Why a good landscape plan is better than a cinnamon roll

All right.  Maybe a cinnamon roll sounds pretty good right now.  But, a good landscape plan that takes your personality and lifestyle into it will give you pleasure much longer. If you want to add to your home or business landscape, there are key planning and design points to keep in mind:


Keep it simple.  In the exuberance of planning, keep maintenance in mind. Don't cut up your lawn with small flowerbeds, but rather think of your property as a whole and use larger, simpler beds. Bold designs with mass plantings are more striking and are easier to maintain. Many perennials, which return year after year, naturalize easily and can be used to fill in problem slopes or create meadow sites. Use short groundcovers between and under shrubs to minimize weeds and add another layer of interest.

The designs of Piet Oudolf are excellent examples of bold, simple landscapes inspired by nature.

The designs of Piet Oudolf are excellent examples of bold, simple landscapes inspired by nature.


Remember the cost of your new plants goes on beyond installation. Future costs of maintenance include investments of time and money through weeding, watering, fertilizing and replanting.  That goes for turf, too. Don’t waste your efforts on maintaining an emerald expanse where low-maintenance paving or resilient perennial plants might serve your needs. Use grass for areas where you’ll use and enjoy it and to define and balance colorful beds and borders.


Think scale and palette. Use tall growing flowers and grasses to the back, middle-sized flowers in the center and low growing flowers in the front so you can enjoy them all.  Use plant colors and textures that complement your property and existing plantings. Think about seasonal blooms, but also the colors and textures of foliage and grasses. A winter scape of bronzed grasses and seed heads often rival the summer counterpart.


If you’re unsure about color selections, tried and true color combinations are a safe bet.  Traditional complementary color pairs are created with a primary color (red, blue, or yellow) and a secondary color (red with green, blue with orange, and yellow with purple). These combinations are vibrant and the colors intensify each other.  By moving around on the color wheel, interesting combinations can be created.  For understated elegance, try a soft, tone on tone theme, for example cream with ivory and peach. And, don’t forget white. An all-white garden is beautiful, especially in the moonlight.

Collections by Judy Allmon, Bluestem Services

Collections by Judy Allmon, Bluestem Services


Go bold. Mass your colors for maximum color impact. You can also mix different species of the same genus for texture interest and extended bloom. For example, various coreopsis species offer different shades of yellow, as well as varied heights and compactness.


Babies grow up. Keep mature height and breadth of trees and shrubs in mind when you plant them so that, as they mature, they will not interfere with window views and sidewalks. As a rule, use a plant’s height to guide spacing from a path. For example, a plant that grows to 36” should be at least two to three feet back from a walkway or patio to avoid feeling crowded.  


High and dry. Grade soil away from your home to take care of excess moisture run-off. Usually 1/8 to 1/4-inch drop per foot is ample. You might also consider a rain garden filled with deep-rooted perennials to help absorb stormwater run-off.


Frame or screen views. As you look out from the vantage of your picture window or kitchen window, is the view attractive, unsightly, or so-so? Block an unsightly scene with an evergreen hedge or a grove of small trees. Create a soft, layered effect with a mixed grouping of evergreen and deciduous trees and shrubs. Similarly, an attractive scene can be enhanced with judicious plant framing. In addition, you could score the added bonus of spring flowers, summer shade or fall color from foliage, berries or bark. Depending on the placement, your plant grouping will also serve as a winter windbreak.


Keep it mysterious and inviting. Use plantings to guide view lines, make separate garden spaces and create a sense of discovery. Involve all the senses whenever possible... fuzzy textures and fragrant plant materials are as memorable as visual components. 


Make sure your primary paths are easy to walk and wide enough for two to walk side by side. Keep ‘working paths’ safe. For example, a flagstone path from turf to a water spigot keeps your steps level and dry.


If you add steps, keep their ascent gradual with a step height (rise) of six inches or less.  Calculate the depth of the step by subtracting twice the rise from ‘26’. With this calculation, a step with a six-inch rise would have a run of 14 inches (26 – [2 X 6] = 14).


Make it your own. Remember, a garden becomes personal when it reflects you, your locale and your interests. Incorporate colors from the room where the garden will be viewed. If you enjoy bird watching, plant nectar-rich or heavy-seeding species that develop into living bird feeders.  Include statuary, collected items or found treasures to add personality and conversation starters.


Interested in working together? We'd love to talk with you! Email us @ BluestemServices@gmail.com, or just give us a call at 573.230.1196.