Saturday, February 18, 2006

Proper Placement Of Trees In Landscape Design

A properly planned landscape design requires a little vision and thought into the future. As a professional, it’s my job to also consider the mature landscape including any damage and inconvenience that improperly placed trees could create. There’s a little more to think about than you might think.

Landscaping and landscape design goes beyond just creating beautiful designs. As a professional designer, it’s not only my job to create designs but also to envision every possibility of the mature landscape in years to come.

And while most elements will remain what they are for years to come, the one thing that most do it yourselfers and some professionals overlook is the space that tiny little sprouts will occupy when they become mature plants and trees.

Trees serve a number of obvious purposes in the landscape. Creating shade, wind blocks, noise reduction, boundaries, and focal points are just a few. Once I have established where I’ll need trees for these purposes in a design, I have several other considerations before I can designate their permanent home.

Planting without considering the space that the mature full grown plants and trees will occupy can become more than just an inconvenience. It can be costly.

Things to consider.

Around Play Areas

A shaded canopy over play areas, sand boxes, etc. may be desired for shade from afternoon sun. However, you need to consider the mess that birds and other critters will drop right into your childs play area if the canopy extends over it.

The solution to this is to place large shade trees a distance from the area in line with the travel of the sun. If you know the trees you plant and how far the mature canopy will extend, you can still plant for shade without exposing your kids to unsanitary conditions.

Around Pools

Keeping a pool clean is hard enough without a mess of leaves and branches. And while most pool areas are sunny locations, it is sometimes desirable to have a space near the pool where one can escape the sun.

Unlike play areas though, you may not want to shade the entire pool landscape from the afternoon sun. Therefore you shouldn’t plant large shade trees in direct line with the travel of the sun. Design as to create a shady area to one side or the other. This is also another spot to eliminate top rooting trees around concrete. Evergreen types are usually your best bet for around pools.

Roots And Concrete Footings And Foundations

While infrequent deep watering as opposed to frequent shallow watering will help deter top rooting trees, some trees are still determined to seek out other sources of water which may be on the surface or moist areas under structures.

The seeking roots of large trees are a powerful force that can break sidewalks, foundations, and even lift walls out of place. This is the biggest and most costly mistake I see. Know your landscaping trees before you plant them next to your home.

Under Power Lines
Know what’s overhead.

Property Lines And Easements
This one can make enemies out of neighbors.

Underground Utilities, Sewers, And Septic Tanks

Besides the roots being able to break pipes and lines, you don’t want to have to move or destroy a mature tree to fix a leak. Locate lines and plant away from them. Some trees can spread out much further underground than they do up top. Know what’s underground.


You need to keep in mind the mature size of trees in proportion to the size of your home and other landscaping elements. Large trees can dwarf a small home and small trees can look like shrubs placed around a very large home. Know the mature size of trees and keep them in perspective.

Hiding or framing a home

Consider the view from the street and other areas and consider the purpose of your trees. If you wish to seclude your home, you don’t need much thought for that. However, if you only wish to frame or accent your home, you’ll again need to consider the mature size and placement of your plantings.

Parking Areas

Here’s another opportunity for birds and critters to make a mess of things. If possible, plant in accordance with the travel of the sun. And once again, know the mature canopy of your trees.

Usefulness And Cost Effectiveness

If you’re going to make an investment in landscaping, look for ways to make it work for you. Placed properly, large trees can shade your home and reduce your cooling costs and vise versa. You can intentionally create shade for your shady garden, screen and divide areas, reduce noise, and a world of other applications if you just give it some thought.

Written by Steve Boulden. Steve is the creator of The Landscape Design Site which offers free professional landscaping advice, tips, plans, and ideas to do it yourselfers and homeowners. For more free information on landscaping and garden plants, visit his site at

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Cottage Design Ideas

I found the following article that got submitted to the DIY Article Directory to be a very enjoyable read. And while it geared more towards interior design, it does have some good tips that might help you in designing a cottage garden. I believe you'll find it very enjoyable as well.

Cottage Style Home Decorating: A-Z "QuikTips" for Instant Cottage Style

By: Kathryn Bechen

Arrange your living room furniture in a “U” shape for great conversations.

Birdhouses painted to match your home are wonderful.

Cats in a windowsill are “very cottage.”

Dogs curled up in front of the fireplace say “cottage cozy.”

Entertain your friends around a round table with good food and wine.

French touches in furniture say “sophisticated cottage.”

Gates with clever signs hung on them say “instant cottage.”

Hatboxes covered with vintage wallpaper are great for storage.

