Garden magazines and landscape books are a perfect antidote to snowy days. As you browse for new design ideas, it’s important to keep three principles in mind. They apply equally to the renovation of existing garden spaces and beds, the development of new garden areas or the transformation of that “blank slate” out your window.
1. Form should follow function
Just like the rooms in your house, which have specific purposes, your yard and garden can be designed to meet pleasing purposes as well. When you know how you would like to use your yard, you are better able to design ways to get the most out of it.
Ask yourself what design features you would like. Possibilities could include:
Your gardens – those areas that are actually planted – need to fit with the purposes you have in mind. That’s why designers say the garden form should follow the function that you envision. So take time to assess your yard – front, back and both sides – as you think about how you would like to use the space. Let the planted spaces follow from your needs and wants.
2. Generate a realistic timeline and budget
Did you know that a well-designed yard and quality landscape installation can add between 15 to 20 percent to the value your home? But does a good design have to be expensive?
You do have to assess what you can afford. Keep in mind that while a quality professional landscape design can appear expensive at first, it does reduce the cost of guesswork and potential mistakes during the installation process. A good design will include tasks that can be completed over two or more seasons. Your project can build toward completion a bit at a time.
Whether you plan to include hardscape materials – paving stones, gravel, solid structures – along with softscape materials – plants, shrubs and trees – getting your design down on paper is key to visualizing the result. And a realistic timeline makes it easier to budget for your dream space.
3. Make informed plant selections
When it comes to selecting plants, apply another set of three principles.
Location, location, location...
Plants, trees and shrubs are all unique, with specific growing preferences. Some like full sun, some like shade, others like acidic soils, while many grow best in neutral or alkaline soils. A glorious plant could be happy or miserable in your garden. One location may be much better than another, so read the plant tags at the garden centre or the read the cultural requirements in a catalogue or garden reference book before you buy or plant.
Plant for your hardiness zone...
Temperature is central to the survival of plants. The recommended plant hardiness zone provides a useful guideline, especially for the novice gardener. More experienced gardeners may push the boundaries a bit. This can be successful or an expensive failure. Garden centres cater to all gardening approaches – beginner to risk-taker and everything in between - so pay attention. The plant hardiness zone for Thunder Bay is 2a-3a.
Consider a theme...
Applying a specific theme is a great way to focus your landscape plan. Do you dream of a Zen garden… a cottage garden… an Alpine meadow… an urban farm… a desert oasis?
While hardscape materials provide the “bones” for your theme, the plants add the "flesh" – the softness, colour and texture associated with a theme.
Our climate may not allow for plants from Asia or Arizona to overwinter outside, but there are always alternatives. Some tropical indoor plants do well outside during the summer months with the promise of a return indoors for winter. Through their structure, shape, colour or overall texture, many plants that are hardy in our zone can create the look and feel you envision. The possibilities are endless.
Before your shovel touches the soil this spring, make a plan. Decide what you can do this season, and above all, enjoy the process.
Guest post by
One of the most delightful things about a garden is the anticipation it provides.
W. E. Johns
Selected images in this post are morgueFile free photos.