Now that you have your base prepared (see Garden Design I-Getting Started with a Plan), you can begin to sketch out the shape of your planting beds on it. Use trace paper over the base, or make several photocopies to draw on. Keep an original clean base so you won't have to redraw it - you'll use the base throughout the design process.
Allow yourself to think freely. At this concept stage, draw very loosely and focus on the lines, masses and focal points you want to create with your planting. Brainstorm and draw as many variations as you like. Although you may have specific plants in your mind, don't limit yourself at this stage - focus on the overall layout of masses. You'll define and then assign specific plants to the masses at later stages, which we'll discuss in the next few posts.
The simple sketch here is for the front yard of a home. A large tree, lamp post and mailbox are all in close proximity. Creating a planting bed to incorporate the three will unify the area, make mowing easier and provide interest in a nondescript area of the lawn.
Landscape Design Strategies
Some of design strategies to consider as you plan:
Line - Begin with a pleasing shape for your planting. Curves are more informal than straight lines. Within the bed, create areas of plant massing. This is where planning will make your garden stand out from the rest. Lines within the garden create movement and lead your eye to focal points.
Massing - Planting in groups creates a more significant display than scatterings of single plants. Groupings of uneven numbers - 3, 5, 7 or more - create pleasing masses. Masses help create line and movement in your garden.
Focal Point - Choose a spot where you want the eye to rest and create a focal point - a specimen plant, a tree, a garden sculpture - even a simple bird bath. A plant with a fleeting season of interest won't make an enduring focal point, but can be a part of a sequence of focal points throughtout the year.
Layering - Planting tall plants at the back, with shorter plants in front gives a sense of depth to plantings. This also avoids the gangly look of shrubs or flowers with bare bottoms. The more layers, or different plants in ascending height, the fuller the look. Read more here.
Repetition - Repetition provides continuity in the garden. Repeating forms, textures, and colors creates unifies a space.
Contrast - As vital as repetition is in landscape design, contrast should not be neglected. Contrast in size, form, texture and color adds interest and variety as well as drawing attention to focal points.
Repetition in color; contrast in form
Year round interest - Choose some plants that provide year round interest. Every plant doesn't have to perform all year, but select plants with different times of peak interest, so that there is interest throughout the year. Don't forget to consider the winter display your garden will provide.
It's tempting to just run out,
grab some plants and
stick them in the ground.
But a little planning is
worth the effort, and can help you
transform your yard from
oh so ordinary to
one of a kind.
This is a good time to ask yourself a few questions:
What is my goal?
Your goal will influence where you focus your efforts.
What is most important to you?
The view of your house from the street?
Views of your yard from inside the house?
Creating a backyard oasis?
What is my style?
Magazines and books can help you with this.
Gather clippings of magazine phots of gardens that appeal to you.
As you work through the design process, refer to these photos for inspiration and to help determine your style. Are your inspiration gardens formal or cottage style? Do certain color themes predominate?
Make a Base
Once you have decided on a goal, it's a good idea to create a plan.
First, make a base which shows existing conditions. It's not hard and will help organize your project.
Measure the area and draw it on graph paper, assigning a scale of 1 foot per box (or per 1/2 box for a larger area). An easy way to estimate the dimensions of large areas is to measure your stride - then simply walk it off and multiply the number of steps by that measurement.
Draw any existing plants with a circle scaled to their size.
The base is your template for planning and will aid in determining how many plants to buy.
Note the conditions of the site on your base:
Soil consistency - sandy clay...
Soil Ph (buy a simple a soil test kit at a garden store)
Colors of existing plant foliage and flowers
Direction of views to and from the area
This inventory will guide you in choosing the right plants for the conditions so they thrive.
Perennials add a powerful punch to the garden. They're a great choice for adding color to the landscape. Affordable, they provide long lasting enjoyment, require minimal care and can make a bold statement. It's never been easier to fill your garden with perennials - an amazing variety are readily available.
While adding shrubs and trees may stretch the budget, perennials are easier on the pocketbook. Not only can I afford to splurge on perennials more often, but that investment continues to pay dividends over time. Perennials provide a reliable show year after year, saving on annual planting expenses. After they're established, they can be divided to creat even more plants. Although I know that groupings of plants have more impact, I often purchase only one and divide it before planting, or after it has become established. I've been enjoying a new perennial planting that I created along my deck this spring solely with divisions of perennials from other beds.
Perennials do you the favor of returning year after year, saving the hassle of purchasing and planting every spring. Planted close enough so they cover the ground, they discourage weed growth. With a good mulch cover and a pre-emergent herbicide applied in the spring, weeding and watering are minimized.
Big Bang for the Buck
Perennials can provide large scale form and color. Just one mass of flowers in a shrub planting can add a burst of color and interest. By choosing plants with staggered bloom times, the show can last all season long.
A wide variety of perennials are available almost evewhere you turn. With the ever expanding selection tempting us, the choices can be overwhelming. But with a few principles put into practice, you can create a stunning and easy care perennial show.
Fall is a great time to plant a perennial bed. Retailers are discounting stock before winter. Summer temperatures have moderated, willing us to enjoy the outdoors before winter sets in. What better time to get gardening