Daniel Gill, Merrill, Thomas A. | 4/19/2005 10:28:57 PM
The benefits of a well-planned landscape are many – from providing shade, privacy and color to correcting drainage problems and creating outdoor living areas.
In short, beautiful landscaping increases the value of your home.
Since November through February is the prime season for planting hardy trees, shrubs and ground covers in Louisiana, now is an excellent time to assess your landscape situation and begin to make plans.
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 that doesn’t mean it necessarily is 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.
Help also is available. Books on home landscaping provide excellent sources 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 right job when designing a landscape yourself, make sure you determine your needs first. For example, 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 are the right size for the location and that will thrive in your area. Your parish LSU AgCenter Extension office has excellent pamphlets and information available to help you select appropriate plants – or you can visit www.lsuagcenter.com for a variety of online publications.
If you decide you need to seek professional help with landscaping, 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 they grow and what growing conditions they prefer. Some nurseries even have individuals on staff that can even 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, landscape architects can often be hired as consultants for an hourly fee.
A landscape architect also could be hired to draw up a complete design for an agreed fee. You may then hire the landscape architect’s firm to install the landscape, hire a landscape contractor to install it or install it yourself.
Landscape contractors basically are licensed to install landscapes. They can, however, also help you develop a landscape design – but only in a package deal that includes the cost of the plants and installation.
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 to conduct business in Louisiana. Also, ask for references and to see pictures of previous jobs they have done.
Then interview several professionals before making your decision. The best way to establish a productive working relationship is to find an experienced professional that you trust and who understands what you want to accomplish.
Get a mutually acceptable written agreement, which includes a firm price, everything that the price includes and a work schedule and 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 in sections. 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.