As of this writing, here in South Jersey it's about 30 degrees outside on a bright sunny Saturday afternoon. We're about half way through winter with a little over 6 weeks until Spring. Landscaping may not be on your mind, especially if you winterized you planting beds already, but it should start creeping its way in shortly. This is the perfect time to start planning your yard. If you're looking to just add a few plants or replant or if you're thinking of a complete overhaul, doing it now will give you plenty of time to think and tweak your plans before starting the work.

 There are a few rules of thumb to keep in mind which too often than not, aren't realized until it's too late.

I personally would say at the top of this list is; the proper plant for the proper space. Many times when I see a clients house for the first time there are trees and shrubs planted in the wrong place. Trees that are planted so close to the house, that the house side of the tree is leafless and the remaining bare branches are scraping againt the siding. Others have tree roots cracking the foundation of the house, which left untended will lead to water damage and the obvious structural issues. Now I know a nice tree lined street is a beautiful look, but depending on the width of the curb strip some trees like Oaks, some Maples, Weeping Willows should NOT be planted there. These aren't the only varieties, there are more. These trees have robust root system that will crack and destroy your sidewalk as well as the canopies of some trees will completely block the sidewalk and the street. This will lead to radical pruning which will render the tree, silly looking and possibly unhealthy.

Shrubs are also 'misused' and poorly planned. For instance let's take a look at Forsythia. We all know its welcoming yellow flowers which signal Spring is near. What some don't know is how many Forsythias they pass while out and about and don't realize it because of improper pruning. Forsythias left unchecked can get a bit unruly. With selective pruning, they can easily be maintained and will produce an abundance of beautiful yellow flowers. I've seen Forsythias pruned into a ball shape, vase shape even as a hedgerow. These are all no no' least for this particular plant. If you notice, when pruned as such, you may see a few blooms, but not many and the foliage can be sparse too. If you want shapes or hedges, think boxwoods, cherry laurels and a few others.

You should get the idea about proper plant for proper place.

Now we can move on to a couple other also important rules to follow. Light requirements and water requirements.

Lighting plays a very important role in the overall health and flowering of your perennials and shrubs. A shrub planted in less sun than it needs, will not necessarily die (to an extent), but will grow lanky and have much less foliage than it should. Instead of the shrub growing full, it will shoot off some of its stronger leaders hoping to find some sun. It won't produce the flowers as it should and if it's a plant who's leaves should have color, red,blue,etc. they will more than likely be green.

Perennial that require sun, and don't get enough have a much higher rate of dieing. They don't have the strength as some shrubs do to manage in the shadier areas. The perennials that are struggling will hardly produce flowers and when they do its usually on a growth stunted plant. The opposite is shade specific plants planted in the sun. The majority of these types of plants, will have much more tender leaves that cannot withstand the heat of the sun. Some will bleach out and try to manage while others will crisp up.

Watering requirements are as follows. They all need water........but, some need more than others. It also is going to vary depending on the soil being planted in. Sandy soils drain faster, clay soils retain or don't drain well at all. The main thing to keep in mind is not to plant a water loving plant next to one that doesn't need much at all. One won't make it in the long run.

The main idea of this article is to bring awareness to you planning. A little bit of research will save a lot of money and back ache. There are so many plants and varieties, make your yard one of a kind. If it looks like your neighbors, start over. And think native plants!!! They will do more for you and your yard than meets the eye.

If you find planning your yard a little overwhelming or you want your yard designed but don't want to do it yourself, give us a call and we will take care of it for you. When we do your design, you are still a part of the process, you won't get off that easy! We will do the design and plant selection and then sit down with you and make any revisions that you want until you're completely happy.