Despite the new dusting of snow on the ground, this is the perfect time of year to begin planning a new landscaping project.
But don't let the common mistakes below derail your dream yard or garden! (Especially if you are planning to sell your home this year -- the right landscaping can improve your curb appeal and attract more buyers!)
Here are the top 20 landscaping mistakes homeowners make when trying to landscape their homes:
1. Failure to have a plan. Ideally, it's best to draw a plan for the whole yard, and use this as your guide -- even if you're only able to tackle part of the whole vision in a single season.
2. Straight walkways and planting beds. A curving walkway provides visual interest and softens the boxy shape of your home and yard. And garden beds with curved borders look more natural and inviting.
3. Having a lawn just because you think you should. Not every homeowner like the "green carpet" look or enjoys having to mow every week. It's important to know that other acceptable options exist, especially for smaller spaces.
4. No theme. It helps to pick an overall theme or general "look" (i.e., English garden, Japanese garden, etc.) that suits the architecture of your home and the sun exposure of your yard. When you select plants at the nursery, place them next to each other for visual compatibility.
5. No overall color scheme. The simplest option is to use tried-and-true color schemes. You can go monochromatic: Select one color and its variations, such as purple, and blend lilac, pale purple and eggplant-colored flowers together. Or try analogous: plant-related colors, such as yellows, golds, oranges and reds. Or complementary: Select colors opposite each other on the color wheel, such as purple and yellow or blue and orange. Remember to select colors that harmonize with your home's paint color.
6. Insufficient fall color. The fall season holds enormous promise for landscaping enthusiasts willing to plan for it. Don't allow your home landscape design to miss out on the colors offered by autumn's beauty!
7. Lack of winter interest. Especially here in Wisconsin, in the wintertime we most need yard decor that will bring us cheer.
8. Hanging onto scraggly, unhealthy or overgrown plants. Brown leaves, misshapen limbs, and sparse foliage do not add beauty to your landscape. Overgrown junipers and yews planted years ago can dominate your yard and give it a dated look. Remove these offenders and replace them with appropriate plantings. Group or cluster plants, with the tallest toward the rear and the shorter ones in front.
9. Failure to irrigate. You've invested a lot of time and money into your home landscape design. To make the most of it, consider installing an automatic irrigation system in your home landscape design.
10. Shrubs and trees that block walkways and windows. Your home will look more inviting and well-maintained if you trim overgrown shrubs.
11. Planting on an eroding hillside. Build a retaining wall first, then do your planting afterwards.
12. Failure to work with what you have. Sometimes you can successfully fight the terrain you inherit in your yard. Other times, instead of fighting it, it's better to go with the flow and work with what you have. The key is to know what you're up against and what options you have.
13. Topping trees. Don't get sold on the erroneous notion that cutting off the tops of trees spurs growth. The fact is, removing all or part of a treetop encourages rapid decay, weakens the branches and makes them susceptible to disease and breakage. (Instead, check out this video for the right way to prune!)
14. Dangerous walkways and patios. Repair uneven sections of cement and loose bricks. You'll make it safe for your visitors and your yard will look well-maintained.
15. Failure to plant deer-resistant plants. Don't want all of your hard work turned to shreds? Ask a garden professional to recommend plantings that aren't on your neighborhood deer's menu.
16. House number problems. Place your house numbers in one or two prominent locations (two natural spots are on the door or overhang, plus by the base of the driveway or front walk). Invest in large-sized (5" to 8") numbers and position them horizontally or vertically.
17. Lawn tools simply can't be found. Designate a spot in your garage, basement, or storage shed, big enough to store all of your yard tools for easy access. The longer you're disorganized, the further you'll fall behind in your yard work!
18. No personality. The gardens that have the most sparkle and creative touches express the character of the inhabitants. Display a sculpture piece or ornament, place one or two unusual plants in your yard, or arrange some antique furniture on your front porch. Place yard ornaments, such as bird baths or sundials amongst one or two of the groupings.
19. Forgetting functionality. Functionality takes precedence over aesthetics. Home landscape design should always be safe, convenient, and usable.
20. Covering your yard with red lava or white quartz rocks. This screams strip mall parking lot, and makes your home immediately look dated. If you have this in your yard, get rid of it; and if you're thinking of putting it in, don't!
For help with your DIY landscaping projects, or to get recommendations for affordable, quality professional landscapers, just ask us! And for advice from one of our favorite Madison-area Master Gardeners, check out our recent post, Time to Get Your Garden On.