Home Landscape Design Workshop, Saturday, May 18th at UNF

By Laurie Sheldon

Before digging into this topic, I'd like to rewind just a touch. I was initially asked to write a blog that would give a bit more detail about the content of the workshop I'd be co-presenting with Jake Ingram at this year's conference. This reminded me of the old adage "why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?" Let's face it - if I was to blog about everything we'd be covering before we cover it, there would be little reason to attend (aside from checking out my awesome PowerPoint.) That said, Ginny Stibolt, my friend and fellow FNPS blogger, suggested that, rather than focusing on the "whats" of the workshop, I should concentrate on the "whys" - specifically, why both homeowners and Landscape Architects/Designers should attend. Here’s the relatively brief version...

Good Landscape Design Ain't Easy
There's more to Landscape Design than meets the eye.
That's right, contrary to popular belief (and the myriad guerrilla-style landscape makeovers you've seen on TV), Landscape Architects have a tough job. In fact, it takes more schooling to become a Landscape Architect than it does to become an Architect. Why? Well, let's see... for starters, buildings don't grow and move once they're built. Yes, there's settling, and if you live in California, there's some plate shifting to deal with, but the overall form of the structure is static. Geez, so don't be nit-picky. Landscapes, on the other hand, never stop moving, growing, changing shape and color, responding to temperature, soil structure, moisture, sunlight, blah blah blah. Like I said, it's not easy. Why, then, do people with little or no knowledge of these processes and their effects on specific plant material think they can just hop on over to a big-box store and become magically transformed into fabulous Landscape Designers? I guarantee that the same people would not enter a lumber yard and think, "hey - I'd bet I can design my own house," then get a cart and start loading up on 2x4s and plywood. And, as I just mentioned - IT'S EASIER TO DESIGN A HOUSE. So I guess my point here is that it takes a lot more than a weekend of watching HGTV to understand the ins and outs of Landscape Design. If you come to our workshop, we'll get you headed in the right direction.

Layout and Plant Material
I like to walk, not only for the health benefits, but also to have a gander at what’s going on in peoples’  yards. After many years of walking and looking, it occurred to me that nearly all residential landscapes fall into one of four categories based on layout and plant material:

1. The “Let’s See What Happens” (no discernible landscape plan, random/non-native plant material)
In this landscape, a homeowner has apparently purchased exotic plants, one at a time, thrown a coin in the air and stuck the plant in the ground wherever the coin landed. No two species are the same, plants are often wilting or smothering one another from poor selection/placement/spacing, they are not grouped to guide the eye, and create no semblance of balance. While this landscape does not create “curb appeal,” it certainly CURBS THE APPEAL of the home it flanks.
"Let's See What Happens"; photo by L. Sheldon
2. The “Native Free-for-All” (no discernible landscape plan, all or almost all native plant material)
In this landscape, the homeowner has carefully selected native plants, and sited them appropriately. At the same time, the landscape lacks the cohesive design that would showcase these specimens. Further, there are probably way too many types of plants to make maintenance an easy task. A collection of assorted plants does not a landscape make.
"Native Free-for-All"; photo by L. Sheldon
3. The “Model Home” (comprehensive landscape plan, ornamental, non-native plant material)
This landscape was designed by a Landscape Architect. It enhances the appearance of the site’s structures, uses compatible hardscape materials, provides for circulation, and incorporates program elements like a pool and playset. The plants it contains were selected for their cultural requirements and overall aesthetic appearance.
"Model Home"; photo by L. Sheldon
4. The “Native by Design” (comprehensive landscape plan, all or almost all native plant material)
This landscape was also designed by a Landscape Architect, and meets all of the same criteria as the “Model Home” as far as aesthetics, circulation, hardscape and program elements are concerned. Unlike #3, its plants were selected from a native palette. 
"Native by Design"; photo by J. Ingram
Unless your landscape looks like #4, you could probably benefit from attending our workshop.
Landscape Function
Does it really matter that much if the plants are native, as long as they are aesthetically pleasing and appropriately sited? Why is “Native by Design” the way to go? The answer lies within the concept of function.

A whole network of plants, animals and insects were co-evolving in your backyard long before you arrived. The plants provided shelter and food for the critters, and the critters facilitated the plants’ pollination. It was a win-win. Weaker species fell by the wayside through process of natural selection, and what remained were the well-oiled machines that ecologists refer to as communities. Europeans effectively threw a monkey wrench in the machine when they jumped that giant ditch called the Atlantic Ocean and schlepped in bits and pieces of the natural communities that thrived in their countries of origin. Party foul!
When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe. - John Muir
The crux of what I am getting at here is that plants aren’t just like jewelry for your house. They are critical to the functionality of Florida's ecosystems and the food chain. So unless the ultimate goal is to choke the life out of all the insects, birds, and mammals that were living here before Ponce De Leon planted his flag, designers need to turn to the native palette for plant material. By selecting natives, we breathe life into our landscapes by default.

Why everyone should attend
We hope to introduce everyone who comes to our workshop to a new way of thinking about design. Homeowners will learn a ton about the design process and how functional, aesthetically pleasing landscapes are created. Landscape Architects - you can benefit from our run-down of easy-to-grow natives for northeast Florida, which we encourage you to incorporate into future projects. Rest assured, Jake and I will deliver a workshop that will be both informative and entertaining. We’ll even dance for you if you ask us nicely!

Event Specifics
Who: YOU!
What: Home Landscape Design Workshop
When: Saturday, May 18th, 12:50 P.M. to 2:45 P.M.
Where: University of North Florida, Herbert University Center
12000 Alumni Drive, Jacksonville, FL 32224
Registration in Main Lobby
Workshop in Rm. 1058-2
Why: Didn’t I just go through that?
How Much: $25


I hope this workshop was really good enough and help many people to decide right design for their homes.
The Jolly Bloggers said…
Indeed, it was very well received. Thanks for your comment!
House Extension said…
I missed this home landscape design workshop an i feel really bad for it. Where can i get complete information about this workshop ??
The Jolly Bloggers said…
Hi there,
Did you sign up and pay for the course? If so, you should have been emailed several pdf(s) with the course content.
Is this workshop still open? I hope it's still open :)
Do they have a website for this business for more details?
Hi there! Unfortunately, the workshop was a one-time presentation in conjunction with the conference. If you follow us on Facebook, we post info about other native plant workshops as we are made aware of them. Sorry you missed it - it was great!
Unknown said…
Hello there, I was looking for a landscape design newton ma and I came across your blog, very informative and entertaining, it shows that your an expert in your field.
I will definitely be back for more. Keep it up!
The Jolly Bloggers said…
Thanks, Layne. We try to keep the tone light around here... Reading about design SHOULD be fun! I appreciate the compliment. Sincerely.
Oh, this workshop sounds great. Where can we find some more informations about this stuff?
C said…
Hello! I also missed the landscape workshop and really want to go. Would the course materials be made available to purchase in the future so more people can benefit?

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