Where Do We Go From Here?

After 8 months exploring Design Principles we’re finally ready to tackle the third and final phase of the Landscape Design Process – The Planting Plan. We began way back in April with functional diagrams, which map out a landscape based on the function of each space, and Concept Plans, which give form to those functional spaces (these are outlined in GOOD LINES MEAN GOOD DESIGNS and CURVES WONDERFUL CURVES).

Now at long last it’s time to introduce plant material into our design. Off you go then – pop those plants into your drawing. You know you wanna. You’ve been waiting for this………….

Ha! Are you still staring at your page? Not so easy is it – where does one begin? Indeed where do we go from here?

Well, I have bad news for you. We must begin where we always begin – with function. Ah dear fellow gardeners I can hear you protest, “Oh no, not the ‘f word’ again.” Yes I’m afraid so. Plants serve many functions in the landscape and we must first determine what role we need them to play before choosing and arranging plant material.

Revisiting your functional diagram may be of help here – for example perhaps you made note that some means of providing shade on your sunny deck or patio will be required. If so, an appropriately sized shade tree might do the trick – placed strategically of course, so it can in fact serve that purpose.

A group of 5 columnar aspens provide shade for a sunny deck. While there may be room for a single larger canopy tree, these tall narrow aspens grow faster and will fulfill their intended function sooner.

A group of 5 columnar aspens provide shade for a sunny deck. While there may be room for a single larger canopy tree, these tall narrow aspens grow faster and will fulfill their intended function sooner.

How about privacy? A tree or two may be the answer – again suitably sized for the scale of your house and property. And if you require this privacy year round, you may want to consider evergreens.

Large evergreen trees provide privacy for homes abutting a year-round public park space. Photo: Pat Gaviller

Large evergreen trees provide privacy for homes abutting a year-round public park space.
Photo: Pat Gaviller

Spreading junipers make good slope stabilizers, creating a tidy uniform look. Photo: Ann Van de Reep

Spreading junipers make good slope stabilizers, creating a tidy uniform look. Photo: Ann Van de Reep

Shrubs and perennials can also serve a purely practical purpose. For example, if you have a slope to contend with, shrubs and/or perennials with dense root systems can stabilize an embankment quite effectively.

Slope stabilization

Festuca, Helictotrichon, and Perovskia make a casual, but effective hillside planting at Poplar Grove Winery, Naramata Bench, B.C. Photo: Len Steinberg

Or perhaps you want to limit foot traffic in an area – using shrubs that are thorny or abrasive can provide an efficient barrier.

Are you starting to get the picture?

As you can see, plants are great problem solvers. The size of the plant or plants you choose will be relative to the size of the problem you’re trying to solve. If you want to screen your air conditioning unit from view, a medium-sized shrub planted in front of it may be all you need, whereas if you want to screen your view of an entire street or roadway, a hedge of tall shrubs may be in order. And a windbreak or shelterbelt will require very large trees.

Keep in mind that the ability of your plant selections to produce favourable results is dependent on choosing plant material of a suitable size. For example, a shrub or planting that is too small to obscure an unsightly view may end up drawing attention to it instead.

Ineffective screening

These shrubs are too small to effectively screen the unattractive green utility box. Unfortunately the result is to draw attention, not only to the box, but the unsightly utility area behind. Photo: Pat Gaviller

So when do we get to the part where we plant things just because they look pretty? Don’t worry we’ll get there. Once you’ve dealt with all of the practical considerations you can start to think about aesthetics. But you’ll have to wait til my next post.

Stay Tuned,
Sue
© Sue Gaviller and Not Another Gardening Blog 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sue Gaviller and Not Another Gardening Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

2 comments on “Where Do We Go From Here?

  1. Great post as ever Sue! Your planting plan ideas are fantastic. Can’t wait to check out your next post.

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