Planning for Spring

Your Garden Room- Garden Planning

The seed and plant catalogs are pouring in, jam packed full of new varieties and colors of flowers, vegetables, fruit trees, ornamentals, bulbs, annuals, and perennials. The catalogs started filling my mailbox in mid November, and are still coming in. As each one arrives I just drool over the possibilities, and know that I could easily have a list that would total into the hundreds of dollars if I had places to plant all of those gorgeous plants, and unlimited funds. I have neither. Bummer. I gotta make some plans.

Hopefully this past fall, you took some notes about some things you wanted to change, things you wanted to add, maybe you’ve already started a new garden in your yard, ready to plant next spring. Terrific! You’re ahead of the game! Let’s do some garden planning.

The best way to plan a garden is to draw it out on paper. Any old paper will do, but if you have a hard time with envisioning scale, I recommend getting some graph paper with a 1/4 inch grid. On this paper 4 squares equals one foot, or two squares can equal one foot if you have a big garden, so you can sketch out your new garden, or your existing one, pretty much to scale. Make notes on it about the sun direction (or where north is), nearby buildings and structures, the main viewpoint (the angle you want it to look the nicest), any trees or shrubs, etc. Make note of anything that needs to be moved to another part of the garden, or yanked out mercilessly.

If you can visualize it, try to think about what kind of plant material to fill it with, not anything specific yet though. Something tall and blue in the back, some short yellow flowers in the front, a vine on a trellis at the back maybe with white flowers, a mid size bushy plant with coarse leaves and orange flowers somewhere in the middle- that kind of thing. Draw in bubble shapes that are roughly six to eight squares (if using the four square scale) wide that will represent plant material, and make notes in the bubbles.

If you have a color scheme you want to use, or favorite colors, start inserting those colors into your plan. It helps to take an eye catching color, like white or yellow and repeat it in a zig zag fashion through out the garden to pull the eye through and make it notice certain features. The viewer’s eye will jump from yellow to yellow or white to white from front to back. Avoid placing these focal plants in a straight line to each other- make the eye bounce around along the path you have selected. Cool, darker colors, like purple and blue are noticed last and will make the background look farther away if placed there- so if you have a small garden or yard, using those colors at the back will make it seem a bit larger. Warm colors, oranges, yellows and reds seem closer and are noticed sooner than the cool colors. White is a good buffer between colors to soften and helps bright colors seem brighter without clashing. Start filling in some of those colors in those bubbles.

Don’t forget different shades of green too. A plant with yellow foliage looks great next to one with bluish foliage for contrast. Grey foliage adds a certain something to the garden as well. Spread out the textures of flowers and foliages too, using fine, coarse and medium textures. Some plants are more linear, like lilies, iris, day lilies- others are more rounded shapes or free-form, still others are just loose and spreading. Make notes of those properties also on your plan.

When you think you may have the plan the way you want it- make some photo copies of it. If you are feeling creative, color it in with some of your old crayons or colored pencils (this is my favorite part, of course), or cut up last years catalogs and paste some pictures on your plan (kids like me love to do this). Either of these will give you a better idea of what your garden could look like. Make a list of plants to look for: A tall upright plant with blue or purple flowers, something low, fine foliage, pale yellow flowers, bushy with medium blue green foliage, pink flowers- you get the idea. There! Now you have a plan!

Now when you open those catalogs, it becomes easier to figure out what you should order and where you can put it, avoiding both spending too much money (ha!) and buying plants you don’t have a place for. The catalogs can help you decide exactly what plants will fit those descriptions you put on your plan. Add those names to your list and on your plan, and you have a real tool for placing those orders or going to your local nursery in the spring.

Oooo! I hear the mailman! See you in the garden!
Ellen Leigh

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