Get outside and redesign that flower bed

(03/30/20) BATON ROUGE, La. — There seems to be a competition on right now: Who will have the prettiest yard once the coronavirus pandemic is over?

As people heed authorities’ requests to stay home to help slow the spread of the virus, many are heading into their gardens to stay busy. But it’s important to make a plan before getting to work outside.

“Too often I see people perusing the aisles of the garden center, throwing plants in their basket with no idea what they will do with these plants when they get home,” said LSU AgCenter horticulture agent Jessie Hoover. “They see things that are pretty and buy them.”

Nothing is wrong with this. But just like budgeting or cooking, the better your plan, the better your results.

Some people have a knack for designing things, whether it’s putting together an outfit, arranging flowers in a bouquet or picking out drapes for the living room,” Hoover said.

Others may have not been born with the “designing gene.” But anyone, regardless of experience, can create landscapes that are beautiful and suit their needs.

The first step in landscape design is to take some photos of the area you want to design. Google Earth is a great way to get overhead shots. Look at street-level views as well.

“Take measurements and note which way is north, south, east and west,” Hoover said. “Use tracing paper to draw out your area. Draw any electrical lines, water lines and cable lines. These are very important.”

Make copies of your drawings so you can play around with different designs.

Also take note of the soil type by having a soil test done. Determine which areas have good drainage and which areas stay wet, she said.

Second, list all the things you want from your area. Do you want an outdoor entertaining space? A vegetable garden? How about a pool, greenhouse or something else?

“List everything that you want. Don’t worry if you’re not sure it will work. This is your master wish list,” she said.

From there, you want to create a list of your favorite plants. If you are unfamiliar with plants, start with Louisiana Super Plants. These plants have been tested by the LSU AgCenter and are proven to perform well across Louisiana.

You can find a list by searching for Super Plants at

“Now that you have a list of plants you love, spend time researching how much care these plants need,” Hoover said.

Do you have time to prune and control that fast-growing plant each year? If not, maybe you should cross that one off the list or look for an alternative with less maintenance.

Some plants need full sun while others prefer mostly shade. Talk to your AgCenter agent if you are unsure about some plants.

One of the first rules of landscape design is putting the right plant in the right place, Hoover said.

How many times have you seen crape myrtles cut straight across the top because they started to interfere with the power lines? That is an example of the wrong plant in the wrong place.

Once these basics are complete, then you should research some basic design tips and draw out your landscape design plan.

“Remember, almost everything in horticulture is replaceable,” Hoover said. “If something doesn’t work, pull it up and try something else.”

Pink flower garden in front of house.

Planting in masses of the same color will make more impact. Photo by Jessie Hoover/LSU AgCenter

Crape Myrtle .jpeg thumbnail

These crape myrtles have been topped for growing into the power lines and will likely be topped again as they continue to grow. Photo by Jessie Hoover/LSU AgCenter

3/30/2020 8:34:40 PM
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The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture