Winter is great time to plan landscape makeover
A nice aspect of the low gardening season is you have plenty of time to plan for the upcoming growing season. Winter is the time to dream, explore ideas, consider options and sketch plans.
Have you lived with someone else’s landscaping choices long enough? Choose plants and hardscaping that meet your style and needs, rather than those of the previous homeowner.
Are you ready to add a focal point to your swath of grass? Cut out a small kidney-shaped bed and add a tree, few shrubs or several perennials.
Would lounge chairs or a bistro set get more use than the playground equipment your teenage children used to play on? If nothing grows in that shady area, why not add a patio?
Are you tired of looking at your neighbor’s unkempt yard? Consider a green privacy screen.
Do your flower beds lack interest after the spring flowers fade or look tired by August? Consider adding hardy bulbs or annuals to fill in gaps. Or, choose perennials with colorful foliage and varying textures that look good throughout the season.
Is this the year to install the rain garden or water feature you’ve wanted? Would a vegetable garden be a better use than a sandbox?
These are a few reasons to consider a landscape makeover. It can be as large or small as you choose. You are the makeover master.
Horticulturist, garden author and speaker Melinda Myers offered several tips for affordable, eco-friendly makeovers during a talk in Wausau, sponsored by the Northcentral Wisconsin Master Gardener Volunteers.
“Start with a plan,” she said. “Even if you don’t follow it exactly, it helps you control yourself.”
A good place to start is to evaluate what you have, decide what you want to keep and consider possible changes you’d like to make. Involve your entire family in this assessment, or whoever will share the space, including children.
Consider how you’ll use the space. If it’s for relaxation, you may want to screen noise or views. If for entertainment, consider seating areas, cooking and serving and ease of access. If the space will have multiple uses, hardscape or furnish to accommodate many purposes.
This is a good time to consider whether to hire a professional designer for ideas, specific designs or installation.
To create privacy or screen bad views, consider walls, fencing, trellises or other green screening. Use tall perennials, grasses or containers with tropical or large plants strategically. Create a living wall by growing perennial or annual vines on a trellis or arbor, train an espalier on a fence. Use groups of containers to soften existing walls or fences.
To enhance a good view, Myers suggests framing it with plants, an old window frame or an arbor. Use color, texture and repetition to tie it together. Create focal points to draw attention.
Gather ideas. Inspiration abounds in seemingly endless sources in print, online, at gardening seminars, botanical gardens or favorite motifs of friends and family.
For a gallery of what’s in bloom each month or ideas for patios, walkways, front entries, retaining walls and planting beds, one option is www.melindamyers.com.
Design with a budget in mind. If you have ambitious plans, spread the project – and costs – over a few years.
Look for low-cost elements. Peruse rummage sales for potential container gardens or be creative with rocks, miscellany around your home and what some might consider trash. Decorate with your children’s or grandchildren’s art. Bend willow to make a natural fence or arbor. Exchange plants and seeds with friends.
Design with maintenance in mind as well. Choose plants that require minimal care – minimize the number needing staking, deadheading or dividing every couple of years. Give perennials more than the recommended spacing distances to reduce frequent dividing. Or refrain from planting aggressive spreaders.
Plant perennials with high water demands together, and group drought-tolerant plants.
Plants native to Wisconsin demand less attention and tend to flourish with fewer pest or disease issues than non-native plants. They’re eco-friendly, low-maintenance, water-wise choices – and attract birds, bees and other pollinators.
Small trees and shrubs generally demand less maintenance than perennial or annual flowers. Know a plant’s mature size and shape, and choose the right size for your location. This will help maintain the integrity of your design and prevent the need for excessive pruning.
Strategically placing trees can keep homes cooler in summer, warmer in winter and serve as a windbreak.
Mulch with wood chips or dry, shredded leaves to reduce weeds and retain moisture. Pull weeds when they’re small. “If it’s easy, you’ll do it. If it’s hard, you’ll put it off,” Myers noted.
Make every space count, she suggests. Do this by choosing plants, garden art and structures that have year-round interest. Plants that attract birds or butterflies, are edible, allow double planting (spring bulbs and summer perennials, for instance) or can grow vertically will provide added value.
Make going green easy. Include in your design attractive, accessible areas to manage yard waste, kitchen scraps and composting, Myers recommends. Incorporate potting and work areas and handsome storage into your design.
Harvest rain with barrels, and choose drip irrigation or other methods that avoid wasting water. Create a rain chain to slow water or a rain garden to trap it.
Have fun imagining the possibilities. It will make these cold days go faster.