Let's face it, we've all made mistakes in our yards. Even with decades of design experience, I've learned volumes from planting, moving, ripping out, digging, reflecting, and research. I'd like to say I'm perfect. I'm not. Here's what I've learned and I hope you find my life's experiences useful.
Plant a 10 dollar tree in a 10 cent hole.
Your mantra should be: Plant a 10 cent tree in a 10 Dollar hole. Good soil and proper planting is like the saying we have with our diets, "you are what you eat." Healthy plants grow faster, resist pests and disease and ultimately save you money in plant replacement and pesticides.
When winter thaws and catalogues arrive we are tempted to purchase 'on a whim.' An aesthetic landscape, regardless of style must have a structure or the 'chorus line' with star performers shining through in each season. Having a grand plan prevents 'a hodge podge' landscape and allows for those seasonal splurge purchases.
Buy only in the spring
When temps warm, its 'ready or not, here I come!'....the rush to purchase what's in bloom results in a landscape that only looks good in one season. Plan for a seasonal landscape; one that has bloom, foliage, and interest all year.
Plant too close to the house
Too often large trees are planted close to homes. Those lovely feathery Hemlocks want to be 50' trees as do Birch and so many others. Root systems wreak havoc on pipes and foundations. Read labels and keep small landscape trees for foundation plantings. Keep those large trees far away and near the street. READ labels.
Plant too close together
The fast food mentality--I want it big, I want it now, and I want it cheap is a disastrous recipe for a landscape. Landscapers in response to your request for a fast food landscape will install cheap plants close together so that it looks good the first few years. Then you're left with overgrown plants and high maintenance. Not to mention you've paid for more plants than you need. Take time to review plans, read labels and spacing.
Put the wrong plant in the wrong spot.
Read labels. Read labels. Read labels. Then ask the nursery professional.. Know your yard. Know where the light falls and where there are shadows. Plant accordingly. Also plants that like dry feet will die in wet spots and vice versa for plants that require wet feet. Plant warranties are useless unless there are pests and diseases already on the plants. Most plants don't die from stress for several years.
Discount wildlife damage
Observe your yard for damage and scat. Look closely at leaves. Are they eaten? Unless you want to invest in sprays and netting know what thrives in your area. Talk to neighbors and nurseries. Deer, rabbits and ground hogs will devour hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in landscape material. Communicate the critter issue to your landscapers and designers.
Disregard plant labels
Not all plants are created equal. There are many varieties of a single plant. There are so many hydrangeas on the market now, as a professional I am diligent about reading labels. Another example-- Viburnums come in many sizes...tall, short, wide, flat flowers, round flowers, fragrant and broadleaf evergreen. So when a landscaper or nursery suggests a viburnum, or any plant, READ the label for its size, sun, and soil requirements.
Use invasive species
If a perennial grows quickly, then that should be a red flag for 'invasive.' Ask before you buy. Examples include ivy, bee balm, mint, and a few others. Try a simple internet search and confirm that you're not planting a headache.
Try garden planning alone
Visit a reputable nursery and don't hesitate to ask for help. Call in a professional for an hourly consult or to shop with you. The money spent in a consult fee is an investment that saves you hundreds or thousands depending on the scope of your project. Consulting advice may prevent you from loosing a $200 tree because it was planted in the wrong spot or because Bambi ate it for breakfast.