When you see a house that needs some work but is structurally sound, you say it has “good bones.” The same can be true for a landscape.
You might take a look around your front and back yards and wonder what on earth happened to them. When did the walkway pavers start tipping at all angles besides horizontal? When did all the bushes start growing over top of everything around them?
Updating Your Out-of-Date Yard
But just like you don’t bulldoze a house with good bones, you don’t necessarily have to level your landscape and start from scratch. There’s an easier way — landscape renovation. And similar to home renovation, the first step in the landscape renovation process is to identify what is worth keeping, what can be restored, and what must be completely replaced. To do that you need a landscape architect to guide you, someone with an eye for the complete picture of what your landscape could be, who can help you blend existing features with vibrant new elements to create a landscape you can be proud of.
The good news is that even sections of your yard that no longer “work” can be updated. Maybe the once perfect view from a patio seating area has changed. So a change in the orientation of the patio may be needed to take full advantage of that view. Maybe a once sunny area of the yard is now in deep shade; the perennials in those beds have become sad and scraggly. It might be time to swap out those sun-loving plants and make a shade garden. The point is, you don’t always have to start over. Rejuvenating your tired landscape can be simpler than you think.
Envision Your Old Landscape as a Series of Related Outdoor Rooms
If you are finding reasons to spend more time outdoors around your home, you are not alone. Outdoor living space is becoming a priority for many Northern Virginia homeowners. In modern landscapes, there is a definite preference for thoughtfully designed spaces that function as outdoor rooms. There may be a secluded area with seating for quiet time, a flat lawn area for play, and a patio lounge for socializing. These areas are called “use zones” and are a hallmark of the modern approach to landscape design which organizes the landscape into an array of related areas that each serve a distinct purpose.
A great example of this trend is evident in the way patios and outdoor cooking areas function in the landscape. The change has been from merely functional grill stations to high performance outdoor kitchens with both bar and tabletop seating areas to accommodate guests. The way people move around within their landscapes has changed too. Most walkways designed in the past were a no-nonsense line from point A to point B. Now there is more of a sense that the journey is as important as the destination.
In a modern landscape design, there might be a low retaining wall bordering raised planting beds, maybe a bench to pause on while admiring those plantings. Old fashioned utility has been replaced by an emphasis on aesthetic experience that encourages you to relax and enjoy the journey as you move from one part of the landscape to another.
A good landscape architect may suggest features that are functional, but retain that whimsical quality: A small water feature, or a butterfly garden along the path that invites you to interact with the landscape–instead of the landscape being just something to hurry through on your way somewhere else.
Even the front walkway from driveway to door can undergo a transformation. Instead of a hard edged, linear concrete walk, you might choose a stone dust walkway to the front door. There is a move away from hard, featureless concrete to low-impact, natural, permeable surfaces.
Rejuvenating Your Landscape Means Taking a Fresh Look
Now is your chance to change the way you’ve been seeing your outdoor spaces. And even though things might not be exactly the way you want them, you probably have more to work with than you think. You just need to take a fresh look.
There is indeed a simple way to bring new life into your tired landscape. You don’t have to start over, but look for what works. Then blend the old with the new. You’ll want to find a landscape firm with horticultural expertise to help you balance all of these variables. Not all landscape companies enjoy making creative use of the plants and trees in the existing landscape, enhancing them to make something completely new, while including all the best elements of what is there now.
Where do you start? You’ll want to invite a landscape architect over, and together take a careful look at the plants and hardscape features you’ve got. Discuss the opportunities and possibilities within easy reach as well as some bigger ideas that would require a more substantial investment. Maybe it’s a simple matter of doing some sculpting, some cleanup and shaping up the elements you’ve decided to keep, then filling in the gaps by adding new plant species or hardscape features into that existing landscape. Remember, you’re starting with the landscape equivalent of “good bones.” You are taking full advantage of everything that is good about your landscape and building on it to bring it to a new level.
Are you thinking about investing in a landscape design project? Our eBook: Expert Guide to Planning the Landscape Design of Your Dreams, is full of valuable information to help you get started.
Except as noted, all images ©Morgan Howarth Photography