Designing your Garden

Spring has sprung, and it is a great time to plan and design your garden. If you have an existing bed, maybe it is time to redesign it.

What can you do this spring to improve your garden? This spring, I’ve been busy doing just that.

With all the garden catalogs arriving in the mail non-stop lately, plus the home and garden magazines you may have been subscribing to, there are plenty of garden design ideas to get you motivated to plan your garden. Do you want a formal garden or an informal garden like a cottage garden? If you have a big yard, you can do both, as shown in the picture above.

Before you plan and design a garden, there are few things you have to consider. You have to know why you want a garden. We garden for various reasons. Hundreds of years ago, people wanted a garden for food and medicine. Gardening for pleasure did not come until later, when man had satisfied his basic needs. Nowadays, people garden because they want beauty to surround them. Flowers make us feel good. There is a trend to grow your own vegetables because people want to make sure they are getting vegetables devoid of artificially synthesized chemical fertilizers.

We have to ask a few questions before we start digging. How much work do you want to put into the garden? How big do you want your garden to be? How much sun do you get in a day? How shady is your yard? What kind of plants are you thinking of growing? Do you need these items in your garden besides flowers: vegetables, containers, pergola, arbor, a sitting area, lawn space, play area for your kids? Do you need a compost pile, and where do you want to hide it? Will you use part of the garden for grilling or dining? Do you like to use the garden as a place to sit alone, read, relax or meditate? These are the things you have to consider in planning and designing your garden.

If you like roses as I do, you need at least four hours of sunlight to grow better roses. Knock Out Roses will grow in dappled shade but will perform much better with plenty of sunlight. Do you want to incorporate perennials with your roses? For a cottage look, plan on planting perennials with roses. There are plenty of plant companions that you can try. I love white alyssum as edging for my roses in my front yard. Variegated liriope is another good edging plant. It defines the line between the rose bed and the lawn. Alyssum has a sweet fragrance and repels bugs. Roses fare better when planted with other plants than being isolated in a special rose bed. They are less susceptible to diseases.

Armed with catalogs, gardening magazines, and some gardening books, you should be able to find something you like. Check the blooming time and the condition where the plants will be happy. Check the color combination. If you can get hold of “ Color Echoes” by Pamela J. Harper, she wrote about harmonizing color in the garden. Once you know what you want in your garden, you can start ordering your plants or go to your nearest nursery or box stores and buy your plants.

Since I now live in a townhouse and have a small yard, my gardening approach is much different from when I live in NY, where I have a big canvas for my plants. In NY, I had both formal and informal beds in my backyard. Now, I have a cottage look where my plants intermingle with one another. My roses share the spot with other plants. I chose my plants for their fragrance and good company for my roses. Annuals make a big splash in the garden and bloom their hearts out in one season. If you want an instant and carefree garden, plant plenty of annuals. It can get expensive unless you start from seed indoors way before the last frost date.

Container gardening is another venue to venture into. Use your imagination. There are plenty of containers now in the market, and you can go to town with them. Treat it like you are making a floral arrangement.

For the Waterwise gardener, there is the Xeriscape Gardening. There is plenty of native plants, and you can save plenty of water bills in the process. High Country Gardens specialize in native plants, and their catalog and website provide plenty of choices.

There is one area which some people consider too hard to garden – the shady spot in your yard. There are more plants now that are suited for the shady nook of your yard, and some have colorful leaves that can enliven your shady spots. Besides azaleas and rhododendrons, there are coleus, impatiens, caladiums, hostas, heuchera, and begonias to choose from. They all come in various shades of leaves and flower forms.

Once you have figured out the plant requirements and what you want your garden for, it is time to prepare the soil. The soil is the most important aspect of designing a garden. For roses, you need a sandy loam. Take a soil sample and have a pH test done. After you find the right spot in your yard to start a garden, dig the sod out and add plenty of compost to the bed before you begin planting. I know some gardeners in England don’t use fertilizer in their garden, but plenty of compost, and they have the most beautiful gardens I have ever seen.

Gardening is good exercise, and the beauty it creates is good for our well-being. It gives beauty and pleasure to everyone

Happy Gardening!

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