Great Landscape Maintenance Takes Time
Maintaining the landscaping on your property can be a bit of a nightmare if you don’t know what to do or how to do it. Let’s face it, to do the job correctly you need the right kind of tools and equipment. Plus, you need some basic knowledge of pruning and plant care. When we took on the responsibility of a house and a pool sitting on almost an acre of land, we had no idea how difficult it would be.
Difficult? Translate that into hard work frequently done during the hot days of summer. We didn’t know how to take care of our trees and shrubs, and we didn’t have the right kind of equipment. To top it off, we let it go too long before we took effective action. That said, we’ve learned a lot and love our home and property! I hope you will enjoy learning from our mistakes because our journey in landscape maintenance is still a work in progress. Enjoy my photos of our landscaping and home.
The First Year – Learn the Lay of the Land
Just before we moved into our new home, the previous owner took us through the property to show us what was there. I made notes so I could remember the names of shrubs and trees and their locations. I highly recommend this if possible.
We discovered there is a cherry tree, already quite large. There were two pear trees, a plum tree, and two apple trees, all producing more fruit than we knew what to do with. We also had several Rhododendrons, azaleas, burning bushes, lilac bushes, forsythia, and some I still can’t identify.
A large tree on the side yard is a Linden tree. The Linden flowers are used to brew a tea and are known for the medicinal properties. We also have very large spruce trees, several varieties of pine trees, maple trees, hemlock trees, and hickory trees.
The previous owners had put a lot of thought into the landscaping, and I hoped we would be able to keep it up.
We followed all the rules that first year. It was a time of discovery. Every season brought new joy as we watched each shrub unfold its beauty. It was so nice having a mature landscape, with everything in its place. It was truly delightful to discover some new plant or tree displaying its glory.
We performed the basics of cutting, mowing and weeding to keep things looking nice. For awhile, all was well. Drought conditions were in full swing when we moved in so it took some time for the landscape to recover. When the recovery period was over, plant life began to flourish.
That’s when we began to get ourselves into trouble.
Tips – Some Do’s and Don’ts
After living in several homes throughout my life, I’ve learned one crucial point about landscaping. What is it?
Don’t tear out, cut down, or uproot anything unless you know for sure what it is!
Unless you are a horticulture pro, it is best to leave the landscaping alone for the first year, with the exception of mowing and pulling weeds. If you don’t, you run the risk of destroying the landscaping.
Some of the dangers…
- *Pruning at the wrong time of year can ruin the chances of spring blooms.
- *Uprooting “weeds” that turn out to be the new spring bulbs and perennials.
- *Digging in seemingly empty flower beds uproots bulbs and displaces perennials.
- *Pruning improperly can ruin the lines of a beautiful tree or damage the tree.
Some good ideas on learning what’s growing in your yard…
- *Walk your yard, every inch. Mowing is a good way to learn the lay of the land.
- *Examine the plantings to see their condition and try to identify them.
- *Check with neighbors to discover what’s growing in your yard.
- *Go through the four seasons to see how your house looks before beginning new landscaping projects or making major changes.
A Selection of Common Landscaping Shrubs
This is a list of shrubs that make up our landscape. There are more, but I don’t know all the names. Some of these were familiar to me when we moved in. Others I have come to learn since our move many years ago.
Of course we all know the type of plantings in a yard depends on where you live. When we lived in Florida, we were introduced to a variety of tropical and sub-tropical plants we were unfamiliar with. Another new learning experience!
These listed here are common varieties of shrubs found in the United States. Before you plant, check with local nurseries to see what they’re selling or check a planting guide to see if these plants will thrive in your locale.
- Burning Bush
Identify by flower or leaf…
- Forsythia blooms in the Spring on old growth, so don’t prune until after flowering.
- Rhododendrons bloom profusely on old growth providing a showy plant for spring.
- Snowball Bush blooms in late spring with loads of showy snowballs.
- Honeysuckle is one of my favorites!
