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Do you ever dream about what your yard could look like some day? As you look through garden catalogs filled with beautiful trees, shrubs, flowers and pictures of beautifully landscaped yards--complete with ponds and garden sculptures--the choices seem endless. Before ordering hundreds of plants or giving up because you cannot decide what you really want, here are a few things to consider.
A common issue in landscaping is creating a peaceful, private environment. While fencing can provide immediate privacy, consider a buffer strip of shrubbery between your yard and the one next door. Many shrubs will grow quickly--within a couple of years--and act as a screen while providing habitat for a variety of birds. Consider planting native shrubs because they are usually well adapted to local conditions and may provide the best habitat for local wildlife.
Other considerations: whether the plants have special characteristics such as flowers or fruits, how large they will eventually become, and how much maintenance they require to remain healthy and in scale with your yard. Check with a local nursery or garden center for recommended species.
If you always thought it would be fun to have a pond, try it. With the variety of materials now on the market, anyone can have a garden pond, regardless of the size of the yard. If you have a lot of space, you can build one right in the ground. You can purchase a pre-formed mold or dig a hole and line it with a plastic pond liner. A simple type of pond consists of a plastic lined barrel or tub. Just add water, plants, a pump, and even fish--and you have a pond for your patio. Be sure to consider sources of electricity if you intend to add a pump. Also, make sure you use caution and take security measures if small children have access to your yard and the pond. Another factor to consider is maintenance. A pond can require a lot of effort to keep it clear of algae, leaves, and debris.
If you do not want to spend your weekends maintaining a yard, turn part of it into a wildflower garden. Depending on where you live, this could be a prairie, desert landscape, or alpine garden. Check on local zoning ordinances. Some communities have not yet recognized the value of "native landscaping" and may consider this a nuisance area. If you want a more maintained yard, consider ground covers instead of grass and use mulch to control weeds in foundation plantings and flower beds.
When selecting plants, make sure they are adapted to your area. Consider both the minimum and maximum temperatures, amount of moisture, amount of sunlight, and soil characteristics. Ask yourself: Do you want an annual that will need replanting every year or a perennial that comes up year after year? Do you want cut flowers for inside your home or to give to friends?
Consider native plants. They are usually better adapted to local conditions and need little maintenance. Be cautious about introducing exotic species such as purple loosestrife that will become invasive and is prohibited in many states.
Above all, choose what you like. There is an enormous variety of plants that will provide food and shelter to a wide variety of wildlife. With a little planning, you and the local wildlife can both enjoy the yard of your dreams.
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