MyHomeIdeas (MHI): How did you get into the field of landscape architecture?
Rodney H. Porter (RHP): I grew up playing in the woods of North Asheville (North Carolina). My childhood home was built in 1920, and the landscape was so intriguing. In my older years, I spent every available hour working in the yard and my parents' garden.
Once I graduated from college with degrees in Spanish and Geology, I did not feel satisfied. I worked for a surveyor for a year and realized that I wanted to use my passion for the outdoors in a more constructive manner, and that is when I went and got a Masters in Landscape Architecture from the University of Georgia.
MHI: What is the most common mistake you see homeowners make when they're remodeling their outdoors?
RHP: I think one of the most common mistakes is choosing the wrong plant for the wrong location. The proper placement of plants ensures survivability as well as better defining the usable space.
MHI: What are easy fix-ups that can be incorporated to give a home instant curb appeal?
RHP: Provide colorful beds, update planters, and make sure the lawn is green and weed free.
MHI: If a homeowner is selling a house, what key elements of landscape should they address first?
RHP: (In addition to colorful beds, planters, and healthy grass), make sure shrubs are healthy and pruned up, and beds are mulched and edged. These are easy things to do and will provide instant buyer appeal.
If there are bare areas in a yard (areas with too much sun), it might be worthwhile to have some shrubs and trees installed. The cost of a shrub or tree might be worth it to get a house sold in poor market conditions.
MHI: Are there any secrets to a lush, thriving lawn?
RHP: Soil preparation, selection of proper lawn species, and a proper maintenance schedule based on the lawn selection (mowing schedule, water schedule, and aeration schedule). In many instances, if you have a lawn that is grown or installed on healthy soils, it will do very well on its own. Lower quality soils might require additional fertilization and aeration.
MHI: How do you decide what to design for a new client? What are key factors that you address?
RHP: We first address the needs. Do we need to look at problematic drainage areas? Do we need to retain earth? Do we need to restore any space? Then we look at the wants and needs of the client. The landscape should address its surroundings and its use. You might also have to follow strict design guidelines established by architectural review organizations.
MHI: If a homeowner is ready to redo their landscape, where should they start? What should they be prepared to tell their landscape architect?
RHP: Create a list of ideas and areas of concern. Pull out pictures from magazines and visit neighbors' yards, local gardens, and local nurseries. Then set a budget. Hopefully a landscape architect can take all of the ideas and compile them into a reasonable and budget-minded approach.
MHI: What should a homeowner do to save on watering costs? What are easy ways to cut down on lawn care?
RHP: Go native. Native plants require less water to get established and need less maintenance. That is an easy one. Plant lawns that don't require constant mowing and plant more perennial beds and grasses that typically can establish themselves without lots of hands-on care.
MHI: What is one thing a landscape can't live without?
RHP: That is a tough question. It certainly depends on the landscape direction. I would have to say a canopy tree on one end, and then perennials on the other. Lastly, a landscape can't survive without its ability to please its users. When homeowners are pleased with their surroundings, they take better care and make it more personal.
--Rodney H. Porter, RLA, ASLA, LaQuatra Bonci Associates
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