Planning Next Year's Garden
Good garden design starts with thinking about
what you want. It's too late to plan your garden when you are
standing in the nursery eyeing every new plant that tempts you.
Spend some time looking at your garden site, either during the
off season, when you can really view it objectively or during
the growing season, when your successes and failures make
The very first garden design consideration should
be "What do you want to use your garden for?". Aesthetic beauty
is a given, unless it is a weed demonstration garden. But there
are other garden functions.
- Will you be entertaining in or near the
garden and need paths or patios?
- Are you looking for privacy from a busy
street or neighbors?
- Is this a space small children should be
- Will you be viewing it mostly in the
morning, afternoon or evening?
- Is it your own private space or on public
- Would you like to attract more birds and
butterflies into your yard?
- Are you trying to create a view from
inside the house?
- Will it be used for cutting flowers?
Once you have an idea of how you are going to use
your garden, come back to reality and take an objective look at
the garden site.
Monitor it during
different times of the day and year.
- How many hours of sun does the site
- What times of day is it sunny?
- Does sun exposure change with the
seasons? Do trees allow sun in the spring and shade during
- How is the soil, as far as pH and
texture? Link to amendments
- Are there structures or large trees that
will affect plant growth and selection?
- Are there structures nearby that you
would like to camouflage?
- What plants are already growing there?
Few of us have all day to garden or all the money
we could wish to buy plants. There are certain restraints to be
considered before you bite off more than you can chew.
- Do you have a budget? You may want to
plan a garden in stages.
- How much time can you realistically spend
in the garden. Time required will vary from season to
- Are you only in your house for part of
- Do you need your garden to peak for a
You know what you want to use your garden for,
what you are working with and how many resources you can devote
to it. Now, what do you want it to look like?
- Formal or informal? Wild?
- Four Season Interest?
- Should it complement your house?
- Do you want it to flow with the natural
- Do you favor soft pastels or bold
- Will it be a border or a free standing
Each step should get easier and more fun. Plant
selection should be one of the last things you consider, or you
may be overwhelmed trying to create a design to accommodate the
dozens (or hundreds or even thousands) of plants you crave.
- Keep in mind what your garden will be
used for and when.
- If you are only in your house for the
summer, planting spring bulbs and early bloomers wouldn't be
the wisest investment.
- If you plan to entertain a lot and don't
want to spend all summer on chores, look for lower
maintenance plants that donít require constant deadheading
and staking to look good.
- If you are planting for small children,
choose plants that will bloom at their eye level, with
interesting textures and scents and non-poisonous flowers
- Make a list of the plants you like and
group them by color, texture and form, the garden design
triumvirate. Also chart them by season of bloom and/or
interest. Consider both flowers and foliage. There are more
and more plants being bred with colorful foliage that will
provide interest in the garden all season.
- Be sure to include some large anchor
plants that will look good all year. These are usually
shrubs and often evergreens. Most gardens can only
accommodate 1 or 2 trees or shrubs, but they are important
for providing the good bones of the garden and you want to
choose wisely at the beginning. Trees and shrubs can be very
difficult and heavy to move around.
- Now play with your plant list to see what
will fit in your garden space and what works well together,
given your special circumstances. If you're too busy in the
fall to do anything other than appreciate the changing
colors, plant for fall foliage color and avoid asters and
mums that will need fall tending.
Finalizing your garden design is a subject for
another day. But now that you have the fundamental needs
outlined, filling in the picture becomes almost paint by number.
Of course it's a paint by number you will probably never finish
and can add to every year.