Springtime is a Great Time for Landscaping

The Daily Ardmoreite
Pat Neasbitt
Master Gardener

Last week it was almost too hot and windy to work outside without following the shade. This week it’s so cold, wet, and rainy we want to sit in front of the fireplace with a cup of hot tea and look at the new weeds the rains brought through the windows (at least, that’s what I’m doing). While we have plenty of at-home time because of the weather and a crazy virus, it’s a good time to think about our landscapes and do some planning for when we can get outside.

This year may be the opportunity to work on making our yards and our landscapes a safe, welcoming, beautiful place to enjoy and appreciate nature. If you are landscaping a new home or adding to and renovating older plantings, here are a few points to consider.

§ Always start planning on paper. It’s a lot easier to use an eraser than a shovel.

§ Paths and driveways should be straight, direct routes unless there is a good reason for them to be otherwise.

§ Make borders and beds with large flowing curves, so you can mow around them easily and quickly instead of having to stop and back up and try to mow into corners.

§ Trees should frame the house and provide a background. They should not block or hide the house. They should also be limbed up high enough so you don’t have to duck to walk or mow underneath.

§ Do not over plant. Be sure you know how big the plant will get, and don’t plant too close together.

§ Confine specimen plants to the perimeter of the lawn area. Open lawn will look spacious and be a lot easier to mow.

§ Watch the scale of the plantings. If you have a small house and a small yard, large plants can overwhelm them.

§ Balance is important in landscaping. Do not put all the color and plantings on one side of the yard or it will appear out of balance. This does not mean there should be identical plantings on each side; but the scale should be equal in order to be pleasing when viewed.

§ Create focal points and centers of interest. These can be outstanding plants, a view, a pergola, or tasteful statuary. Have a focal point in the back yard where you spend most of your time as well as the front.

§ Statues, benches, and water features can be used as focal points, but choose them carefully and don’t use too many.

§ In order to make the entry welcoming, do not put large shrubs near the door. Use larger shrubs or small trees near the corners of the house and gradually taper them to lower ones near the door in order to make it the focal point.

§ Do not depend on a foundation planting with only perennials, annuals, and roses in front of the house. They don’t provide any color or interest during the winter.

§ You don’t have to plant the whole foundation of the house. Foundation plantings were originally used because houses had tall, ugly foundations that needed to be hidden. Ground covers between low-growing shrubs can tie the plantings together. Don’t put all your best plants against the foundation where only the neighbors can see them.

§ Usually, smaller plants with fine texture are better placed in the foreground and larger plants with coarser materials and larger leaves are better in the background.

§ Border plantings can be used alone or in conjunction with fences to define property lines and achieve needed privacy and quiet. This is the perfect place to plant native plants to attract birds and butterflies.

§ When planning your landscape, look for shrubs with outstanding branching habits, fruit, or evergreen winter color. Plan for year-round effect and pick plants that bloom at different times. Choose evergreens and shrubs with berries for winter interest and wildlife and shrubs and trees with beautiful fall color.

§ Select plants that will grow well in our area. Depend on Native Oklahoma plants and Oklahoma Proven Plants as the trusted backbone of your garden.

§ Consider the color scheme but don’t stress too much over it. Nature seems to blend most colors into a pleasing palette. The only colors that really bother me are Taxi-cab yellow and Halloween-pumpkin orange mixed with Pepto-Bismol pink; however, if that’s what I inherited in my landscape, I would throw in a lot of white flowers and silver foliage and call it a Picasso garden. Then, I would gradually play musical plants and move things to other places until I had my dream Cottage Garden.

§ Simplicity is the key to good design. Cluttered plantings or shrubs scattered around the lawn without being part of a bed or border look messy and make mowing a time-consuming nightmare.

§ Keep everything mulched with natural bark mulch. Mulch not only makes less work for you; it also makes the plantings more attractive, keeps weeds down, keeps the soil cooler in summer and warmer in winter, conserves moisture, and improves the soil as it breaks down. Don’t use ugly, fake, dyed mulch that could be from diseased trees or ground up pallets treated with arsenic.

The most important thing is to have something you enjoy and that works for your family and location.

§ Try a small vegetable garden tucked into a sunny corner, or plant a few tomato and pepper plants in with your flowers. Put herbs in containers by the kitchen door to use in cooking or making tea.

§ Put a bird feeder in the back yard and keep it filled with black oil sunflower seeds to attract many different birds. Hang a few nectar feeders for hummingbirds on different sides of the house, and put a shallow birdbath with a pump to circulate water to attract birds in a place where you can enjoy watching.

§ Put a small sitting area under a shade tree so you can enjoy the beautiful view you have created and where you can watch the butterflies, birds, and other beneficial creatures that will call your yard home. Happy Gardening!