This backyard utilizes stone, strategic planting and sitting areas. COURTESY OF CHARLES SEHA
This backyard utilizes stone, strategic planting and sitting areas. COURTESY OF CHARLES SEHA
Editor’s note: Veteran landscape designer, garden builder and stone mason Charles Seha grew up in the Fillmore County vicinity and has returned to the county to live. As throughout his career, he remains focused on using the natural plants and look of an area for landscaping. Examples of his projects can be seen online at, while a variety of photos showing Seha’s designs accompany this piece. When Bluff Country Newspaper Group reporter Lisa Brainard asked about considerations a property owner should make before doing a landscape or garden project, Seha responded in part by putting his thoughts together in this list of issues and problems in residential landscape design, as well as ideas to help remedy many of them.

Insufficient transition from architecture to landscape.

No relationship to context.

Lack of adequate drainage away from buildings, finished elevation is too high adjacent to the foundation. Grading is simple and basic; water flows downhill. Start here.

Over dominance of the automobile on the site.

Over planting of the foundation. Too much emphasis on foundation plantings with strangely shaped and colored plants. The nursery industry provides a constant supply of “freak show” plants. Keep it low, clean and simple. No upright plants immediately adjacent to the house. Color and interest should celebrate seasonality with events celebrated by bloom time fall color, winter interest, etc. Yellow foliage during the growing season implies plant sickness. Summer is summer. Fall is fall. Forget the red and purple foliage plants. It’s about nature. No matter how abstract.

Plantings lack theme. Varying textures convey artistic intentionality. Different species of the same texture in a composition give the planting a “weedy” look.

Fast growing trees have a short life. Don’t be tempted. Plant for future generations.

The mature sizes listed on shrub and tree tags are almost totally inaccurate. Plants don’t quit growing when they reach a certain size. Most plantings should start filling in until at least after three years. The plants’ natural form can be expressed if they have room to grow although many species should be massed for best effect.

The view from inside the home is of utmost importance, especially in temperate climates. If you don’t have a view from inside, make one.

Plant fruiting trees and shrubs.

Always create a private outdoor space.