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Garden Design DrawingWhy I had to Design My Own Garden

There it was, a new house, well, new to us, a blank yard, and I was stumped how to start designing the gardens. I wanted beauty, but I didn't want to make mistakes.

The how-to landscaping books were as fascinating as calculus classes. Hiring a landscaper or designer was well out of my meagre budget. I had to do it myself.

5 Year Garden Room Plan

To start, I chose the first (easiest) area in a 5 year plan of garden rooms. True, it's a lengthy wait, but the gardening season here is short, I am the work force and have limited time. I also needed to study my travel patterns in the garden, where I walked most, how much grass did I want to leave (aka cut), shading from trees, soil, local pests, drainage, etc. Mostly, I wanted to see where logical sections would present themselves and what shapes they'd best suit.

Add to those, my problem areas with tree roots and stumps, the weather and wind patterns, snowloads, handiest locations for utility shed, firewood storage, compost bins and so on. These all take time to decide wisely.

And I'm glad I took my time. Designs I'd have implemented in year one, if money and time were available, are quite different now in year three. The easiest routes are worn in the grass now, unlike original ideas. Drainage areas for rain have changed. A new well location is elsewhere. Even shade grass won't grow well under the maple (acer) trees which suck the soil dry. An otherwise ideal veg garden extension has too many old tree roots intact. One mature maple tree died this year and must be taken down, happily before I planted the shrub garden by that spot. The clothesline had to go where I didn't really want it. The list goes on.

Choosing The Plants

Next, I pored through plant books, selecting and studying plants which would suit the chosen area: part shade, poor, dry soil, wind protection. Fortunately my knowledge of plants is adequate, but I searched for unfamiliar yet suitable ones which were also affordable. Sadly, water-loving plants can't join. But drought tolerant ones with varying textures, colours and height can.

Then, choosing path material and colour. The house is mostly brown brick so anything ornate or red is very out of place. Grey is too drab. But the new amber-grey shades in concrete paver bricks and pea gravel were perfect. And because I couldn't afford the pavers until this year, the price had also come down a bit. I chose square and rectangular hardscaping to mimic existing house lines.

Drawing the Garden Design

Finally, the design was laid out to scale on paper with pencil. I avoided bland rectangular bed shapes. Instead, I tried basic design flow shapes of C, S, O, U, and teardrop. Once decided, I drew out likely shapes within the area and fitted in plants. Then I had to shift many due to similar colour, height or texture to their adjacent neighbours. On paper, it's far easier.

I also had to consider viewpoints. Looking from one end, what would draw me to the other end? Bench? Statuary? Interesting taller shrub? Borrowed view? Then I stood at that end and looked back for that decision. Halfway into the area, I looked to either side for interest. After all, it's the same as interior design.

Repetition of odd numbers of similar plants, or shrubs, pots, etc is also necessary, but because my area is long and narrow, it's not so important nor practical.

So what did I choose? Check the next article about actual layouts and follow my work in progress - see Garden Design Room


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