(I-Newswire) , November 3, 2009 – Many homeowners are inclined to put off landscape design until spring. However, according to Boulder/Denver landscape designer Tom Altgelt, of Altgelt and Associates, designing in the fall “could save you money, you could have a beautiful landscape much sooner, and the landscape design itself could be better.”
Altgelt explains, “The first good reason for starting the process in the fall is that we are much more likely to get a great contractor.” Landscape contractors’ business tends to slow down in the winter, which can make it possible to negotiate a better price or to book a contractor who wouldn’t be available in the spring. The most on-demand contractors can be difficult or impossible to hire if the design process is put off until spring.
In addition, many people are surprised by how much of the actual landscaping can be done in the fall. “In the Boulder/Denver area, the weather is mild enough to do a lot of work in the fall, and even over the winter, especially on a southern exposure.” If a project is started in the fall, the “hardscape” construction of moving the earth and creating rock features, paving, and retaining walls can often be finished by spring.
For the massive rock features some of his clients want, Tom has to drive off-road through Wyoming ranch country to pick out rocks weighing up to 20 tons. Then he tags them and arranges for their removal. If he gets too late of a start, those rocks could be snowed in until spring! “It’s a race against time for me to get them out.”
For most trees and shrubs, a fall planting gives them a chance to put down roots over the winter. Then in the spring they can dazzle us with their foliage and flowers. “Often, many of the plants that we can get in the fall are available at a discount, and specialty plants can be ordered during the winter so that we can find the creme de la creme plant material.”
“People who start in the fall will often have a landscape that is blooming and starting to look beautiful in the spring. Those who wait until spring may end up with a big ugly construction mess, with back hoes and mud for much of the spring and possibly into the summer months.” Most homeowners would prefer to look at a lovely garden taking shape rather than bare earth in the spring.
And, of course, the most important consideration is the end result. Optimally, a garden will be pleasing all year round, but Altgelt says most are designed to impress us in the spring and summer. That’s because there is such a wide range of plant choices that exhibit their full splendor in the spring and summer. Designing a landscape in the autumn makes it easier to conceptualize plantings that will provide beauty year-round. For example, “a beautiful fall combination of perennials is the Sedum of Autumn Joy, which is reddish or pinkish, next to Salvia, which turns deep purple. These colors resonate with each other. Next if you add the bright golden of the black-eyed Susan, you have a stunning collage of colors.”
The next challenge is to design a landscape that is lovely in the winter. “After the leaves fall and plants begin to go dormant, they reveal their more subtle, internal structure to us. This too can be beautiful, and we take this into account more readily when we design a landscape in the fall.” Some plants, like the evergreens and some grasses, are colorful in the winter. There is a red twig shrub and yellow twig shrub with colorful bare stems after the falling of the leaves. “The earth also begins to reveal more of its sculpted forms when the plants have shed their lushness.”
Waxing philosophical, Altgelt continues: “In my experience, the most beautiful landscapes come out of our developing an engaged and heartfelt relationship with nature. To me, designing ‘green’ landscapes is only the beginning. Most people I’ve met who have property feel a certain bond with their land and are in some way deeply connected with it. While spring is a time that is bursting with new energy, the fall and winter is a more contemplative time, a time to listen to the land and let it speak to you.”
So designing a landscape in the fall can yield benefits, both the practical benefit of saving money, and a more soulful benefit of co-creating with nature. To Altgelt, this is a magical combination.