Landscape Tips From the Pros

Sow What?: Five landscape pros offer tips and points to consider for planting small gardens and landscapes
Photograph by Jenny Risher

Brian Rankel,

B&D Garden Design; 313-368-8890

• Plant for all seasons, not just summer.
• Don’t rely on flowers; think of them as a bonus for summer months.
• When choosing perennials, opt for varieties that will hold up and look neat year-round.
• Incorporate found items — salvaged pieces of limestone from a scrap yard, for example.


Michael J. Dul,

Michael J. Dul & Associates; 248-644-3410 (A 2011 Detroit Home Design Awards winner)

• Contrast in texture and color creates impact.
• Texture can be achieved with plant selection and hardscape material.
• Contrasting color yields powerful results. Example: a field of yellow coreopsis, yarrow, or daylilies with the purple tones of liatris or gray-blue Russian sage.
• Think simplicity. Use a limited palette of plants; too many plant varieties can create confusion.
• Include evergreen materials to provide a garden “backbone” for the long winter season.
• Pick plants for texture rather than color. Color is often momentary; texture is long lasting.


Sustainability: Plant sedum for low water consumption.
Soft textures: Sedum, coreopsis, Artemisia, Russian sage, and ornamental grasses.
Coarse textures: Hydrangeas, viburnums, fothergilla, brunneria, hosta, coral bells, and sedum Autumn Joy.


Jeff Klein,

Classic Landscape Ltd.; 248-761-2922 (a 2011 Detroit Home Design Awards winner)

• Mix plants with varying bloom times so something is always blooming.
• Incorporate annuals among the perennials for a full season of color.
• Don’t be afraid to remove all the grass and add walkways for movement, texture, and surprise.
• Use trellises and arbors for vertical texture and privacy in tight spaces.
• Do not overplant. If a plant tag says it gets 10-feet wide, then it does.


Richard Hass,

Stewart Hass & Associates; 586-779-4500 (A 2011 Detroit Home Design Awards winner)

Do you want to contrast or work with your home’s architectural style?
Will the garden lend itself to being linear or curvilinear?
Formal, traditional, contemporized, minimalist?

What kind of space do you want?
A foundation planting that helps transition your home to the earth? Expand outward into the yard? Create a defined space (by planting the outer perimeter, for example)?

Consider your neighborhood context.
Do you want to go with the flow, or make your own statement? If other homes have expansive front lawns, do you want to be the only one planting to the city sidewalk?

Consider hardiness.
Plants that work in a protected garden in Grosse Pointe might not work in an open area in Oakland County.

Knowing what plants work in shade or sun and your soil type and drainage is very important to the success of any garden.

The borrowed landscape
What’s next door? Will it help expand your garden? Don’t ignore it, unless you think it’s hideous and you want to screen it.


Jenny Heidloff,

R&J Maintenance; 248-738-3812

* Incorporate structural pieces: stone, garden art, a birdbath.
* Make tired beds look alive by cultivating throughout the season.
* Plant in large quantities, odd numbers, and groupings.

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