Renovating Old Landscapes- Part 1

Sometimes people move into a home where the primary focus of the owners' attentions is on home renovations. The landscape often comes in third or fourth place. The odd thing about this priority ranking is that landscapes often help define the house and property. There are numerous TV shows on renovating homes, patios, kitchens, and every type of room, but not so much with renovating an old landscape. We inherited such a landscape at Pinecrest Gardens, so we have some experience with the topic. Years ago I worked at the Boca Raton Resort, also built in 1936, with some older landscape areas in need of attention. I learned a lot about how to restore landscapes. Here are some landscape renovation basics....

The first step is to remove as much weed material as possible, as fast as possible so weeds don't spread any further. Many local landscapers are really good at this, and it's worth the cost of their services. At the very least, try to trim back the seed heads on trees and low-level weeds. Weeds can be many different things, like Umbrella or Cecropia Trees, some palm species ( like Fishtail, Solitaire, Veitchia, and other unwanted species),Pothos vines, and running plants like some bamboo species or Clerodendrons.These may be undesirable plants on YOUR property, not that they are bad plants in every sense. Weeds are simply plants out of place.

The second step is to assess which remaining plants to keep for the long term landscape, and which should be removed or cut down. Unless a species is rare or is a part of the core landscape design, consider removing it. The other plants WILL grow bigger when they get more light and less competition from the weeds. This step allows you see the valuable plants better, and assess future shade patterns.

The third step, perhaps the toughest one, is to plan which new plants should be installed. If you've been reading my previous blogs, you'd expect my recommendation to do some research before you buy. You're right, and this is more important than ever when working in a new landscape. See what you like in your neighborhood, or at local gardens ( that's a hint), take pictures of the desired plants, and compile a want list. VERY few plants are available only once in history; there is no need to rush out to buy plants and plant the property all at once.

There is no need to rush to renovate landscapes. A landscape isn't a snapshot in time, it's a process, just like raising children, and you are part of that process. I hate to see people who "just plant something" to have a tree in the yard. It pains me to see people try to make "instant" hedges, but fuss later on when the hedge grows too fast or costs too much to keep it trimmed. There are hundreds of options for every scenario, and lots of experienced , skilled people who can help you make smart landscape decisions. Next: planning for shade, finding the plants, finding the skills, and phasing the installation.

Craig Morell
Pinecrest Gardens

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