Landscaping: What Comes First?

Landscaping: What Comes First?

When we built our first home, it was surrounded by dirt (and wild mustard, a nasty weed). If this wasn’t bad enough, both my husband and I are agronomists, so called “plant experts”. Us having a weedy yard was like a cabinet builder without cupboards or a tailor dressed in rags – it just wasn’t right! As a plant lover, I was tempted to plant a bunch of beautiful shrubs and trees at will. I am confident, had that been the case, we would have made mistakes that would have been regretted. But, thankfully, our budget was limited and so we couldn’t afford to go ahead without a plan. Lucky for us (and you), there are some great prairie resources to assist with landscaping decisions and choices.

Carlton Trail Regional College has a location right here in Humboldt, SK and is where I took a 3 session landscaping course. I came away with a pencil drawn-to-scale plan for our yard that I refer to this day. But more importantly, there were some important lessons:
1) Choose plants for function FIRST: Spend time looking at what will make the yard more pleasant to be in and more functional. Do you need a windbreak to provide shelter from prairie winds? In our case, we planted towering columnar poplars which protect from the northwest winds and greatly reduce the energy costs to heat our home in the winter. Do you need shade? Yes, our property was wide open to the south and west, making for hot summer temperatures in our home. The trees we opted to plant now provide great shade.
2) Place plants based upon their mature size: Drive down any street and you will be able to find a home where trees were planted too close to the building. Those cute little shrubs that seemed like a good idea at the time can end up growing into the house siding and eaves, making an ugly mess. By sketching a plan that includes the plants size at full growth, you will likely need fewer plants and grief will be avoided.
3) Repeat patterns: Once some plants have been selected for function and put on the plan, then additional complementary choices can be made. This can still be overwhelming – where do you begin? Repeating a pattern can help. In our case, I made a curving walkway up to our front door, that followed the curve of the tree in the front yard. That same arc was repeated in the shape of our back patio and flower beds. Other options could include copying the outside border line of your property or the shape of your home and repeating that shape as you progress. Here are some more examples, for inspiration! I like them all, but some would be more work than I am interested in doing – what do you think?
Other resources available for guidance as a person plans their yard on the prairies:
• University of Saskatchewan Gardenline
• Saskatoon School of Horticulture
• landscapesaskatchewan.com
So, the lesson I learned and still follow is: Happy Planning comes before Happy Planting!