Undoing a builder's landscape is first step

If your home is beyond the 25-year age range and its landscape was installed by the builder, you're probably wanting to give it a facelift or at the very least Botox. Undoing a landscape might be your facelift or Botox.

The average builder-grade landscapes are often spurious attempts. In addition to poor plant selection, animals, over time, add dropped bombs creating a chaos of vines, the trash known as privet or the gigantism of an oak tree. It's not uncommon to see older homes trudging along, year after year, with ugly landscapes horrifically pruned. It's a vexation knowing your landscape isn't what you want it to be yet you're the one doing the trudging, limping along for another year hoping something, eventually, can be done to make your landscape prettier.

Are you thinking, "If I take out some of the ugly plants it would, at the least, be an improvement"? You're probably right. Often, undoing a builder's landscape immediately creates a more beautiful landscape. How can this be?

Easy, you're removing the negativity of poor choices. Chinese hollies are a great example. A fine plant in the right spot but at older homes many builders planted them near the front door and near the driveway entrance at the mailbox. Chinese hollies are unwelcoming plants full of waxy leaves held aloft as shields with skin piercing thorns around the margin. They literally draw blood if they're walked through. Their size can be unwieldy and with poor (and the most common type) pruning through the years, they become naked at the bottom showing off an enlarged trunk at the base. The plant isn't happy, you're not happy and, yes, undoing this bit of old landscaping will make the landscape look significantly better.

Box hollies, similar in looks to boxwood, have been used in sad ways for decades. They are the foundation planting in front of many older homes. Wanting to grow large and needing partial sun to full sun they, with age, are now often unhappy in shade. Poor pruning is also endemic with box hollies. They are typically seen with naked bottoms and thinning, straggly bodies. Sometimes entire sections within are dead. Why keep something this ugly in front of an investment as important as your home? Undo this portion of your old landscape. It will look better.

Why tell you these things? If you can't afford a new landscape perhaps you can afford undoing an ugly landscape. Too often, at a job site, many plantings are removed and before the new plantings can be installed the home looks significantly better. This isn't only my opinion, it's what I hear from homeowners, "Wow, if I'd known my house would look this good by removing the old plants I would have done it years ago."

Stone Mountain resident Tara Dillard designs, installs and writes about gardens. E-mail her at taradillard@agardenview.biz or visit www.agardenview.biz.