By Barbara Glass
Some of us discover joy in the outdoors as children, others as adults. Even those who profess dislike for the outdoors appreciate pleasing surroundings.
What is better than enjoying a beautiful place? Sun or shade, day or night, mountains or prairie, windy or still, at sea or inland, palm trees or cactus—we all have a different idea of what that beautiful place looks like, sounds like and feels like. One person is happy in a wild English Garden; another prefers the spare landscape of the Arizona high desert; still another enjoys a rainy day in the mountains. Whatever that place is, it provides respite from the daily world and nourishes the senses and soul. It’s a place where you feel at home.
Speaking with Lauri Braschler, Owner of Lulu’s Blooms, is a conversation in landscape imagination. She has taken bland yards and transformed them into unified, pleasant surroundings that reflect the owners’ personality and lifestyle. “The yard is an extension of the house itself. I enter the front door, look at the light and view from each window as I walk through the house into the backyard.” The initial walkthrough gives her a sense for the overall design. Lauri then asks each client to complete a questionnaire: Is this an active family? Do they like to cook? Do they like to garden? Do they like to travel? If so, what are their favorite places? How much or how little yard work do they want to perform? Are there security, noise or privacy concerns? How long do they plan to live in this home? What is the timeline and budget?
Following the questionnaire, Lauri examines the yard: sunlight, soil, drainage, irrigation, slope, existing trees and vegetation. Design, recommendations and implementation plans complete the process.
Lauri’s key suggestions for landscaping include:
• In décor, colors, and design, the exterior of the home should coordinate with and complement the interior. If you look out the window, the view should blend with the home.
• Landscapes should flow seamlessly around the home. Keep the front yard simple and clean for best “curb appeal;” do the more complex design in the back yard. The sides of the home connect the two areas spatially and visually.
• Homeowners can make landscape changes in stages over a period of years. Put together an integrated design, then fill in the palette details over time.
• Recommended maintenance: aerate the soil and roots around the plants and lawns yearly, adding fertilizer as needed in late winter. Considering Texas soil and weather conditions, these two steps will greatly enhance the health of the gardens.
For the especially active family:
• Add an outside porch with a grill, mosquito misters (or surrounding screen), a sound system and television, a ceiling fan and comfortable furniture. Extend the stone floor outward and add a fire pit.
• Add a swimming pool with easy access to the outside porch area.
• Perhaps leave a grassy area for croquet or tossing a Frisbee.
• Dog lovers? Provide space for the dog to run between the shrubs and fence line.
For the townhome resident:
• There are many ways to make a small yard into a lush oasis using large pots. Use groups of three or five complementary urns with plants of varied sizes.
• Make one pot into a water feature.
• Enhance your cooking with fresh herbs from a raised garden bed.
For the new homeowner:
• Make a broad design for the whole yard and take the implementation in steps, starting with the front yard. Make the landscape inviting and happy, and make it yours. It should say “Welcome Home” every time you return.
For the quick yard makeover:
• “Staging” a house for sale includes the outside yard. Simplify and declutter the beds, especially in the front of the house. Trim the bushes and add mulch generously to the garden areas. A few annual plants will add color and interest.
• Remove and replace old shrubs as necessary. There are many varieties that add height and texture to enhance curb appeal at a minimal cost.
• If staging a home for early spring, bulbs are an easy way to accent the edges of any garden.
For that extra magic touch:
• Accent your space with lighting—on the house, in the trees, from the ground, around the pool area.
• Add a water feature. The flow and burble of running water is very relaxing. There are many attractive and workable options for any size space, from urns to creating a waterfall at the end of the swimming pool.
• Add stonework and rocks. These are not only visually appealing, but often solve spatial and drainage problems.
• Add a pathway through the yard and perhaps a bench for visual interest.
• Plant a small butterfly garden. These are very colorful and attract interesting visitors.
There are so many ways to create an outside space that combines visual appeal with ease of maintenance and adds warmth and uniqueness to the home. All it takes is a little imagination (and the help of a qualified landscape designer!) to make your yard come to life.