Ingenious cottage touches are a claw-foot bathtub and thick fluffy towels.

Junk from flea markets can be repurposed into creative plant containers.

Knickknacks from family or collected from your travels add personality.

Lattice lining patio walls creates charm.

Mementos framed in shadow boxes add personality to your cottage.

Nurture yourself with a four poster bed and sumptuous linens.

Ottomans can be used in place of a coffee table or at the end of a bed.

Pictures of florals, botanicals, or your travels say “instant cottage.”

Quilts on the end of a bed or draped over a chair are pure cottage style.

Rugs in sisal, jute, or colorful cotton add a cottage touch.

Sink-down-in-and-rest-awhile white slipcovered sofas are very cottage.

Texture in rugs, fabrics, and pillows creates interesting dimension.

Upholster your furniture in coordinated florals, plaids, and stripes.

Vintage trunks make great coffee tables and linens storage.

Welcome signs are charming near your front door.

Xtraordinary touches include floral painted mailboxes and fountains.

Yellow in a bright canary shade is a great color for a cottage front door.

Zest for living always accompanies the cottage style spirit!

c2006 Kathryn Bechen and Kathryn Bechen Designs.

All rights reserved.

Visit Kathryn Bechen Designs for more free ideas and tips for decorating your cottage style home on a dollarwise budget, to view Kathryn's blog, and to sign up for Kathryn's free e-newsletter of decorating tips and resources. Kathryn is an interior decorating consultant and author who specializes in Cottage Style, Non-Toxic, and Dollarwise decorating.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

So What Is A Landscaping Berm Anyway?

An easy method to adding interest to landscaping is simply by adding some height to the landscape. Height is often overlooked or created without any thought to its role in the artistic value of the design. However, it can and should be given some thought as a design element in landscapes and especially in dull flat yards.

There are several ways to create height in a landscape. Generally, height is created by retaining walls, walls, arbors and other hardscapes, plants, and berms.

So what is a berm anyway?

Berms in landscaping are small sweeping hills that are usually created for the purpose of creating height and interest. They work well in landscape areas that don't necessarily call for damming or retaining walls. A good example would be in the middle of a large lawn area. Berms can help add height, levels, and interest to yards and landscapes that would otherwise be dull and flat.

I've never given much thought to how I create a berm or have I been asked how to make a berm correctly until recently. I all of a sudden got a slew of emails requesting information on how to build a berm correctly.

While there's no trick, special art, or rules to creating berms, I guess there is some method and a way to keep them from looking like odd bumps in your yard. These are just the simple "rules" that I can think of. They're not written in rock.

A berm should be at least 5 to 6 times as long as it is high and should gradually "feather" into the yard. If you create a two foot high berm, make it "feather" 12 or so feet long into the yard.

Depth is, I think, is just a matter of feel for what looks natural and good. A 2 foot high, one foot wide hill would have too much of a slope to hold ground cover and would look very unnatural. The width should also "feather" into the yard.

Oftentimes, berms occupy and fill corner areas and a lot of times have a crescent shape open toward the yard. However, shape can be anything that fits, is creative, or follows the flow of the yard. Berms in lawns can be continual, connecting, and flow throughout the yard.

In bed areas, boulders or larger rocks can be placed into the berm to give it a more natural look, places to plant around, and aid in holding smaller ground cover in place.

Written by Steve Boulden. Steve is the owner and chief designer for S&S Designed Landscaping in Carlsbad, NM. He is also the creator of The Landscape Design which offers free professional landscaping advice, tips, plans, and ideas to do it yourselfers and homeowners. For more free information on landscape and garden planning, Visit his site at

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Starting A New Landscape Design

Reply to email question:


You've probably heard this question more than just a few times, but in creating a landscape design,where's the best place to start? I feel so overwhelmed.

We bought a new house this summer.The traditional 2300 sq. ft home sits on a wooded 2 acre lot cleared of brush. A crushed gravel circle drive comes right up to the front door. Mostly shaded, with the area around the south and western sides of the home in full sun.

I guess the purpose of the design would to be a beautiful eden of a yard with "rooms" for childrens play area, water features, and meditation.

how would I go about creating cottage style borders to complement the white siding and black shutter traditional home?

I know your time is of the upmost value,but I would appreciate any advice or direction. Would it be a sound investment to pay $528 for a landscape architect to create the design I'm looking for?

Thank you so much-


While that's not a bad price for a good designer and design, I believe you'll feel better about spending it if you're absolutely sure it was the only way to go.

