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Landscape Planning

First things first. Take a few moments to think about your objectives. How do you envision your landscape? What is its purpose? Will it be sunny, open space or shady? How much time and work do you want to commit to its upkeep?

shrub graphic Next, learn about your property - the soil type and the topology. Having a good soil in which to permanently locate the plant is important. You can check the soil by moving a few shovelfuls of soil and observing whether the dirt is sandy, clay-like or loamy. After a heavy rain, see where the water runs off the soil and where it stands. You can also have your local Cooperative Extension Service test a soil sample to learn whether it is acid or alkaline. In most cases in South Florida, the soil will need to be improved. Here the soils are sandy; they drain rapidly, drying out quickly; they are devoid of nutrients and most times are too alkaline.

tree graphic Consider the orientation of your house or other structures in relation to light and temperature. The north and south facing sides will get the most sunlight, and the south facing side is usually the warmest. Adjacent fences, building and groves of trees may act as wind barriers and provide protection to trees and shrubs within these areas. Consider safe and easy access to walkways, driveways, parking areas, swimming pools, heating/cooling units and entrances when planning your landscape. Note any safety hazards or nuisances that could be caused by a tree's falling fruit, flowers or leaves. Imagine the view with or without certain trees or shrubs - will the addition block or enhance the area?

Once you have a picture in your mind of how the landscape will look and work, you need to find out more about each tree or shrub before you plant them. Find out how large and how quickly the plant will grow. Will it produce any flowers or fruits? Is the plant poisonous or spiny? Is the plant an exotic - if so - say no - and choose an alternative plant. Is the plant an annual or perennial? What purpose is the plant to serve (hedge, groundcover, shade tree, etc.)? How much fertilizer, sunlight and water does it need? What type of soil does it grow best in? If you live near the ocean, is the plant salt-tolerant?

If you do these things up front before you make your investment in money and hard work -your landscaping plan will be successful and your investment will pay nicely.

Palms for Landscape Use

Palms are planted in groves, clumps, or as single specimens for accent or background planting, around public buildings, in parks, along avenues, near swimming pools and patios, and in the garden - wherever a bold effect or suggestion of the tropics is desired. The large-growing palms provide shade, shelter, and a dramatic feeling of space. In an architectural sense, they serve to define large spaces and to create strong vertical accents and skyline silhouettes. These qualities have a unifying effect in massive building complexes and large-scale plantings. The smaller-growing palm species are equally valuable in the home landscape.

tree graphic When choosing a palm, the most important considerations are form, size at maturity, light requirements and hardiness. The form of a palm determines its landscape uses. While some cluster palms (Broadleaf Lady Palm, Butterfly Palm, Fishtail Palm) may be very effective as hedge or screens, tall, single-trunked palms (Florida Royal Palm, Edible Data Palm, Washington Palm) are better used as street or accent plantings.

Palms often are planted in straight, formal rows along roads and drives. Another interesting effect can be achieved by making a group or clump, planting several palms of the same species in varying heights and spacings. Such natural groupings make striking features for entrances, pool plantings and gardens in general. Palms also create effective silhouette patterns when placed against plain walls, grills, buildings and open sky. The slow growing and dwarf species can be planted under other trees and in tubs or planters where they remain effective for years.

tree graphic One of the important considerations in selecting a palm is to choose an adapted species that will mature to be a reasonable size for the location. Otherwise, the pretty little palm, which is brought home from the nursery in a one-gallon container, may grow one day into a monster that overpowers house and garden. Remember that palms need a certain amount of care and grooming. Some species require more attention than others. Your choice should reflect how much time, effort, and expense you are willing to devote to maintenance.

Planting and Transplanting Trees & Shrubs

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