A good plan for your garden begins with good bones

  • By Kathy Van Mullekom Nerwport News Daily Press
  • Tuesday, February 16, 2016 5:19pm
  • Life

Beverly Martin is proud of the love she has for nature because it follows in the footsteps of her mother and grandmother who taught her to appreciate all things beautiful outdoors.

“My mother created a beautiful garden carving out beds on a heavily shaded, root riddled rocky slope,” says Martin, who lives and gardens in southeastern Virginia. She’s also the landscape design consultant for Countryside Gardens in Hampton, Va. — http://countrysidegardens.biz

“Of course we kids were enlisted to help, weeding and digging, and we each learned a bit in the process. I did not fully appreciate her efforts till I had a place to call my own.

“I made all the mistakes young homebuyers still make today. Purchasing only flowers to start out, not amending the soil, narrow beds, planting things too close together.”

10 landscape design tips

Start with the basics. Make a list of your wants and assess your planting site, such as sun, shade, soil, drainage, wind, noise, existing features, utilities etc. Figure out what stays, what goes and what needs to be fixed.

Think about “bones,” or structure in the garden — what will be there year-round such as trees, shrubs or larger structures.

Plan a backdrop, which can double as privacy or a windbreak. This is also part of the “bones.” You can use shrubs, fencing or walls, basically anything that separates your space from the rest of the world and makes it your own.

Pick a style and carry it throughout your yard. Geometric beds, straight beds or curving bed lines? Tight clipped shrubs, topiaries or loose natural forms? Mulched paths, wooden boardwalks or brick walks? Whatever you choose, use the same materials everywhere to create harmony.

If you choose rounded lines, create long flowing bed lines or sweeping curves that are easier to mow around and draw you into the space.

Address all growing issues before choosing plants — poor soil, drainage, seasonal flooding as well as wildlife such as plant-eating deer.

In all spaces, large or small, plant flowers in masses of color. Color scattered everywhere creates disjointed gardens and poor visual impact.

Consider your surroundings. Your neighbors’ landscape may affect yours — tree roots, drainage, shade or view. If it’s nice you can open up the view and create the illusion that it’s part of yours; If not use your landscape to hide it.

Use focal points to catch the eye and draw you in. You can’t go wrong with a bench, birdbath or tasteful small fountain; however, too many ‘focal points’ — and by this I mean garden tchotchkes — can trash up your yard and make it look like a flea market. If you must have tchotchkes a good rule of thumb is only one should be visible from any location in the garden at a time.

Include paths with purpose. Paths are great to get you from point A to point B in the landscape, but a path that goes nowhere is a disappointment to visitors. Put something special at the destination.

6 mistakes and fixes

Mistakes homeowners often make and how to correct them:

Not having a plan — leads to buying plants on a whim, which ends up wasting time and money. Start with a plan in mind.

Not adding structure — “bones” — to the garden first. While it’s more fun to purchase all the pretty flowers a landscape without structure is just a flowerbed. Start with a plan in mind.

Not thinking big enough, whether it be the size of the planting beds or the size of the plants they purchase. Going small shows a lack of confidence. Confidence comes with experience if you don’t have it, find a professional you trust who does and work with them.

Buying quantity vs. quality or over buying (over planting) — an overplanted landscape requires significantly more maintenance. Plan your plantings according to how big the plants will get — and remember if plants are happy they continue to grow. Having a plan ensures you won’t end up with a lot of plants you don’t really want or have room for.

Buying just flowers because they’re pretty — this results in a naked yard in winter. Enjoyable, eye-catching landscapes look good all year, and include trees, shrubs and perennials for fall and winter displays.

Not being realistic about how much time will be devoted to landscape maintenance. Combine multiple small beds into one large bed for easier mowing and edging. Start beds with trees and blooming shrubs — they’re easier to maintain than fussy flowerbeds.

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