I wrote an article not too long ago about one way to start a design. You can see it at: Do It Yourself Landscape Design-Where To Begin.

I also have a very large picture gallery which inludes a cottage and meditation garden category. See it at Landscaping And Garden Design Pictures.

Getting started is always the hardest part. I know it is for me if I don't have a vision to begin with.

Brainstorm. Look at the pictures. Don't try to get your idea from one photo but take pieces from different pictures and try to make them fit together.

With the picture ideas in your head, scribble out the different areas using a bubble graph. Draw several versions but don't discard the old ones just yet. See: Using A Bubble Graph In Landscape Design

Also see the landscape planning page.

Once you have shape, you can create unity and continuity with elements like groundcover, decor, rocks, plants, and all hardscapes.

Once you go through these steps and still don't like what you come up with, you can justify spending the money for an architect.

I hope this helps.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Meditation Gardens Added To The Site This Week

I had noticed a few folks searching the site for info on meditation gardens. I managed to put together two full pages of meditation garden pictures and links.

Here's the link:
Pictures Of Meditation Gardens

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Landscape Design - Well Balanced Home Landscaping

Balance is a principle of all art forms, design, and even landscape design. It implies a sense of equality. And while there may be just a little more to it, this is how I best explain it to make it easier for first timers and do it yourselfers to understand.

A garden, landscape, or any form of equal proportions would naturally feel and look balanced. However, most gardens and landscapes are not exact or symmetrical in shape and form. They’re asymmetrical and abstract in form and are often without any natural balance of their own. So landscaping often relies on other elements to create balance and harmony through unity.

Many times, a lack of balance is directly related to a lack of repetition. Repeating alike elements such as plants or rocks throughout the landscape will help unify different areas to each other. As little as one repeated matching plant group, color, piece of decor, or hardscape can accomplish this.

A lack of balance is also created by placing too many or all non matching elements throughout a landscape design. This can sometimes seem cluttered and unkept when it grows in. In the beginning of your design, plan for less, place just a few matching plant groups throughout the garden, and keep decor matching and to a minimum. You can add more later.

So many of the questions that I receive about landscape design deal with the shape of a design . Shape is unique to each design and will ultimately follow all necessary paths and your visions. However, any shape or form can be filled with elements and still be either dull, void, loud, cluttered, and unbalanced. Balance isn’t necessarily dependant on shape. It can be but generally it’s not. So don’t get too hung up on trying to even things out entirely by shape.

Landscape design is an art form and so it deals with "all" the same principles that other art forms use. Repetition, unity, and balance are all principles of art that go hand in hand with each other.

Architects use repetition in design by making doors, windows, fixtures, trims, etc. the same sizes, shapes, and styles. Imagine how your home would feel if every door, door frame, window, and fixture were of different sizes, shapes, colors, and types. It would be uncomfortable and chaotic.

And so it’s the same with landscape design.

In order to create balance, appeal, and even comfort in a landscape that is lacking, we need to create some form of consistent repetition. As little as one matching element placed on opposites can create a sense of unity and consistency.

It's easiest and most often created in the softscape (plants, ornaments, lawn, decor, etc.). However, it should be considered in the hardscape (walks, driveways, necessities, fences, walls, raised beds, boundaries, etc.) of your drawn design plan.

Written by Steve Boulden. Steve is the creator of The Landscape Design which offers free professional landscaping advice, tips, plans, and ideas to do it yourselfers and homeowners. To discover more about the principles of landscape design, visit his site at:

Monday, February 06, 2006

Professional Landscape Fabric For Landscaping

A lot of folks are having trouble finding the purchase link for our landscape fabric.

Here's the link: Buy Landscaping Fabric

For information on correctly using it see:

The Do's and Don'ts of Landscape Fabric

Is Landscape Fabric Even Necessary In Landscaping?

Sunday, February 05, 2006

The Secret To Healthier Plants

Farmers and gardeners of a few decades ago knew a thing or two about healthier plants and soils. This is what I learned from one of them.

My Grandfather was an old school farmer from way back who depended on his crops for his living. He, like farmers then and now, knew that the secret to optimum yield and plant health begins in the soil. If the soil was just right and other conditions were favorable, his yields were higher and he could make a descent living that would get his family through the rest of the year.

My grandfather also knew that the condition and health of the soil directly influenced the plants ability to resist disease and insects. Having to use any type of insecticide on his farm was virtually unheard of. And yet, he had no insect problem.

So the question of what is the secret to healthier and more beautiful plants should really begin with the question of what is the secret to healthy soil.

