I have searched for several years for a single, simple, intuitive resource on landscape design in Florida without much success. For this reason, I recommend that people utilize several resources before making a decision:
- It is unlikely that you will get much inspiration just from reading a book or Web page (including this one) or even listening to ideas from a landscape designer or someone at a local nursery. Landscape design is a very visual art and you need to get out and "see" it to become inspired. The next time you are driving or walking through a neighborhood and you find your attention drawn to a house, stop and try to figure out what makes the home design so appealing. This is a great way to discover what you like and don't like in landscape design. For further inspiration visit your local public gardens or take a sponsored garden tour. One thing to keep in mind - many of these show piece gardens focus on designs that require significant time, effort and experience to maintain. To keep things in perspective I especially like the Discovery Garden at the Hillsborough County IFAS Extension Office, because it emphasizes practical, easy to maintain gardens.
For some visual suggestions of interesting home gardens in Florida try Ricky's Garden. Also, I put together some pictures tracking the installation of landscaping around my home in Lithia.
- At the outset you need to decide whether you want instant gratification or are willing to work with Nature for a few years to find a good solution. If you want instant landscaping, then go visit a good local nursery, find a landscape designer that you like, and take out a bank loan to pay for the installation. If you take this approach, make sure you have a clear idea of what you like so that you can give the landscape designer a good sense of your goals and dreams. If you are willing to be patient and defer your gratification, then be prepared to fiddle with your landscape for several years in search of the perfect combination of plants and design. The cost of this "patient" garden is usually far less than the instant garden, unless you figure in the copious amount of "sweat" equity you will put into planting, replanting and replanting again.
- Keep in mind that plants grow - duh! What you plant today will change significantly in five years. Unless you are willing to continually relocate plants as they push each other aside or demand different growing conditions, you need to allow for enough space for the plants to grow. You also have to plan on moving many of your plants as you enhance and experiment with the layout and you better understand their needs. The instant gratification approach can prove costly in the long run as large shrubs and trees begin to compete for space and in some cases ruin the original design. Conversely, the patient approach will likely yield a pleasing garden in time, but you will have to resign yourself to living with an incomplete garden for a year or two.
- Join one of the gardening forums on the Web (Dave's Garden or Garden Web are great places to start). They will provide you with lots of ideas and are an excellent resource for answering your questions. For example, take a picture of the area you wish to landscape, post it on the Gardening in Florida forum on Garden Web, ask for suggestions and watch the ideas pour in.
- Do some research:
- Here are some good Internet resources on landscape design:
- The following are books on landscape design that may give you some ideas:
- Gardening and Landscaping in Central Florida by Marlys Bell. By far the best source for detailed advice on how to grow plants in Central Florida. My only criticism is that the pictures, while plentiful, do not really show off the color and diversity of the gardens in this area.
- Tropical Garden Design by Made Wijaya. Gorgeous pictures, great narrative, full of ideas. More importantly, it is a challenging book that confronts the dilemma of creating a place for enjoyment in an environment that can never be controlled.
- Designing Your Gardens and Landscapes by Janet Macunovich. This is a good basic tutorial on design concepts and techniques. While it is not very inspiring, it does a good job laying out a structured process for designing your home garden.
- Landscaping with Tropical Plants by Monica Brandies. While it provides a good introduction to gardening with tropical plants, I found myself frequently asking for more details and insight while I was reading the book. If you are looking for specific ideas on how to garden with tropical plants in Central Florida, I would start with Marlys Bell's book listed above.