How to plan for new house - also some wetland

MojaveLove(5 - IL)May 26, 2012

My husband and I just bought an acre of land that we will build our home on in about two years. I know a lot about specific types of plants but in reality I don't know much about landscaping and how to even go about it. I would like to become and "expert" on this so I know what types of plants work for our yard and how to keep it economical. Where do I start?

Also, our land is up high and slopes down into a massive wetland. Part of our property is called "outer wetland", whatever that means. I don't know if i can touch anything there or not, or if if I could add wetland plants there. This would probably affect our garden, even though we are much higher up than the wetland? I would like to hear your thoughts. Anyone here have land similar to mine?

I know that I asked some pretty broad questions, so I hope that allowed for any open discussion. I'm probably going to be around here a lot planning, so nice to meet you all.

A side thought - there isn't much in terms of trees on the property, at the very back (bottom?) of it there are some and then there are some in the wild jungle (the yard is not grass right now) that look to be young trees but I haven't the faintest idea if they are or not. I'd like to plant some to get them a two year head start but I hesitate. I'm big on planning and would hate to just put them in random places.

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I always enjoyed working with clients in this type of situation. There are numerous ways to save dollars if one considers every detail during the planning process. It sounds as though you have an interesting site. First order of business is to build a home that fits the site. No off the shelf building plan here, do it right. Hire an architect.
And while you are at it, tell the architect you want to build a house that requires no landscaping. This is not such a crazy idea. Doesn't mean that you are not going to landscape, but it does leave you with a finished looking house, not a sore thumb sitting on a hilltop looking naked into the wind.

Right now you are in the stage of owning a bit of space and the feeling that we must fill it up. Go slowly here. Let's address this slope and wild swamp area. Do you enjoy that view? If so, keep it. Leave it alone. Write into the building contract that the slope is not to be disturbed so you are not left with a eroding hillside dumping silt into the swamp. This type of problem can be very costly. These builders can be forced to tread lightly during the construction process. As building plans are developing the best dollars you can spend is to bring your architect and a landscape architect together on site for an hour's consultation. Include the builder, if possible. Yup, you will probably ignore this bit of advice. Most posters here do. Reconsider. Over and over we see builder caused pictures and problems posted on this Forum.

These are only a few minimal thoughts addressing your question. I am certain there will be lots more ideas from others.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2012 at 5:48PM
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I always thought of an "outer wetland" as a somewhat protected and protective buffer zone - you definitely should find out what you can and cannot do in and around it. Adding or subtracting something could well alter the delicate balance of a wetland.

We here in Minnesota only have to look at some of our beautiful lakes, streams, and marshes to see what lythrum salicaria has done.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2012 at 6:14PM
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MojaveLove(5 - IL)

Thanks for the responses! My husband is a carpenter/general contractor/high-rise builder, and his family is filled with people in the building trade. We're fortunate, and he and family members will fill the roles of builder and architect. Landscaping is completely up to me!

Yes, the wetland view is beautiful and will be the main focus. Below is a picture of the view and you can see the angle of the slope on the right of the picture.

This isn't the whole parcel but is basically what the whole thing looks like.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2012 at 6:38PM
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Where is north?Where is the road?

    Bookmark   May 26, 2012 at 8:05PM
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    Bookmark   May 26, 2012 at 8:25PM
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I have to say that this is the most wonderful title "Where is north?Where is the road?" is exactly what I was thinking when I saw those pictures.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2012 at 8:39PM
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deviant-deziner(Oh zone)

If you want to become an expert then start with understanding what you have to work with by a visit to your local planning department and asking for the laws governing your outer wetland.

You're going to find that you have a substantial amount of responsibilities, protections, and restrictions to comply with when working on and adjacent to wetlands property.

After getting over the shock of what you can and can not do on your property then you might find your local community college a good resource for learning about your local ecology and appropriate horticultural selection.

It takes years to become an expert in just about any field so in view of how important this investment of property is going to be to you, I would not hesitate to hire the appropriate professionals and consultants .

    Bookmark   May 26, 2012 at 8:48PM
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OMG! Thomas Kinkade lives in the wetlands of my heart!

Who needs a road when you've got the yellow brick... did someone run off with the gnome in the circle - will he be sending me pictures of his European travels?

    Bookmark   May 26, 2012 at 9:04PM
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There are not any circle sidewalk.Some people always are waiting,keep an eye on his/her thread in an hours.I try to response quickly.For saving my time,I post the un-render pic.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2012 at 10:03PM
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Every novice thinks that horticulture is the essence of landscape design, but it's only one component of many. A good landscape design is the result of a process that progresses through a logical series of steps beginning with site inventory and ending with construction documents. At all times, the designer must keep in mind that his end goal is not just a work of engineering, architecture or horticulture... but one of ART. ...Not fine art--which can be impractical and vain--but of functional, useful art. It must make sense! Because the work of art must be maintained throughout its life, the design process must take into account its long term maintenance considerations.

