There are several themes that can guide your Atlanta landscaping choices. The climate in Atlanta can be difficult to predict from year to year; one year may produce a drought while another year may be characterized by record rainfall. Gardeners have to make decisions about their landscapes based on their personal preferences for how they want their property to look, what purpose the landscaping serves and how much effort they want to put into the process.
Xeriscaping means using a minimal amount of water in your landscaping. Atlanta gardeners can use native, drought-tolerant plants that will reduce their need to water, while guarding against soil erosion during rainy periods. Native plants should be able to survive without gardeners intervening to any great extent, because the plants survived in the area in the wild. However, if you have significantly altered your soil from a native mix or have created a microclimate, then you might have to tailor the species of plants that will require less water in your landscape. The Cooperative Extension of the University of Georgia College of Agriculture and Environmental Science provides gardeners with a wide breadth of plant species that will work well in an Atlanta landscape, including herbaceous perennials: daylily (Hemerocallis); astilbe (Astilbe japonica); purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea); Lenten rose (Helleborus orientalis). Large trees, such as Ginkgo (ginkgo biloba); water oak (Quercus nigra); green ash (Fraximus pennsylvanica). For annuals, they recommend creeping zinnia (Zinnia linearis); verbena (verbena); ornamental pepper (Capsicum annuum).
Create a tropical-like setting in your Atlanta landscape by infusing your garden with big bold leaves and bright color plants. Use tropical plants to supplement the more prevalent dogwoods and camelias. The Atlanta-Journal Constitution recommends adding Japanese fatsia (Fatsia japonica); needle palm (Rhapidophyllum hystrix); tropical water lily (Nymphaea hybrids); and Australian tree fern (Cyathea cooperi). A tropical garden makes good use of Atlanta's warm and humid summers, but will not fare well during drought times. During the winter, the least hardy plants should be moved indoors or treated as annuals. The specific configuration of your garden will help determine to what extent you can create a tropical microclimate. In general, the more plants that are gathered in one area, the warmer and more humid you can make the surrounding air, which will create a more tropical atmosphere. Under the best case scenario, you will be able to extend your growing season deeper into autumn.
Let your landscaping protect your privacy and beautify the neighborhood. The population of the Atlanta metro area grew by approximately 1.3 million people between 2000 and 2008, according to the United States Census Bureau. As the density of the area increases, many people seek to create a private setting at home. Homeowners can add evergreen trees along the perimeter of their property to form a year-round barrier against prying eyes, excessive noise and traffic. Consider adding trees found in the Atlanta area, such as, Bracken's Brown Beauty magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora 'Bracken's Brown Beauty'), a dense tree that grows to 30 to 50 feet high, bears large white fragrant flowers, and has the additional advantage of being cold hardy. The Sassafras (Sassafrass albidum) grows 30 to 60 feet tall, providing good privacy for decks and terraces. The Eastern hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana) is an understory tree that can fill in spaces between trees to provide greater privacy.