Landscape's Style Should Match Style Of The House

By Ann Londrigan

February 15, 2008 6 min read


Landscape's style should match style of the house

By Ann Londrigan

Copley News Service

Phones are ringing at nurseries as green thumbs feel the itch to start on lawn and garden projects. Despite the cold, it's not too early to make plans, whether on your lot sits a brand-new home with a blank slate, or a more mature lawn in need of a makeover for greater curb appeal.

Both do-it-yourselfers and those who will hire out an entire job to a landscape professional can benefit from understanding basic principles in landscape design.


"The style of your home landscape usually matches the style of the house," says Bill Meyers, owner of Fancy Creek Landscaping in Springfield, Ill. "You do not want Japanese-style landscape in front of a formal house."

Expanding on that concept, Lisa Hoerr-Grandstaff, vice president of marketing for Green View Cos., headquartered in Dunlap, Ill., says: "A homeowner needs to consider that their outdoor living space should not be separate from their indoor living space. Your Personality and lifestyle and taste should be reflected inside and extend out into your landscape.

"Let's say a person has a classic home, a Georgian colonial revival with wood floors and a classic interior design. The colors in the home are more subtle, so when you go outside it should be reflected in the landscape, using a natural stone or clay brick for the sidewalks or patio features. And the colors in the garden would be more formal."

Repetition, balance, scale and color are other key principles in the design of a home landscape.

"We want to use repetition in the landscape rather than a whole lot of different plants so it doesn't look disorganized," Meyers says.

"Choosing a color scheme is important and you want to balance the weight of the landscape. You don't want great big shrubs on one end of the home and nothing on the other. The landscape should be symmetrical whether the house is symmetrical or not.

"And you want to make sure that what you plant is in proper scale with the size of your home. If you have a small house you don't want great big shrubs that will grow to 60 feet."


As you begin to think about these concepts, step back and take a good look at your home and where it is situated on the lot. Where are the shady areas? Where is there direct sunlight? This will determine what plants, shrubs and trees are most appropriate for the site. Is there good drainage, with a slope leading from the edge of the house so water will run off the plants in the landscape, rather than pooling and affecting the root systems?

Professional landscape designers can do all this legwork typically for a fee. Site plans range from $100 to $500 or more, if the project incorporates hardscapes such as patios, seat walls, hearthscapes, retaining walls, edging, arbors or water features. Some firms will reimburse part or all of the fee based on the dollar value of plant material purchased from the firm's nursery or the cost of the overall project. Says Hoerr-Grandstaff: "It used to be that people would do the front yard, then the backyard. Now they're called 'outdoor living spaces,' and homeowners are using these spaces for different purposes. We've installed outdoor kitchens for people who want to entertain more outside, or escape from their busy schedules with a place designed to get some serenity.

"You do need to plan before you plant. If you're just putting in a bunch of plants in the ground and you don't have a plan, some may not be suited for that environment."

Once there is a landscape plan, it's time to decide how much labor, if any, you'll do yourself ad how to fit it into the budget.

"Think about the rooms of your home. Do you renovate rooms all at the same time? Like interior design, landscape installations can be done in phases," says Hoerr-Grandstaff.

Costs vary widely for landscaping projects. Dennis Moscardelli, head of the landscaping department at Pleasant Nursery in Springfield, says the traditional rule of thumb is 10 percent of the purchase price of the home covers landscaping costs for plant material and labor. Today's larger lots and more elaborate features, such as irrigation systems, can up that percentage. Homeowners who enjoy doing the work themselves can save money on labor costs. Meyers says that typically a new homeowner will sod the lawn before incorporating a landscape bed. The shape of the bed is another key design principle.

"You want to add curved beds to your landscape," Myers says. "The idea is that your house is rectangular and linear with straight sides and you want to blend the house into the surrounding area. The landscaping beds curve or soften up the face of the house. We also like to curve the walkway leading up to the home."

For more mature homes, it's a misconception that it will cost less to revive an overgrown landscape.

In any project - whether doing it yourself or with a professional landscaping firm - your time is one of the most important factors.

"Think about how often you want to be in the yard. Some enjoy gardening as a form of relaxation. Others want a low-maintenance landscape. They want to be out golfing, but they still want to make it look good," Moscardelli says.

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