After a long, cold, dark Wisconsin winter, people are eager to get outside and enjoy “Mother Nature.” They’ve spent time in bookstores looking at gardening books, as well as researching on the internet and attending gardening seminars and shows. They’ve collected ideas from magazines and are full of design concepts that they’re ready to implement! In April and May, people are full of energy and desire to make their outdoor dreams come true. Bringing those ideas together into a cohesive design and implementing that design is where a professional landscape service is needed. In the spring, professional landscape businesses are flooded with requests for help. Unfortunately, many clients are put on a waiting list. It takes months for a reputable company to sort through the list, putting excessive pressure on the industry, and at times compromising design and installation. Because projects are completed on a first-come, first-serve basis, people that come to a designer in May end up waiting longer than they would have otherwise. People become impatient with the process.
At this time of year, for some odd reason, most people start losing their desire to garden. In August, traditionally, it is back to school month. Believe it or not, I’ve heard the comment that fall is in the air as early as the end of July. The focus is taken off the landscape and directed towards “getting that last vacation in before another summer ends.” In landscape architecture and construction, nothing is further from the truth. It is an industry that functions all year. The late summer months are a great time to plan for fall installations as well as spring installations. With the pressure off both the professional landscape contractors/designers and the clients, the process of collaboration is more enjoyable.
Spring is an awesome time to plant, taking advantage of cool weather, rain, and great plant selections, but fall planting can also be stimulating with the weather being even more agreeable. Trees, shrubs, and evergreens do great planted in the fall because there is less heat stress. Summer installs work well, but require more work from the customer with more watering demands. The key to fall planting success is thorough watering into a deep frost. Evergreens and broadleaf plants especially need to be watered in well before the snow flies.
Many perennials can be divided and planted in the fall. However, I tend to avoid dividing the root structure of perennials after Labor Day, unless I am on site to properly water them. Potted materials are more successfully planted until the end of fall. The cooler less hectic days are also easier on the construction crews.
So, don’t hesitate to take the time to plan a landscape now. Having the time to fit your needs and desires together with a well thought out plan can save time, money, and energy as well as be totally enjoyable! It can give you the guidance needed to work on a more elaborate design over a period of time. Be smart…plan now.
General tips for planning your landscape:
- Find property lines.
- Know where utility lines are.
- Have an idea of what style of landscape you desire—have ideas ready for your designer. Show pictures of things you like and dislike. This saves so much time and helps the designer understand your particular tastes and desires. It’s great to have unique ideas, as long as they are in keeping with the neighborhood. People should look at landscaping as a part of a community or neighborhood.
- Picking the proper plants for a landscape is a must. Direction and soil type should be considered, as well as the overall finished growth pattern, color, and texture. Whatever you do, leave plenty of room the plant to mature. This is better for the plant, and might mean less pruning for the homeowner.
- If possible, get a copy of your house plan to share with your designer, as well as plot plans, surveys, etc…this will save lots of time.
- If you want to entertain outside, decide how many people might use the space at one time and how it will be used. Make the space big enough the first time!
- Unify buildings with landscape by picking hardscaping materials and plant materials to complement what already exists. Don’t put too many different materials together. Less is more. Integrate nature as much as possible.
- How much maintenance do you want? Perennials may come up year after year, but they need cutting back, dividing, dead heading, fertilizing, and watering. Now, many people love doing this, but for others it becomes overwhelming.
- Have an idea of a budget. If you share this with a professional designer, she/he can develop a plan considering your financial needs.
- Know your soil type. Bring good composted soil in to help build planting beds.
- Consider investing in irrigation…watering plant materials takes time!
- Consider night lighting. It adds so much ambiance.
- Consider winter interest with structure and evergreen plants.
- To avoid problems, deal with professional people you can trust. Get references ahead of time. Find people that will guide you through the process and help with follow-up. One of the most rewarding aspects of our work is keeping in contact with our customers through the years as they work with their gardens.