Most landscape gardens need a face lift every five to eight years. If your yard is not making you smile when you see it, it may be time to rework it.
Gardens never stay the same, of course. Shrubs mature and begin to crowd their neighbors. Perennials grow and sprawl. Trees grow and shade places they didn't used to. Or maybe you're just tired of looking at the same plants.
One way to begin to analyze your landscape is to take several digital pictures of it. As you put those images on your computer screen, pretend it is someone else's yard. Would you be impressed? Do you like what you see? Using this method may help you pinpoint what you feel you need to improve. Of course, if you aren't able to use this method, good, old-fashioned look-and-ponder works, too.
Ask yourself some questions about your beds. Are your plants getting the proper amount of sunlight? Are the plants and blooms more sparse in recent years? Are they leaning toward the light? Do the plants have sufficient space to make them look natural? This means not only analyzing whether they are too close together, but also whether they are too far apart.
Are tall plants in the back and the shorter ones in front? This may seem like an obvious question, but as we add plants, or if they do not grow to the height the plant label said they would, they may dramatically change your original design.
Is your original plan, (i.e. having something in bloom all year, or having a pink-and-purple color theme) still working? Or would you like to change it?
Are the borders of your beds well-defined? This delineates space and can add needed structure. Borders can include sidewalks and other walkways, short border plants or an edging of bricks or small rocks.
Once you have done some analysis and decided on design changes that would improve things, it's time to begin.
Start with the "ceiling." Do trees need to be thinned or have some lower branches removed to allow more sunlight? You may want to speak to a professional arborist about doing work like this.
Have shrubs grossly exceeded their space? They may need to be pruned hard or even removed. Hard pruning may work in some cases, but if the shrub has just been given a "haircut" for several years, the interior may have so many dead-looking woody stems that it would be best to start over. And learn how to do annual pruning this time.
If shade in your yard has changed, it may be time to use plants that like the light supply you have. I had to move my dahlia bed because the neighbor's tree had grown to shade it too much — and he was not about to move the tree to accommodate my dahlias! Shade-loving plants grow there now.
Late winter and early spring are good times to plant new shrubs and trees in the Rogue Valley, which means that right now is a good time to do your planning.
When choosing new plants, always be sure that your plants are well-suited to this climate. "Garden Guide for the Rogue Valley — Ornamental Trees and Shrubs," written by Master Gardeners, is a wonderful help. You can purchase it at most garden centers or at the Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center on Hanley Road.
Coming up: Last call to enroll in the 2013 class to become a Master Gardener. Classes begin Jan. 16. Call Bob Reynolds, Oregon State University home horticulture agent, at 541-776-7371 for information.
Carol Oneal is a past president of the OSU Jackson County Master Gardeners Association. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.