After pursuing a bachelor’s degree in fisheries and wildlife from Michigan State University, Amy Squires was asked the question, “How can I create a backyard haven that will promote wildlife?” She was intrigued and further pursued her education, earning a master’s degree in landscape architecture from the University of Michigan. Now a successful landscape architect, Squires’ passion lies with environmental sustainability and how one can transform their outdoor space into a wildlife sanctuary.
For those with a brown thumb, even you can design the garden of your dreams, according to Squires. It is important to ask questions, study your space and where the sun/shade appear in your yard. Squires recommends you experience your space before designing and explore the views from the inside to the outside. Do you want to see your kids playing outside or look out into a garden? Figure out your priorities before designing. Squires uses the SketchBook app with an electronic pen. The first year is crucial for plant life, so make sure to read plant journals and charts at your local garden center to properly plant your garden.
“When choosing a landscape to complement your home, there really is no one-size-fits-all,” Squires said. “The home’s architecture, the natural surroundings and your lifestyle should be woven into the surrounding landscape.” Squires spoke about three types of homes, giving landscape ideas for each.
Period style homes
For period style homes, the Georgian, Italianate, Craftsman or Cape Cod, gardens usually work the best. Squires explained, “Formal gardens being well rooted in history serve period homes well. ‘Formal’ does not necessarily mean having your own personal Versailles; rather, a formal landscape tends to draw from the use of symmetry, a central axis or defined garden beds. Think clipped boxwood hedges bordering a cottage garden bed. You can really play with color.”
When creating a garden for a modern home, Squires’ advice is to stick to the formal structure of the home. “A modern landscape lends itself well to the simple, straight lines of modern homes. Landscapes may still have a formal structure but have a more restricted palette either in color, form or texture. These landscapes favor structure over whimsy and lack the impressionistic color palette. Try planting plant varieties in large masses for impact.”
Mid-century modern homes
These homes are unique, and the landscape shouldn’t be any different. “These, too, have a minimalistic plant palette,” Squires said. “If the region supports, these homes do well with large statement plants and the use of negative space. But the use of native grasses does remarkably well. Explore the use of long lines to help strengthen the lines of the architecture.”
Plant options, structures and layout designs are endless, so do not be afraid to open yourself up to experimenting. If you just want something simple, the naturalistic or “modern prairie” garden is common and can be used for any type of home design. The most important thing about landscapes is to create something you love and to have fun while doing it.
Amy’s favorite garden picks
“These beauties are full of whimsy and come in many varieties. Kids love them!”
“Try using these in a spherical shape rather than a hedge for an updated look.”
“Beautiful upright maple with fall leaves that look like flames.”
Japanese forest grass
“Brightens up shady spots with a tropical-like lushness.”
“A happy flower with plenty of nostalgia.”
Purple moor grass
“Has a wonderful vertical structure with delicate seed heads that seem to dance in the sun.”