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Planning Tips for a Garden Remodel

Planning Tips for a Garden Remodel


A mud hole, a rather majestic mud hole if I say so myself, is what I've been looking at all winter. Hardworking and clever workmen ?— Bobcat drivers, concrete pourers, rebar positioners, posthole excavators — populate the scene occasionally. We have been remodeling our backyard.

Perhaps you can learn from my experiences. For what it's worth, here are a few reminders on planning a garden remodel or landscape from scratch:

  • Get professional help (designer, landscape architect, contractor). It takes a sharp eye and design training to plan the best use of outdoor space —? to say nothing of dealing with outdoor lighting and (yikes!) plumbing.
  • Figure out what you really want —? what do you like to do in the garden? —? and create your spaces around that. We are adding an outdoor grill (42-inch Viking) and a Mugnaini woodburning oven. We like to cook outdoors, and I have dreamed of cooking pizza outdoors since I saw an oven in the garden of Napa landscape architect Jack Chandler.
  • Be realistic about what to keep and what to get rid of. Some plants are replaceable, and work will go more smoothly with them out of the way. I was talked out of saving calla lilies —? it's easy to grow more. But we are building a protective box around a 12-foot, 15-year-old Camellia reticulata.
  • Keep your plan simple. Complex things will come up, especially around an older home. Who knew that water line was there? Or that sewer-line clean-out?
  • Whatever you think, the project will cost, add 50 percent. (Make sure you arrive at as firm a price as possible at the beginning; allow for contingencies that will add on later.)
  • However long you think the project will take, double it.
  • Have fun.

1. Learn the difference between Eastern and Western design traditions.

“The history of landscape design is simple and clear,” wrote the influential 20th-century American landscape architect Garrett Eckbo in Landscape for Living. “It has two basic streams, the formal axial tradition of Europe and western Asia, and the stylized nature-symbolism of eastern Asia.”

Above: See more of this garden in Dorchester, England in our new book, Gardenista: The Definitive Guide to Stylish Outdoor Spaces.

Do you want the layout of your garden be based on western traditions— with straight lines, rectangles, and symmetry—or based on the eastern tradition of irregular shapes, curves, and materials such as water, rocks, and gravel to symbolize the natural world? Once you understand the principles, you will have the confidence to bend the rules and mix elements from both.


How to Plan a Flower Garden

First, you’ll want to choose the appropriate location in your landscape. Both sun and partial shade will work, but you’ll need to choose flowers that are suitable to the light conditions. The most versatile location is one with morning sun and afternoon shade, especially in southern regions.

The fun part is choosing which flowers to plant, but this can also be a challenge. Choose a limited number of colors and shades of those colors for best results.

You’ll likely want to use the layering technique when planting, according to height. If you’re planting your new bed against a fence or in front of a wall, plant the tallest in back and layer outward, getting gradually shorter. If the bed is surrounded by yard all around, plant the tallest blooms in the middle and layer outward on all sides.

Make a draft of your flower garden design and list of plants you might like to try. Soon after the New Year, flower catalogs will start coming in. This is the time to learn about new hybrids and updated versions of older favorites. You can decide what blooms you want in your garden, even if you purchase them somewhere else. Check the online nurseries too.


4. Look for Eco-Friendly or Recycled Materials

Despite what you may think, working with eco-friendly materials will not limit your possibilities and choices.

On the contrary, by choosing to work with recycled, green and local materials, you will activate your creativity and imagination, and you just may find your style.

Tin buckets, old clay pipes, and ridiculously cheap garden chairs are waiting for you to put them to use and enhance your garden’s design.

Sometimes, all you need is a little bit of paint to enjoy something new and fashionable from an old, scruffy item. Visit yard sales and junk shops to find the garden table of your dreams or a seesaw that you’ve always wanted for your children.

You can also find new things made from recycled materials one example is a set of furniture made from recycled plastic that can look just like wood.

Also, if you decide to buy only local materials, you will reduce your carbon footprint by not contributing to the pollution generated by export.

This lettuce garden enhances the home’s backyard design — and nourishes the household. (DepositPhotos)


Garden Planner Online

Small Blue Printer

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This online, free trial garden planner from Small Blue Printer lets you add many different objects to the scene along with your plants.

You're able to edit the color, width, and length of every object you add to your plan. This comes in handy when you're not only planning on screen but also when you're building off-screen.

When ready to print your garden plan from SmallBluePrinter.com, you can choose to include the object list along with the design. This will print you off a list of every single item in your garden, complete with sizes, quantity, and a small image of the object.

Also available when you print your design is a coded system that matches up with the item list. This means you can match up the listed items with the picture to know exactly where you're going to place each object.

Download the free trial for Mac or Windows. The full version costs $38.

You can build a garden and even print it off using this online planner, but you're unable to save your plans to an online account. This means you must not close out of the website or you could lose your progress.


Putting Your Flower Garden Planning to Work

Will you choose straight lines that look formal or a circular design? If you’re partial to a curved and jutting design, lay out a long garden hose and use a spade to edge in your shape. The ground will need tilling before you plant, unless you choose the no-dig approach, so do this before or after you mark the space.

Either way, it is usually best to till and amend the soil and do most of the planting before you put in the border. Rich or amended soil is important for flowers to reach optimum bloom and beauty, although some flowers will perform well in poor soil. There are numerous materials to use as edging with various looks.

Most flowerbeds and borders look best with a background. This may be a fence, the wall of a building or a row of shrubs. Add a background with a trellis planted with a flowering vine that coordinates with your other flowers. The ideas are never-ending so use your imagination.

It takes time to design a flower garden, so use the offseason for getting it all planned out. Then, by the time you’re ready to put it in, most of the work is already done.


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