Common Landscape Design Mistakes: Softening edges.

Why do we create gardens around a house? Is it to add color to the landscape? Is it to add interest? I think one of the most important aspects that gardens and landscapes provide is some softness to all the hard.  Even the nicest house can feel overbearing without any plants in front of it to soften the structure. Those hard materials also come through the landscape in the form of walkways and driveways.  Now, in our climate, it’s not realistic to plant along the edges of driveways due to snow plows and snow storage but what about the walkways that bring people from the driveway to the front door?  They definitely add a bit of mass to the landscape.  That’s why it’s nice to soften all those hard surfaces with plants.  With most of the residential landscapes I see, the plants are placed so far off the walk, it’s like the walk and garden are two separate entities. Part of the job of a landscape designer or landscape architect is to create a landscape that is visually appealing and compliment the house.  Treating the walkway as a cohesive part of the garden is an important part to creating an appealing landscape.  How does the landscape and hardscape become one?  By bring plants up to or even over the edge of the walkway.  Softening the edges by blurring all the hard lines that run through the landscape with plants will make the landscape feel more comfortable. 

This is a pretty common landscape dilema.  Although it does make sense to keep shrubs off the driveway to keep them away from snow plow damage, there is no reason to live with a sea of mulch.

In this Connecticut property we added another layer of plants in the space between the driveway and junipers.  This herbaceous layer will be able to sustain snow as well as add more interest to the garden.

What a difference a year makes! This groundcover is starting to soften the edge of the driveway. Below are some other hard surfaces softened by plants.

Plants billowing over the edge of a walkway not only softens the landscape but it also helps create a cohesive bond between the walk and the overall landscape.

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Richard Schipul

For the last 30 years, I have owned the landscape company Designing Eden LLC based in New Milford, CT. We offer landscape designs, landscape installations and garden maintenance services in Fairfield and Litchfield County Connecticut. I am currently the only Nationally Certified Landscape Designer in Litchfield County and sit on the board of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers and Mad Gardeners.


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