It seems odd to write something about outdoor enjoyment on a day when temps have been in the single digits, but let’s go with it! Obviously there’s no end to the major changes that can make a huge difference in the landscape, but what if there were small ones that could make a difference? Would you do them?
1. Consider your space planning
Space planning is at the core of everything I do when designing a space. It has the biggest impact on not just how you use the space, but whether or not you’ll even choose to spend time out there. Before spring hits, take a look at the spaces you used the most and the ones you used the least. What’s great about each? What’s bad about each? It’s crazy but sometimes a miniscule change can make a world of difference. If you’re always squeezing around your grill, maybe a 3 ft x 6 ft bumpout will get the grill out of your way. Think hard and you can get the most out of what you have!
2. Address hardscape maintenance
There’s no such thing as a maintenance-free landscape. Even concrete cracks. I don’t care how beautiful your patio or wall or deck was on install, after a few years it needs spiffed up. Consider the following:
- pavers – pressure wash, top off polymeric sand, and seal (when temperatures permit)
- decks – pressure wash and seal wood, oil exotic hardwoods like ipe and garapa, or give composite decks a good scrub
- masonry – remove any loose mortar and repoint the joints
If you own a house there’s always something you could be doing!
3. Take a hard look at your plants and play botanical Hunger Games
Am I a treehugger and plant fanatic? Well, duh. Yes! But I’m not a sucker. That plant has a job to do in my landscape, if it’s not doing it, it needs to go. Maybe I can transplant it somewhere else on my property, perhaps someone else wants it, or sometimes it just needs to go. Here’s what I ask when looking at plants:
- is it growing the way it should? If not, is it growing in a cool way that won’t cause problems down the road?
- is it happy where it is? (right sun exposure, right water)
- is it causing problems? For example, I’m 6′-4″ tall. Any trees growing over the grass are pruned up to 7 feet. If it was the type of plant that I couldn’t successfully prune like that, either it would have to go, or I’d have to redesign my lawn area.
- am I bored? A gazillion peonies came with the house. Every few years I divide them and give them away, because while I love peonies they’re pretty lame from about, oh, May through March.
4. Be really, really good to the plants remaining
Prune broken and errant branches, address pest or disease issues, and if something doesn’t look right, call in a pro. I don’t really get into plant health issues but I have a fantastic arborist who does. He gets calls from me throughout the year.
5. Extend your season
I fell in love with design as a career when I lived in the southwest and my aesthetic reflects that. The fact that I grew up in New England but view cold weather as a personal affront is what led me to choose a grill recipe for Christmas dinner this year. In summer, shade can make a huge difference when making a space more liveable, especially if you have the dreaded southwestern exposure. In winter it’s all about the heat. Patio heaters, firepits, and fireplaces, properly situated, can make a world of difference.
6. Extend each day
One of my clients was grilling and using his iPhone’s flashlight app to check the meat when he dropped the phone IN the grill. Whoops. Landscape lighting is a great way to make your yard seem bigger at night, get more hours of enjoyment from your yard… and not suffer the humiliation of your significant other seeing grill marks melted into your phone.
I count lighting as a simple, small fix because if you know what the end goal is, a landscape lighting system is totally modular and you can start with a very few lights.
7. Figure out the worst aspect of your yard and fix it – even if it’s a “for now” fix
This is Bonnie. We adopted her this year and I love her, but she’s making the path between the back steps and the gate a muddy mess, which of course leads to mud in the house as well. That’s the area I’m focusing on this winter. Whether it’s doggie damage or a place to stash the trashcans, I’m guessing there’s something small you can do that will make you incredibly happy. Focus on that for the win.
8. Take a photo a day
It sounds stupid, I know, but what better way to force you to get out and get to know your yard better? The more you explore the yard the more likely you are to love it!
Here’s to a great new year in the garden! If your goal is to get a lot more from your landscape in 2014, a consultation with a landscape designer is a great first step. Learn how the process works, or just contact me to discuss!