By Patricia Garcia
With spring on its way, you may have some grand ideas for your lawn or garden. Maybe you want to add some flowers for color or plant a tree for some shade. Before you do, make sure that the plants you choose are right for you and your home.
Plants are living things and require maintenance as they grow, says Los Angeles landscape designer Cassy Aoyagi. Needs will vary by plant and plant type, so it’s important to identify what you want from your lawn and what you can accommodate in your lot. By planning ahead and considering the types of plants that fit your home, you can have a lawn that is a dream, instead of a nightmare.
Aoyagi, president of landscaping firm FormLA, suggests using native plants for a healthy yard. “Doing so solves so many problems, as (native plants) are naturally adapted to your soils, climate and wildlife. (Native plants) will thrive without the need for you to add toxic chemical fertilizers and pesticides or use excessive water.”
By planting native plants, you’ll also be assured that plants live in harmony. While many non-native plants are pretty, they can wreak havoc in your yard by quickly becoming unmanageable and competing with native plants for water, nutrients and space. Ever plant bamboo only to see it take over the entire yard? (In bamboo’s defense, phyllostachys bamboo is extremely invasive, while Fargesia bamboo is a manageable, clumping bamboo, says landscaper Gayle Burbank of Gayle Burbank Landscapes in Bearsville, N.Y.) If you have your heart set on a certain plant, research it first to make sure that it will not invade your yard and your neighborhood.
It’s also important to know which plants attract certain wildlife in your area. If deer, for example, tend to roam around your yard, avoid planting arborvitae, tulips or rhododendrons – unless you enjoy feeding deer expensive meals, that is. You can still use plants that are not deer-resistant, but investing in cages or fencing will minimize losses.
To protect foundations, save money and be sure that plants are properly established and thrive in the long term, start small, Aoyagi says. “Allow your plants time to grow. This allows you time to adapt and mitigate any mistakes you may have made.”
We’re not saying to go big or go home. What we are saying is that you should think of the big picture.
Planting a young tree, such as a Sequoia, on a small lot may seem like a good idea now. But 10 years down the road, your home’s foundation may not appreciate the tree’s sprawling roots.
To help combat foundation issues caused by tree roots, Pablo Solomon, an artist and environmental designer who lives north of Austin, Texas, advises homeowners to leave at least 10 feet between trees and your home. Be mindful of other considerations: shallow-rooted trees, for example, can topple over in wind storms, so plant those away from your home.
Active or Not-So-Active?
Does your idea of spending time outside include an ice-cold drink and lounging in a hammock? Or would you rather dig in the dirt and get your hands dirty? This matters when planning a garden, says Burbank. If you prefer enjoying your outdoor space rather than tending to it, choose plants that are low maintenance and hardy, such as drought-tolerant ornamental grasses and plants that do not require much trimming.
Roses and cacti are naturally equipped to protect themselves, so why not use them to protect your home too? Experts recommend planting thorny plants near windows and door entrances to help deter burglars. If you have small children or pets, though, such plants may not work, since they could get hurt while playing around them. Either way, avoid planting shrubs or vines too close to your home, which can provide burglars with a place to hide, Solomon says.
It’s important to experiment to find your lawn and garden Zen. More important, though, is to make a plan to get there. If you’re unsure how a plant will complement your yard, visit your local nursery for advice.
Patricia Garcia is content manager for NewHomeSource.