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Get The Most Out of Your Landscaping Efforts
by Dan Gill
by Dan Gill


Dan Gill earned B.S. and M.S. degrees in horticulture from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, and is an Associate Professor in Consumer Horticulture with the LSU AgCenter.

He is the spokesperson for the LSU AgCenter’s Get It Growing project, a statewide educational effort in home horticulture utilizing radio, Internet, TV and newsprint. Gardeners throughout Louisiana read his columns in local newspapers, watch his gardening segments on local TV stations and listen to him on local radio. In the New Orleans area, Dan appears weekly on the Channel 4 Morning News, writes a weekly gardening column for The Times-Picayune and hosts the Saturday morning WWWL Garden Show, a live call-in radio program.

Dan is co-author of the Louisiana Gardener’s Guide and author of Month-by-Month Gardening in Louisiana. His “South Louisiana Region Report” and “Only in Louisiana” columns appear monthly in the Louisiana Gardener Magazine.

April 17, 2011

This time of the year always seems to inspire a frenzy of gardening activity. People flock to nurseries, and trees, shrubs, ground covers, tropicals, perennials and bedding plants are sold by the truckloads. In the frantic rush to plant something in the landscape, however, don’t forget that the more thought you put into your planting decisions, the more satisfactory your results are likely to be.

First, analyze your landscaping needs to decide what planting needs to be done and the purpose it will serve. Determine whether you need to screen unsightly views, remove overgrown shrubs, create shade or privacy, provide an area for children to play, create an area for outdoor living, give your home a more attractive appearance from the street or whatever else.

Once you’ve decided the function and location of new plantings, consult landscaping books to help you refine your design ideas and check gardening books written for our area to help select the right plants. Also, talk to knowledgeable people such as local gardeners, LSU AgCenter horticulture agents and staffs at garden centers and nurseries.

As you plan, consider the future maintenance of your new exterior plantings. Select insect- and disease-resistant plants that are well-adapted to our area to minimize the need for using pesticides. And make sure they will not grow too big for the location where you intend to plant them. Always ask how large a plant will grow before you purchase it. This will reduce the need to constantly prune plants that grow too large for their location.

Remember to select for your landscape plants that will thrive in the growing conditions where they’ll be planted. Study carefully the amount of sun an area receives and choose plants appropriate for that amount of light.

If you feel you’re simply indulging yourself when you purchase trees, shrubs, flowers and other plants, here’s some information that will make you feel good.

Landscaping your home brings quite a few economic benefits. Most real estate agents will agree that a well-landscaped home often sells more quickly and at a higher price than a comparable home lacking a nice landscape. One reason trees and shrubs add value to a home is that unlike many purchases, they appreciate in value as they grow larger and more beautiful.

Choose the right landscape professional

Landscape professionals work with homeowners who don’t have a clear idea of how to create an attractive, functional landscape. One of the benefits of hiring a landscape professional is to have a chance to ask questions and get advice – and no project is too small. If your budget is limited, a professional can help you set priorities and schedule your plan in phases. They can also be as familiar with building codes and deck and swimming pool construction as they are with horticulture and the aesthetics of gardening.

If you’d like to hire a landscape professional to help design your landscape but you don't know where to begin, follow these tips from the American Association of Nurserymen and the Associated Landscape Contractors of America:

– Ask your friends, neighbors and colleagues for recommendations. Your best bet is to select an experienced, well-established firm with a past history of completing projects similar to yours.

– Arrange a meeting with two or three different companies. Don’t feel shy to ask about the training and educational background of the people who will be working for you. Get a feel for how well you could work with the individuals and how well they understand what you want. Ask for references and check with the Better Business Bureau.

– Make sure the company or individual you’re dealing with has a Louisiana Landscape Architect license or Landscape Contractors license, which are required by law. A licensed landscape architect has a degree in landscape architecture and can sell you an original design whether they do the installation or not. Landscape contractors may help you develop a design, but only as part of a package that includes the plants, materials and installation. The primary benefit of using any of these experts is to draw on their knowledge, experience and creativity.

– Before you make your decision, obtain a written estimate, including a projected date of completion. When you get ready to sign the contract for instillation, make sure it includes a detailed list of all plants, materials, work to be done and specifications, as well as any guarantees on plants and other materials used in the landscape.

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