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The Lifespan of Your Landscape: How Long Will It Last?

Push the boundaries with regular care and maintenance

By Nick DiBenedetto

Landscapes last forever, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be beautiful forever.

Every landscape hosts a living, breathing ecosystem, and the plant materials in them can last for a wide range of years. 

Yet many of us treat them like they’ll stay looking beautiful for decades on end. I’m here to tell you that they won’t — at least, they won’t without regular care. Here’s why.

Men landscaping

The car analogy: Don’t take a “set & forget” approach.

Landscapes are a lot like cars: You buy a car (or have a landscape installed) and it looks great for a few years. You regularly maintain it, changing oils and fluids at the called-for intervals, replacing parts when needed, and lovingly giving it washes on a weekly basis. No wonder it lasts you over 15 years. 

While landscapes aren’t totally the same, they’re similar. These natural wonders grow and thrive under regular maintenance, and typically reach a “peak,” both visually and in terms of growth. Even with skilled care and maintenance, they start to decline between the years 15–20 of age.

Plants lose their robustness, some start to grow less vigorously, some die off completely and, overall, the whole landscape begins to look “tired.” (Not unlike those “beater” cars and jalopies that start rusting out or losing major components after 15 years on the road.)

Even with regular maintenance, many of us take a “set & forget” approach to landscapes. If the grass is cut and fertilized, edges maintained, gardens mulched, flowers dead-headed and the perennials come back year after year… we just leave them be.

But I want to tell you upfront that this is a bad way to look at it. All organic matter has a “shelf life” (even us humans) before declining. For most plants, you’re looking at 10–20 years. After that time frame, you should revisit the overall design and look of your landscape.

A case study: Ipswich Country Club

Ipswich Country Club is a private golf club and residential community that has been a client of ours for over a decade.

At the beginning of our relationship, it quickly became clear that their front entryways needed to be refreshed. The plant material was entering its peak — flowers were no longer as vigorous and the years of pruning were starting to show. Overall, it looked tired.

We worked with the client to recalibrate and refurbish their hardscape, drainage and lighting — and redesigned the gardens after over 20 years of the existing “same old.”

Today, residents and visitors alike comment on the outstanding beauty of the grounds as well as the timely and efficient maintenance of the landscape. (In 2015, we were awarded the Institute of Real Estate Manager (IREM) Landscape Award for our work there, too.)

You can read more about it here.

So how can I keep my landscape beautiful forever?

In order to have an outdoor space that stands the test of time, you need to have it professionally designed and maintained.

The life of your garden can be prolonged in many ways. The most common are:

  • Dividing perennials to keep them growing vigorously. By separating overcrowded plants, there is less competition for nutrients and water. It also rejuvenates the plant and stimulates new growth. And the increased airflow means less disease.
  • Dead-heading — removing old blooms — from perennials and annuals allows the plant to redirect energy to new buds and blooms.
  • Removing weeds, applying herbicides and removing dead or diseased plant material.
  • Regular mulching applications — mulch protects your plants from the cold, acts as a weed deterrent and keeps the soil moist so there is less stress on your garden when the weather is dry.
  • Add compost, fertilizer or other nutrients to ensure your garden is a good place for plants to grow!

All of these items are included in our Silver and Gold Landscape Management Plans for commercial clients and can be included as part of a residential property care package.

While professional landscape design can set you up for success from the very beginning and proper maintenance will keep things beautiful, as we mentioned, all organic matter has a lifespan. The softer parts of your landscape, like the gardens and trees, will need to be refreshed every 15–20 years.

You should consider adding new plantings at this interval as well as enhancements like garden expansions, new pathways or annual flower (seasonal color) installations.

It’s a lot to take in, but our team is happy to help you. Set up a consultation today and let’s chat about how to keep your landscape beautiful for a long time!

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