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November 2, 2021

Gardening: Plan landscape renovation methodically

Photo/Tim Ohlwiler
A well-planned herb garden at the Blandy Experimental Farm in Clarke County.
By Lynne Weber
Master Gardener

Have you looked out of your windows lately?

Chances are you have tried, but all you see are overgrown trees, shrubs and plants that have seen better days. They are blocking your living room windows; the shade tree in the backyard has more dead branches than live ones, and the hollies and azaleas in the shrub border long ago gave up being individual shrubs.

If this is your scenario, your home’s landscape may be in need of rejuvenation. Here are a few tips for remodeling and renovating your landscape.

Start with paper and pencil

Before you start your renovation job, you need to plan it out. Document what you already have and then visualize what you want your future landscape to look like.

By writing it down you can eliminate a lot of hard work and discover ways to minimize the change. Draw your house and landscape to scale. Draw the house and semi to permanent features (driveways, sidewalks, etc.). Make the drawing large so that plants and notes can be easily read and comfortably added to the plan.

Use a piece of tracing paper over the house plan and draw all of the existing plants. Begin making plant and environmental notes (sunny areas, shady areas, prevailing wind direction, wet spots, etc.). Take notes about plant related problems, hazards and aesthetic or visual problems. Plant related problems include poor growth, few flowers or need for frequent pruning and watering.

Note windows and doors, and if plants block them or cover house numbers or utility accesses. Note aesthetic problems such as a cluttered look, plants out of proportion, or a lack of seasonal interest.

Decide what you want to save

Make notes on the condition of each plant as either good, marginal or poor, using different colors to indicate condition. Define for yourself whether a plant is in good condition (growing at an appropriate rate, flowering properly, requires little maintenance, etc.), marginal (growth rate diminished, weak or total lack of flower production, many dead branches, etc.) or poor (needs to be removed!).

Compare the monetary and time costs of renovating the plant (relocating, fertilization, pruning, etc.) versus removing and replacing the plant. Consider how long the rehabilitated plant will be effective. If a plant is in poor condition (mostly dead branches, small leaves of pale color, no flowers), make a note to remove it.

Determine how you want it to look

Once a drawing has been made of the current landscape, start your renovation plans. Use another sheet of tracing paper over the base plan and the assessment overlay. Draw in the plants you want to keep, visualizing whether you want it to stay in that location or relocate it to another. Determine if you want plants that attract birds, bees, and butterflies.

Make a list of what you want in your landscape in the future (less plant maintenance, more parking space, a swimming pool, a perennial garden, more shade on the hot southwest side of the house, etc.). Compare this list with the overlay that shows the plants you hope to save. Identify new permanent features first (parking area, swimming pool, tool shed, fencing) then add new plants and planting areas. Now you are beginning to design a renovated landscape.

Install permanent areas first

Once you have a completed design, decide how much it will cost and what can be done when. Renovation may take several years. If possible, complete permanent areas first so that plants won’t be damaged as permanent structures are installed. Use the overlay showing which plants to remove or move and do that work. As time and money permit, add the new plantings. Then repair any lawn areas that are poor or were disturbed in the renovation process.

As the work progresses, adopt the proper techniques to keep that new landscape growing at its best. Learn from earlier mistakes and capitalize on things you’ve done correctly.

If you do not feel comfortable drawing your own plan, this area is blessed with many talented landscape design professionals. If you see a well-designed landscape, find out who designed it and contract their help.

If you have questions about landscape plant selection or other horticulture topics contact the Fauquier & Rappahannock County Master Gardeners at 540-341-7950, ext. 1, or email the help desk at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).
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