Improving your home's landscaping shouldn’t feel intimidating. It should instead be a fun relaxing project! Easier said than done, I know, but I have some steps to help make that possible. One thing my mother always said when she would plant at our house is that we are not doing this for a Ritz-Carlton - we are planting for ourselves, so we should build these beds for our own enjoyment and our own vision. To determine your vision and what will work best in your yard, I have some tips that I have found helpful when I am digging in my beds.
TIP #1: Get to know the space
Before you embark on planning out an area, get to know what you're working with. Things to think about are:
Amount of sunlight
How wet or dry the areas get
Where the area will be viewed from (front only, all sides, etc.)
Having thought through these will help you choose plants that will thrive in the area. Don’t like the current attributes of the area? Adapt the area to better serve what you want planted there! That could mean trimming a tree, adding organic matter into the soil or just being aware to put a sprinkler on the dry areas.
TIP #2: Keep size in mind
I am guilty of not always thinking this through (really in all facets of life). Sometimes we want to jam as many plants into an area so we can get that instant gratification of a full bed. However, that can cause problems for the plants as they begin to mature. So, when picking out what plants you want in the space always keep the mature size in mind. Watching your garden grow, fill in and generally change year over year is part of the fun!
TIP #3: Layers and angles
We all want that full looking landscape, but we also want to make sure our new plants are happy in their environment. We can try to fulfill both by positioning them based on height and formation habit. Keep the tall guys in the back and the mounding ones edging the front of the bed. This will keep the full look and draw our eyes from high to low. The next tip is to plant your plants in an angular formation. Think zig zags, diamond or triangles. This will make the bed look much fuller when you are looking at it and it gives the plants some room to breathe.
TIP #4: Think of all the seasons
As I mentioned before these beds are an extension of what we like to see and for me I love having something different catch my eye during different seasons throughout the year. So, when I plan out what to plant I try to group different plants so their best attributes pop at different times. The easy example of this is having plants that have different bloom periods planted together. This gives each plant it’s time to be the start of the show and helps keep your landscaping looking fresh throughout the year. Other things to think about are shrubs or trees that may flower early in the year - like forsythias, spice bushes or magnolias - and pair them with a chokeberry or ninebark that has stunning and ever-changing foliage.
TIP #5: Don’t be afraid of texture and color shades
Alright, this one is for all the folks who are looking to build out a nice shade garden. Lots of time when we think of gardens, we want wall-to-wall color and flowers. This can be quite difficult to achieve in a shaded area. That is why it is nice to focus on textures and color shades. Adding different foliage textures with variations of different shades of greens it can be quite breathtaking. I even like to add these textures in a sunny area. Think about some of the prettiest gardens, they will mix these awesome textures and shades throughout their beds. Some examples for me that come to mind are your classic European gardens or my favorite “garden”, the deep woods of Montana!
Hopefully this can bring some excitement for your next backyard project! Remember these are just some tips that may come in handy, but this is YOUR garden so have fun with it and be creative. You may learn to play with new plants that you never thought could be an option. Whether it be a rose garden, a native butterfly garden or an “I don’t give a damn” garden, just remember to have fun playing in the dirt! Do you all have any fun pictures of your pride and joy? We would love to see how you bring your garden to life!