Home Page
Order Books
Featured Plants
Seasonal Advice
News Columns
Other Work

Book Signings and Lectures
by Monica Brandies


Would you like to be notified of new books or website updates?
Join our Mailing List.
It is completely confidential and voluntary. You may Subscribe or Unsubscribe at any time.



Landscaping You Can Live With

Dave Ropp teaches a group at a USF Landscaping Workshop Day.

There is always something new going on at the USF Botanical Gardens. Recently they had a Landscape Design Workshop with three different speakers. It was held on that cold frosty Saturday morning, and yet the conservatory, covered with plastic, full of blooming orchids, and warmed with heat lamps held a capacity crowd of hardy men and women. With homemade brownies and hot coffee, everyone took the cold in stride.

The first speaker was Dave Ropp who was a professional landscaper and horticulturist in Traverse City, Michigan, for 25 years before he moved here a year ago. Because landscape design is much the same everywhere, he is now doing landscaping in the Tampa/ Zephyrhills area and is also working at the USF Gardens.

"The landscape should be a setting for a house, not a screen," he said. "The house should be the focal point of the yard and the yard the focal point looking out from the house."

I knew I was in trouble right then. But he also said, "Rules can be broken. Guidelines should be followed." And he suggested that wide pathways-- 4 feet, wide enough for two people to walk side by side or one to push a wheelbarrow--will prevent chaos.

On most properties, the front yard is the public area, the backyard more private, and the sides are often used as service areas. The landscaping should be geared to the needs of the family to create a pleasant, attractive and user-friendly outdoor environment while it protects the natural character of the site. He advocates nursery-grown native plants and natural (organic) products.

"The first step is to map all the permanent features in the landscape on paper as much to scale as possible," he said. For more details on how to do this, check out a book on landscaping or have a professional do it.

He advocated one large tree on each side of a house and one in the back for framing. A lawn should be a simple geometric shape to simplify maintenance. A square with rounded corners works well. We should avoid the shotgun effect of plants here and there in the lawn. A better way to break it up if you must is one planting near the center.

A trellis, a fence, and paths set off this scene, and the trellis doesn't have to be that large and elaborate to do the job in a smaller garden.

Several plants of the same kind and color have a much better visual impact than do one of every kind, and odd numbers of plants look better than even numbers.

"Fences don't need to be continuous," he said. "They can be in sections between groups of shrubs, but avoid making those groups all exactly the same." This has been called the piece of bread and piece of cheese effect and lacks the harmony and naturalness that make a landscape striking rather than boring.

As he spoke, Ropp often referred to a most amazing model he had of a backyard with fresh flowers and tree branches giving the picture. That alone was a work of art.

When asked about prices, he said he sometimes does one hour consultations for as little as $35 to $40 to discuss basic ideas. But most people really need more time, a talk about their needs and wants and a map prepared. This could cost $200 - 300 dollars depending on the job, but could save thousands in the long run. His company will also do the work involved.

Ropp grew up on a fram in Michigan, was in 4-H and FFA during high school and began working with landscaping and horticulture when he was about 12. After spending two years in the military, he went on to earn his Bachelor of Science Degree in Landscaping Horticulture.

Dave Ropp has good sense and his methods are planet friendly. He advocates growing more than one kind of plant, crop rotation on a farm. He told about a good farmer he knew who leased some of his land to a big potato company that came in and grew more potatoes per acre than the farmer had ever seen done. When the eight years passed, he asked if they wanted the land for another eight years. "Heavens, no," they replied. "That land is all used up." The farmer found he couldn't even sink a plow blade into the soil. It took him years to get it back into useful shape.

Dave Ropp can be contacted at 451-9868.



Lynn Barber's house is a good example of landscaping that enhances rather than hides a house.

As he spoke, Ropp often referred to a most amazing model he had of a backyard with fresh flowers and tree branches giving the picture. That alone was a work of art.