The Residential Landscape

The residential landscape tends to vary by type and size in terms of the necessity of a professional landscape architect. A professional design from a landscape architect is certainly a great benefit for a homeowner, however there are instances where the fees may seem like they are higher than the net worth of the expertise provided. With this in mind, I have outlined a few considerations for the homeowner in the design of a residential landscape.

1. Context-Sensitive Landscape: The selection of plant material and other landscape components should reflect the context of the regional and individual site. For example in an arid climate such as Colorado Springs, the plant material must be drought resistant and responsive to the soil conditions of the site. The landscape must be cohesive with the architectural components and features of its adjacent surroundings.  The mulch, or ground plane, should be selected based on wind and migration. The color and general aesthetics of all landscape components should also be accounted for, but aesthetics should not take precedence over functionality and maintenance considerations.

2. Consider Maintenance: Many designers, both amateur and professional, will make the mistake of over-engineering the landscape design. Elements will be forced into the landscape for reasons beyond necessity.  One major example of this is in the landscape edging (see prior blog post “Landscape Edging: Which Variety Should I Use“.  Ornamental edging will often be included in odd places where it is not warranted, such as along a sidewalk.  Another example of over-engineering is the use of multiple types of mulch and ground plane material that often create points of conflict, as referenced in the previous blog post “Landscape Design: Transitions in the Ground Plane“.

3. Know Your Turf Grass: There are many varieties of turfgrass that are often incorrectly used in the landscape.  For all types of turfgrass, careful design considerations are imperative in terms of the area’s function and space allotted.  The depth of turfgrass should always be designed with the irrigation patterns in mind.  When the depth is not considered, the results often include over-watering and poor turf growth. The function of the turfgrass area is also critical and a common mistake is to force a warm-season, low water-use turf in an area where there is frequent foot traffic.  Most low water-use turf grasses can not withstand high amounts of foot traffic.  Conversely, filling a large area where passive foot traffic occurs with cool-season, high water-use turf grasses is also wasteful in terms of water and maintenance time.

Ornamental grass is an effective material to soften the appearance of the base of a wall.

4. Turfgrass and Vertical Elements:  A common mistake made in the residential landscape is requiring the end-user, the homeowner, to use a lawn trimmer to finish the weekly maintenance of a lawn.  From my experience when I was a kid, it was always the worst part of “mowing the lawn“. The best lawns to maintain were the lawns where a lawn trimmer was not needed.  Due to my childhood experiences of maintaining lawns, I am very cognizant about designing turfgrass near vertical elements.  Vertical elements include fences, walls, steps, boulders and basically anything that you may otherwise need to use a lawn trimmer around.  Avoiding these elements in the design could be the easiest way to simplify your lawn mowing experience.  It can be as simple as providing a six-inch buffer of mulch between the lawn and the vertical element or as elegant as locating a planting bed.  For fences, I find that the best minimalist approach is to provide 18” between where day lillies and ornamental grasses can provide a beautiful transition from the fence to the lawn.

Please feel free to comment below or email me at John@OlsonPlanning.com with any questions.

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