1) Land Functions

By knoxred (knoxred) on March 12, 2010

Ask not what you can do for your landscape, ask what your landscape can do for you!
Success is measured by how well your landscape meets your particular needs.


Put down that shovel!

The first step in creating a successful landscape design is to decide what function, or more likely, which multiple functions your land needs to serve. A picturesque home surrounded by beautiful gardens is a design failure if your family needs that space for extra parking, or a pool. A rolling meadow of wildflowers and native grasses may not keep you in good standing if you have a restrictive homeowners assocation. That koi pond you built is going to become a maintenance nightmare now that you’ve had knee surgery. A poor design may lead to financial, legal, and safety issues. You may also impair the resale value and salability of your home.

Success is measured by how well your landscape meets your particular needs. Take home the idea, not the blueprint. You must adapt each idea to fit your site.  Keep that thought in mind as we go through the design process, as you shop as the nursery, look through gardening books, or attend garden tours and home shows. We’ll discuss the idea of preplanned gardens a bit later when we get to plant selection.

Let’s take a look at some typical functions required of a landscape:

… to the house,
… to other buildings on your property, such as a separate garage, barn, greenhouse, or tool shed
… to other adjoining properties

...room for your kids to play on their swingset or fort, or practice their sports skills
...swimming pool, hot tub, tennis court, equestrian facilities
...quiet relaxation (yes, you need to plan for this!)

...decks, patios, seating areas, grilling area, outdoor kitchen, exterior lighting, sound system, guest parking

...recreational gardening
...a small working farm with market crops
...a home-based nursery with display gardens
...car repair/restoration
...boat storage
...separate entrance for home office, parking for clients

...providing an attractive backdrop for your home or business

While this is an extremely important function of your design, it comes last in the design process. Once you have a functional layout, aesthetics will guide you in selecting your plant and hardscape materials. Don’t be tempted to jump down to this first. I’m sure you heard the phrase “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic”. Well, having the prettiest deck chairs on the Titanic is a rather dubious accomplishment as well! Plan for functionality, and the aesthetics will follow.

This week, take some time to think about what your landscape can do for you. Make a list of your needs & wants. In the next installment, we’ll begin the design process.

Related articles:
access, business, crop, display, driveway, entertainment, farm, fort, garage, greenhouse, grill, hobby, home, hot tub, house, nursery, outbuilding, outdoor kitchen, park, parking, path, patio, play, pool, recreation, relax, shed, swing, tennis court

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"The most serious gardening I do would seem very strange to an onlooker, for it involves hours of walking round in circles,
apparently doing nothing. What I'm doing is forcing myself to evaluate certain areas....
Only during these quiet moments does a good idea suddenly occur."
~ Helen Dillon, Irish garden writer