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Startingover 04-18-2012 12:55 PM

Will my neighbors hate me?
Green lush lawns appeal to me as much as they do to everyone. But after hearing environmentalist talk about saving water here in Florida I can't bring myself to use irrigation.

(besides all my neighbors lawns are boring and not well landscaped).

I'm thinking of trying to find a design or plan that is all native plants. (I love nature trails). I'm thinking lots of pine straw. Palmetto scrub plants, ferns, and some big leafy things whose name I don't know, and bougainvillea.

Where do I begin, to find ideas?

What about the existing irrigation the previous owners put in? I thought I'd just ignore it and pretend like it's not there. I'll make sure any pipe or shut off valve is off.

user1007 04-18-2012 01:25 PM

Your neighbors should certainly not hate you for reducing (or eliminating) the amount of turfgrass you have. It is the highest maintenance and water demanding plant material you can have. I think water rationing is something we all may have to get used to. I encountered it in Northern California years ago where it became not only an environmental issue but a political one. We supplied water to Southern California but they were never subjected to rationing. Illinois is rapidly running out of fresh water. Population growth, new construction and expansion of livestock mega farms is draining aquafores faster than rainfall can replenish them

Like you said, acre upon acre of turf without much other thought to landscape design is also BORING! Just substituting ground covers for some turf will help add color and texture. Adding boulders or hardscape elements can add interest and you don't have to mow them. Any time you can use native, or close to native hybrids in a thoughtful landscape design the better off you will be. Your library is a good source of information for what plants will work well. Your state University, Department of Natural Resources and so forth may have information. Your municipality may have an arborist on staff or under contract. I am guessing Florida still has a golf course or two? One public park still? Stop by the maintenance shed with some donuts or something and chat up the folks about what they would plant and what to expect maintenance wise. Most will be pleased to spend a few minutes with you.

Drip irrigation has evolved nicely over the last 3 decades to the point you can use it, as needed for just about everything but turf. Florida was experimenting with a sort of drip matt that went under the sod layer but I don't think that is yet working out so well. Drip irrigation puts water just where you want it and in appropriate quantities for optimum plant growth. Drip systems water in Gallons per Hour (GPH) rather than Gallons per Minute (GPM) so you can see the obvious savings. Drip is also easy to install and is not expensive.

You should design your landscape with some thought so it does not stick out in a way that is out of character with the neighborhood or incompatible with your home and piece of land. Neighbors will, and should, get annoyed or even angry if you do things that effects drainage on their property. You don't want to plant anything that could go to seed or creep aggressively into their yards.

Many real nurseries have landscape designers or even landscape architects on staff or availed from a list. You can enlist their help as little or as comprehensively as you wish. You can also hire independent professionals if you want to use one. It is an enjoyable experience. At least my clients said so.

If you haven't already, I would scale out your yard, place the house on your plot, indicate compass and commit a plan to paper. A drawing will make it easier to communicate with others and allow you to play around with positioning plants, hard/waterscape elements, etc. If you are careful you can also use a scaled drawing to do takeoffs for irrigation, lighting, etc.

There are a number of drawing programs you can buy for $30 or so but even more good ones for free. Make sure you get one that allows for the size of your yard. Some limit maximum dimensions. Google and explore I guess. I like Sweet Home 3D. It is free open source and originally for floorplans but you can use it for landscape drawings too. There are plant symbol sets you can download. Some on this site have suggested SketchUp but I have not used it and do not know if it scales drawings.

Obviously you will need a long tape. Maybe you will get lucky and the City/County or your builder will have drawings showing the dimensions of your lot, and all?

creeper 04-18-2012 01:36 PM

Bougainvillea..beautiful. :thumbsup: The neighbours won't hate you because your gardens are not the same as theirs, they might though because they will be better. Do what you like as long as its respectful. Its your property and they will get over it.

Ironlight 04-18-2012 01:45 PM

If you have a local conservation organization, or even a governmental one focused on local environmental issues, check with them about landscaping with native plants. They often have information for people doing exactly what you are.

Here in Washington DC there is an organization, funded in part by the District, that provides steeply discounted rain barrels, rain gardens, shade trees, and permeable hardscape. They will come and install all of the things they offer, and they also have information on landscaping with native, drought resistant plants.

user1007 04-18-2012 01:46 PM

I forgot. You must, of course, plan for tacky lawn ornaments and you can never have too many gnomes.

creeper 04-18-2012 02:36 PM

Those gnomes are so beyond tacky that they are actually adorable. Forget whismical what-nots found at overpriced country antique hide aways...Its gnome power!!! every garden must one one

The one I have takes centre stage in the FRONT garden

chrisn 04-18-2012 04:56 PM

If you gotta have pink flamingo's, they should at least look alive and not dead:laughing:

Startingover 04-18-2012 10:59 PM

thanks everyone. These are great ideas.

(LOL at dead flamingo comment.)

I like some areas in parks, and could get ideas from there also, more than the standard yard in central Florida. I just don't want to start sticking things in the ground with no long range plan. The software idea is interesting. I also like maintenance free yards.

At a historic lighthouse, on the grounds, there was a nice, casual herb garden divided by an old brick walk. I just found some old bricks on Craigslist. I think I could reproduce that in my yard. It appears from what I've read here that putting sand down before laying brick is a good idea. Not sure how I'd get sand home in the trunk of my car.

I'm excited and can't wait to get started.

user1007 04-19-2012 10:24 AM


Originally Posted by Startingover (Post 902157)
Not sure how I'd get sand home in the trunk of my car.

I'm excited and can't wait to get started.

You can buy sand in bags. Better yet, just have a landscape material supplier deliver as many cubic yards as you decide you need. They may have a minimum put just pay the charge and save your rear suspension from the weight of bags of sand.

cibula11 04-19-2012 10:28 AM

Rain barrels.....when it rains, collect it and water your property for FREE!

elessar007 04-19-2012 10:30 PM


Originally Posted by Startingover (Post 902157)
... It appears from what I've read here that putting sand down before laying brick is a good idea. Not sure how I'd get sand home in the trunk of my car.

I'm excited and can't wait to get started.

Putting sand down is crucial for the longevity of your installation, amongst other reasons. Regarding getting it home, skip the trunk if its anything more than a half dozen bags. Its easier to get it delivered to your house from a supplier like a nursery. You will most likely have to buy a minimum of like 1 or 2 cubic yards but any extra you have can always be saved for the next project. Just be sure to have them dump the sand onto some tarps rather than on bare ground. It makes for less waste and prevents mixing of soil with the sand. Just in case you were unaware, you can also have mulch, gravel and topsoil delivered in bulk.
Good Luck!

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