Not dividing your space in a logical and pleasing way. 

 

Many new homeowners and beginner gardeners plant an upright cedar or juniper in each corner of their property and make flower beds along the fence line. Plants are not wallpaper. This planting approach doesn’t improve functionality, aesthetics or your property value.

 

Part of the value of good garden design is dividing up space so that you have colour, texture, sight, sound, and variety in the near-ground, mid-ground and background of your garden. 

Poor garden design does not subdivide space in a logical way, or create visual appeal.
An over-planted front yard to create instant privacy will be a big removal project.
Over-planting for the size of property you have. 

 

Many gardeners want to have a full, lush and mature garden right away. They don’t want to wait. What looked lush two or three years ago now looks unkempt and over-grown. Some trees, shrubs and plants can be pruned to keep them small; others dislike being pruned, and may be damaged by pruning. It is a better idea to review both the growth rate and full size at maturity of each shrub and tree. This way, you are maximizing your garden design budget and not wasting time digging trees out, and re-planting something else. 

This stunning weeping purple beech is already too big for the property. It will probably need to be removed.
Selecting a tree that is too big for your property. 

 

It is always a good idea to check the expected size of a tree at maturity. If you have a tree that is too big for your house and property area, it looks odd and out of balance.

 

A big tree, if it becomes damaged due to high winds or lightning, for example, is a problem to take down and it costs a lot of money. In many municipalities, you also need a permit from your municipality to take down a tree. 

Garden Design Mistakes

 

Mistakes in garden design and garden planning can be frustrating and expensive for new homeowners and beginner gardeners alike. Below are some tips to avoid garden mistakes.

A tree planted too close to the house is a big removal project that can get very expensive.
Planting a tree too close to the house or pool. 

 

Many trees have powerful roots which can damage the foundation of your house or in-ground pool, or interfere with water, natural gas, or sewage lines. In fact, the branch structure above-ground is mirrored in-ground by a tree’s root ball. It can get pretty huge. All of these can cause you major insurance headaches. If a tree is the cause of any or all of these troubles, your home insurance policy may or may not be covered for the damage. Keep large trees like oaks, maples, spruces and pines well away from any structures that you value. 

Paving too close to shrubs can cause winter damage by limiting water. Shrubs need room to grow.
Paving too closely to trees and shrubs.

 

Both trees and shrubs have fine roots that take up nutrients (and air, too) from the first 30 centimetres of soil under ground level. The larger and older a tree or shrub becomes, the larger the radius of the first 30 centimeters of roots surrounding the tree becomes.

When you pave over your property with asphalt or paving stones and you come too close to a tree or shrubs, you are both choking off the plant’s nutrients and water. And because interlocking pavers heat up a lot in July and August, you are cooking the roots as well. Trees and shrubs need room to grow and spread. 

So-called 'standard' spruces are not suitable for foundation plantings. Homeowners find out too late that they are full-size trees.
Selecting inappropriate shrubs for foundation plantings. 

 

This probably happens when people arrive at a garden centre and “fall in love” with the look of a certain tree or shrub. Often what is labelled a “standard” (a plant on a stake or stick-like trunk) can look like it would remain small forever. This is a myth. Many “standards” are actually designed to be a focal point in a medium or large flower bed; they are not intended for planting to hide your home’s foundations. 

Do not plant trees near windows, blocking light and sightlines.
Planting too close to a window.  

 

This is the “trifecta” of garden design mistakes. By planting too close to a window, you are blocking light to your house, obscuring sight lines from your house to your garden or streetscape and worst of all, you are giving would-be burglars (and other non-desirables) a place to hide while monitoring your comings-and-goings.

 

Keep plant material well clear of any windows and doors, meaning any planting should be a minimum of 10 feet clear of any windows. Remember that all plants grow, so take size at maturity of any tree, shrub or plant into account. 

Roses need full sun to produce blooms
Not checking what type of trees, shrubs and plants will do well in the soil you have. 

 

There is a lot of research available on the web about any plant’s preferred soil conditions. Planting the wrong plant in the wrong soil makes it sickly It is always a good idea to check what type of soil a plant, shrub or tree prefers. This way, you are working with the plant’s genetics, not against them. Plants generally prefer either alkaline (base) or acidic soil. For example, roses like clay soil while most evergreen shrubs and evergreen trees like slightly acidic soil. 

 

Not checking how much light plants, shrubs and trees actually need. 

 

Most plants, shrubs and trees need sun to thrive. Many flowers, especially roses, need full sun to produce blooms. Vegetables and herbs need full sun.

 

But there are also many types of plants, shrubs and trees that do well in a shade garden.

 

The best approach is to work with the light conditions you have, not the light conditions you wish you had. 

All gardens benefit from soil remediation. That means adding compost and sometimes sand.
All newly planted trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals need lots of water to get established.
Not watering enough after a new planting.

 

Any plant that is in a plastic or pressed paper pot can be planted at any time during the growing season. All plants need lots of water to get established. One or two waterings is not enough. While the plant is getting established by putting out new roots, it needs extra water. You must water every day, or at least every other day for a period of several weeks.

 

Liquid transplanter is a good idea, too.
 

A poor growing plant has no place in a garden design.
Not being ruthless enough.  

 

Shrubs and plants may take a year to get established; a tree may need two or more years. But if a plant, shrub or tree is not doing well, get rid of it.

 

First, try moving it to another spot in your garden. If that doesn’t work, give it to a neighbour or friend. As a last resort, throw it out. 

 

Remember that every garden design mistake is an opportunity to get another plant, shrub or tree that you will love. And importantly, one that will thrive in your garden. 

Soil in Oakville and Milton, Ontario, is clay.

Garden design and landscaping consulting in Oakville, Milton, Burlington, Mississauga, Etobicoke, and Toronto.

Not remediating the soil.

 

It is always a good idea to improve your soil, no matter what type of soil you have. You can add liberal amounts of compost (not peat moss) to soil any time. Add sand for the winter, as the freeze-and-thaw cycle, together with water trapped between sand granules, will help to break down clay. Put manure on flower beds for the winter because the freeze-and-thaw cycle will help to further break down the composted manure. If you put manure down in the spring, you will likely burn your plants roots and foliage during that growing season. 

Most plants, such as these zinnias, benefit from a so-called 'mass planting' rather than just one plant.
Only buying one of every plant or perennial—“one-itis.”


Many beginner gardeners like to pack in as much different plant material as possible into their gardens. Buying one of everything results in “one-itis.” It also makes your garden look hodgepodge and disjointed. Mass plantings, with at least four to eight specimens of the same plant or perennial (depending on their size) will make your garden look more unified. This means you need to make a list of your favourite plants and prioritize it. You can’t have it all. 

English gardens don't really work on small properties.

 

English gardens, with their masses of overgrown and naturalized plantings don't really work on small suburban properties. Why not? An English garden needs a lot of negative space to really set it off. This means you need a lot of lawn to focus the eye on the "organized chaos" that is an English garden. 

 

For smaller, suburban gardens homeowners are better off selecting another garden style other than an English garden. 

An English garden looks scruffy and cramped on a small plot.
English gardens don't really work on small properties.

 

English gardens, with their masses of overgrown and naturalized plantings don't really work on small suburban properties. Why not? An English garden needs a lot of negative space to really set it off. This means you need a lot of lawn to focus the eye on the "organized chaos" that is an English garden. 

 

For smaller, suburban gardens homeowners are better off selecting another garden style other than an English garden.