Daniel Gill, Merrill, Thomas A. | 8/27/2005 2:47:43 AM
By Dan Gill
LSU AgCenter Horticulturist
Now is an excellent time to assess your landscape and make plans, since November through February is the prime time for planting hardy trees, shrubs and ground covers in Louisiana.
Landscaping is a great way to give your home a beautiful appearance as well as make outdoor spaces function usefully for the family.
The benefits of a well-planned landscape are many – from providing shade, privacy and color to correcting drainage problems and creating outdoor living areas. Beautiful landscaping also increases the value of your home.
Most gardeners should have no trouble dealing with small projects themselves. Planting a tree, designing a flower garden or planting beds around a deck are good do-it-yourself projects.
On the other hand, designing an overall landscape, including drainage, traffic patterns, use areas, outdoor living areas and major plantings, requires careful study, planning and a good sense of design. But even such a large project is not necessarily beyond the ability of many home gardeners. After all, most of us do a decent job designing a home interior that is attractive and comfortable.
Better yet, help is available. Books on home landscaping provide an excellent source of information. Carefully studying one or two of these books will either convince you that you can do it yourself or that you may need to consult with a professional.
To do the job right when designing a landscape yourself, make sure you determine your needs first. Do you want a free flowing natural garden or something more formal? Is a play area for the kids important? Do you enjoy tinkering in your garden, trimming and planning next year’s flower beds, or would you prefer a lower-maintenance garden that minimizes general care?
Study your site carefully so you can match plants to the growing conditions they need. And make sure you choose plants that will mature at the right size for their location and will thrive in your area. You parish LSU AgCenter Extension office has excellent pamphlets and information available to help you select appropriate plants – or you can find some of those publications online by visiting www.lsuagcenter.com.
If you decide you need to seek professional help, there are several options. You can talk to horticulturists at your local nurseries or garden centers. They can answer questions you have on choosing the right plants, how big different plants grow and what growing conditions the plants prefer. Some nurseries even have individuals on staff who can help you develop a design or give you feedback on some of the ideas you have.
If you have a good idea of what you want to do but need some help refining the details, a landscape architect often can be hired as a consultant for an hourly fee. A landscape architect also could be hired to draw up a complete design for an agreed-upon fee. You may then hire the architect’s firm or a landscape contractor to install the plan or install it yourself.
A landscape contractor basically is licensed to install landscapes. They can, however, also help you develop a landscape design – but they can only do it as part of a package deal that includes the cost of the plants and instillation.
Before you hire a professional, make sure you check his or her credentials. Landscape contractors and landscape architects must be licensed by the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry in order to conduct business in Louisiana.
While deciding on hiring a professional, be sure to ask for references and to see pictures of previous jobs the person or firm may have done. And, if possible, try to interview several individuals before making your decision.
The best way to establish a productive working relationship is to find an experienced professional who you trust and who understands what you want to accomplish.
Once you’ve made a choice, come up with a mutually acceptable written agreement, including a firm price, everything that the price includes, a work schedule and a completion date. Be specific about what you expect and when you expect it.
Remember, the landscape plan and the installation are two different parts of the process. You could pay a professional landscape architect to create the plan and then install the design yourself.
You could even break the installation up into sections, if you desire. This will spread the cost of plant materials and construction over time – making it easier to budget. The advantage is that even if the installation is done in sections, it is guided by a comprehensive plan that creates a unified, attractive and functional landscape.
So if you’ve been thinking about adding a shade tree, planting privacy hedge, landscaping around the patio, dressing up the front of your house or even doing extensive landscaping, the time to start planning is now. Have your decisions and plans in place for November, and you will be ready to plant during the best time of the year.
Get It Growing is a weekly feature on home lawn and garden topics prepared by experts in the LSU AgCenter. For more information on such topics, contact your parish LSU AgCenter Extension office or visit our Web site at www.lsuagcenter.com. A wide range of publications and a variety of other resources are available.