A good landscape is not perfectly even. Try grouping your plantings in odd numbered groups of three or five. Within the group, have plants with different blooming times. This way from a distance, it will always look full and interesting throughout the year. Always check that plants will thrive in your climate. Most plants at local home and garden centers only carry local types but always check. Sometimes less is more.
Your plants are only as good as the soil they are planted in. Make sure the soil is well tilled and full of nutrients. If your soil is poor, dig it out and replace it with a mixture of two parts top soil and one part compost. Know your soil type in the area. Our soil is very clay-like and benefits from added sand. If your soil is already sandy, add more compost.
Know the sunlight needs of your plants. Not all areas of your yard receive the same amount of sunlight a day. For plants marked “sunny”, there needs to be at least 6 hours of sun per day. Even shady plants will need some sun, even if it’s filtered. There are many attractive plants that will thrive in shady areas. Hostas come in many variations of cream and green. Many flower and make a wonderful addition to any landscape.
If water can flow, your plants will grow. Make sure all plants have good drainage. If there are low spots, build them up with more soil. Pay attention after watering. If you see any puddles, these are areas to build up. Better soil will hold moisture better.
You need an edge for a finished look. The edge can be simple plastic or more expensive stone. It is important to have a distinctive line between your lawn and other plantings. This is an easy and inexpensive thing to do, but it really gives your landscape that professional look.
There’s more to mulch than meets the eye. Mulch is primarily used to maintain soil moisture, but it is also decorative. It comes in many colors; darker mulch will really make flowers pop. You can easily add 2 inches or so but make sure to leave space around each planting. Never mulch all the way. This is especially important around trees. They need breathing room and mulch can cause disease if piled too closely.
Have a plan. Draw what you want your landscape to look like. Check out plants you think will work at the garden center. The label on the plant will tell you everything you need to know, including height, width, sunlight, feeding and planting instructions. Set the plants in the proper arrangement before digging.
KATHY WEAVER-ZECH & DEAN’S TEAM CHICAGO