Keep it Fresh Looking – Flower Garden Design – Backyard Landscaping

We’ve all known people who feel that it’s a once in lifetime deal to landscape a property with trees and shrubs.   Their concept is: once a shrub or tree is planted — it should remain for its lifetime or their’s.

My Father was one of those people.  When he built his home he put shrubs in front and a “meant-to-be-small” cedar-like shrub by the steps.  44 years later — they were still there. The cedar like shrub by the steps was 5 feet tall and covered half the steps.  It had obviously outlived its purpose many years back.

Another Example

I drove an extra block the other day to pass by the former home of my friend Betsy.  I do it on occasion because  I miss her and it makes me feel close to her.

The people who bought her home have it looking impeccable and “fresh”.  In the side yard they took out two trees that Betsy planted years ago.  They didn’t really beautify the yard and I think she allowed them to grow for sentimental reasons more than anything else.

The new owners have also removed the overgrown shrubs that were scattered about the property and left the ones that really added to the overall look.

Betsy’s prize dogwood tree at the end of the drive was beautiful but had outgrown the space.  It blocked the view of the house and coupled with the other trees — didn’t enhance the property.   It’s natural shape was beautiful and I would never have thought it could be trimmed to look better.

But these folks did an amazing job in opening up the tree and allowing it to accent the property with it’s newly pruned form and shape.

Betsy’s small flower borders by the carport and in the front of the house where impeccably clean and waiting to be planted.

The property looks fresh and beautiful and I know Betsy would be very pleased that someone owns it who really cares about it.

Falling in Love with What we Plant can Keep us from the real Goal of Beautifying

Almost all of us have a tendency to fall in love with what we plant. We grow so found of whatever the plant – that we don’t always see how it can be improved on or even how good things might look without it.  After we plant a small  tree or bush and watch it grow for years— we can’t seem to bear to take it down — even if it doesn’t look good. In many cases we even loose the ability to know that it doesn’t look good.

Is paying for them a good reason to keep them forever?

The other reason we hesitate to remove things is because “we paid for them.” That’s not really a good reason.

If we buy food and it goes bad — or if clothes wear out — we don’t keep them just because we paid for them.  We move on and replace them  That’s what we need to do with any tree, shrub, bush or plant that doesn’t work for us or that outlives its purpose.

Always Look for Ways to Improve

Picking shrubs, bushes and trees has never been one of my strong points. But I’m always looking at the over all landscape and recognizing the need for these plants as backbones of my borders.

But if something doesn’t work after so many years I either move it or get rid of it.

Many times — a pruning is all that is needed. Many shrubs or bushes do not object to being cut to the ground and allowed to refresh themselves.

I’ve done just that this year  (cut to the ground) with one of my favorite shrubs – Ninebark Physocarpus — which started looking awful last year. It will either renew itself this year and look wonderful — or out it will come.

Things to Try

Sometimes taking out something that has outlived its time, cutting back something that needs revitalizing, or pruning something that has overgrown the space can give your yard and borders a fresh new look.

If those things don’t work, maybe it’s time to try another planting.

Final Thought

Recognizing our full potential as gardeners is an ongoing process.  And a beautiful garden and landscape never really stays the same — even if we want it to.


You May Also Benefit from the Following Related Posts:

Border Design – Evergreens – Perennials

Do Your Flower Gardens or Borders Have Year Round Interest?

3 Simple Concepts to Enhance Your Flower Gardens and Borders

Developing Garden Structure

Shrubs – A Versatile One for Your Borders


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5 comments to Keep it Fresh Looking – Flower Garden Design – Backyard Landscaping

  • Grace

    Good Morning, Theresa…as is often the case with your articles, I find myself experiencing just such a situation right now in regard to 3 rose bushes which are doing fine, but are located in inconvenient places (such as the 2 under my clothesline and the other one, which would do much better in a spot where it can run rampant and not block the access or view of the new stack stone beds & wall I’m building in the area).

    I also have a beautiful Japanese Red Maple that spent the past winter in a partially-buried pot beside the wood shed, precisely because I couldn’t decide where I wanted to plant it permanently – and I still haven’t. I honestly never expected this decision to be so hard or to take so long, but this little beauty is the perfect anchor/feature piece for an idea I’ve been wanting to try for a long time, so I sort of intentionally dragged my feet while I thought about it further.

    I want to try growing this little tree atop an appropriate-sized grouping of rocks (fist and grapefruit-sized chunks of pink & tan sandstone) in such a way that a majority of its main roots are forced to remain above ground and only the small feeder roots can reach the ground below the rocks. If I do it right, the maple will end up looking like a large-ish bonsai specimen and I’m thinking I stack the stones in such a way I can later go back and remove many of the stones to create a ‘raised-root’ effect.

    I also decided just yesterday that I’m going to surround the maple (on a lower level of the bed) with the red variety of Japanese Painted Ferns, because I noticed the colors of the two are extremely complimentary, and the pink in the sandstone will compliment both, I think.

    Ah, well…Theresa, my coffee cup is empty and I need to get my day going. Thanks for making it a great start!

  • Theresa

    The idea sounds beautiful, Grace. I hope you’ll have great success with it!
    Keep me updated on how its coming along. Red maples are sooooo beautiful.

  • Sandra

    Oh Theresa, this made me laugh. I am guilty of all these. Also add to the list: “It didn’t die when I neglected it so it must stay” and of course, “so and so gave that to me and I really like so and so, therefore it must stay” – I am glad the new owners are taking good care of, your friend’s garden.

  • Theresa

    Sandra — I’m very guilty of the one about “so and so gave that to me and I really like so and so, therefore it must stay”.
    As a matter of fact — here’s the story:
    Dear friends gave me pieces of their “heirloom” phlox years ago — maybe 20 or 25 years. It really has been a nuisance at this location because it spreads in this soil much more than it did in the clay soil at our previous residence. BUT —- NOooooooo — I couldn’t possibly get rid of it because Ronald and Johan (pronounced JoAnn) had given it to me.

    Time passes.

    I spoke to them on the phone on their anniversary several years ago. The phlox came up in the conversation. Johan said, “We got rid of that stuff years ago because it came up everywhere!”


  • Sandra

    Theresa, That is a hoot!! s

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