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Creating a Livable Outdoor Space at Home

In effect, landscaping is an extension of your home into your yard. It allows you to create a livable outdoor space, somewhere you will want to spend time. The shape it takes is deeply personal for each individual, and can range from a quiet, relaxation space to an entertaining space to host get-togethers.

Landscaping is a broad term, but can be distilled down into three categories: softscaping, hardscaping and waterscaping. Softscaping deals with the living elements of landscaping, such as the arrangement of plants, the sculpting of beds and planter placements. Hardscaping includes nonliving solid structures like fire pits and patios, and waterscaping focuses on pools, waterfalls and other aspects of landscaping that involve water.

Each principle of landscape design has individuals that specialize in them, and while there is a considerable amount of overlap, it is important to pick a professional who is knowledgeable about the field that you want work done in.

It is the job of the landscaping company to try to get to know the client, understand their needs and help craft a space for them that is both beautiful and functional, while also allowing for possible future growth and alteration.

“Every project can be customized to the homeowner’s liking. As a homeowner, have some ideas, but you don’t have to settle for something cookie cutter. You can sit down and design a landscape plan around a house a hundred different ways,” Michael Kirsch, owner of Landscape Solutions by Michael Kirsch, LLC in Oshkosh, says.

When starting to plan out a landscaping project, experts suggest defining what you do not like about your current space and then attempting to envision how you are going to use the space you want to create. Aspects such as the time of day the space will be used, the people that will be in that space and how that space could change over time should be taken into account.

Creating a conceptual space is often done by having a customer know what they do and do not like. This can be as in-depth as a detailed plan of what they’d like to include, or as simple as mentioning different aspects of what they have and have not liked about different spaces they’ve seen.

“If you’re out for a walk in the neighborhood and you see plants that catch your eye, create a list of likes… are there certain colors you like, are there certain colors you dislike… keep creating that list of what you’ve seen at friends’, family’s and around the neighborhood,” Kirsch says.

Professionals do have some hardstay rules they stick to when designing a space, specifically math, form and color. Principles such as contrasting colors, odd numbers and mixing textures are employed in order to create visual interest, allowing experts to create beautiful designs.

“In landscaping, just like in a symphony, there are times and places throughout the seasons for certain plantings to shine and others to be the supporting cast. Landscape designers become masterful in this,” Bethany Fuson, Landscape Designer and Sales Professional at Lowney’s Landscaping Center in Appleton, says.

The spaces that clients request change and develop over time, and COVID-19 has had a profound impact on the sorts of landscape projects that are being developed. As people spend more time at home they then want to develop their yard space to create livable environments that they can use.

“With COVID happening and everybody staying home more, we saw a huge boom in outdoor living spaces… we haven’t seen that trend really diminishing, because people are enjoying it,” Kelly Smith, Marketing Department Manager at Vande Hey Company, Inc. in Appleton, says.

Projects like in-ground pools, patio kitchens and outdoor bars have exploded in popularity. Experts stress the importance of livable, lifestyle additions, because they allow you to utilize your space more and enjoy spending your time outdoors.

Along with livable spaces, drought-tolerant plantings and vegetation that is native to the Fox Valley area have become much more requested. This trend not only creates less of an upkeep burden, but also helps the local environment flourish.

When starting to plan a new space, professionals want customers to focus on being patient and flexible. Depending on the project and company, the planning process can take a few months.

“The national industry of landscaping has triple the classic workload, and industry-wide has half the work staff,” Fuson explains. “You have to plan ahead, it’s not happening overnight… hash it out as much as you can prior so multiple revisions are not required, that’s going to be a win.”

Experts say that customers may have certain plants or structures that they really want to be included, but there may be some limiting factors like their particular property or budget that may force the plans to change. Being flexible through the process of changing designs allows for the best outcome.

Planning landscaping for your property should follow a similar process to doing work on your home. Landscaping installations are built to last, and careful considerations should be made when making decisions. Think about your space, both for what you want out of it now and what you will want out of it in a decade or two.

“When you put landscaping in, with proper maintenance, you’re putting landscaping in that should last 20 to 25 years. So (go) into that planning process with an open mind,” Kirsch says.

Specialists stress that they are very knowledgeable in their field, and that there is a large difference between arranging a few flowers and creating a professional-level outdoor space. They are there to help you build the yard of your dreams.

There is no strict path on how to begin the process of getting a landscaping project started. Some customers have a comprehensive vision for what they want their space to look like, others have some vague ideas of plants or structures and there are also those that just have a list of needs that they want met. You don’t have to be knowledgeable in the realm of landscaping, and experts will be there with you every step of the way, getting you a beautiful space that will last you decades.

“(Landscape design) is a little bit more than putting a plant in the ground… it’s a space you should live in, and enjoy, and feel comfortable. It’s an extension of your home,” Smith says.

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