by Tom Kerby
Spa day…a time to recharge and rejuvenate. Anyone who has ever had a spa day knows you come back refreshed and relaxed with a new outlook on life. After a Minnesota winter, just as we treat ourselves to a spa day, we should do the same for our gardens. Excited by the prospect of spending time outdoors and anticipating the warm days of summer, it is the perfect time to take a good look at our gardens. With a little effort and helpful planning from a landscape architect or designer, you can set the stage for greater joy and fun living in your revitalized garden.
Our day at the spa starts with relaxing, settling into the moment and focusing on the parts of us needing the most attention. You and your designer should spend a little time in your landscape, prioritizing the garden to-do list.
Start with the trees and shrubs. Your garden may be overgrown; trees and shrubs could use a little pruning; and some flowers may be fading. Pruning allows more light penetration and better air circulation through the garden. A designer can direct the potential that is hidden beneath the brambles. Pruning, if done correctly, will offer good form to plants, rejuvenate a tired shrub, or control size to a more fitting scale to the garden. I always remind my clients that a newly planted landscape can only become more beautiful with time if they give it some attention every once in a while. Even if your garden has been neglected, you still have the opportunity to uncover the beauty that once was with an understanding of what lies beneath. The landscape architect or designer will collaborate with you on the path to a beautiful garden.
Consider the edges to garden beds. Your garden expands over time (just like we do — or some of us, anyway) and may need more room to be comfortable. Edging can be done simply with a shoveled edge or set with an edging material, such as steel or stone. Also, the designer can offer a fresh look to the overall appeal to the lines set by garden bed edges.
If you have been a steward to your landscape for some time, you may notice that areas of the landscape tend to express themselves with less enthusiasm. Consider if perennials need to be divided. Sun and light conditions may have changed with growth of surrounding trees. Soil may need compost to improve overall growing conditions. This rejuvenation will offer a fresh face to the garden. There are many new exciting shrubs and perennials to consider.
Look at your hardscape and what it’s offering you. How is it meeting, or more importantly, not meeting your needs? Does it satisfy the groups you like to entertain? Hardscape refers to walks, patios, walls, and any other site features that are not related to plants. Maybe at this point, an investment in some additional accessories would help to refresh the area. Adding new furniture, a new grill, a pergola to really create an outdoor room, or a hot tub can help redefine your outdoor space as an extension of your home with the same detail to function, color, and comfort. That outdoor kitchen or fireplace will definitely set the stage to your outdoor room. Consideration of all the possibilities will be part of the design process with your landscape architect, and time well spent in the planning process will give you the most enjoyment to your landscape.
Another layer to your landscape to consider is outdoor lighting. It is an exciting opportunity in an established landscape to consider lighting. Lighting defines direction, offers safety, highlights focal points, and sets a mood. Ultimately, it extends your time in the garden and, when done well, offers a soft veil of light that is integrated and unobtrusive.
Change does not need to be overwhelming or expensive. It could be simply adding a few containers in new fun colors with the addition of some lively plantings. Set a scale and style to the container to be an architectural focal point in the landscape. Further that effort with plantings that carry that emphasis. Look to using a tree or shrub in the container to heighten the impact. A well-placed container, planted well, will set the tone, punctuate a patio, and even invite your guests into your landscape. Referring back to our spa analogy, containers are the painted nails of the garden. They can be subtle effects to very vibrant accents to the overall landscape.
Finally, the garden beds could be refreshed with a new top dressing of mulch or compost. Don’t we all enjoy a good top dressing? The fresh mulch will give the garden a well-tended appearance and cut down on weeds and conserve moisture. Also, it is much easier to top dress this time of year with plants just emerging after winter.
Your landscape is a part of your home. It is more than just a foundation planting and grass. Your landscape, if not already, can be an extension of your home with an aesthetic that reflects your home’s architecture and your personality. Collaborating with a landscape architect or designer can give you that clear vision and path to a better landscape to enjoy and live in for the upcoming summer.
Tom Kerby is a landscape architect at Southview Design. He has been a registered landscape architect for over 20 years, and has collaborated with architectural/engineering firms on projects across the country. He is passionate about creating and building meaningful, beautiful spaces as part of the team at Southview Design: www.southviewdesign.com.