Solve the Jungle Look

Here are some tips for striking a balance between lush and tidy.

In the early stages of planting an empty yard, some homeowners yearn for the look of overgrowth. Others see it too soon in anything but the neatness of near bareness, and do away with possible treasures in their clearing.

Because they grow quickly to maturity, shrubs and vines are most likely contributors to the jungle look. Beware when planting them. Little potted bushes and seeds of honeysuckle grow so successfully they can take over if placed wrong. When shrubs or vines obscure the best lines of the house or shut out views and light, it is time for rescaling, by either pruning the plants or tearing them out.

Trees need thinning less often, but they, too, can become overgrown, particularly in warm and wet climates. Careful pruning for a higher canopy of leaves opens the area beneath the tree to more sunlight and air circulation while preserving the tree's irreplaceable form, silhouette, and shade.

If ripping out plants seems ruthless and extreme, do it in stages. As the advantages of openness appear and you see that new plantings will quickly replace the emptiness, you will gain the needed assurance to press on with the destruction.

Similarly, you don't have to endure walks, drives, or patios that are overgrown, cracked, or outdated, or were out of place to begin with. Yards, like houses, can be remodeled.

Shrubbery had overgrown the front foundation and overpowered even the porch. The result was a dark, confining, and little-used space.


A glassed-in front porch greatly expands the adjacent indoor family room. Neat, low plantings of holly, azalea, and liriope enhance rather than hide the fine arched windows.