Gardendesign: Part One

Published on Thu, Mar 24, 2005 by arbara Wean

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Garden design: Part One

By Barbara Wean

A good garden design can make the difference between enjoying your garden or finding that you don’t go outside much because it doesn’t feel comfortable. Think about the function of your landscape and how well it satisfies your needs. You may need a place for children, adults, wildlife, pets, a vegetable garden and lots of flowers. Maybe you would like an easy maintenance garden that is private and looks great but that you can leave for an extended period.

It’s an interesting fact that while one of the American dreams is to own your own home, few people have any background or training to design a comfortable exterior that is usable, not to mention the value to the property that a well designed garden would add.

The typical residential site has a modestly sized home 1,500 to 2,500 square feet, surrounded by a lawn and some shrubs. Maybe a tree or two. Often the garage door is the main emphasis from the front of the home and that is not necessarily an inviting entrance.

The front of the house provides the frame for viewing the picture of the house from the street. A realtor would call this curb appeal. This is the public area for arriving guests and friends as well as service people, such as UPS. This means it needs to be a safe and enjoyable passage from the street to the front door.

So we will start our design series with the front of the house and how to deal with different ideas to improve the entrance. In the coming weeks we’ll discuss the backyard and possibilities for different lifestyles. Then what on earth are we going to do with the side yards? I’ll give you some ideas here too.

My goal is to help the typical site become more useful for the folks living there (you!) and make sure we cover the basics of arrival, sitting, entertaining, eating, recreating, working or gardening. I’ll talk about elements that divide garden spaces such as hardscaping like a patio, or defining space with a hedge or plants. We’ll look at overhead space and what we might want to do to define that space. What does it do to a space to have a pergola installed?

We will talk about the arrangement of spaces for plants and then what plants will do well in those places.

We’ll talk about problem soils and what we can do about them.
Next week we’ll discuss the front of the home and how to minimize the garage or any undesirable feature. I’ll recommend specific ways to make changes that should not be too difficult or expensive for people to do on their own.

And now that spring is here it’s time to get started! Your goal this week is to put pencil to paper and write down what you want your outdoor spaces and garden to do for you and your family.

If you have a design and are ready to start planting, start with the “bones,” trees, shrubs, lawn and some perennials. Don’t forget to add a wonderful shrub like a gorgeous lilac. Later we will talk about flowers, summer bulbs and vegetables.

There are lots of “how to” books on the market both for building decks and other hardscaping and for selecting plants and planting basic. Have fun planning.

Two reference books that are easy to find are: Home Landscaping Northwest Region, Roger Holmes and Don Marshall; and Garden Designs, by Sunset.