Planning your garden be it a brand-new endeavor or just “fixing” a spot here and there can offer a great deal of satisfaction particularly during the winter months. Naturally, there are landscape principles which, so many folks take as gospel, and unfortunately, their creativity becomes stifled. My personal approach is to design from the heart not the head. This approach is neither correct or incorrect, but it has served me well for a good many years. One fundamental is to understand that this is your landscape, garden or project and should not be driven by what the neighbours may think. As with most creative endeavors, the landscape is a continuous work in progress so don’t allow yourself to get bogged down with deadlines or unrealistic completion dates, typically self-imposed. Having said all that, one must also realize that when working with others, particularly contractors, certain deadlines must be adhered to.
I typically start the process with a theme… be it colour, scent, texture, geographic influence or just plain old whimsy. Once I am satisfied with my overall theme the next step is to set out what is commonly referred to as “the bones” of the project. In the event that the bones already exist, some modifications, pruning or repositioning may be required. Bones can be living specimens such as permanent trees, hedges, larger plants as well, fences, specimen boulders, storage sheds, gazebos and the like. One method that works well is to observe the garden or the space that is to be the garden, in the winter. Deciduous trees will be bare, evergreens marking even a more obvious pattern of shadows and textures and the palette as it were, is relatively blank. This should help you to start mentally dressing the bones with whatever plants work within your theme.
This is a good time to take a breath, reassess and remember that you are not designing a magazine cover. As silly as it may sound, “plants will grow”, a very important fundamental to remember when adding specimen after specimen to the design (draw in pencil, it’s easier to remove plants that way!). Budget can be a rather effective control measure for this potential runaway aspect. Many, many professionally designed and installed landscapes that I have witnessed are hopelessly overplanted I suspect so that the client can see a “finished” creation immediately after completion. Those who would fall into this trap find themselves removing plants within a very short period of time. Gardens should be designed to be an extension of the home or at the very least, organized so that the overall landscape is functional and suits your lifestyle. If your family enjoys barbequing and dining out of doors, the landscape should accommodate not only this aspect but also the view or vista from the gathering area, patio or outdoor room.
Scent is most often overlooked when cobbling together the plans for your garden. A great many perennials offer not only showy flowers and foliage but offer an array of scents that can perfume the air from morning until early evening. Lavender is one very obvious selection from the aromatic arena with the many varieties available, selection can be overwhelming. Munstead and Hidcote Blue are two very reliable selections providing excellent growth habit and flowers even in less than perfect conditions.
Above all, delight in what you plan and accomplish this year remembering that this is your garden and there is always next year. Happy New Year.
December 24th, 2017