Late summer is an excellent time to begin planning to renovate your landscape. By planning now, you'll be ready to take advantage of the best planting time in the fall.
Consider several items when creating a new landscape or renovating an existing one.
Determine which sites in your landscape are in full sun, partial sun or shade. This will help you in selecting plants that will do well in the given light exposure.
Consider, too, the mature growth height and spread of the plants you're selecting. One of the most common mistakes is to put plants too close to each other or under an overhang, only to have the plants outgrow the site in a few years.
One key to an attractive landscape is how the beds are laid out. One easy trick is to use a garden hose to outline the bed and experiment with different curves and designs before you dig.
Avoid using small, irregular curves in your bed designs. Strive for large, broad, sweeping curves that will accent your beds. Raising beds six to 10 inches by adding organic matter can be another effective way to make the area more attractive.
When determining where to plant your shrubs, remember the rule of three. Always plant in groups of odd numbers -- 3, 5, 7, etc.
Don't place shrubs in a straight row but in clusters. Stagger them when laying them out. Try to cascade your plants so the larger shrubs are in the back and smaller plants toward the front.
Pay attention to texture and color, too. Texture is the coarseness of a shrub's leaves. It's best to use contrasting textures of plants so one is in front of the other. For example, plant the coarse-textured dwarf burford behind the soft texture of dwarf yaupon.
Colors, on the other hand, should complement each other. A solid bed of white pansies in front of some dark green hollies is a good example. Avoid mixing too many colors into one landscape bed.
Use color to enhance an entrance and draw attention. It can be a nice rock walkway or something as simple as two flower pots flanking the door.
Use color, too, to control space. Warm colors (red, orange, yellow) attract your eye, fooling you into thinking they are much closer. Use these to make a large garden space feel smaller and more intimate. Cool colors, especially blue and violet, recede so they seem more distant. Use them to make a small courtyard feel larger.
You may want to draw a base map of your house when redesigning your landscape. This could make it easier to plan the amount and location of the plants. Take some rough measurements of the outside of your house so you can draw your plan to scale.
One final step is to individualize your landscape. Many landscapes can be enhanced with the simple addition of a rock walkway, window boxes or some mulched islands.
You may not need to do a tremendous amount. Some landscape items added to a bed can spruce it up as well. Try adding an old iron bed, a tricycle or perhaps a rusting wheel barrow to your bed. You will be surprised how it can highlight your landscape.
By following a few basic rules and planning now, you'll have a jump start on preparing for your landscape renovation this fall.
(Bob Westerfield is a Cooperative Extension horticulturist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)