Design Elements

Castle Rock Water has a ColoradoScape Design class to provide you with the insight to create a great landscape plan. Here are a few of those  steps, tips and considerations covered in that class.

Trees – the foundation of your design

  • Trees provide shade to plants reducing their need for water as well as providing cooling for sections of a house.
  • Use deciduous trees on the east, south and west sides of the house. These will provide shade during the summer and allow sun to come through bare branches during the winter.
  • Use evergreens for screening and winter interest.
  • Most trees need full sun.
  • Choose the tree color or variety according to the site location. Tree color considerations are bark, spring color, fall color, flowers and berries. If low maintenance is desired, choose trees evergreen trees that don’t lose their leaves or those that don’t have flowers or berries.
  • When planting trees, dig a hole 2-3 times the root ball. Remember to completely remove the burlap and wire mesh when planting. Amend the soil with 1/3 organic compost.
  • Keep tree stakes in place for only one year.
  • Wrap the trunk of newly planted deciduous trees for 3 years. Wrap only during the winter and remove each spring.
  • Don’t plant trees in areas that are smaller than 10 feet wide. Do not plant large trees closer than 10 feet to the house / structure due to root invasion, potential branch damage and fire prevention.
  • Space trees according to their size at maturity. Many trees will grow smaller than the mature size listed in books due to Castle Rock’s altitude and short growing season.
  • Consider the size and shape of trees. Upright evergreens are a good choice for added structure and come in a multitude of colors.
  • Typically, after establishment, trees should be watered about 15 gallons per inch of trunk diameter twice per month. The water should be applied at the drip line (the area of soil directly underneath the tips of the branches) extending about 5 to 10 feet beyond the drip line. This is commonly accomplished by converting an automatic spray irrigation system to a drip irrigation system that delivers water to the drip line and beyond.
  • Mulch with wood or bark to a depth of 4 inches. Keep the mulch 6 inches away from the trunk to prevent any moisture or mildew conditions. Plant sparingly under a tree as added moisture may produce trunk rot.
  • Rock mulch may produce too much heat for the tree, causing the soil to dry out.

Shrubs – the landscape background

  • Shrubs come in a large variety with some flowering, other evergreen and with great size differential. 
  • Plant shrubs outside of the drip zone of trees.
  • When using a shrub as a focal point, splurge on a bigger specimen.
  • Shrubs planted in mass are ideal for screening or dividing areas. While individual shrubs that have unique color or flowers are good for an individual focal point.
  • Some shrubs can be left alone for an informal look or pruned to be structured accent.
  • Don’t over plant woody shrubs. Overcrowding creates irregular growth and greater potential for disease. Be mindful of mature height and width when planning your garden.

Ornamental Grasses – provide texture and balance

  • Ornamental grasses, which are not meant to be mowed, provide seasonal interest with distinctive sprays and seed heads.
  • Grasses are ideal for creating height and texture to a design and are planted as a backdrop to perennials and annuals.
  • Dry ornamental grasses provide visual interest during winter.
  • Taller grasses, like Karl Forester, planted en masse, can create screening.
  • Grasses will need to be cut down near the base each spring.

Perennials and Annuals – add color

  • Perennials are herbaceous plants that come back every year. However, if the perennial is not winter-hardy, it could die at the end of the season and not grow back.
  • Plant perennials in front of the shrubs with the smallest ones in the front.
  • Use perennial flowers in close groupings to create a powerful effect. Grouping also keeps plant roots cooler and can reduce the need for water.
  • Choose flowers not only for their interest and color, but if they attract birds and butterflies.
  • Annuals are great for seasonal summer color and should fill in bare areas. Annual color is often achieved using planters and flower pots.
  • Deadheading flowers is removing the ‘spent’ flower and can promote additional blooms throughout the season.  

Ground Covers – a versatile plant

  • Plant ground cover in front of perennials and shrubs.
  • Ground covers can replace turf in low traffic areas.
  • Ground covers can be planted in the between stones in walkways and patios. Some provide a lovely aroma when stepped on.
  • Plant ground covers on steep slopes and hard to water areas.
  • After becoming established, ground covers require minimal water or care.

Vines – arbors create structure to a yard

  • Use arbors to create interest, block views, and build useful areas.
  • Vines take 2 to 3 years to become established.
  • Vines also have seasonal color and can sometimes be intermingled to provide continuous visual interest.

Lawns – have a place in some landscape design

  • Make your lawn purposeful instead of simply filling in space. Use it for a place to play for children and pets and replace it in areas to create more visual interest.
  • Castle Rock Water does provide a rebate for removal of high-water use turf. Learn more about our rebate program.
  • Install shade trees to provide shade for turf areas, reducing the need for water.
  • Look at alternative turf types. Hybrid grasses, a mix of bluegrass and fescue are replacing the high-water use Kentucky blue grass is most lawns. Look at other options such a Buffalo grass, a native to Colorado, is a beautiful soft blue-green color and takes less than half the water of blue grass. Dog Tuff is a local type that only grows 1.5 inches and is resistant to pet urine.

Rocks – as a design element

  • Consider purchasing large boulders to ‘ground’ the landscape design. 
  • Group various sized boulders together. Don’t be spotty with placement--think about how they appear in nature.
  • When using gravel and rock, break the area up with other design elements including boulders, mulched areas and plantings. Plant in both rocked areas and mulched areas. A well designed space should not be a sea of rock.
  • Use angular rock, such as crushed granite, on slopes and where people walk, as this type of rock tends to move less.
  • Dry creek beds can be a beautiful accent. Use different sizes of river rock to gain the effect. Consider placing this in areas that need drainage.
  • Pick rock color to accent the house or as a design statement.

Mulch – the finishing touch

  • Coordinate shape, color and function of your mulch with the plant types, trees and house color.
  • Mulches keep the soil cooler, reduces evaporation and minimizes weeds. You may need to fluff organic mulches to maintain air and water movement to the plant.
  • Organic mulches includes wood chips, chunk bark, shredded bark, pine needles, lawn clippings and straw. Organic mulches tend to provide nutrients for the soil, but will need to be replaced periodically. They should be 4 inches deep. In addition to having to replenish organic mulch, it can also blow away. Keep in mind, when installed directly onto the soil, verses on landscape fabric, mulch tends to adhere better to the soil, reducing loss from wind and run-off.
  • Inorganic mulches are stone-based and include rock, cobblestone, pea gravel, lava rock and crushed rock. They last longer than organic mulches, don’t blow away and many low hydro-zone xeriscape plants prefer gravel mulch. Apply 2 inches deep.
  • Rubber mulch is not recommended for planting areas as it can potentially leak harmful chemicals into the soil.
  • Do not install plastic landscape sheets as they will reduce the amount of air and water to plants. Landscape fabric can be used as a weed barrier, but it may reduce the growth and spreading of plants.
  • Douglas County provides a Slash Mulch Program where residents can drop off tree limbs and shrubs to be mulched and to pick up free wood chips.