An annual review of your home’s landscape helps in the long term to raise your level of satisfaction with your surroundings. You will either gain appreciation for that landscape’s good qualities, or establish goals for improvement. In many cases, the likely outcome would be a combination of these results.
You could conduct such a review at any time, but early spring (right now) presents a good opportunity because the seasonal arrival of warm weather stimulates both the plants’ budding and the gardener’s enthusiasm.
This column suggests an approach to landscape review, in search of an orderly and productive process. The approach outlined here is one of several possible ways to go about such a review. Feel free to modify it to accommodate your local situation and preferences.
Begin with an inventory of features of your landscape that you like. For example, these might include hardscape elements, e.g., a wall, patio, pool, stairway, pavement, or garden structure.
Another category for this inventory of Liked Features includes larger trees and shrubs that are healthy, well grown, maintained, and located.
Then, consider planting beds and lawn areas, with emphasis on good size, good placement, and interesting shapes. Are smaller plants, e.g., herbaceous perennials and grasses, in good condition?
Finally, list specialized features, e.g., play areas for children or adults, cooking facilities, and furnishings for dining or relaxing. Relevant criteria: are these features still needed and still used?
Next, using the same categories, identify the features that you don’t like. List the hardscape elements that need repair, maintenance, or, for those that are no longer needed or used, removal.
Identify trees and shrubs (and stumps) that do not meet the criteria listed above, i.e., not healthy, badly located, poorly maintained, etc.
Moving on: are planting beds and lawn areas too small or too large? Are they poorly shaped? Are smaller plants, including lawns, in poor condition?
Then, identify specialized features that are in poor condition, no longer needed, or not used.
Document your inventories of liked and not liked features. The record can be simple and informal, such as a handwritten list on a single piece of paper, and still provide a useful reference for planning purposes.
Develop an action plan. In most cases, the first priority should be the Not Liked Features. Using the inventory, flag each of them for Improvement or Removal.
Barriers to Removal actions might include an excess of nostalgia, a lack of time or energy, or significant expense. Lacking a magic wand, you must deal with such barriers in your own creative way. The removal of large hardscape items or trees could require professional help and related costs but could provide major steps toward landscape improvement.
Improvement actions might require time and energy, or even professional assistance. A good strategy is to prioritize these actions, working first on those that can be accomplished with the least time, energy and expense. The benefits gained from these improvements could motivate proceeding to the more challenging tasks.
The next priority is Replacement of Not Liked Features that have been removed. Every removal might not require direct replacement but might produce a gap that needs filling. This “one step at a time” approach should avoid any confusion that might result from concurrent efforts to improve, remove and replace.
A future column will deal with Additions to the landscape, after completion of the tasks outlined above.
A review of your landscape can be an interesting and creative exercise for you and your significant other, and perhaps an independent observer whose brings relevant skills and diplomatic honesty to the task. Enjoy!