- Weigela blooms in late spring or early summer. Hummingbirds love it!
- Barberry is beautiful, but has thorns and grows out of control if not pruned.
- Lilacs are so fragrant and pretty! Prune after blooming.
After all the hard work of maintaining shrubbery and trees, it is refreshing to have something simple to manage like flowers or groundcovers! I particularly enjoy some lovely perennials in my few flower beds. I even adore the blooming weeds! My rule is: “if it blooms, it can stay”. Otherwise it’s liable to get chopped down, dug up, or mowed. The photo here is of a groundcover called “vinca”.
Annuals usually find themselves nicely arranged in a lovely pot or not so lovely pot I can bring inside when the weather gets cold. I hate spending all that money on flowers that get killed at the first sign of cold. So I try to bring in as many as I can, placing them on boot trays so when I water them, they don’t leak all over the place. I am quite pleased that several have weathered the winter season quite nicely!
- Columbines come in a variety of colors and reseed themselves each season.
- Daylilies are hardy and multiply like crazy!
- Bleeding hearts prefer some shade, and come back each season.
- The white bleeding heart is rather rare I’ve been told.
- Hostas are hardy, prefer shade, and have a tall lavender flower.
- Dainty violas are favorites. These grow wild each spring forming a beautiful ground cover.
A lot of people have no idea what poison ivy looks like. In fact I was one of the blissfully ignorant until a neighbor came up to me one day and commented that I must not be allergic to poison ivy. I asked what did he mean because I didn’t know we even had poison ivy. He laughed and said my dogs were rolling in it frequently, then I was hugging them. He and his wife were extremely allergic so were amazed when I seemed unfazed.
That all changed when we moved into our home. We have tons of the stuff growing everywhere! It grows up the side of our spruce trees, pine trees, fruit trees, and along the ground mixed in with Virginia Creeper. Not only do we have poison ivy, but poison oak as well. You will know them by their three leaves. If a plant has a three leaf formation, assume the worst and don’t touch it.
I finally met my match a few years ago when I foolishly decided to prune back a rather large poison ivy vine i.e. shrub growing next to the house behind the rhododendron. I cut and sliced and DID NOT WEAR PROTECTIVE GEAR. Since I had never had an allergic reaction, I assumed I never would. I ended up with a good case of poison ivy rash that just about drove me crazy with the itching!
So don’t touch the poison ivy unless you wear gloves and long sleeves, long pants, and shoes. Clean all tools and handles on carts etc., anything you touch while contaminated. I took this photo to help you make the identification!
Fruit Trees – Fruit AND Flowers!
We are fortunate to have several varieties of fruit trees on our property. They have produced well, and the blooms in the spring are sweet-smelling and beautiful! I’ve learned to dry the fruit, make jelly, and share with friends.
We have a large white cherry which faithfully produces a bounty of white cherries each year. These are a favorite of the local birds and squirrels, meaning we have to rush to get any before they do.
Another favorite is a pear tree. It is rather old, but produces the best pears. Unfortunately, we lost another variety of pear last year due to some sort of blight.
An Empire apple tree is next on the list. It too is very overgrown, but it produces a bounty of apples and beautiful blooms in the spring. We have removed some low growing branches to make mowing easier.
Fruit trees require regular pruning if you do it right. We have always had the philosophy of leaving well enough alone, which is our problem. One year my husband decided to prune one of our apple trees, but he pruned the branches from the middle. The idea was to encourage new growth. The next year the plan was to trim the sides.
Unfortunately, the snow settled heavily in the middle of the tree during the winter, causing it to split down the main trunk. In the spring it bloomed profusely and even had tiny apples starting to grow, but sadly there was no way to save it. We had to take it down.
We have made a practice of not spraying our trees, and suffered the consequences of pests, particularly ants. However we are pleased we do not have to worry about chemical contamination of our fruit.
So there you have it, a good starting tutorial on Landscaping Maintenance. I hope this personal account can help you a bit. If you still have more specific questions, feel free to ask.