2a) Site Assessment, part 2: Challenges and Opportunities

By knoxred (knoxred) on March 12, 2010

Is your landscape working for you? Your camera will reveal the answer.
Consider borrowing a digital camera if you don't have one.

It's time to objectively assess your landscape, and there's no better tool for this than a digital camera.  I say digital, because then you can take plenty of photos without worrying about the development costs.  Panarama shots are also much easier to achieve with the assistance of photo software.  Regular prints will work just fine, but don't be tempted to skimp on the number of photos you take.  You will be surprised at how useful these photos are.

Try to capture your entire property on film, both as sweeping panaramas and in bite-size pieces.  You're not trying for pretty pictures, where you purposely frame the view to exclude the unattractive stuff.  You're not making postcards here.  These are your "before" photos, the things you're going to correct.   You want to capture everything -  the good, the bad and the ugly, with emphasis on the bad and the ugly.  Pay special attention to the areas that don't function well, that you avoid, or that make you feel uncomfortable.  Don't ignore the things you think are too expensive or difficult to fix.  Tackling problems comes later.  You're just gathering information right now. 

Hate the utility boxes in your front yard?  Photo. 

Tools and materials from an unfinished project left in a pile? Photo. 

Dog leaving bare spots along the fence?  Photo. 

Neighbor's unkempt eyesore of a yard?  Photo (take this discreetly, of course).

Does being on your patio make you feel like you're in a fishbowl, for the world to see?  Take photos in a 180 degree arc while standing on the patio.  Even better, take photos sitting on your patio furniture.  What do you see?

Take shots of the cracked pavement, the half-dead shrubs, the bark nuggets that slide onto the driveway after every rain. 

When you pull in the driveway, what's the first thing you see?  Photo. What do you see as you walk up the front sidewalk?  Photo. 

Take shots from inside your house, too.  What do you see when you open up the front door?  Back door?  What is blocking your view as you back out of your garage or driveway?  What do you see from your deck?  What are the views from each window in the house?  Photo, photo, photo.  Do you always keep certain blinds or curtains closed?  For now, open the curtains for a moment and take your photo.  Later we'll address why the windows are blocked off - shade/cooling, privacy, unattractive view. These issues can often be addressed through landscaping.  

The idea behind a successful design is to make your property work for you.  Landscape design is more about solving problems than coordinating plants.  Having this objective assessment of your property allows you to address any problems that exist and highlight your property's best features.  Put the photos away for a couple days, and then sit down to review them with fresh eyes.  In the meantime, read this case study.

Related articles:
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Comments and discussion:
Subject Thread Starter Last Reply Replies
Thanks clintbrown Apr 6, 2010 11:31 AM 1

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Cubit owner: knoxred

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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