Every landscape – both natural or managed – is dynamic. Nothing is frozen in time. Without proper, ongoing care, all built landscapes and managed environments will experience a slow and steady degeneration until the only remedy is complete renovation. Even with care the maturing and aged landscape of 15 plus years can start to outpace the space.
What’s needed to avoid major landscape surgery is periodic, year-round assessment that enables you to see and gage your landscape’s performance and determine what needs focused, more proactive attention and what can coast along with minimal care. Take notes and photographs to refer back to later in the year. Use them to review progress at each new phase and season and to act as a baseline for change. Keep in mind, that you can only put off care and change for so long. If you see an issue, address it as soon as you can.
The key is three seasonal assessments that can help you understand what’s happening as your landscape comes back to life in the spring, actively grows and matures in the summer, and prepares to slumber in the fall and winter:
Early Spring (March/April) This is the critical first assessment of the new season, before plants are actively growing. Early spring is ideal for assessing hardscape features such as bed and lawn lines because the lack of foliage enables you to clearly see the structure of your landscape. Use this time to stage structural work that can be done later in the spring and summer. Remember to take notes that you can return to during your mid- and late-season assessments.
Mid-Summer (July/August) By this time your lawn and gardens are in full swing. Plants are at the height of their growth and everything has filled in so you can clearly see any areas that have become crowded and ones experiencing significant gaps that need to be addressed. The earlier this assessment is done, the more ability you have to schedule both summer and fall work such as pruning, dividing, transplanting and adding plants.
Mid-Fall (October/November) The season is waning and plants are getting ready for their long winter’s slumber. This is when you can assess the failures of the year so you can plan corrections that can happen in the winter – such as tree removals and corrective pruning -- as well as late and early season hardscape repairs. Spring will be here before you know it, so now’s the perfect time to start planning for early spring work that will enable you to get a jump on the new season.
When you’re actively assessing your landscape throughout the year, you’re able to provide thoughtful, ongoing management that respects your original design intent while enabling you to take advantage of opportunities to make progressive improvements and adjustments. You’re better able to gently steer your landscape more effectively in a direction that reflects your vision, instead of being forced to react more aggressively because you allowed minor failures to pile up over time, ultimately requiring significant renovation work.
A key point here is that landscapes do take more than just maintenance. Even with good maintenance, the pace of growth, and sometimes the sizes achieved, or the increasing shade and root pressure of surrounding woodlands will require that you change your landscape. Don’t fight that too long. Be willing to invest in changes - what I call edits - that will address the environmental changes and maturing and aging process. This will ensure you have a landscape with longevity.