Landscape Design – Well Balanced Home Landscaping

Balance is a principle of all art forms, design, and even landscape design. It implies a sense of equality. And while there may be just a little more to it, this is how I explain it to make it easier for first timers and do it yourselfers to understand.

A garden, landscape, or any form of equal proportions would naturally feel and look balanced. However, most gardens and landscapes are not exact or symmetrical in shape and form. They’re asymmetrical and abstract in form and are often without any natural balance of their own. So landscaping often relies on other elements to create balance and harmony through unity.

Many times, a lack of balance is directly related to a lack of repetition. Repeating alike elements such as plants or rocks throughout the landscape will help unify different areas to each other. As little as one repeated matching plant group, color, piece of decor, or hardscape can accomplish this.

A lack of balance is also created by placing too many or all non matching elements throughout a landscape design. This can sometimes seem cluttered and unkept when it grows in. In the beginning of your design, plan for less, place just a few matching plant groups throughout the garden, and keep decor matching and to a minimum. You can add more later.

So many of the questions that I receive about landscape design deal with the shape of a design . Shape is unique to each design and will ultimately follow all necessary paths and your visions. However, any shape or form can be filled with elements and still be either dull, void, loud, cluttered, and unbalanced. Balance isn’t necessarily dependant on shape. It can be but generally it’s not. So don’t get too hung up on trying to even things out entirely by shape.

Landscape design is an art form and so it deals with “all” the same principles that other art forms use. Repetition, unity, and balance are all principles of art that go hand in hand with each other.

Architects use repetition in design by making doors, windows, fixtures, trims, etc. the same sizes, shapes, and styles. Imagine how your home would feel if every door, door frame, window, and fixture  were of different sizes, shapes, colors, and types. It would be uncomfortable and chaotic.

And so it’s the same with landscape design.

In order to create balance, appeal, and even comfort in a landscape that is lacking, we need to create some form of consistent repetition. As little as one matching element placed on opposites can create a sense of unity and consistency.

It’s easiest and most often created in the softscape (plants, ornaments, lawn, decor, etc.). However, it should be considered in the hardscape (walks, driveways, necessities, fences, walls, raised beds, boundaries, etc.) of your drawn design plan.

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Landscape Can Drive Up Home Values

The look of your lawn and garden may be the first and perhaps the most lasting impression people have of your home and property. Landscaping plays an essential role in enhancing its beauty and increasing the value.

Fortunately, homeowners can turn their own landscapes into works of art at an affordable price.

In recent years, many companies have begun to introduce more varieties of bagged rock and mulch. A new line of decorative rock and stone from Vigoro offers landscaping enthusiasts 26 varieties of bagged products in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and colors.

Decorative landscaping stones and mulches are not only an excellent way to beautify and accent garden beds, ponds, driveways and walkways, they also provide natural benefits to the soil and plants. These benefits include controlling and reducing erosion, retaining moisture, controlling weeds and insulating the soil.

Here are a few tips on choosing and applying mulch:

  • Choose mulch that is long lasting and not easily washed away.
  • Pick mulch that has a loose structure to let water pass through quickly.
  • Apply mulch in late spring. This helps reduce soil temperature and save water.
  • Apply fine mulches one to two inches deep. Coarse or fluffy mulches should be put on three to four inches deep.
  • Apply mulch evenly and level it with a rake or your hands.
  • Wet thoroughly after applying mulch.
  • Pull mulch a few inches away from plant stems and tree trunks.

To further control weeds and keep plants healthy, there’s a new mulch called Vigoro Mulch with Weed Stop. It’s the first to contain pre-emergent herbicide, controlling unwanted weeds for up to four months yet allowing bulbs, established flowers, shrubs and trees to thrive. This mulch is certified by the Mulch and Soil Council as only containing natural forest products.

Is landscape fabric absolutely necessary in landscaping?

Landscaping fabrics are by no means an answer to a no maintenance landscape. I know a lot of folks are under the impression that they can simply buy it, place it, cover it, and forget it. Forever.

First. There is no such thing as a no maintenance landscape. In many instances landscape fabric can make your life a lot easier. However, there is an upside and a downside to using it. And as with most everything else, proper installation and maintenance is required if you intend to use it.

Landscape fabrics have their applications. They aren’t necessary in all applications but might be preferred  in regards to the type of groundcover you use.

Our company uses weed barrier in 95% of the designs we create. It’s the nature of our business as we use decorative rock as the preferred groundcover around here. When using rock for groundcover and path work, it’s necessary to have a separator between the soil and groundcover. Otherwise, you’ll have mud rocks by the first rain storm.

In theory you should be able to use almost anything as a separator. I’ve seen do it yourselfers use anything from plastics to newspapers and cardboard boxes to old carpet remnants. Of course, as a professional, I can’t use or even suggest something like this to my clients. You’re on your own there.

Now personally, on any given project, I would much rather do away with fabrics altogether. I prefer to create living soil planting areas that are mulched and tended rather than being covered and forgotten. However, some areas are simply too large to apply this method and some folks just outright prefer to cover an area with decorative rock.

Both mulched living beds and rock beds underlain with fabric will require some work to keep them beautiful. Neither is maintenance free. As long as there is wind, rain dirt, and blown in seed, there will be something for you to do in your yard.

When we create a design using landscaping fabric and rock, I make the client aware of a few things. 1) There will be blown in seed and dirt. 2) Something will have to be done about it to keep it from accumulating. I assure them that with the quality of fabric we use, nothing will grow in from the bottom. However, we have no control of what blows in on the top.

Spraying the unwanted weeds with herbicide will take care of the weed problem. However, this does nothing for the dirt, leaf, and plant particles that are hiding under your rocks. And if you allow these to accumulate, they’ll continue to accumulate and you will never get rid of them. So periodic maintenance is required even if you do use landscaping fabric.

Periodically using a blower on your bedding areas will slow down the accumulation of dirt and in some cases eliminate it altogether. How easy and thorough this is depends a lot on the type and size of rock you use.

Small pea gravel accumulates and holds onto dirt, and is harder to clean than rock of a 1 Ω” + nature. Not only does it hold onto dirt but has a tendency to be blown all around when being cleaned with a blower. Pea gravel works well for paths, walkways, and smaller areas but I donít recommend it for covering larger areas.

As far as using landscape fabric under bark and mulch covered beds? In many cases this can actually be easier to take care of than living beds or rock covered areas as it can easily be picked up and replaced every few years. This will keep your landscape always looking new without having to blow dirt or mulch beds.

Remember. There’s no such thing as a no maintenance landscape. Landscape fabrics can make things easier in many applications but like everything else, they require a little bit of keeping up. No, they arenít necessary in all landscaping applications. However, I believe you’ll find them to be your best choice for many groundcover applications.