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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.

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