The really nice weather during the holidays and rolling over into a new year makes me anxious to do some landscaping. My favorite book of landscaping is “Landscaping Your Home,” by Wm. R. Nelson Jr. and it is a book that I refer to all the time because he covers everything from starting with your needs to taking care of your plants. Let’s cover some simple landscape concepts.
Basically there are three areas we are concerned with in planning a home landscape. The first and generally the hardest to plan is the public area which is the front, second is the living area which may include some side yard but is generally known to be the backyard and the third is the service area where we try to hide things that we don’t want everyone to see when they come to visit.
In the public area there four elements we are concerned with: 1.) walks to the front door, the driveway and any parking areas 2.) tree plantings 3.) shrub plantings 4.) lawn areas. The most important consideration for the public area is the front door. This is the focal point of the whole design in the public area and it is the one spot that we want to make more attractive. If you want to show off the outside of your home start with the front door especially focus on it with color. Because the front door is the focus then your walks and driveway become the first area we concentrate on. Where you have a walk greatly affects the appearance of the public area. An uninterrupted front lawn area gives the illusion of depth and width. If your walk is perpendicular to the house and leads straight to the front door then you have effectively divided the house in half with the walk. The best location for a walk is parallel with the house connecting with the porch or door. This is why we like to go from the driveway to the door with a curved, meandering walk that won’t split your lawn in half.
Trees make up the second most important design element. Trees in the front yard serve to frame the front view of the house, provide shade and can even mask undesirable features in your home or landscape. The most effective placement of trees to obtain this framing effect is to place them at 30 to 45 degree angles off your house corners. This would allow the trees to grow up and shade the house without covering or hiding the house and since they are off the corners they serve as a picture frame with your house being the picture. The worst thing you can do is plant a tree right in the middle of the front yard and so effectively divide the house in half.
The third element we consider in the public area are shrub plantings. Typically in our area we call them foundation plantings mainly because they used to hide the tall foundations we had on older homes. Now they can be much smaller and fortunately we can do small because of the wide selection of dwarf cultivars. The problem is that we buy shrubs in one gallon containers and they just don’t stay small. We plant them too close to the house and each other and almost always we put a six foot shrub under a window that is 4 foot tall. It is very important to know the mature height and width of a plant and then plant them based on those dimensions. Another rule of thumb is to plant on the rule of 3's, 5's and 7's. When you plant in multiples do it based on odd numbers and one doesn’t count!
Lastly the lawn is our fourth most important element in planning the public area. It is the connecting link in all the previous elements. It ties them all together and then makes the home look bigger. A lawn should be unbroken by plantings, walks, or special features. Special features are the round planters around a tree or the special bird bath or feeder or even the island flower bed you’re so fond of. These things can be used in the landscape but they go in the living area not the public area. Remember this space is dedicated to your most important feature - your house and then its most important feature - the front door!
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- Bob Whitney
- As an Agriculture Extension Agent for Texas AgriLife Extension Service I have had an opportunity to be involved in just about every aspect of agriculture. From the 5,000 cow dairy to the types of trees to use in a home landscape I have had a chance to learn how the different parts of an agriculture systems work together. Seedless watermelons, drip irrigation, pecan orchard management, fruit crop development, dairy nutrient management, environmental issues confronting agriculture, producer tours, field days, research projects and more have been a part of my life for over 30 years as I lived and breathed agriculture. Since 2004 I have been actively involved in consulting internationally working in Honduras, Guatemala, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, India, and China. I have worked with missionaries and other groups dedicated to alleviating poverty among third world farmers. I lived in the Middle East in 2007-2008 working on a project for the Borlaug Institute of International Agriculture at Texas A&M University. In this project I was the Chief of Party and Team Leader for a $5.7 Million dollar effort to train Iraqi Extension agents and specialists in all aspects of agriculture.