The same line of thinking and design principles can be applied to flower beds and landscape plants around the home.
Over time, landscape plants can become aged, outdated and just plain boring. Just like inside the home, a major change of landscape plantings can add excitement and value.
A major landscape renovation is sometimes required but not always necessary. Just a little attention here and there can make a big difference.
In looking at your landscape, evaluate its appeal and ask yourself what would it take to make it look better. Here is how I might approach it:
Start with the plants
Do you like them? Do the plants do anything for you? In my opinion, plants should do something all year long — have pretty flowers or fall colors, control erosion, screen out unsightly areas, produce fruit, etc. If a plant does nothing for you or it is ugly, why have it? Replace it with something better.
The same goes for a plant’s maintenance requirements. If you have to keep pruning it back each year because it gets too big, or if you have to constantly clean up after it, then choose a better species or variety.
My wife always frowns at me when I dig up and move a plant. I tell her I am renovating the landscape; I either changed my mind and don’t like where that plant was located, or I found a better place for it. Sometimes it is simply that I bought a new plant, and that particular spot happens to be the ideal place for it.
Moving plants is no different than rearranging furniture.
The best time to transplant is in the fall and winter.
Do some early spring cleaning
By winter, all annual and perennial flowers have died back and have left unsightly stems. Although it isn’t necessary to cut them back, doing so will sometimes improve the looks and rejuvenate the plants for spring growth.
This step also gives you an opportunity to see what plants are still thriving or where they may be coming up. You might need to replace dead plants.
Rake and prune
Rake up leaves and put them in the compost pile — or just leaving them where they are, which is much more beneficial to the soil around your plants. Leaves make great mulch.
If dormant shrubs and trees need pruning, January and February is the time to do it. Spring-flowering shrubs, such as camellias, azaleas and forsythia, should not be pruned until they finish flowering in early spring.
Prune for the right reasons: to remove dead and damaged branches, to encourage new growth, to improve flowering and fruit production, etc. Pruning to control size is not a good reason; move or replace the plant instead.
The finishing touch
Lastly, think mulch. Just like a coat of paint, no other material can dress up and improve the looks of your landscape like mulch.
Mulch is fairly inexpensive and readily available. In addition to its aesthetic appeal, mulch placed around plants will also suppress weeds, improve soil structure and insulate plants from cold temperatures.
Leaves, pine straw, newspaper, pine bark nuggets and hardwood bark shreddings are all great mulch materials.
For those leaves you left in the flowerbeds, just add another heavier mulch material, such as pine straw, on top to hold it all in place.
Mulch should be applied in late fall to early winter, before spring bulbs emerge and other perennial growth appears.
Shane Harris is an extension agent for the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. For help on other home and garden questions, contact your local county Extension office or visit www.aces.edu.