First step: Decide what you want in your garden, achieve agreement with spouse – consider other household members… (Casey made me add that...)
Tasks you love
Tasks you hate
How do you intend to use the garden?
Environmental sensibilities – water consumption, pesticide and fertilizer usage, habitat
Cut out pictures of gardens you like
Determine your light capabilities – what is the extent of sun in your garden
Colors you like/dislike
The ultimate in a Garden Design:
- has year round interest
- ties the garden and home together
- sets an intended mood
- provides a place for plants to thrive
- accentuates (or is a reflection of ) the owner’s lifestyle
- fulfills needs of the owner
- acts as an ecosystem after a fashion
Some moods/sense of purpose the Garden Design might invoke:
- peace and calm
- de-stress environment
- connection to nature
- recalling a sense of place
Woodland – ferns
Woodland edge – deciduous shrubs, climbing species roses and other climbers
Moorland – heathers or other dwarf evergreen shrubs
Prairie – grasses, tall perennials – esp. daisies
Meadow – grasses
Semi-desert – yuccas, gray-foliaged plants
Chaparral – native CA Plants
Oak scrub – other CA natives
Tropical – gaudy, ugly and pretentious large leaved evergreens
Garden Design – The Concept
Two initial surveys must be taken prior to planting which we touched on last week, but is helpful to review constantly. The first is structural – you need to know the physical limitations of your space – load bearing, availability of water, access limitations and the materials that surround your garden. The structural survey must include all the physical boundaries to your garden.
If your garden is above ground, safety and cost will figure more prominently in your considerations.
Then the dimensional survey is accomplished by measuring and then drawing your space to scale. To do this, it is best to have a 100’ tape measure and a 25’ (or so) metal tape measure for shorter or awkward measurements. A brick or other heavy object might be needed to hold the end down if you don’t have an assistant.
Also make note of any changes of level, especially in relationship to drainage, and make note of the overhanging features you have to consider.
Mark on your plan any water spigots and power outlets – these will be important in your final design.
This survey must look beyond the actual garden for ‘borrowed views’ from nearby trees or structures worth looking at. ‘Borrowed views,’ and views that fall under the ‘blight spot’ moniker need to be noted on your plan.
Color – Consider the whole garden as one large pot… don’t be afraid to paint the walls, or concrete under foot Consider all materials in concert with total color –
What color are the walls surrounding? Can you change those?
Texture – Again consider the entire garden as a whole – what is the unifying texture overall – work to enhance the garden thematically – with an exception here and there for contrast
Scale and proportion – Stay within your space! Remember how large your plants will become eventually… better to underplant and allow plants to expand naturally than have to remove sick or ungainly plants that have suffered from too little sun…
Shape – Shapes within the small garden are all the more important. Pots and plants in the garden must help convey the mood. Clean lines are important, but avoid brashness.
Repetition – repeating patterns and symmetry are essential to creating the desired mood. Repeat the plants, the pots, color, or texture. Harmonize the whole of your plantings with this technique.
Grouping – Place plants and elements together for effect. Consider islands vs. long rows of pots/plants
Style – This is the overarching element of design. Try not to make the garden schizophrenic from the interior design of the house.
While walking through a door is a straightforward action of moving from the living room into the garden, the transition design needs to consider the first introduction of a person into the garden; there will be a break in continuity of course because you are leaving ‘inside’ to ‘outside’, but the garden needs to flow from one to the other as though they are parts of a whole. In other words, while we are limited into how we can accomplish this, short of knocking the ceiling out and planting trees in what used to be an indoor room, we, as garden designers, want to consider what is there and ADD to it vs. detract or negate it. Where a given style exists in structure or thematically on the interior of the house, try to access it with plants and features in your design. This can be accomplished simply by observing notable features of the building abutting the garden and asking a few pointed questions of your clients in the initial interview. All the elements that draw a garden together, should be considered towards drawing the garden and home together as well.
Garden Design – The Rules
1. Divide in thirds vs. halves
2. Perspective and the focal point
3. Why it doesn’t work in small gardens…
Breaking the rules
1. View the garden spatially as one pot – in other words
2. Think of the box!
What comprises the boundaries – the walls of your pot?
Can you change them?
Walls can be
covered in plants,
covered with lattice,
seagrass mats etc.
3. Tying the garden together
3.1. Color, of plant flowers or leaves, of walls, paving material, lattice work
3.2. Borrowed scenery
3.3. Climbing plants
3.4. Lighting – Most entertaining in our society is done at night, so creative lighting can be your salvation
4. Expand the garden by use off open space and mirrors
5. Water in the garden
6. A found object – whimsy
7. Practical considerations – i.e. watering