Why Landscaping Matters

I just read a blog post by Seth Godin, entitled ‘The Reason.’ In it, he lists the reason for a front yard is to demonstrate to friends and neighbors “how much time you have to waste.”

As I have written my thoughts and analyzed them, at first I disagreed with Seth. Who is he to say that landscaping and gardening is a waste of time. Then the thought occurred to me. “Oh, he’s talking about lawn when he means front yard.”

He’s not talking trash about trees and plants. He’s talking about high maintenance landscaping like beautiful golf course green lawns. The kind that need the chemical trucks and door knocking salespeople to maintain them.

It’s clear the trend in new construction in Nashville is pushing community over privacy. Less lawn and outdoor space or the outdoor space isn’t landscaped like a deck or outdoor kitchen.

That’s fine, as long as people are still going outside.

That’s why I was so upset at first when I read Seth’s blog post. Being outside whether you’re doing yard work or just relaxing with friends and family is important. Whether we can quantify it with data or not.

I couldn’t disagree more. The reason you have a front yard is to connect nature with our sterile lives. Inside our dry air, sanitized lives, we control everything.

Outside, the birds chirp and the bugs pollinate the flowers. It’s real life, man. Too many people think this is luxury. Like we have a choice whether we just want sterile, germ free existence.

With the millennial generation beginning to buy homes, it’s clear the trend is that they value community over privacy. They (we) don’t want to mow the grass, prune the shrubs, etc. I get that, it can be hard work.

But back to Godin’s point that it’s just wasting time. It’s not, you’re expressing yourself, you’re creating outdoor space that benefits other small organisms and cleaning the water and air. What’s wrong with that?

Who can’t get behind cleaner air and water? So maybe Seth Godin has a problem with people mowing their yards. Maybe he secretly doesn’t want to see grass yards. I can agree, there is a time commitment.

So if you’re looking to reduce your lawn footprint, I can help. Trees take up a lot of space, followed by shrubs, and annuals and perennials.

That’s one thing we can agree on, Seth and I, we can do with less lawn.

Easy to Grow Hydrangea Varieties Part 1

Hydrangeas are simply stunning in bloom. Paired with a green background, their blooms are welcome during the hot summer!

I fell in love with hydrangeas several years ago. I’ve made a goal to collect as many as possible at my home. You’re getting to learn from my mistakes!

Hydrangeas come in many different types (shapes) of  bloom. Mophead flowers and panicle heads are two of the most common.

They can begin blooming in late Spring through Summer. (Blooming time depends on climate and cultural practices, like pruning and fertilization).

Sunny Location


The best all around performer.

The best choice for large spaces.


Likes to grow large, easy to please, and beautiful cream yellow white flowers. The colors change as the bloom matures. Choose several of these to create a dazzling mass of mopheads! (Be sure to space the plants several feet apart). Or choose one and care for it to the 10′ x 10′ mature size!

Little Lime

I love the small mophead blooms!

I love the small mophead blooms!

It’s smaller than Limelight, and blooms are smaller. Flower colors are the same. I like to use this in a border.


Phantom and Limelight are similar. Phantom reportedly can grow larger and has more leaf shine. It’s vigorous and performs well in hot, full sun. Large white mophead.

Vanilla Strawberry

Large blooms change color. This is the first stage.

Large blooms change color. This is the first stage.

This mophead changes colors as the flowers mature. White to pink and red. It needs more shearing than the two mentioned above. If the stems get too long, they will crash once the heavy bloom matures.

Pink Diamond

Not as showy as the above, Pink Diamond has a panicle bloom that changes from white to pink. The blooms last several weeks. Pink Diamond’s bloom shape is more conical and adds much needed texture change to an evergreen landscape.

Shady or Morning Sun Location

Endless Summer or similar blue hydrangea

Bigleaf hydrangeas (H. macrophylla) need shade or their leaves may burn. This plant commonly wilts in hot sun, but that doesn’t mean it’s thirsty. It just enjoys the shade. (Add sulfur and aluminum to achieve the blue flower color).

Whether you’re new to plants or not, hydrangeas are powerful in their simplicity. What’s your favorite?

Edible Landscaping for Non Green Thumbs Part 1

Edible landscaping is authentic and tasty. You eat what you produce! It’s not just pretty flowers or leaves to admire.

Broccoli and Lettuce Flowering (Bolting).

Broccoli and Lettuce Flowering (Bolting).

Edibles are here to stay. Try to incorporate them into your landscape. (They are rewarding)!

Combine or Separate

Choose edibles and flowers (or evergreen shrubs) together in the same place, or separate your edible area to concentrate efforts. If you want serious yield, I recommend a raised bed.

To easily separate, build a suitable raised bed.

I like to keep certain plants grouped away from others. This means that tomatoes and beans can grow out of control in a hurry! Don’t plant too many at once. Pros stagger a crop so that all the plants don’t bear fruit at the same time. You don’t have to plant your entire garden at once.

I mix structure with normal shrubs. Structures are teepees and tomato cages. Plants like purple hulled pea, a favorite heirloom. These pea vines grow everywhere and quickly consume land. They need a trellis. Same for tomato. Some kind of structure.

Fruit and Beauty

What about blue foliage? Or silver? Check out artichoke in a shady location, or broccoli for full sun. Broccoli has yellow flowers in addition to the edible floret and silver leaves. Plus, your pet bunnies (wild hares) will love the leaves, too!

Texture is a landscape design principle, so mix leaf textures for viewer interest.

Optimal Soil

One big thing I’ve learned this year. Soil pH. Want bitter lettuce? Grow in an acidic soil. Add limestone if your pH is dipping below 6.0. Buy a soil test kit here. Always do your homework and research a variety before trialing it. However, most veggies and edibles like alkaline soil (pH 6.0 – 8.0).

Blueberries would be one exception. If you need to acidify soil, add sulfur.

Design Layout

Start with a few plants and see how much food you can eat and not ruin. I am guilty of this. I like to fill space. Don’t make this mistake.

Most plants are grouped in layers starting tallest in the back to shortest in the front. Tomatoes, peas, beans, and other veggies that require a structure to grow should be placed with height in mind. Grouping shorter plants nearby makes sense.

Tomato cages are visually striking in an empty space. They create vertical interest.

Volunteer cherry tomatoes with Margarite Sweet Potato Vine under Hyperion Dogwood. Limelight Hydrangea group on right.

Volunteer cherry tomatoes with Margarite Sweet Potato Vine under Hyperion Dogwood. Limelight Hydrangea group on right.

Don’t overplant peas and beans. They grow so quickly that you don’t need the maximum number per ft. Follow spacing guidelines on plant tag or online resource.

Cool Season vs. Warm Season Edibles

Herbs and vegetables grow best in certain temperature ranges. Spring and Fall are great for some lettuces, kale, broccoli, and cabbage. Summer is best for tomato, okra, cucumber, and beans. Depending on when you choose to get started, this is an important decision.

Herbs for Cooking

The simplest way to get started with herbs is buying the initial starter plants from the garden center. Kitchen gardens can be grown in containers or in the ground. Pop the new herb in the ground or container and keep the soil moist, but well drained.

Rosemary is a perennial plant in many climates and will live for several years.

Basil does well in container or raised bed. The hotter, the better. It will produce leaves until flowering. Pinch the flowers and the plant will continue growing. Pesto is one of my favorites! Or a tomato, oil, mozzarella and basil sandwich.

Just Get Started

You’re going to fail a little bit, but learn and grow your first edible today!

What was your first edible plant? Let me know by emailing me elliott@mylandscapeguide.com .