Mailing List Sign Up

15 Things I Hate About Your Yard – #14

Garden Reports and Rejoicing – December 27

Berms or Burial Mounds?

Here’s the general idea: dump a load of loam on the property, mound it up into a completely arbitrary shape, and plant a scattering of shrubs, trees and/or perennials on top. This is commonly passed off as landscape “interest” or design. Although these piles of soil are called “berms”, they more closely resemble burial mounds.

What’s being interred here is any natural flow of the land. Design clearly has little role, either in the overall landscape or the plantings on these artificial knolls. It’s all completely random, with no thought of naturally blending into the site or complementing the existing yard and dwelling.

If you change the grade of your landscape, it should look as if it was always that way. That usually means altering the slope over a very large area. If you don’t have enough space to make a berm rise up gradually and naturally, it looks better when you don’t pretend it’s a hill at all. Better to encase that raised area with a stonewall that frames the plants in a slightly more formal manner.

If you can’t make a berm look like it’s been there forever, don’t mound it up at all. Better flat than false.

There is nothing natural about this mound of soil. Of course the sheared green-meatball shrubs do nothing to make the landscape more natural.

This is common. It looks like a dump truck emptied a load of soil here and then people randomly stuck plants on top of it. Oh wait...that's exactly what happened.

8 comments to 15 Things I Hate About Your Yard – #14

  • Joyce

    Aren’t even badly planted berms better than just plain flat far-as-the-eye-can-see LAWNS?

    Sad that you are up to #14 with only one more to go. These segments have been SO educational and fun to read….an e-gift!

  • Thanks, Joyce! I’ve got a list that goes far beyond these original 15…maybe there’s a future book here. I may be up tonight debating about your question, however…fake looking berm or H-U-G-E lawn? This type of ugly vs that… hard to decide which is worse!

  • Even a simple sloping of the edge instead of that sharp rise out of the lawn would help. Nah, it would still look like a burial mound.

    I agree with Joyce, I am going to miss these picture instructions, they have helped me see design elements in a new way (and are wholly entertaining!)

  • Thanks, Laurrie… maybe I’ll do a part two sometime in the future. It’s been fun.

  • CL, I LOVE this series and I agree with every one. I’m waiting for another landscape fabric rant……’

    Merry Christmas, by the way.


  • Cynthia – you know me well…the landscape fabric is on my list but didn’t make the cut for this list of 15.

  • Donna B.

    Ooooh! I totally agree! It’s very dissapointing to see a great selection of shrubs being tortured into this all-too-common configuration!
    My other favorite similar culprit is those that plant ornamental grasses around some outdoor structure… A gas gague, or a meter; to then hide/disguise it and then have the lawn-guys come and SHEAR THEM in the fall!

  • Donna – you’ve hit on another one of mine: grasses used for screening! Unfortunately the grasses don’t get large until August, and as you say, frequently get cut down in the fall. That gives you a good two months of screening if you’re lucky. Right plant, wrong place!