Planting a Localscape

By Amanda Strack, Conservation Garden Park

There are five types of plants used in any home landscape, trees, shrubs, grasses, perennials, and groundcovers.  Using the right plants in the right places is the 5th and final step in creating a Localscape. To begin the planting design process, ask yourself what is the function that you wish the plants to fulfill?  Based on those needs select the appropriate plant and then arrange them accordingly.


Trees are the ceiling of any landscape.  They provide shade, create micro-climates, can deliver a passive solar effect, and offer privacy.  They don’t need to be watered as frequently as the lawn and can create maintenance and irrigation issues when they are grown with the lawn—so it’s best to avoid that practice when possible.  Trees should be planted at least six feet from fence lines and designed with their mature growth size in mind.  Arrange trees in the yard so that their shade can be utilized for seating or play areas.  Flowering trees add bursts of seasonal color and evergreens provide year-round interest.

Shrubs are the backbone of the landscape.  Their frames are left standing during the winter months when all perennials have died back, making the presence of shrubs imperative.  When selecting shrubs, focus first on the height, width, and light requirements of the plant and match them to the space available.  The secret to a “designer” landscape is foliage more than flowers.  Shrubs are a great place to explore contrast between leaf colors and shape and then the flowers will provide an exciting bonus.

Use shrubs around the perimeter of the landscape to create a sense of separation from the neighbors and around the foundation of the house to soften edges and frame in windows and doors.  Plant shrub groupings in odd numbers for best effect.


Ornamental grasses are a wonderful way to add movement and structure to your landscape.  Their seed heads provide food for foraging animals.  Grasses, like shrubs belong in the background of the landscape unless they are shorter than three feet.  Remember that as your eye moves around the landscape you want to be able to see all around so for this purpose, tallest plants remain in the back.

Perennials are the remainder of the plants in the landscape.  Select them for their bloom time, flower color, fragrance, height, and water requirement.  Perennials belong in the foreground unless they are taller than three feet.  They can border walk ways, lawn areas, gathering areas, and activity zones.  They are the best choice for the plants in the park strip as well.  These too should be used in repetition and in odd numbered arrangements.  Use the same colors in bursts throughout the landscape.  You don’t have to use the same plant everywhere but use plants with similar colors so you create uniformity and cohesiveness in the landscape.

Groundcovers are the carpet of the landscape.  Groundcover offers texture, softening of hardscaped areas, and a cooling effect to the ground.  They can be used as a living mulch or even as a no mow lawn.  Use in park strips, under trees, bordering walk ways, and throughout planter beds.  Wherever you use them, give them plenty of space to spread and enjoy the outcome.

Plant selection part can feel overwhelming but remember that if a plant doesn’t work in a specific area, it can always be moved to another.  For more planting ideas, follow the Conservation Garden Park on Facebook.