Marti Kilby, CRS

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7 Top Landscaping Mistakes

7 Top Landscaping Mistakes

No matter the size, some yards are just plain beautiful and seem to invite you in. Whether they create an atmosphere that calms the soul with a bubbling fountain or acts as the stage for parties with friends and family, your outdoor space can be an important part of your home.  And the good news is that it doesn’t have to cost a small fortune to make some positive improvements. 

I love to garden and have had the chance to landscape several homes we’ve owned, and in the process have worked with some real pros. So before you go rushing off to Home Depot to fill your cart with whatever’s in bloom, here’s a few mistakes I’ve identified over the years that can keep your yard looking blah, like the photo above, versus beautiful.


1. No plan for the space. How would like to utilize your outdoor space? Do you want a play place for your kids, an outdoor kitchen or plenty of room for a vegetable garden?  Look at the positioning of walkways and patios or decks.  Are they the right size and position for your needs?  Are they inviting?  If not, how could they be improved?  Just as you plan your indoor space, your outdoor space should be planned to reflect your lifestyle and design aesthetic.

2. Inconsistent theme. Cacti and neatly trimmed boxwood hedges don’t generally mix well in the same landscape.  Look at your home design and neighborhood.  Are you going for a southwestern feel?  Colonial? Tropical?  Traditional? The plants and accessories you pick and your overall design should reflect a consistent theme.

3. Thoughtless color palette. Green on green and more green is just plain boring. Choose some plants that have blooms or foliage with colors. Picking a particular color palette will provide a more harmonious look.  For instance, pick a palette of pinks and lavenders (colors close to each other on the color wheel), or a palette of complimentary colors such as blue and yellow. Just choosing a mish-mash of colors is unsettling to the eye.  Try to repeat colors in a balanced fashion throughout the entire space.

4. Lack of design. Don’t be afraid of curves! The walkway doesn’t need to be a straight line and neither do your planters.  Take a lesson from nature.  Add some different elevations and maybe some landscape focal points such as large rocks, a bench or a fountain. Different textures and sounds such as a water feature or wind chimes add interest.  Design your yard to enhance your overall theme.

5. Stand alone plants. Repetition and patterns are an important part of creating a cohesive landscape.  Planting one plant just because you like it, rarely makes sense.  Look for how you can create patterns using plants of different heights and textures such as low border plants by a walkway, or taller bushes against a fence.  Repeating certain plants across the entire yard provides a consistent feel.

6. Choosing the wrong plants. Walking into your local nursery can be a delicious sensory overload.  And they plan it that way!  Remember, just because it is blooming now, doesn’t mean it will look like that all year long.  Read the tags!  I can’t stress this enough. Beyond noting whether the plant is an annual or perennial, look for size at maturity, how much sun and water the plant needs, and how it tolerates heat or frost.  If you purchase the wrong plants you will soon be back looking for replacements.

7. Lack of maintenance.  The important thing about any landscape is that all planted areas require upkeep. Many plants need to be trimmed to grow successfully and maintain shape, weeds emerge and despite your best planning, some plants will not thrive and will need to be replaced.  Plan accordingly!  If gardening isn’t your cup of tea and you don’t’ want to spend a lot of money on gardening services, make sure your plan and design are low maintenance.

A good rule of thumb is to think of your landscape design as you would a room design. The same elements apply; size, shape, color, texture, function and placement.  The only difference is that landscape is alive!


Happy gardening!  If you’re ready to find your perfect San Diego yard, just give me a call!


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