7 Landscaping Mistakes Professional Landscapers See All the Time

updated Jan 15, 2020
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When a landscape designer drives through town, she or he sees it all: trees planted too close to the house, uncared-for fencing, cheap materials that drag down the curb appeal. Here are seven errors that really stick out for three Los Angeles-area landscape designers and architects.

Lack of maintenance 

Keeping your yard looking fresh is just as important as making sure it’s designed well in the first place, says Jenny Jones, senior landscape designer at Terremoto Landscape Architecture. She calls weeding free stress relief, but “if you don’t have time to take care of your own garden, please know the value of a well-trained and well-paid gardener,” she says. 

Credit: Foras Studio

Going too big

“Subtlety is okay,” says Jones. “Don’t be seduced by showy plants you see on the internet or at the nursery. We see a lot of gardens populated with plants that are inappropriate, either because they are invasive, poisonous, or are simply out of context.” Feather grass and fire sticks may be beautiful, but they don’t belong in your garden, she says—feather grass is invasive, and the sap from the aptly-named fire stick can leave you burned. 

Heavy-handed pruning

“Pruning is an art,” says Jones. And just like trimming bangs, it’s easy to take off too much too fast. “We cringe when we see natives sheared like boxwood, plants that are cut back so they don’t intermingle, and trees that are rudely trimmed,” she says. “Take your time and be thoughtful about it.”

Credit: Sotheby's

Idolizing Pinterest

Jones is anti-pinning. While Pinterest can be great for inspiration, those images are divorced from the reality of your home and your climate. “Good design looks at the space and the house and the climate, sees the vibe,” says Isabelle Dahlin, the woman behind the design studio Dekor, which does landscape design as well as interior design and staging. “Then you choose plants accordingly.”

Planting for now and not for the future

It’s all about the “big reveal” in landscape design, says Dahlin. And that “big reveal” doesn’t come right away, or even shortly thereafter, she says: “People want it to be so perfect when you install, but you have to give it six months to grow.”

Credit: shippee

Mixing too many colors

All too often, homeowners do too much color mixing in both their hardscaping and landscaping, says Dahlin. One no-no is using warm woods with cool stone. “People don’t think about how the stone will look,” says Dahlin. In terms of your plants, “try to keep the palette to three,” she says. 

Going with one-hit wonders

Dahlin encourages people to repeat plants across the landscape: “You can do six of one, and six of the other.” What you shouldn’t do, she says, is plant just one of something. It’s also a pet peeve of Marc Delouvrier, senior landscape architect at AECOM. “It all comes back to continuity and design,” he says. “People do one-offs, and it does the design a disservice. The item could be really cool, maybe, if there was more of it.”