Landscapes are dynamic creations that are always changing. Plants grow larger. New plants are added along the way. Plants die. Even trees may be lost in storms. Over the years, a landscape can change radically from its original look.

How your family uses the landscape also changes over time. Kids grow up, and you no longer a need a play area. As gardeners grow older, they often have to change a landscape to make it less labor-intensive.

And it’s common to move into a house that already has an existing landscape. What worked for the previous owners, however, may not work well at all for your family. As a result, you need to redesign or change the landscape to more closely match your needs.

Summer is a great time to study your landscape and develop plans for needed changes. Spend the season refining your ideas, and you’ll be ready when our prime planting season for trees, shrubs and ground covers arrives in late October.

First, analyze your landscaping needs. Basically, this means sitting down with the family and deciding on what the landscape should provide.

For instance, determine whether you need to screen unsightly views, remove overgrown shrubs, create shade or privacy, provide an area for children to play, change or enlarge the outdoor living area, give your home a more attractive appearance or whatever else.

Once you’ve decided how you’d like to redesign your landscape, consult landscaping books to help you refine your ideas and gardening books written for our area to help you select the right plants. Also, talk to knowledgeable people such as local gardeners you know, LSU AgCenter agents, and garden center and nursery staff.

Consider the future maintenance of your new exterior plantings. Select insect- and disease-resistant plants that are well adapted to our area. And make sure they will not grow too big for the location where you intend to plant them. Remember to choose plants for your landscape that will thrive in the growing conditions of the location where they will be planted. Consider the amount of sun and drainage they will receive, for instance. Remember, flower beds are high-maintenance, so don’t overburden yourself.

If you need help developing a design for your yard, landscape professionals can be tremendously helpful. If your budget is limited, professionals can help you set priorities and schedule your plan in phases. They can also be as familiar with building codes and deck and swimming pool construction as they are with horticulture and garden aesthetics.

Ask your friends, neighbors and colleagues for recommendations. Your best bet is to select an experienced, well-established firm with a history of completing projects similar to yours. Make sure the company or individual you’re dealing with is properly licensed by the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, which is required by law. Licensed landscape architects have a degree in landscape architecture and can provide you an original design whether they install it or not. Landscape horticulturists may help you develop a design, but only as part of a package that includes the plants and their installation. The primary benefit of using any of these experts is to draw on their knowledge, experience and creativity.

If you feel you’re simply indulging yourself when you purchase trees, shrubs, flowers and other plants for your landscape, here’s some information that will make you feel good. Landscaping your home brings quite a few economic benefits. A well-landscaped home generally sells more quickly and at a higher price than a comparable home lacking a nice landscape. You can even find TV shows on improving curb appeal, and landscaping is a big part. One reason trees and shrubs add value to a home is that, unlike many purchases, over the years they appreciate in value as they grow larger and more beautiful.

Trees also add economic value to homes by helping reduce heating and cooling costs. Trees work as nature’s air conditioner and heat pump, providing shade in summer and sheltering your home from cold winds in winter. Now during summer heat is a great time to decide where you need shade.

Landscaping also benefits the environment. A mature tree removes 26 pounds of carbon dioxide from the air each year and releases approximately 13 pounds of oxygen. Plants such as lawn grasses control water runoff, slow erosion and allow water to be more readily absorbed into the soil. Trees, shrubs and flowers in the landscape also provide food and shelter for birds and other wildlife.

It’s nice to add to the value of your property and help the environment, but the most important benefit of landscaping is the personal enjoyment it brings to outdoor living. So go ahead and indulge your love of gardening. It will pay off in many ways in the years to come.

Dan Gill is a horticulturist with the LSU AgCenter. He can be reached at DGill@agcenter.lsu.edu