North Carolina's three distinct geographic regions can offer a backdrop to any number of landscaping ideas. Which region you live in isn't the only factor to consider when planning your landscape, however. Before trying to pick a single landscaping idea to run with, ask yourself a few important questions to ensure you make the decision that will work best with your home and family.
1. Reflect Your Surroundings
If you live in the mountain region, play with differently shaped plants with mounding habits to reflect the Appalachian Mountains and their rolling foothills. Place tall, swaying coneflowers (Echinacea spp.) with smaller clumps of tickseed (Coreopsis spp.), which grow in USDA zones 3 through 9 and 4 through 9, respectively, in front of medium-height grasses to provide a layering effect. If you live in the Piedmont, you may still want a landscape that reflects the mountains or hills that see from your home, or you may want a landscape that reflects the natural surrounding terrain. Flowering herbs grow abundantly in the Piedmont region's natural areas. Choose a dwarf white pine (Pinus strobus), which grows in USDA zones 3 through 9, to mimic the full-size versions found in the area. A large, native oak, such as chestnut oak (Quercus prinus), which grows in USDA zones 4 through 8, will help bring the rest of the Piedmont region into your backyard. In the coastal regions, play with grasses and plants that mimic those growing naturally.
2. Fulfill Your Needs
Before pulling out the graph paper and making sketches of your dream North Carolina landscape, make a list of the needs you have regarding your landscape. For example, if your children are active, a big, open, grassy space is ideal for backyard games of tag and kickball. If you have dogs, you'll need a grassy space with durable, nontoxic plants in flower beds. Consider durable, North Carolina native Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica), which grows in USDA zones 5 through 9 and will help blend your landscape into the natural surroundings, no matter which North Carolina region you live in. In planning your landscape, also consider your skill level and time constraints.
3. Indulge Your Desires
Once you've determined what your needs are, it's time to tune into your heart's desire for your landscape. Instead of a landscape that reflects the natural surroundings, maybe you long for a formal, structured garden that distinguishes the property from it natural environs. If so, consider a hedge of 5-foot tall Green Mountain boxwoods (Buxus x "Green Mountain"), which grow in USDA zones 4 through 9. Add pyramidal conifers of varying colors to complete the structured look. Stacked pyramidal conifers can help tie into either the Piedmont or mountain regions. For a formal landscape in the coastal plain, stick with softer-shaped pines (Pinus spp.) and native grasses arranged in a symmetrical fashion.
4. Color Your World
Consider color combinations and a theme or scheme. You could go with your favorite color and work from there, adding complementary colors or going analogous. Each region of North Carolina has a colorful selection of naturally growing plants, so you're safe blending complementing colors whether you live in the tidal region of the coastal plain or miles up the mountain. Deep scarlet roses (Rosa spp.), which grow in USDA zones 2 through 11 depending on species, are naturally complemented by their dark green foliage. Yellow forsythia (Forsythia spp.), which thrives in USDA zones 4 through 9, will complement early blooming lilacs (Syringa spp.), which grow in USDA zones 3 through 7.