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Design for Low Maintenance Landscapes

IMG_5212 croppedAs a Landscape Architectural Designer for DM/A, I am excited to add my experience in the design and build industry. Whether it is a small back yard patio, residential community, or large industrial site design, one of the most commonly asked client questions is, “Can we implement a maintenance free design?”

As we all know, there is no such thing as “maintenance free” but we can make the reduction of post-installation costs a priority. Thus we must be forward thinking when it comes to the selection of plant and hardscape materials. This is very appealing to our clients and is a key factor in our design approach from conceptual plans to complex site plans.

It sounds like a simple concept, but designers commonly overlook forward thinking designs. When designing a landscape plan, it can be easy to overdesign the site with large planting beds filled with layers of many unique planting varieties. Attention to proper plant sizing and spacing can be lost. DM/A is currently working with a residential community to identify, remove, and replace shrubs and trees throughout the property. Since installation, these plants have grown to obstruct views from windows and patios, and have overcrowded outdoor living spaces throughout the community. These types of “landscape overhaul” projects can be very expensive.

We encourage you to make low maintenance design a priority. It is recommended you relay this to your design team or local landscaper at your initial meeting. Make sure to discuss the selection of low maintenance plant and hardscape materials in detail prior to signing off on a final plan or installation contract.

Some things to consider:

Introduce groundcover into your design to lower weeding and mulching costs.  Mulching 2-3 times a year will become very expensive! A simplistic design can be beautiful and elegant. A specimen tree under planted with a solid mass of groundcover and stone boulder can be very attractive.

Proper selection of plant material. Select shrubs and trees that are easy to maintain and will not quickly overgrow their intended size and spacing. Be wary of fast growing/weak wooded trees, flowering, and messy fruit trees planted near walkways, patios, or parking lots.

Prioritize proper finished grading, drainage, and stormwater management. Speak with your civil engineer, landscape architect, or local landscaper about this. Something as simple as an incorrect pitch on a small back yard patio can spell disaster when it comes to a long-lasting installation.

Enjoy the sound of rushing water in your garden by considering a low maintenance “pondless” waterfall, bubbling stone boulder, or vase. These features are affordable, have low operating costs, and are easy to maintain/winterize.

Photos and article courtesy of Adam Westgate, Landscape Architectural Designer at DM/A.

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