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Landscape Design Efforts Never End
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
All landscapes reach a point where they need a little re-engineering. A tornado destroyed giant trees in our yard before we bought the house and repair efforts continue each year.
Re-engineering is a popular word today. Corporations use it to describe changes they are making in their market focus or their corporate structure. Re-engineering basically means looking at where you are and assessing how you can capitalize on what you have.
The process is as good for the home landscape as it is for established corporations. As landscapes mature, things change. Trees get taller and cast deeper shade, bushes outgrow their original compactness and place in the garden.
Lifestyles change. Your family may no longer need areas for children's play. Older yards may have mature plantings that no longer do what you intended or a natural disaster may force you to make changes.
To re-engineer a garden, take a hard, honest look at what you have. Because changes in the landscape can happen subtly over the years, you might overlook the obvious, such as an increase in shade or some other physical change.
Take a walk around the yard and pretend to be the new owner. Be as objective as possible. Is it time to go back to the drawing board? Even natural gardens have a plan behind them to keep them looking natural versus wild. If you don't have a plan, the drawing board is a good place to start.
The complexity and size will determine if you can do it yourself or if you need to call in the troops -- professionals. Even if you seek professional help, you still have to have an idea of what you want the final garden to look like.
The scope of work needed can be overwhelming initially. As with other work projects, the only way to address the job is task by task, taking one area at a time. If the garden doesn't break into areas naturally, mentally create them by various garden bed sizes, shapes and plant types. You may want to add a garden bed or two or take some beds out.
Trees and shrubs are some of the biggest changes that can creep up silently in a garden. They not only grow taller and larger, but they can dramatically influence what can or can't grow under or around them.
Trim or thin out trees to allow light to filter down to the plants below. Prune overgrown shrubs to revive growth or remove them entirely. As much as it hurts emotionally and looks unattractive for a while, a severe pruning often can renew old and woody shrubs.
Re-engineering doesn't always have to be a major undertaking; it can be as simple as sprucing up with mulch. It may mean adding a focal point such as a fountain, statue, birdbath or water pond.
Once you have a plan in place, small adjustments every year or two will keep you from having to start from scratch.