This time of year always seems to inspire a frenzy of gardening activity. People flock to nurseries, and trees, shrubs, ground covers, tropicals, perennials and bedding plants are sold by the truckload. In the frantic rush to plant something in the landscape, however, don’t forget that the more thought you put into your planting decisions, the more satisfactory the results are likely to be.
First, analyze your landscaping needs to decide what planting needs to be done and the purpose it will serve. Determine, for instance, whether you need to screen unsightly views, remove overgrown shrubs, create shade or privacy, provide an area for children to play, create an area for outdoor living, give your home a more attractive appearance from the street or whatever else.
Once you’ve decided the function and location of new plantings in your landscape, consult landscaping books to help you refine your design 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, horticulture agents with the LSU AgCenter and staffs at garden centers and nurseries.
Consider the future maintenance requirements of any new exterior plantings. Select insect- and disease-resistant plants that are well adapted to our area to minimize the need for using pesticides. And make sure that they will not grow too large for the location where you intend to plant them. Always ask how large a plant will grow before you purchase it. This will reduce the need to constantly prune plants that outgrow their location.
Remember to select plants for your landscape that will thrive in the growing conditions of the location where they will be planted. Study carefully the amount of sun the area will receive, for instance, and choose plants appropriate for that amount of light.
If you feel you’re simply indulging yourself when you purchase trees, shrubs, flowers and other plants, here’s some information that will make you feel good: Landscaping your home brings quite a few economic benefits. Most real estate agents will agree that a well-landscaped home often sells more quickly and at a higher price than does a comparable home lacking a nice landscape. 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.
Choose the right landscape professional
Landscape professionals work with homeowners who don’t have a clear idea of how to create an attractive, functional landscape. One of the benefits of hiring a landscape professional is to have a chance to ask questions and receive advice, and no project is too small. If your budget is limited, a professional 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 the aesthetics of gardening.
If you’d like to hire a professional to help design your landscape but you don’t know where to begin, follow these tips from the American Association of Nurserymen (AAN) and the Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA).
– 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.
– Arrange a meeting with two or three companies. Don’t feel shy asking about the training and educational background of the people who will be working for you. Get a feel for how well you could work with the individuals and how well they understand what you want. Ask for references and check with the Better Business Bureau.
– Make sure the company or individual you’re dealing with has a Louisiana Landscape Architect license or Landscape Horticulturist license, which is required by law. A licensed landscape architect has a degree in landscape architecture and can sell you an original design whether they do the installation or not. Landscape horticulturist may help you develop a design, but only as part of a package that includes the plants, materials and installation. The primary benefit of using any of these experts is to draw on their knowledge, experience and creativity.
– Before you make your decision, obtain a written estimate, including a projected date of completion. When you get ready to sign the contract for instillation, make sure it includes a detailed list of all plants, materials, work to be done and specifications, as well as any guarantees on plants and other materials used in the landscape.
Dan Gill is a horticulturist with the LSU AgCenter. He can be reached at DGill@agcenter.lsu.edu.