Over the years I have come to adopt a design framework that not only keeps an avid gardener sane, but keeps gardening functional and sustainable. When assessing a new garden installation I always think “garden room”. Very often the folks I partner with bring me out to their yards, walking me through every inch, and proceed to outline a grand vision. This often presents as a “wishlist” of sorts in expansive square footage! What is often overlooked in this wishlist approach is price, time, flow and balance. Perhaps today’s reality TV show backyard makeovers have contributed to this way of approaching outdoor designs. The fast forward framework of TV editing and corporate sponsorship of time and materials…is not the reality for the typical homeowner.
Therefore…I always recommend any outdoor scheme and dream plans take the same form as your indoor renovations. Few homeowners have the discretionary funds to renovate kitchen, bath and other indoor living areas all at once. Do you proceed to paint EVERY room in the house at once…or buy window treatments for EVERY window at once. Certainly not. Most of us could never afford that approach to our indoor renovations, so why think you could do so with outdoor living environments?
Approach your outdoor garden plans as rooms. Here is a simple sequence to help with your designs and plan of action over time:
Hardscapes first! Envisioning a deck, patio, walkway, fire pit pool, etc? Get those elements in first. The equipment and materials alone often dictate this. You will be sorry when the bobcat, cement globs, pavers, lumber or contractors ruin the plant material that was installed first. Often times the hardscapes provide a great point to work your designs off. The finished height, colors, textures, and dimensions will dictate type and flow of your plant material.
Secondly, pick a starting point area. Think of your primary visual in your backyard living area and work out from there. I usually sit on a deck, look out the back window, stand in the street or curbside to decide where the primary focal is. That area should be the target for your project start.
When considering your new “garden room” look carefully at the micro climate of the area. Not all points in our yards are created equal! You may have a depressed area that catches cooler temps, a moist, dry, full or part sun area. Consider exposure, east, west, south, north. This will dictate plant selection in your design to keep it sustainable.
Once you have your first “garden room” established, it becomes easier to flow with other additions. You can springboard off that design to determine texture, color, size and scope of your outer rooms. Keep in mind…this becomes a great winter planning activity once the growing season is over! Keeps the passion flowing over the dead of winter when our gardens are asleep in the North Country!