10 Common Landscaping Mistakes

April 3, 2018

We all learn things the hard way sometimes, but that is not always necessary. If you plan things out, set goals, and budget accordingly for your landscape project, you’ll have a much better time than trying to piece things together. If you’re thinking of renovating your garden, here are 10 common landscaping mistakes to avoid.



  1. Scale: using materials that are too small/too big

Boulders, flagstone, and pots are a few common ones. Using materials that are out of scale, either too small or too big, will make the space feel busy or alternatively will make the space feel cramped or too full.

Tiny Steppers

Tiny Steppers

  1. Too many different materials

Material choices should be consistent with a cohesive theme. Using too many different materials or materials that do not coordinate makes the space look like it was pieced together with no intention or plan. This can make the space feel busy and smaller than it actually is. This can also be seen with too much variation in plant selection (i.e. if you only have specimen plants).

Too Many Material and Plant Choices

Too Many Material and Plant Choices Makes the Space Feel Busy

  1. Piecing things together

Installing in phases is ok if the final outcome is always in mind and you plan accordingly. Piecing the landscape together can unintentionally lead to unnecessary costs and labor in working around previously completed elements or having to repair or re-do work.

  1. Trying too hard to keep existing elements

Sometimes it is easier to start fresh. Elements that look fine initially when they are the best part of a not-so-great garden can become the worst part of a fresh new space. Be very selective in the items you choose to keep- make sure they are worth it. This includes both hardscaping elements and plants.

  1. Only planning for 1 season

This can mean too much deciduous, too much evergreen, or an over abundance of one season of interest. This can be a product of retail nursery shopping as they showcase only the plants that look best that time of year. If you only buy the plants that look great in spring, it is likely that your garden will only look great in spring and be lacking the remainder of the year.


Not having a detailed plan – Having a detailed plan can cure most, if not all, of these common mistakes.


  1. Not using good / enough soil

Soil is the foundation of any garden. Without good soil, plants will not thrive. Good soil can also alleviate many drainage problems as well (a plus in the northwest!)

  1. Mulching too deep around plants

Let those poor plants breath. Mulching too high especially around trees and woody shrubs will hold moisture around the crown of the plant and cause rot and eventually strangle the poor plant. Mulching is a great way to refresh the garden, add nutrients, help soil retain moisture, and suppress weeds so don’t skip it, just be mindful.

Bad and Good Mulching

Bad and Good Mulching

  1. Planting too close to the house

Plants are living things that will continue to grow, knowing the plants mature size and placing it accordingly can be critical. Shrubs too close to a house can hold moisture against the siding causing rot, or they can die because they are under the eve and do not get enough water. Planting trees too close can cause damage to the foundation due to root growth or to eves and gutters as the tree gets taller.

Tree Planted Too Close to House

Tree Planted Too Close to House

  1. Not spacing plants properly for growth and planting thugs (invasive and difficult to manage plants)

Again, knowing the plants mature size will help to keep future maintenance down as many improperly placed plants will need to be pruned continually to keep them from growing to their mature size. There are also high maintenance plants that are very difficult to manage, and we call these garden thugs. This can be a groundcover that spreads aggressively, grasses that run and reseed, or trees that sucker.

Plants Spaced Too Close

Plants Spaced Too Close

  1. Solid surfaces with too steep of a slope

There are acceptable ranges for degree of slope based on the material. Typically, it is pathways where this is disregarded to try to eliminate the need for steps. Flagstone is one of the more challenging ones as it gets slippery and at a slope can be hazardous. The more texture or grit the surface of the material is, the steeper the tolerable slope can be, but still within reason.

Flagstone on Steep Slope

Flagstone on Steep Slope


Selecting cheap materials to save money. Quality materials typically last longer (you get what you pay for). A common one we see is solar lights. It is cheaper and easier to light your landscape with solar lights, but the life span of the fixtures and the quality of light output is significantly lower than even a low end, low voltage fixture. If you are going to invest in your garden, we always advise to do it right the first time.

We hope you found this list helpful and insightful. Are there other common pitfalls and mistakes that should be avoided? Let us know of any others you think should be added to this list!


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