New Home Landscaping

Phil Peters
Adam's County Master Gardener Program

If youíre one of those lucky individuals who have just moved into a recently constructed home, you will want to make your new landscape look as great as your new house. Many new homes come with minimal or no landscape packages, so you are often on your own to enhance the look and value of your property.

Now is the time to design a landscape that tells everyone who you are and adds to the delight of living in your new home. A casual glance in the garden stores and catalogs will show you that today your problem is not what to use but how to limit yourself to the most effective plants and materials for your particular landscape. Letís examine how we can get on the right track to a beautiful design.

The most useful piece of paper you can get from your builder or title company is the plat showing your property, its layout, boundaries, etc. Take it to a copy store and enlarge it to a scale that you find useful and readable. Make several copies; you will use them for different aspects of your work.

With a copy of your plat in hand, walk around your property and make notes of exactly what you have to work with. Note fences, trees, utility lines, water, sewer and gas lines, and any greenscape the builder may have already put in. Make sure you show sidewalks, driveways, decks and patios. Your utility company will be glad to locate underground lines.

Note where the sun is at different times of the day and where your property is shaded by neighboring buildings or trees. Where are the low spots? They retain the cold longer and require different treatments from the spots that are in the sun all day. Where does the wind come from? Are some areas more protected than others? Take note of anything that may affect your design.

Now letís turn these notes into a workable form. Use tracing paper to make overlays on your plat: one showing sun exposure, one for wind exposure, others for utilities, fences, etc. Different colors will help you keep track of what you are doing. The idea is to know your property as thoroughly as possible.

Using blank tracing paper, sketch out ideas for trees, garden spaces, pathways connecting these areas and spots for future buildings, like a garage or shed or pool. Create discrete garden rooms where you can relax to enjoy the view. Mark locations for benches. Plan for utility areas and way to hide them.

Use flowing curves that invite the visitor into your property and lead him or her to explore your landscape. Avoid straight lines. They can be off-putting and give the impression of creating barriers, especially when they parallel the street. Rectangular beds can be forbidding too when they are near the straight wall of the house.

Donít hesitate to take advantage of views and plants that may be off your property to create focal points or backgrounds in your design. Can you see a spectacular tree on a neighboring lot? Frame it with plantings and let it be seen from within your garden room. It will give depth as well as beauty to your landscape. Likewise, a neighborís hedge can be the perfect backdrop for a colorful display of annuals and perennials.

Before you get specific about individual plants, pick up a good book on landscape design. There are many available. Your librarian will help you find what you need. You can also use the computer to help with your design and plant selection.

Divide your property into manageable areas that you can work one at a time. Prioritize these from most important to least urgent. Since trees take longer to mature, you will want to site and plant them early in your scheme. Shrubs will come next. Remember to allow room for the full sized plant. What may look a bit sparse at first will fill in with age.

Start with trying to visualize the basic shapes that you want to include. Trees and shrubs will give you a wide variety to choose from. Pick the ones you like and that complement the lines of your property.

Do the same with each area, choosing plants for size, color, texture of leaves, or that carry out one theme, like a scent garden, for instance. Always remember to choose a plant that is appropriate for the exposure, sun, shade or wind of your particular landscape. And before you put any plants in the ground, get the soil tested. The local cooperative extension office has soil testing kits and will show you how to use them.

Get to know your property, do a little bit of homework, and let your creative spirit do the rest. You will be proud of the results.

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