(a 4-part series)
A garden constantly changes over time. So, too, does the gardener. And (lately), so does the climate. After 3 decades of tending my lush and ever-bearing yard, it was time to re-think its current design. There was little to limit my imagination except the limits of my physical ability and my time.
I approached the design similarly to the way I approach any architectural design project, with a progression of phases.
Phase 1. Identify Problems in Need of Solutions:
this path (L) has become tangled up (R)
- Some beds have become grass-and-weed-choked beyond repair.
- The shade from established trees has expanded.
- I have gotten more measured in my energy expenditure as I age, and need to dial down the amount of high-maintenance plants.
- The summers have gotten hotter and drier; some plants now wither where they used to flourish.
this slope became too dry and shady for its plantings
Phase 2. Gather Facts About Prevailing Conditions.
Over the years, I have developed a head full of experience and opinions about this garden’s performance.
The hardscape (paths, stairs, retaining walls, and paved areas) has been developed over the years. It will essentially remain as-is.
I have noted plantings that have succeeded and those that failed. Some of them combine with others. Some are easy to care for. Some offer great rewards, such as long blooming time, delicious scents, beautiful colors, and/or striking textures.
On the other hand, others are short-lived, invasive, fussy, too chaotic, or I just don’t like them.
I made the following double-duty diagram.
sun/shade exposure / existing features, to remain
Examples of elements well worth keeping as-is:
enormous old rhododendrons with 70’ tall Western Red Cedar beyond
native ground covers within the rhododendron grove
sunny flower garden near house
Phase 3. Scheme, daydream, and imagine possibilities. Start wish lists, accompanied by deep research in books and on the web. Some of my lists:
- Flowers I want.
- Drought-resistant shrubs with “winter interest.”
- Plants that will bring sparkle to the shade.
- Plants (from small-to-large) with remarkable foliage.
- Scented plants to locate near the path.
- Evergreen ground covers, bedding plants, and specimens.
- Plants with notable shapes.
- And so on…
I love the evocative names, and all of the promises they hold
At the end of this third phase, armed with information and ideas, I am ready to start drawing.
The next 2H Pencil post will be:
Doing Garden Design, Part 2: Plans
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I invite your comments.