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If something is worth doing, it's worth evaluating afterward. Was it worth the effort and investment? The same goes for your garden and landscape. Were you pleased this season, and if not, why not? In the case of flower beds and borders, a major factor is size -- whether that garden suits your space and your life.

Too much to handle?

No matter how valid the designer's intentions, no matter how wonderful your plant collections, none of it matters if you can't keep up with it. If it has become a chore, then simplify. This can mean removing some plants that require tending, and adding more of the easiest ones. For example, in Niagara Square, Buffalo-in-Bloom volunteers may stop putting in and taking out Cannas every season, and replace them with ornamental grasses or dependable perennials. Perhaps you have to keep adding tulips every year, which tend to diminish and the squirrels dig them, so you might switch to more daffodils -- which spread easily and deter squirrels. And if your shrubs or hedges need frequent pruning, consider replacing them with naturally low-growing dwarf conifers or flowering shrubs.

If your plants please you but are just too much of a good thing, make notes now and plan to share desirable ones with friends or community gardens. If yours aren't share-worthy, late fall is a fine time to remove and compost plants, prepare and cover the soil, and be ready for a spring planting of ground-covers or grass next spring. Remember, though, that lawn can be the highest maintenance planting of all, so you might stick with easy perennials or a simple well-mulched shrub.

Wrong size, wrong shape

Design professionals know that there are proportionate sizes and shapes that complement houses. You may recognize poor designs yourself. A common mistake is planting dinky rows of flowers along the front of massive homes, or thin line-ups of "foundation plants" under the windows. (Mistake number two is not accounting for plant sizes: They grow 10 feet tall by 8 feet wide, but they're under the window and 2 feet apart!) For visual appeal and good horticulture, the solution is more planting area, not less -- perhaps a much larger bed skirting the home or flanking the entrance. And if the plantings are too much for the home -- the height, the variety of plants, the colors, the number of small beds or just too many decorations -- then it is time to cut back and simplify. Fewer plants, fewer beds, fewer ornaments might mean less effort, a much better look or both.

Think about it

Your gardens and landscape contribute greatly toward the value and beauty of your home, so learn more and make smart decisions. Get professional, educated advice (check Garden Notes for listings). And as you turn your attention to indoor comforts, take one more look outside to assess your yard -- what you did, how it looked and how you feel about it. The time to plan is now.
Sally Cunningham is an educator in Consumer/Community Horticulture with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Erie County, and gardening book author.

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