Surviving a Landscaping Remodel

Get tips for managing your expectations and minimizing stress while redoing your outdoor spaces.

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"The number one thing that homeowners don't take into account with their landscape is planning," says Pete Marsh, a landscape designer with Buck & Sons in Columbus, Ohio. "You need to have a grand vision that you're working towards even if you're phasing it in over a year or several years. It's important to have that star in the distance you're tracking towards so you don't end up with mistakes like putting in a patio that almost immediately is too small or doesn't fit your needs. You can't just be plugging in plants here and there without thinking about how to use the space."

"People will get spring panic when they see all the flowers at the garden center and want a garden in a week," says Risa Edelstein, president of the Ecological Landscaping Association. She counsels patience as you work through the design process, which she says can be two steps forward and one step back because of its collaborative nature, but is ultimately a good investment of time and money.

Understand what's guaranteed and what's not. If your landscaping professional puts the wrong plant in the wrong place and it dies, that should be covered, at least for labor. However, if you go away on vacation and neglect to water your trees and plantings—new ones require extra moisture to get established—that's probably not.

Finally, realize that plants grow, land shifts, life evolves. Even the best-laid plans can be disrupted by things beyond your control—weather, blights, 17-year cicadas—but out of these episodes comes opportunity. Your landscape is, after all, a work of living art in progress.

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