Many factors will influence the quality and condition of your soil. And at the top of the list is the ph (acidity or alkalinity) of soil. Most folks have heard about soil ph but very few know how important it is and the difference it makes in color, yield, flavor, heath, etc.

If the ph of soil is incorrect, nutrient uptake is limited or restricted altogether. It doesn’t matter how much fertilizer you add, the plants won’t be able to use it efficiently. Iron, for instance, becomes locked into soil that is too alkaline. It won’t matter how much iron you add, the plant won’t be able to pick it up and use it.

If growing is not optimal, plants start to yellow or look sickly, and there is no obvious signs of insects, the first place to start is by testing the soil. In granddads day, folks would actually taste the soil to test the ph. If it was sweet, it was acid. If it was sour, it was alkaline. Fortunately for us, we don’t have to go out to our gardens and eat dirt. Modern test kits are available at garden centers, they’re inexpensive and easy to use.

Most plants prefer a slightly acid to neutral soil. Neutral is a 7 on the scale while slightly acid is a 6 on the scale. And I did say most plants. Some plants do prefer more acid soil and some do like alkaline. It’s a good idea to know a little bit about what you’re growing.

Now, my grandfather had a magic ingredient that he continually added to the soil. This magic ingredient would actually create healthy soil, buffer perfect ph, and facilitate proper nutrient uptake. It also made plants not so tasty to insects.

A magic ingredient? Not hardly. A lost art and science. Definitely. His magic ingredient was that he dutifully returned everything back into the soil. Everything from plant wastes to manure to kitchen scraps. His magic ingredient was nothing more than pure natural organics. If a soil was found to be out of balance, it was a matter of a simple adjustment. A little bit of sulfur to buffer alkalinity or a little bit of lime to buffer acid and also tilling in more bulk organics.

Farmers and gardeners back then couldn’t rely on a lot of chemical fertilizers because they were either unavailable or they simply couldn’t afford them. Oh I’m sure they would have liked to have had them since it would have made life much easier. However, what we didn’t use then that we do use now is why they had healthier plants, higher yields, better tasting food, more nutritional food, and even more colorful flowers. Again, the difference is organics.

Organically prepared soil eventually becomes stable and naturally balance in ph. All necessary plant nutrients become available and plants are able to use what they need and only when they need it. An excesses of individual nutrients in organic soil will actually be buffered and not do the plants any harm.

Plants grown in organic soils are naturally more resistant to insects and disease. They’re simply healthier and insects and disease generally attacks plants that are already unhealthy to begin with.

Chemical fertilizers are like a quick shot in the arm and plants will greedily take in more than they need. This weakens a plants ability to resist disease and insects. Then, of course, you’re going to need insecticides. However, healthy organic soil is also full of millions of beneficial bacteria and micro-organisms. Chemical fertilizers and insecticides will kill these very necessary elements and weaken plants immune systems even further. And so in using chemicals, we create a never ending no win cycle.

Creating organic soil will take a little effort and won’t happen overnight. It will take a few seasons. However, the rewards will far outweigh the effort. And eventually you’ll find that you spend less time taking care of your garden and more time enjoying it.

To begin with, start saving those leaves and grass clippings. This is a wonderful no cost resource. If you don’t have any of your own, I’m sure your neighbors will give you some of theirs. You can compost them or shred them as top dressing that will eventually break down into the soil.

I’ll also suggest two books to you. Rodales Complete Book Of Composting and Rodales Encyclopedia Of Organic Gardening. These two books alone will give you all the knowledge you need for composting and organic gardening.

Other secret ingredients are all around you, are usually free, and are often found right in your own trash can. Kitchen scraps, coffee grounds, and even some papers can be composted.

Have a friend with a stable? Some folks will let you clean out their stable just for doing it. This is a very inexpensive way to add a lot of bulk organics very quickly. Keep in mind though that manure is better composted as it is extremely alkaline due to a high content of urea.

On top of all of this there is an endless list of organic materials, mineral dusts, and rock fertilizers available through organic gardening stores and sites.

So there you have it. I did learn something from my grandfather. And so did you.

Written by Steve Boulden. Steve is the creator of The Landscape Design Site which offers free landscaping advice, plans, and tips to do it yourselfers and homeowners. For more free information on landscaping and growing plants, visit his site at:

Saturday, February 04, 2006

New Pages Added This Week

Garden Themes

I finally got a page together of rose garden pictures into the garden theme directory. It was difficult to find good pictures of entire rose gardens. However, I still managed to get together 52 links of some pretty good stuff.