Truthfully, it is doubtful that anyone could become an "expert" at creating their first landscape design. Without experience, it would be difficult to have fluent understanding of the number of materials and processes that were involved. The good news is that one can get help, and a landscape can fall short of perfection and still be wonderful! Many people focus and obsess predominantly on the horticultural aspect of landscape design, pay minimal attention to the rest and are quite content. But paying attention also to the architectural and engineering aspects of the design will produce the best result. As a person controlling the artistic results of a landscape design, it is more important to make practical problem-solving always look good than it is to have flashes of brilliance and the ability to create inspiring fine art. However, having that ability, too, does not hurt!

An important aspect of creating a landscape design is the ability to draw. Drawing & sketching on a scale plan is how you'll work out ideas and then save them for eventual implementation. Unless you already have experience with computer drawing, it will probably be more intuitive and productive to work with paper, pencil and tracing paper. While you can work at whatever scale suits, 1" = 8' is probably one that will be manageable and allow for sufficient detail. Change scales to suit your needs. Begin by creating a base plan that shows property boundaries and existing permanent features. Indicate the direction North. Use copies of this plan as the basis for the other plans that build on and eminate from it.

What will be immensely helpful to you is to begin an immediate study and observation of landscapes built by others. It'll not only help you develop a knack for discerning between what works, looks good and what doesn't, it'll also save you from "re-inventing the wheel." While botanical and other gardens can help you see what's available for the working "pallette," it is finished landscapes that will give you practical ideas. Everywhere you go, start observing how the world is put together. Visiting remarkable sites where landscape design is highly regarded will be beneficial. (Williamsburg, Va. is an example of one that was inspirational for me.) While nothing can take the place of personal visits, studying landscape design in photographs will help.

One tip: never hesitate to seek constructive criticism on anything that you're less than 100% sure about. Develop the ability to manage the criticism. (Not all "constructive" criticism will be constructive, valid or useful.)

Design process organization (not every aspect of this would be highly formalized for someone doing their own work; some components would be optional) (tab indent formatting did not carry through but, hopefully, you can make sense of the list anyway.):



design concept / master plan

hardscape design (construction drawings & specs.)

earthworks and grading
retaining walls, steps & railings
hydrology... water flow and drainage
utility routing

siting of architectural structures
paving... soft and hard... walks, drives, patio and utility
decks... above grade floor surfaces
free-standing walls
water features
entertainment and recreational features
audio sound
plant support structures
shelter from climate and sun
art display
view & privacy screening
physical barriers & security features

planting design (construction drawings & specs.)

plant materials
plant maintenance considerations
planting containers
plant maintenance specifications (these are usually worked out by the owners
as they do the maintenance but must be considered as the design develops.)

    Bookmark   May 27, 2012 at 12:04PM
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I tired native style.I like prehistory,exotic.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2012 at 7:29PM
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I have nothing of value to add....previous posts nailed all the salient points and very well, too. I just wanted to say that very few responses to ANY posting on GW make me laugh out loud. This one managed to do so.

Good luck with your project. Once you get involved with it, you'll find the entire process quite addicting.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2012 at 7:56PM
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Politeness and tolerant and free and quickly response are very important.Our many years contributes get more popular.I really expect the forum have 50 millions members.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2012 at 12:52AM
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Perhaps the following considerations should be added to the early plans. Low lying swampy area appears to be a perfect environment for mosquitoes and/or deer fly, black fly. Maybe screen porches might be desirable? Also looks like prime deer browsing territory. This would seriously affect your landscape and plant choices.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2012 at 10:03AM
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I would do nothing to that view. Its beautiful..

So that said, I would design the house to fit the property.
Find out where it will sit on the lot and then put in the landscaping after the house is built. You might need to grade after the house is built to allow rain to runoff and if you are on septic, you will have to know where your drain field is going to be if you have a septic system. pre-planted Trees might get in the way of the grading and drain fields have to go in where the ground perks, which is not always where you want it.

Also, one of the members here suggested building a house that "stands alone" I agree. Most of the time, we put bushes up against a house to hide the foundation or soften the lines because we find them ugly. A house that fits the land and has beautiful lines does not need a lot of covering up. I once saw a house that had the new roof shingles, trim and siding match burgundy leafed trees (sand cherry and japanese maples?) in their yard. (shingles were dark burgundy as was the trim and the siding color was in light matching tones) The property was a show stopper just based on the choice of color.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2012 at 10:15AM
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Usually,after design your house you design the garden again.But same time designing the house and garden,even the house match gardening,first design the garden then house,get nice effect sometime.especially when you have a big land.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2012 at 6:42AM
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