Chris Brumley knows something about how to landscape a yard to delight and impress. Here are some ideas for how you can do it, too
For novices and do-it-yourself enthusiasts, landscaping and garden makeovers can seem like intimidating if not outright scary undertakings. However, with a little professional advice, you can quickly make the exterior of your home as beautiful and inviting as the interior, reflecting your unique personality and sense of style.
Veteran Dallas landscaper Chris Brumley, principal of Brumley Gardens, has been making thickets into gardens for years. He offers these eight tips to help the amateur turn his yard into something magical.
Use common sense
When planning your landscape, keep it real. Use plants that thrive under the sun in the open areas and try those that survive best in shade in areas of indirect sunlight.
Examine drainage conditions, too. Use plants that require lots of water in naturally wetter (lower) areas and those that prefer arid climates in dryer areas. And keep a vigilant watch over watering needs.
“One of the most common mistakes people make is the monitoring of the irrigation system,” Brumley says. “Usually we find that they are either over-watering or that they are not watering enough.”
Tackling a few routine maintenance tasks pruning, mulching garden beds and simply tidying the lawn can often go a long way towards greatly improving the appearance of a garden.
“With pruning, the end of February or first of March is a good time to cut things back,” Brumley advises. “Go in and cut things back really hard early in the spring before the flush of new growth.” Another quick and simple fix is to add flowering plants to a landscape which provide splashes of color and fragrance.
For those on limited budgets, container gardening is one of the fastest ways to improve the curb appeal of a home or apartment. Areas as small as a patio, deck, balcony or doorstep can provide enough space for a productive, attractive display.
“With containers, you can easily try new and interesting assortments of plants and flowers,” Brumley says. “Or, as an alternative, you might try simple herb gardening or even go for a tropical feel with potted palms.”
Containers are available in many sizes, shapes and materials, and container gardens are easily replanted with new flowers and plants to match the changing seasons.
Combine perennials and annuals
The use of perennials (plants that bloom seasonally, year after year) offer the advantage of lower maintenance, since gardeners do not have to replant the beds. However, these plants still require a certain amount of care and attention.
“A little advance planning is important when planting perennials,” Brumley advises. “Be careful not to over-plant, and space plants far enough apart to leave room for growth. You will also need to divide and transplant perennials from time to time.”
The use of annuals (flowers that bloom for only one season) as a supplement to augment perennials will give your garden color throughout the year and keep the look fresh and new.
Fertilization is the practice of adding nutrients to soil to feed the growth of lawns and gardens. “If you don’t fertilize, it doesn’t grow in Texas,” Brumley says. “Most people don’t fertilize enough. If they fertilize twice a year, they are doing better than most, but there are some things that need to be fertilized as often as once a month.”
Novice gardeners, however, must strike a careful balance. Too little fertilization will fail to promote desired growth, while too much may burn plants.
High traffic areas
Hardy plants of a prickly variety (cactus and hollies, for example) are excellent choices when landscaping areas that will sustain higher foot traffic. Another option is to decorate these areas with something other than plants.
“Use something that people can step on,” Brumley says. “Consider alternative hard surfaces like stone, gravel or granite. And for embellishment, consider foliage along the sides.”
Alternative design elements
Not all landscaping involves living organisms. Decks, arbors and fences an give your garden a finished look. Walls and fences, for example, not only frame your property, but also make design statements. Other decorative objects, from weather vanes to gazebos, can also enhance design.
“Use simple, quality items,” Brumley suggests. “You might also consider a theme, but try to avoid the pitfall of throwing in too much. It will end up looking cluttered.”
Be careful when using wood items like railroad ties or even some types of mulch, such as pine, as design elements always examine them first for signs of termites.
Like the people who tend them, gardens and plants can often suffer a few “off” periods. In fact, expect them.
“Gardens are always changing,” Brumley states. “Sometimes when things start looking a little bad, the garden may simply be going through a transition. People need to learn to be patient and let things grow into the next stage. Don’t get frustrated and pull plants up or discard them before they have a chance.”
For more info, visit Brumleygardens.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, April 21, 2006.