Pictures Of Rose Gardens


The last issue of landscaping newsletter has been archived in the newsletter archives under:
Issue 03-03-05

Landscaping Newsletter

After getting a second spam complaint against my domain, I thought it best to delete the remainder of unconfirmed subscribers from the landscaping newsletter list.

It wasn't easy to push that button since there were over 10,000 unconfirmed names left on the list of which many were old friends and followers. However, I suppose it is worth it to keep the site from getting banned.

From here on out, all subscriptions have to be confirmed. While this still isn't a guarantee against these spoof subscriptions, it will decrease the chances of it happening again.

Here's to starting over.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Time To Hire A Landscape Contractor

If you plan to hire a landscape contractor in the Spring or Summer, now is the time to start looking into it. If you wait much longer, you may have to wait until the end of the Summer or even next year to get your project done.

Good luck

Thursday, February 02, 2006

How To Save Your Fruit Tree Blossoms From A Spring Freeze.

In most parts of the country it's still dead of Winter. However, in a few spots like here in the Desert Southwest, the warming weather starts to play tricks on Spring budding trees and plants. They think it's time to wake up when it's really not quite safe to.

In my own garden, I have an old Peach Tree that produces the most wonderful almost softball size peaches. And up until a few years ago, I rarely got the opportunity to see one make it past the blossom stage.

As sure as the first warm days would wake the old tree up in a display of absolute pink, so surely would a Springtime freeze bring it to an end.

But then one day a few Springs back..... I had a great idea.

It was a little overdue but still quite fortunate that I picked those first warm Spring days to take down and put up the Christmas lights. Because as I held those lights in my hands and looked over at that beautiful pink tree just coming into its glory, a light bulb turned on in my head.

Hmmm....., are you thinking what I’m thinking? I'm sure you are and it does work.

From then on I've been able to get the majority of my blossoms to the point of battling birds and June bugs. However, battling the birds and June bugs will be another article altogether.

While I am more comfortable to grow more fruit trees now, I find that this method still works well for me because I do only have a few trees. I'm not sure how practical, cost effective, or easy it would be to string Christmas lights through more than a few trees.

If you do ever use this method, use the old fashioned base type bulbs and not the little twinkling lights. They put off more heat. Also, if you live in an area where the climate is harsher than here in the desert, it may be helpful to place a sheet of plastic or tarp over the trees in addition to the lights.

While there are other ways of protecting your trees and plants from a freeze, I just thought I would share this little bit of garden wisdom with you.

Written by Steve Boulden. Steve is the creator of The Landscape Design Site which offers free professional landscaping advice, tips, plans, and ideas to do it yourselfers and homeowners. For more on garden design and landscaping, visit his site at

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Pictures Of Landscaping - Using Other Peoples Ideas To Design Your Landscape.

One of the most common searches on my site is for pictures of landscaping. So I know that a lot of folks rely on photos of other peoples designs to get ideas. But at the same time, while I do have a large picture directory of other peoples projects on my site, the most common questions I receive are still related to specific shapes and design ideas.

It would seem that with as many pictures of landscaping there are to look at online, just about everyone could find a close match to their own property that could be copied. It would seem so.....if every yard was square or rectangular. However, the fact is that most yards aren’t square or rectangular. So even with the endless landscaping ideas and examples out there, it’s still highly unlikely that you’ll find an exact match to the shape of your property.

Even as a professional, I still use pictures of other peoples landscaping as an educational tool and to get new ideas. However, I find it almost pointless to search for an exact idea to copy. I look for unique, creative, and new ideas and pieces of the puzzle.

Now here’s a piece of advice and the point to this entire article.
When looking at pictures of landscaping, pay attention to the details, ideas, and principles that are universal to most designs. Look for the things that are common and repeated often by different designers. These are the elements that look good because they are generally based on basic principles of art. These are the things that will probably incorporate well into your own design project regardless of shape.

Look at the way shapes are repeated, plants are placed, and colors are used. Take notice of little details like plants and rocks being grouped in odd numbers. Pay attention to the details of landscaping and not just the shape. You’ll discover more about the mechanics of landscape design and eventually it will materialize into your own ideas.

Other peoples landscaping pictures are a great design tool to help you get your project done. However, instead of hopelessly searching for your exact layout, borrow several ideas from several different designs. You’ll save yourself a lot of frustration and have a much better chance of creating something unique to your own property.

Written by Steve Boulden. Steve is the creator of The Landscape Design Site which offers free landscaping ideas, pictures, and advice to do it yourselfers. Check out his gallery of free landscaping and garden pictures at