Sunday, June 30, 2013

What's your design intent?

Our landscapes, no matter how manicured or wild, are artificial.  By artificial I mean, they are heavily influenced by we humans, not unlike the interior of your home.  Some of us have rooms which are color matched perfect to patterns and furniture that's strategically placed, while others may have rooms that are more eclectic.  Like our interiors, our landscapes are subject to change based upon our discretion.  Few people will have their first living room couch, still, in their living room after-long.  It's accepted that tastes and styles will change with interior design, and it's ok for the same to happen with the plant life in your yard.  Just like you would throw out an end-table bought at the discount store when it became scratched, some plants are worth culling if you're not attached to them, or if they become a maintenance concern.  Conversely, you may take great pains to restore an heirloom grandfather clock, and so you may with a centuries old oak tree.

As your couch becomes older it probably won't be getting larger and encroaching upon other parts of your home, as your trees and shrubs may.  Mature plant size, placement, and the intent of design (as landscape architects put it) are paramount when choosing trees and shrubs for the landscape.  We all want immediate results, but immediate results in the landscape can mean high maintenance costs or whole tree/shrub removal in the future.  The latter are fine, as long as you understand them from the start.

While redoing a room in your home can be completed fairly easily, sometimes achieving that intent of design in the landscape can be a process.  When landscapes are young, they usually look good.  The plants are all small, healthy, and well spaced. Then, just like all little children, your landscape hits adolescence, and suddenly things don't look as cute and pretty.  Not everything is growing at the same pace, some plants are dead, or dying, and things are generally awkward.  This is where having a design intent is important, and where keeping to it can be difficult.  Many people will want to take action, and maybe some action is needed.  This may include replacing a few plants, doing some fertilizing, or pruning, but should not be drastic as replacing whole swaths of landscape.  Keep in mind, many of your favorite gardens and arboreta (Longwood Gardens, Kew Royal Botanical Gardens, The Morton Arboretum, The Arnold Arboretum, etc)  began with young and immature plants.

Change in the landscape is good, and something I encourage my clients to do.  Why nurse along an old decrepit azalea, when it can be replaced by one of the new Encore varieties.  That being said, staying the course is often the best way to go, because one day that spindly     name your favorite tree   is going to be magnificent.

These trees were 3-inch caliper when planted a few years after WWI.  They are now close to 40-inches DBH