DIY Landscaping – How to ‘Do it Yourself’ Without Having to Actually Do it Yourself

garden centerMy husband are I are big DIYers (a.k.a., gluttons for punishment and sacrificers of large swaths of time for the aesthetics of our home and garden).  We like to get in there and paint our own walls, install our own fixtures and, yes, landscape our own yard. While driven in part by a creative sense of adventure, let’s face it, a huge driving force for us is also budget. Being DIY’ers allows us to control and maximize the quality of the project while stretching our dollars with good old fashioned elbow grease and leveraging the right resources.

After some hard early landscaping lessons, we found our greatest landscaping resource – a reputable local garden center.

Landscaping isn’t as easy as advertised. The idea that all you need is a checklist, a box store and a few hours on a Saturday and – voila, instant Giverney and you’re grilling with the neighbors by dusk – is a cruel fantasy. Landscaping is backbreaking work that requires hours of preparation and, often, a pickaxe to break up our red clay. If you’re planting a 3-gallon gardenia in your yard, no biggie. If you are planting ten 15-gallon trees, thirty shrubs and a host of perennials, the last thing you want is to see it all succumb to poor drainage, an ill-planned site or because you relied on experience from another part of the country in your planning (known collectively as rookie-itis). Been there. Done that. It isn’t pretty and neither was our landscape. As a West Coast transplant I selected plants that thrived year-round in California but were correctly zoned for Raleigh, as well. We planted them in our first Charlotte, NC home.  They were beautiful all summer, but come fall our hard work was withered and brown on the ground. Note that my northern friends shy away from fall and winter planting and are surprised when their late spring efforts don’t make it through the summer heat.

After our epic landscaping fail we licked our wounds and contacted our local garden center, Dearness Gardens, in Huntersville, for help. For a small fee they sent someone out to get a feel for our yard, who really worked with us to find the right blend of trees, evergreens and perennials to give us year-round interest without losing those fun pops of color during the growing season. They even worked a lot of our existing perennials into the new design to save us money. When we bought our next home in the Triangle, we honestly considered hiring a landscape company to design and plant our backyard. We weighed the pros and cons but ultimately budget considerations prevailed and we decided to be gluttons for punishment once again. I write this tongue-in-cheek as I really do enjoy it. This time, however, we knew that our best shot at success would be to find the right garden center partner and we found exactly what we were looking for at Fairview Garden Center in Raleigh.

The garden center professionals have proved that plant selection and placement is far more nuanced than just looking at the tags and noting the general zone, light and watering requirements. They know that around here some camellias thrive in full-sun even though the tags read partial shade, and that some full-sun plants don’t like the intensity of a southern exposure in our region unless you want a large water bill and a sunburn. They know that certain plants grow perfectly fine in boggy parts of the yard while others are so sensitive to damp locations that you are asking for root rot if placed in the wrong location. They possess the knowledge of local and site specific nuances a newbie gardener or new to our region gardener simply does not. This alone is a considerable value.

Some complain that garden centers are more expensive. This is true, per plant, but I have found that the overall cost balances out over time and the benefits are worth it. I have had fewer plant failures which saves time, supplies and the integrity of your design. When there is a failure – and it will happen – the warranty is often double of what a box store might offer. I joined “Friends of Fairview” and now get a two-year warranty on trees and shrubs instead of the usual twelve months. Since my purchases are in their account database I have never needed a receipt to prove my purchase. Who keeps receipts and plant tags around for a year? Finally, don’t underestimate your savings on pest and disease control when you use the right plants in your landscape. Stressed plants attract more insects and disease.

A reputable garden center is DIY with a wingman. You get the cost savings of putting in the elbow grease with an experienced team by your side. They can be as involved (or not) as you prefer. Most offer home visits for a small fee, free design suggestions in-nursery, delivery, and planting services. We typically use in-nursery consultation and delivery of large trees but if we are planting anything in a container larger than fifteen gallons we don’t mind spending extra for someone else to put it in the ground. The cost is less than a round of chiropractic treatments and we can spend the difference on those steaks or veggie burgers on the grill. On Sunday.

Dearness Garden Center is located at 13501 Old Statesville Rd, Huntersville, NC 28078 (704) 875-8234 and services the greater Charlotte and Lake Norman areas; Fairview Garden Center is located at 8224 Holly Springs Rd, Raleigh, NC 27606 (919) 851-6821 and services the Triangle area. For more information about Fairview, click here.

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Author: Jennifer Bennington

Jennifer Bennington is a Realtor with Berkshire Hathaway Home Services and a freelance writer living in the Triangle with her husband, two children and two beautiful Shelties Originally from California, she has enjoyed exploring and discovering the Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill area and loves sharing "Tips" from the place she proudly calls home.;


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