The #1 Landscape Design Tool

September 28th, 2011  |  Published in General

For many novice gardeners in California, the first step in the landscape design process is often well intentioned but misguided.

This misstep is usually a shopping spree at the local retail nursery where a flurry of impulsive purchases are based on what is blooming or looks good in a small pot.  The excitement that has brought them to the nursery is wonderful and should be applauded, but the lack of research and forethought prior to a landscape-shopping spree often results in long-term garden discouragement as the plants chosen die, grow too big, or don’t grow big enough for their needs.

So a great place for any novice gardener with few California landscape ideas to begin is to browse landscaping photos online, read landscape design guides on mediterranean landscaping, and visit landscape photo sharing sites.  There, a plethora of design examples and plant combinations exist that will get your creative juices flowing.  Save inspirational images or create lists with online tools such as Landscape Resource’s innovative Palette Builder.

But before running out to the nursery, the next step is crucial:  research.  Take some time and write down your landscape zone, hardiness zone, precipitation patterns, climate norms, evapotranspiration, and maybe even the native plant communities in your area.  To speed the process, some websites, including, make this time-consuming step simple and painless by providing all of this information with a user-supplied zip code.

After this, perform a quick jar soil test to determine the soil type in your landscape.  And then take note of your landscape exposure (full sun, part shade, etc.).  The exposure, microclimates, and the above characteristics will ultimately dictate which plants and style of landscape to choose.

The above data is the most important Landscape Design Tool that one can acquire.  Without it, you will be unable to select the proper style or plants for your landscape.  Investing extra effort at the onset will pay dividends in the long run with a more appropriate and sustainable garden design that yields decreased maintenance, hassle, environmental costs, and ultimately leaves more resources in your bank account.

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