Garden Design and Structure

Your Garden Room- Design and Structure

So, you’ve thought about what style your garden should be, formal or informal and what theme would be most attractive based on your lifestyle, home architecture, and things you enjoy doing or seeing. Now it’s time to think about how to plan out the garden design and structure to fit those ideas together. You probably already have a good start on a garden (duh!), but here are some ways to look at it in a new way and perhaps make it really spectacular.

Use Fresh eyes. As gardeners, we tend to just care for our plants- water, weed, prune and deadhead. We walk around looking down, and frequently can be seen with our butts higher than our heads. Walk around your garden with a set of fresh eyes. Don’t take any gloves or garden tools- take a cool drink , a notepad and pencil for notes if you like and just wander, like you were on a garden walk. Walk to the back of the garden and look toward your house, walk to the side of the yard and look over at the other side. Take a stroll down that pathway and turn around and look back up the path. Looks different doesn’t it? Is there a spot or spots where you really like what you see? Is there a really special combination of plants forming a lovely picture? This spot might be the perfect spot for a garden bench or a couple of chairs and a little table to set down your cool drink. If it’s really sunny there, and you want to sit in the shade, you can add an umbrella, or a gazebo, or arbor, whatever fits your style and theme. A little trickle of water is nice too, if you want to work in a water feature. Think about several seats if you want company out there, and maybe a patio to set everything on. This might be the perfect spot for a hammock or swing.

Take a folding lawn chair to your spot and sit there a while. Just take in the garden, really look around from your chair, sip your drink a while. Now get up and walk over to the entry to your garden and look back to the chair. Does it invite you to come back and sit there again? Can anything else be added, plant wise, to dress it up a bit? Perhaps a pot or three of colorful annuals? Can you visualize some sort of shade structure if you need it, and what that would look like?

Go back to your new resting area, and look around the garden. Do you see any other areas where you can add plants, take a way plants or add some architecture? Is there a path that opens up to a lawn that perhaps could have an inexpensive arbor arched over it and a lovely vine covering it? Perhaps the side of your garage (or your neighbors) or shed is a huge plain slab of wood, brick or siding and could use a trellis or a small tree , or even a mirror with a window box under it. Look over to your neighbor’s yard- is there anything you’d like to block out? (Like everything in there?) Fences can be expensive, but vines can be rained to cover just about anything- be creative! Espalliered trees can make a living fence too, or block a view and create a sense of privacy.

Re-access. Things are winding down at this time of year, and maybe starting to look a little worn out and ratty- or disease and insects have taken their toll. It’s a good time to take another walk around with your nice cool drink and remember when certain plants were in full bloom, what they look like now, and decide whether they were worth the trouble or not. It may be better to replace some plants with ones that perform well in two or more seasons rather than ones that are only pretty in one season and detract from the other plants the rest of the year. There may be another variety of that plant that is more disease resistant, or one that is similar in appearance and structure that offers more seasonal interest. Maybe there are some real stand-outs in your garden that could be divided and placed in other locations to carry the eye around your garden. Fall is a great time to divide and move things around. You could put your favorite plants where you can see them from your new leisure spot.

Inside out

Go back inside to refresh your drink, and look out your favorite window into the garden (if you have one- if you don’t, think about putting one in). Can you see your leisure spot? Can the view be framed with an arched trellis, or a pair of lovely flowering trees? If your view is blocked, can the view be opened up? If not, is there a really attractive spot where you can place a piece of art, or interesting structure, or even a large mixed planter (whatever works with your theme)?
Look out other windows as well. A lot of gardens are designed to just be around the house itself, and can’t be seen from inside the house. That’s great for curb appeal- that’s important too, but what a shame if your front picture window doesn’t have a picture to look out at. Think about extending your garden out to where you can see it from inside the house, even out to the side walk and beyond.]

Write down all of your ideas so you can think about them over the winter. Lots of garden accessories are marked down in the fall- it could be the perfect time to add some things to your garden. Now you know what to look for and have a place to put it. If you are thinking of adding new gardens, or extending your existing garden, fall is a great time to take some measurements, make a list of plants you have that can be divided and think about what plants need to be obtained either locally or by mail order. You can make a list of plants that fit with your theme if you have one. If you find some plants in the fall, they can be heeled in for the winter and installed next spring.

This fall, spend some leisure time out in your garden- invite a friend to join you, sit back, relax, have a cool drink, enjoy what you have created while you dream about ways to make it even better.

See you in the garden!

Ellen Leigh

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