Ask The Experts: 4 Steps to a Stunning Yard

4 Steps to a Stunning Yard

Ted Carter Inspired Landscapes' work at a home in Kennebunk
The owners of this Kennebunk home wanted more parking space, without sacrificing their lush surroundings. Carter created an area for cars behind a clematis-draped trellis, installing Geoblock 5150 pavers beneath the grass to protect it from damage. In front of the house, he amended a steeply sloped lawn with sand fill and loam, creating a flat, green space for picnics, parties, and playing.

Ted Carter Inspired Landscapes


TEXT BY Jennifer Van Allen

Landscape designer Ted Carter shares tips on designing your garden and grounds — to flourish.

With its brilliant seasons, rugged coastline, and vast swaths of forest, Maine has plenty to offer in the natural beauty department. But these defining traits can also present tricky landscaping challenges, says Ted Carter, of Ted Carter Inspired Landscapes in Buxton. For starters, only select hardy species can withstand our whipsaw freeze-and-thaw cycles. And on the waterfront, salty air and driving winds can spell trouble for some plants. How can homeowners navigate this fickle territory? Hint: The first step is often to consult with a pro.

Don’t go overboard. Too often, homeowners plant too much too close together, Carter says. “The finished product feels schizophrenic, leaving the yard too chaotic and cramped to use.” Overcrowding also hurts plants, depriving them of the sunlight and oxygen they need. Others take pruning too far, trimming hydrangea flowers as soon as their color fades, for example, which prevents them from blooming to their full potential later. “Pruning is an art and it’s best to be cautious at times,” Carter says. On the other hand, “plants need aggressive pruning to keep things in check.” Pros understand how to maintain individual plants so they thrive.

Mix it up. When it comes to trees, you’ll want to strike a healthy balance between evergreen and deciduous species. A grove of maples offers close encounters with Technicolor shows of fall foliage. But you’ve got to sprinkle in evergreens to keep your yard from appearing barren in winter. Too many pines and spruces, however, “can create visual blocks that make you feel closed in,” Carter says. A landscape designer can help ensure your yard feels lush in every season.

Ted Carter Inspired Landscapes sketch

Landscape design can account for up to 15 percent of residential property value and improves the salability of your home, particularly as flowers, trees, and shrubs mature.

Go native. For plants that will flourish with little maintenance, opt for native species. Whereas delicate non-natives, such as dogwoods and Japanese maples, are unreliable in the face of dehydrating ocean air, relentless winds, and the intensity of sun reflecting off snow and water, indigenous plants like wild and high-bush blueberries, maples, and river birches have proven themselves hardy over a long period. 

Trust the process. Working with a landscape designer is more accessible than you might think. Carter starts with a design consult to size up your site and hear your needs. He then mocks up a rough design, which includes an itemized breakdown of prices. After integrating your feedback, he develops a final plan you get to keep. You can then hire Carter — or any firm — to do the installation or DIY. Beyond saving you time, stress, and backaches, a pro ensures your design complies with local codes. Carter also guarantees his labor and materials for a year — meaning he’ll replace any plants that don’t survive, even with proper care.

To learn more, visit or call 207-761-1823.