January, A Perfect Time to Re-Design Your Landscape
By Janelle Rietz-Kamenar, Master Gardener
When January brings us huge snowdrifts and blustery winds do you think of Spring? Yes, it’s the perfect time to be thinking about your flower and vegetable gardens and begin making plans for re-designing your landscape. If you have these thoughts, then click on the link to learn more about basic landscape design concepts and current 2024 trends in landscaping.
Landscape design is so much more than picking out the right plants for a given area. It can be so overwhelming at first that many of us put it off and live with our overgrown jungle that was landscaped 20 years ago. But the first step to landscape design is to come up with a comprehensive plan that can be tackled over time making it easier for Do-It-Yourselfers. There are many books written about landscape design but I hope to address some of the basic concepts in this short article.
There are five parts to a sustainable design: 1) Functional; 2) Maintainable; 3) Environmentally Sound; 4) Cost Effective; and 5) Visually Pleasing.
1) Functional: What do you need the space to do for you. Examples include: play area for children, garden area, kitchen patio, boat, trash, or firewood storage, utilities, dog kennels, and access to the front and backyard are just a few examples of function that you should consider.
2) Maintainable: Similar to function, maintainable addresses planning for mowing areas so you don’t have to use a trimmer, creating a screen planting to provide privacy, and planning for snow storage and ice/sand/salt usage. How large a space can you take care of. Maintenance is a huge consideration in landscape design.
3) Environmentally Sound: Addresses the need to reduce the amount of fertilizer, pesticides, equipment, water, and labor usage. Rain gardens, plants that require limited mowing and pruning, and eliminating invasive plant species are just a few examples.
4) Cost Effective: You must not only factor in the initial cost of the project but also, the cost of annual maintenance in your design both in materials as well as labor.
5) Visually Pleasing: Yes, of course it needs to look good. This consideration also gets involved with plant selection, what gardeners love doing the most. Planting the right plant that will adapt to the light, water, and soil conditions is imperative in landscape design.
While the basic concepts of landscape design remain consistent year over year, design elements do change over time. Below I have listed 5 of the 10 2024 Garden Design trends by GardenDesign.com. These 5 trends seemed to be consistent but not limited to other trend articles that I reviewed:
1) “Enhancing Your Garden with Edimentals”: Edimentals are plants that usually live more than one year such as shrubs, perennials, and trees. Examples include daylilies, currants, gooseberries, elderberries, fennel and asparagus. Including annual edible plants such as kale, rainbow chard, and nasturtiums can also be considered.
2) “Exploring Naturalistic Planting & the New Perennial Movement”: This consists of primarily native plants with a less manicured look to mirror nature, but it doesn’t have to been completely unmanicured. The focus is on a blend of plants that invite pollinators and wildlife. (Read Jim Lakin’s monthly Garden Buzz articles on “native” plants for ideas about plants that are appropriate for Minnesota gardens.)
3) “Preserving Every Drop with Eco-Friendly Rain Gardens”: Yes, establishing a rain garden to limit water runoff into sewers.
4) “Learning to Love Bugs”: Reducing the use of pesticides is the trend here. Becoming more tolerant of bugs and understanding that there are beneficial insects. Note, certain bugs are attracted to specific species (i.e. monarch butterfly and milkweed, rusty patched bumble bees like lupines, asters, bee balm, native prairie plants, and spring ephemerals). But of course, there are bugs that are on the invasive list such as jumping worms, pine bark beetle, and lantern fly.
5) “Adapting and Growing with a Changing Climate”: In the last few months, the USDA published a new plant zone map. Many areas across the nation and in our neck of the woods have become hotter. Adapting for this change in your plant selection process is imperative as you look to designing your future landscape.
I hope you can enjoy planning, prepping, and planting your new garden bed(s) in the next few months. Check out our website resources for many articles on the topics discussed above. And spend your January dreaming and planning for your beautiful 2024 garden.
Creating a Home Landscape, You Can Love & Enjoy/Sustainable Landscape Design Basics for Homeowner, Minnesota Landscape Arboretum Workshop, James B. Calkins, Ph. D, 2022.
GardenDesign.com, Research Garden Design, 2024 Trends in Garden Design by Rebecca Sweet,
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (fws.gov) Rusty Patched Bumble Bee
https://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov; USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map