Local experts have some advice for those looking for a change
By Carol Siyahi Hicks
At some point, many homeowners think about re-landscaping. And if you’re looking to sell your house anytime soon, attractive landscaping can add considerably to a home’s worth. But where do you begin?
Lots of books cover the subject, as do online resources and garden-related classes. But you soon may find that making major changes can be more complicated and more work than you originally had imagined. That might be the time you consider consulting a landscaping professional.
As an example of this, Pat Flanagan, landscape manager and designer for Knollwood Garden Center & Landscaping in Beavercreek, explained how Knollwood works with people to make landscaping alterations.
Some people just want to redo the front of their house or a small area elsewhere on the premises, he says, while others want a complete redesign of their entire landscape. For homeowners planning to re-landscape for their own enjoyment, he always asks what colors they like, whether annuals or perennials are preferred, how much maintenance time they’re looking for, as well as how much they wish to spend.
It’s not uncommon for people to want to remove outdated shrubs, such as a taxus hedge that hugs the front of the house. Plants that “soften a brick wall,” he says, such as boxwoods or hydrangeas in both tree and shrub form, might be among suggested alternatives if one wants a more open look.
Important aspects of planting and maintaining grounds include weed control, soil quality, watering and mulching. In addition, “a nice clean edge around plantings and fresh mulch can make a world of difference,” he notes. “They can really define the beds.”
Typically, after Flanagan learns a person’s aspirations, circumstances, likes and dislikes, and reviews the practical aspects of a person’s property, he will draw up a to-scale plan on paper. At a cost of $75, the plan will include suggested alterations, including specific plants and their placements. If the homeowner decides to proceed with Knollwood doing the work, they first will rototill the beds, amend the soil with leaf compost, rototill again, being sure to acidify the soil (“The soil in this area is extremely alkaline,” he says), all to create the best environment for the plants that the person selects.
“Soil is so important,” he says, “but water access is as well.” If your water source is a long way from where you want to develop a bed, he notes, you may want to reconsider. And the best time to re-landscape? “Spring and fall are optimal,” he says, but summer works as well.
More hardscapes are being sought today, he says, such as patios, retaining walls, outdoor kitchens and fireplaces, for example. Decorative stone paths and dry creek beds are among requested hardscapes as well.
Asked about common landscaping mistakes, he noted: not allowing enough space between plants, failure to water plants properly, not knowing your plant’s requirements and putting in more plants than you reasonably can maintain.
In the short time this writer spent with Flanagan, in which he took a brief tour of my property, he convinced me that I might be happy with several simple alterations. These include doing away with beds too far from the house to maintain, replacing overgrown hedges with hydrangea, seeding the pond edges with wildflowers, and defining beds with crisp edges and fresh mulch. I also might consider a dry creek bed under dense sugar maples, where grass won’t grow.
At the end of the day, it can be a great help to obtain advice from someone with decades of experience in the art and practical application of landscaping.
Since 1970, Carol Siyahi Hicks has lived and worked in Greater Dayton as a journalist, national literary magazine editor, communications and marketing professional, author and most recently at The Dayton Foundation as the vice president of public relations and marketing. Her book, “Gifts from the Garden,” has a local setting and is a philosophical and joyful look at gardening, nature and life.