Saturday, June 7, 2008

Garden Therapy, Week 2. Planning in Earnest.

Image from this blog.

By now, you will know what's wrong and have some idea how to fix the problems. This week, pick one area you will commit to finishing--the rest can be done if time and inclination allow. The idea is to take the pressure off getting it ALL done over the next seven weeks.

I know nothing about designing gardens, but I have been reading up on it. There's a book (again from the library) called Designing Your Gardens and Landscapes by Janet Macunovich. I like the way she approaches planning.

The place to begin is with "the main view." What's this?

It's the place on the landscape where you stand and survey your plot, whether front or back, from inside or outside. There is, of course, usually more than one possible place: the thing is to choose one to start.

I don't think I mentioned this in week 1, but I should have: 1) What do you want your garden to do? What is it's raison d'etre? Identify your top three reasons for going to all this time and trouble and keep them in mind as you make your plans. 2) How much time, trouble and money (on an annual basis) are you willing to spend on the garden/landscape?

Answers to these questions are supposed to help you determine your first viewing area.

Ours is a corner lot. I have been "working" on the front yard from the bottom of the path: but that's how I see it; not how it is seen by most passers by. This is what they see:

So, Macunovich recommends I make a bubble diagram or sketch of the area and position "viewing lines" on it: and that's the place to establish the main focal point. A couple of caveats: 1) make sure the focal point is in one's field of vision. It's the "stage"; the viewer is the audience. Her seat should be "front and center." 2) Make sure the focal point does not "point to" something hideous beyond it, like a telephone pole, the neighbour's garage or what have you.

Then consider the secondary views: in my case, for the front yard, I have arbitrarily decided it will be the living room window. I'm getting excited about the idea removing those trees from the front and pruning the shrub: once those things are done I should actually be able to see out the front window.

Draw the area to be "seen" and if there is overlap, you still have one focal point: if there isn't, it can be an area for a secondary focal point and we'll get to that later.

Another point: if you already have something which draws the eye (as we do with the flag pole), you have two options. 1) If it is at the edge of the main view, use it as a boundary point. 2) If you want to highlight it eventually, but not right away, just ignore it until you get to the secondary stage which is creating more focal points and "leading the eye" through the landscape. That comes later.

In AT, Maxwell introduces the concept of the "outbox." If you need one, set it up for your outdoor things. You can't really "outbox" plants. You have to know where they will go if you plan to move them. In my case, I will have to make notes: I can't move the Irises yet as they are blooming in all the green weeds, and the rose really should stay put until I know where it's going too.


  • Finish up any items remaining from Week 1.
  • Determine your main viewing area.
  • If you need to call in help or rent tools start collecting quotes now. (This doesn't come until later in AT, but the summer lasts only so long and these calls should probably have been made a month ago.)

  • Make a "floor plan" of your garden/landscape and indicate the "main viewing" area. I have a link for a beta program in the sidebar. If you find others, please share. Make it as precise as you need. A bubble diagram or sketch is fine at this stage.

  • Begin to think about your foliage. The best advice ever, is in the aforementioned book, which is know your soil type and the amount of sun your chosen focal point receives. Research plants on that basis: and ignore all others. Consult at least two sources for each plant. Take catalogue descriptions with a grain of salt. Start a plant notebook where you can list contenders. Other than that, what you want will be determined by your goals.

  • Do you want a formal or informal garden? A useful one or something purely ornamental? Name your vision. Make it up, if you want, a la scb.
  • I'm going to throw this out there because it truly is a great motivator--think about having a garden/balcony party. It could be simply tea (or some other "special occasion" beverage) with a friend or a pig roast with the neighbourhood. Your call. Pick a date.
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