Lend Me Your Landscape
Life's not fair, is it? All those wonderful landscapes out there with just the perfect conditions to support gorgeous gardens, and you're stuck with, well, a mess. The grass just doesn't seem to be catching on over there, and absolutely nothing will grow in that nasty, wet area. And what is one to do about that rocky slope? What is an owner of a not-so-wonderful landscape to do with all these afflictions?
It can be frighteningly easy to locate the problem areas in your landscape, but it's a bit tougher to create a solution for them that is economically viable, yet still looks superb. The problem might obviously be that steeply sloping bank, but do you really want to rent a bulldozer and completely raze the offending hill and everything on it, including your house? Thankfully, there are better ways of turning this and other landscape eyesores into assets without bulldozing your house or your wallet.
Problem number one: there's so much water in my backyard I would need all the sand in the Sahara to dry it up! Many people have wet, boggy places in their landscape that only seem to grow weeds and mosquitoes. However, before you begin planning an excursion to Africa for your sand, here are a few ideas you could attempt first. Try to determine where the water is coming from. You might be able to reroute the water to keep from pooling into that one area. By keeping the water flowing through and out of your landscape, you will make that area more useable for your gardening whims.
Another idea for a boggy situation is to not get rid of the water at all. Instead, create a bog garden or even a water garden area there. After all, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. There are quite a few plants that tolerate and even love boggy situations. Some prime examples are bald cypress, river birch, inkberry holly, and winterberry holly. Some water-loving perennials are , iris, canna, and calla lily. Forget the sand, and incorporate a bog garden into your landscape instead.
Problem number two: my grass hasn't seen any sun in three years and it shows. Shady situations can be a problem for many people, especially when they're trying to grow a thick, lush lawn. Unfortunately, turfgrass is one of those features that needs almost full sun, so you're never going to get that lawn growing underneath the magnolia tree. There is some good news, though. A landscape does not necessarily need a spread of green grass to look fantastic. If your yard is shady, you can still work with it, and even make it look spectacular.
In the areas where it is impossible to grow grass, try a sweeping blanket of groundcover. You are certainly not limited to english ivy; there is a huge selection of choices out there for you. Not only are there the plants that are marketed as groundcovers, such as asiatic jasmine, liriope, and mondo grass -- you can use other perennials and shrubs as well. Any flower or shrub that stays two to three feet tall or less is fair game in groundcover selection. This includes dwarf versions of nandina, azalea, and cotoneaster.
If you have a big expanse of shaded areas, incorporate a shade garden into your landscape as well. By breaking up the shady area in this fashion, you will create different areas of interest and keep the eye moving. You will be surprised by not only how good your landscape will look, but also by how well it tolerates your landscape's conditions, not to mention the less time you will have to spend mowing your once-sparse lawn.
Problem number three: I think my landscape has aspirations of being a cliff . . . a very rocky, steep cliff. Determining how best to treat slopes in your landscape can be very tricky. Even the slightest of slopes can make mowing and other maintenance very difficult. However, you can quickly turn this landscaping nightmare into a picturesque dream. First things first, though: if you are having trouble maintaining a lawn on your slope, then get rid of the lawn. Not only is it difficult to maintain, it can be dangerous, too. You do not want to go rolling head over heels down a slope with a running lawnmower tumbling after.
There are a few options you can utilize here instead of turfgrass. One option that can work great whether your slope is slight or steep is terracing. By breaking up your slope into a few smaller ones, you help stabilize the area and create new planting spaces. Even the material that you use to create the terraces can add to the overall look of your landscape.
The second option is to stabilize your sloped area with plants. There are many plants that are well-known for having a stabilizing root system that can keep the ground from eroding away. Some examples of these plants are groundcover-type junipers, jasmine, loropetalum, cotoneaster, and even forsythia. You can add some perennials to the mix as well with daylilies, liriope, and carolina jessamine. By using tenacious plants or terracing on your slope, not only will it keep it from eroding away and keep you from mowing it, your slope will look fantastic as well.
More than likely, all of those wonderful landscapes with the lush gardens that you envy started out with some of the exact same problems that you see in your landscape now. By following design principles and gearing your landscape to work with your existing conditions, you will be making a huge step toward having that same fantastic look in your very own yard. So next time when you're out in your landscape, glance around and take a visual survey. Imagine the potential: some of those eyesores that you see just might turn into the best parts of your garden.
About the Author Carrie Paulk is a professional landscape designer with Turf Tamer, Inc. She has written many informative landscaping articles for Turf Tamer's Tip of the Week program. Want to learn more landscaping tips and tricks? Go to http://www.turftamerinc.com/tip.shtm to sign up for the 'Tip of the Week' and learn more tips!