Monday, April 26th, 2010...6:45 am

Garden Landscaping for Beginners – Part II

This is TheGardenLady’s second post about basic garden landscaping.  If you’re interested in reading part I on basic garden landscaping click here.

When you’re doing your landscaping you will certainly want to check out the best nurseries in your area. Visit public and private gardens especially ones in your area to see what they grow and what you like. You can get into private gardens during Garden Conservancy Open Days.  See here. Find out what these gardeners recommend for planting in your area.  You can ask them if they had problems with the plants you are considering. Gardeners love to share their knowledge.

Clematis Vines Garden Landscape Arbor by Andrew’s Reclaimed Home…

Decide on plants that you might want to see growing in your garden. Do you want low maintenance plants or don’t you mind pampering plants?  Ask questions about the plants. One gardener might have a vine that you adore – so ask him if it gives him any problem, like the root sending out suckers ten feet from the planting that you might have to hack out someday.

When looking for plants, if you live in deer country – as most of us do – but don’t have deer fencing, check to see that the plants you buy are sort of deer resistant. Deer might try tasting any plant and when starving will eat just about anything, but they love certain plants much more than others. They love Yews, and believe it or not, they will eat holly or roses, but they don’t seem to touch Pieris japonica or peonies. So unless you can afford to put up 8 ft tall deer fencing (deer can jump any lower fencing) or you want to constantly spray the plants with some deer repellent as this GardenLady does, be prepared when choosing plants.

If you plan on digging holes to plant trees or shrubs, call your township engineering department or your local electric company to locate any underground wires or sewer lines BEFORE you start digging. You don’t want to accidentally dig into these wires and have to pay the cost of replacing them, even if you don’t get electrocuted.

I believe the engineers will come to your house to show you where not to dig without charging for this service. Also, check your site plan for right of ways. Your town might have to dig on that right of way one day and they will have to dig up plantings.  And of course, check where your property line is. Your present neighbor might be happy that you are planting something on his property, but he might sell his house to someone who isn’t pleased.

When looking for a landscaper, go to flower shows to look at exhibits – check for the exhibits that win the awards – and speak to the landscapers at the show; ask friends for names of landscapers to see if they are pleased and ask how well they worked with the landscapers. Ask if the landscaper did what he promised to do, if he worked neatly, if there were any problems.  Have an on site consultation with the landscaper you want to hire. Establish a budget. Is the landscaper coming in with a price that is within your budget? See if the landscaper is willing to work in stages so that you can go back and have more work done when the initial budget is used up.  Ask what the landscaper’s training was to become a landscaper and how long he has been doing the work.  Ask if the landscaper can do a master plan design before work starts. Ask if the head landscaper is there to oversee his workers if he doesn’t do the work herself or himself. Ask to see work that he has done, see the finished projects at the property, not just in photos- and ask for references from those people. I always like to ask what upset people about the landscaper.  Ask if the landscaper is a member of the AN&LA American Nursery and Landscaper Association that has training for members on latest methods and products.  The thing to do is ASK, ASK, ASK.  Let no question you have go unanswered. Don’t forget to read books, attend lectures and flower shows. (TheGardenLady will not recommend a specific landscaper. )

You can also ask Nursery people if they can recommend landscapers or ask the Master Gardeners if they have lists of good landscapers. Neither Nursery people nor Master Gardeners can recommend one landscaper, but they might have a lists of approved landscapers whom you can then call and speak to the head and ask to see the landscapers work- tell them photos are not enough, you want to see the gardens. Ask tough questions. See if when they draw the master plan you can go back to rework it before you sign any contract. Ask for a written agreement. You want NO surprises. Ask what the guarantee there is on the plants. Some nurseries say they will only guarantee what they plant. Ask the landscaper if you could accompany him when he chooses the plants, if this is of interest to you. Know what your, the client’s,  responsibilities will be. Get a clear time line with the projected start and finish dates or the work.

Know your plants and know what you like. Know if you want water features and lighting and sculpture in your garden. Remember you want to enjoy your garden- one landscaper says he calls his landscaping “garden rooms” and these garden rooms should be the prettiest rooms in your house- so unless you like to work all the time, you don’t want a garden that just takes a lot of maintenance, you want to entertain in it and sit and enjoy your Garden of Eden.

Magnolia Virginiana by Tormasol

These days many horticulturists are promoting native plants both for easier maintenance and because these plants are deer and other animal resistant. Large lawns are becoming almost a thing of the past because they are high maintenance and use a lot of water as well as pesticides. Native plants don’t need as much in the way of pesticides or fertilizers that are polluting our environment. So check out the native plants that grow in your zone. For example, there are a lot of charming native azaleas. Or you might like Magnolia virginiana swamp or sweet bay magnolia, not as showy as other magnolias, but the fragrance can knock you over.  See here.

Remember that a garden is good exercise and fun to work in; but you really do want to have a garden that you can enjoy.  You can have a garden that doesn’t demand that you spend all your time working in it or spend all your time working to pay for its maintenance. And your beautiful grounds will not only be a joy for you, but will be a place where family, friends and neighbors, butterflies and birds will want to gather.  Please share photos of your beautiful landscaping with the readers of

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