Match your gardening styles to your site

Richard Bogren, Young, John, Gill, Daniel J., Owings, Allen D.  |  1/4/2011 1:07:57 AM

Sustainable Landscape News Distributed 01/11/10

By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Allen Owings and John Young

“Selecting the right plant for the right place” is a frequently mentioned phrase in many of our home horticulture educational presentations. How very important it is. When planning new landscape areas or renovating old landscape areas, you need to consider many factors, including gardening style.

Most people use an informal style of landscaping. In the informal style, plants are allowed to develop their natural forms (pruned but not regularly sheared), and they are arranged more irregularly in a way that resembles nature.

The lines in the landscape and the shapes of the beds tend to be curved and flowing with few straight edges and no geometric shapes. Building materials are more relaxed and may even be rustic. This style of landscape design is generally less demanding when it comes to maintenance. Get a feel for what suits your taste and the style of your home, and use it.

Another style is formal and is characterized by bilateral symmetry, clipped plantings, geometrically shaped plants and beds, orderly rows of plants regularly spaced, traditional garden accents (classical statues for example), a central decorative feature such as fountain, “crisp” building materials (smooth, painted wood, cut stone, brick) and everything neatly manicured.

This style can be effective but can also appear stiff, lifeless and boring. It is a style that requires relatively high maintenance.

To match plants with the correct location, it is important to first determine the site characteristics. Remember that these may differ greatly at various sites throughout a yard.

Here is a list of site characteristics to consider prior to getting started with your landscape efforts:

– Soil – Is it sand, silt, clay? What is the pH? What is the status of available nutrients – are they available in sufficient levels to maintain plant growth? Do you have hardpan or soil compaction problems?

– Sunlight – Quantify sunlight during the morning hours, at midday and during the late afternoon. Do you have full sun, partial sun, partial shade or shade exposure? Is it eastern sun or western sun?

– Temperature – How about temperature extremes in your landscape? A landscape in Spanish Town in Baton Rouge is warmer at night than a landscape in the countryside of Ascension Parish.

– Drainage – Do you have poorly drained soil? Well-drained soil? This has a lot to do with soil texture and soil structure. Make sure you determine any drainage issues during planning instead of trying to resolve them after the fact.

– Structural limitations – Will utilities influence how and where you do your landscaping? Watch for overhead power lines and buried utilities. You should contact Louisiana One Call prior to any digging.

– Other factors – There are too many to list, but they can include poor water quality, windy conditions and irrigation limitations.

Think about these factors in your home-landscaping efforts. Your ornamental plants will be happier, and you will be happier in the long run.

Visit LaHouse in Baton Rouge to see sustainable landscape practices in action. The home and landscape resource center is located near the intersection of Burbank Drive and Nicholson Drive (Louisiana Highway 30) in Baton Rouge across the street from the LSU baseball stadium. For more information, go to www.louisianahouse.org and www.lsuagcenter.com/lyn.

Rick Bogren

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