of what is involved from start to finish is most critical. Keep impulse buying to a minimum. And make it a landscape September to remember!
Develop an understanding of the landscape design principles and concepts, proper plant installation, hardscapes and softscapes, and the required maintenance details which will be necessary to take any project to fruition.
Get a grip on the reasons for the landscaping that you are about to undertake and define whether these actions will have the best interests of all involved, including your environmental neighbors (wildlife) and the site itself. Also, an understanding of plant characteristics (maximum average size and shape at maturity, texture, form, etc.) and needs (water, light, fertilizer, positioning, etc.) is most critical.
Develop an understanding of the outdoor room concept which includes the wall (tree trunks and large shrubs), ceiling (tree canopies) and floor (grasses, flowers, groundcovers and circulation paths). Also, realize that the public area is that area seen from the street and is usually the first area to be landscaped and evaluated because of curb appeal.
The private area is the screened or fenced area at the side and rear of the home which usually cannot be seen from the street and can be landscaped at will according to your own judgments (do not have to be concerned with curb appeal, just be pleasing to the family).
The third area is the service area (trash cans, grill, storage, vegetable garden, etc.) which functions as the name indicates. Keep this area functional but as neutral as possible to minimize directing attention to it. This area can be found in the public area and throughout the private area.
The landscape design principles of simplicity, balance, flow (rhythm and line), proportion, focalization and unity are applied to minimize smorgasbord results and over-crowding the site. Simplicity prevents complication and confusion and gives the viewer a comfort zone to enjoy a properly landscaped home.
However, do not over-simplify by using only one species of plants in repetition (like a row of boxwoods around the entire front foundation). Good simplicity usually involves using no more than five to seven species of plants in an organized layout throughout the public area.
The balance that you want to achieve can be either symmetrical (formal) or asymmetrical (informal). With symmetrical balance, you get a mirror image to the right and to the left of a benchmark (such as a perpendicular sidewalk leading to the porch area and front door where left mirrors the right).
And with asymmetrical balance, you achieve a visual weight balance but not a mirrored image. For example, this balance can be achieved by placing three dogwoods to the left of a benchmark (driveway) and three to five crape myrtles to the right providing a balanced canopy appearance.
With flow (rhythm and line), allow each component of the landscape to lead into the next. Thus, using filler plants to take your attention from one focal point to the next is ideal. This can be achieved through mature plant sizes, texture, color, etc. However, only establish one focal point per view such as the front door or a specimen plant.
With proportion, it is a plant-structure relationship, as well as plan-plant relationship. Be certain to choose plants that will not appear dwarfed against a two-story home (thus leaving a bare wall appearance) or overwhelm a one-level home (planting a large tree too close which appears to hide the structure and offer potential storm damage).
Unity is the principle of design providing completion and everything appears as a whole and unified. Unity can be compared to a completed puzzle where you can still see where the pieces fit together but the entire picture has function and appeal.
The landscape design concepts of texture, size, color, drought tolerance, growth rate, soil conditions, light, shade, flowering, nutritional needs, etc., need to be considered before making specific plant selections. And water-efficient landscaping (xeriscaping) plays important role in today’s landscapes, as well as the choice to use a separate water meter for landscaping applications where allowed.
Be certain that your landscape has good site drainage before initiating any projects.
Identify your bed areas, such as foundation, lawn, street, natural, etc., and determine their curb appeal, ease of maintenance and the type of mulch that will be the best fit. For example, if you have a bed of pine trees, then your best mulch choice would be pine straw because other mulches would be a headache trying to maintain (keeping the falling needles removed).
Consideration of appropriate plants (trees, shrubs, groundcovers, flowers, turf, etc.) in the plant selection process is critical. For example, look at your area and determine the specific factors that you are trying to satisfy, such as height and width, flowering, deciduous or evergreen, filler, specimen, seasonal color, shade or sunlight, etc.
Compile a list with these descriptions and identify several plants that would fit these specs. This process will determine a category of plants from which a specific choice can be made (professional approach) rather than buying a dogwood and then asking where it can be planted on site (the amateur or novice approach). Think in terms of native and sustainable plants in the landscape.
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” – Psalm 91:1
“I will be glad and rejoice in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.” – Psalm 9:2.
“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.” – Psalm 23:1.
“For you make me glad by Your deeds, O Lord; I sing for joy at the works of Your hands.” – Psalm 92:4.
“Your word is a Lamp to my feet and a Light for my path.” – Psalm 119:105.
Dr. Eddie Seagle is a sustainability verifier, Golf Environment Organization (Scotland), agronomist and horticulturalist, CSI: Seagle (Consulting Services International), professor emeritus and honorary alumnus (Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College), distinguished professor for teaching and learning (University System of Georgia) and short-term missionary (Heritage Church, Moultrie). Direct inquiries to csi_seagle @yahoo.com.