Design First Plant Second
If you’re like us, it’s easy to collect plants then return home lost on where to plant them all. You may try temporarily tucking some in beds until you know what to do or even leave them sitting in their pots alongside the house until you make up your mind. Design pros suggest another approach. They recommend starting with a design plan then collecting the plants to fill in the plan. It’s a great way to maximize creativity and resources. Here are a few basics to get you started.
- Site Plan: Sketch a bird’s eye view of your yard. Start with an outline of your house, property borders, fences, driveway, patios, decks, walls and paths. Also mark existing trees, plants and landscape beds.
- Growing Conditions: Take notes on your lot’s light and moisture conditions. Do you have full sun (6 hours or more of sunlight), full shade (4 hours or less) or partial? Do you have wet or dry areas? Do you have areas with poor soil?
- Function: List all the ways you currently use your outdoor spaces. Do you cook or eat on a patio? Do you entertain guests or prefer a quiet escape? Do you walk through your yard on the way to the garage or neighbor’s? Do you have recreational areas like a pool or play structure? Do you need special spaces for kids and or pets? Do you want to attract birds or butterflies?
- Maintenance: Do you enjoy gardening chores, prefer lower maintenance or plan to contract the landscape maintenance?
- Wish List: What features would you like to add to your landscape in the next year or even next five years? Maybe a fireplace, water feature, outdoor kitchen, retaining walls, pool, spa, lighting, TV, sound system or outdoor furniture? Do you have favorite colors or material preferences like – brick, natural stone, crushed gravel, decking or pavers? What are your favorite plants? Scour magazines and online sources for inspirational images.
- Problem Areas: Do you have things to hide like a utility box, telephone pole or a neighbor’s backyard? Do you have noisy traffic in the front of your home or a busy bike trail along the side of your property? Do you have challenge areas, perhaps a shady area where grass won’t grow or a low spot where water gathers?
- Personal Style: Look through magazines, Instagram garden accounts and landscape books to see what styles you prefer. Also, attend garden tours when possible. Do you prefer modern or formal landscapes, or do you prefer more natural or cottage styles? Find a good fit for your home, your neighborhood and your personality.
- Budget: What amount do you have budgeted for landscape improvements? Realize you may have to adjust the budget or modify the project and its timeline as you learn more.
- Design: This is the fun part. Start sketching your ideas. Check out Paper Garden Workshop for tutorials. Or contact a design pro for guidance. A good plan will include several design elements: 1) Flow: an easy movement through the garden with paths and focal points; 2) Scale: right-sized proportions to match the size of your home and make an impact; 3) Rhythm: repetition of plants and materials to bring continuity to the space 4) Symmetry and balance: a welcoming order that’s pleasing to the eye but not too contrived.
- Plant Palette: Plants bring color, texture and form to enhance your overall garden design. Assemble a list of plants using the design as your guide. Designers recommend planting in clusters for greater impact and repeating colors and plants throughout the space. Besides a plant’s color, consider its shape (round alliums or spiky agaves), texture (fuzzy lamb’s ear or shiny magnolia leaves) and size (a dwarf hosta or a giant ‘Sagae’ hosta). A variety of different forms makes a garden interesting, but too much diversity can create visual confusion.
Ornaments: The final step is adding accessories like bird baths, garden art or collectibles. These are the accents that bring personality to your outdoor space. They may remind you of a special trip or person. Jared has a collection of sea shells and driftwood in his garden from a trip he took to Maine with his daughter Lili.
Lisa Harp —