Green thumb gardening…


Designing the garden

By Debbie Clark

It’s that time of the year when you look at your garden and you are either excited at how it looks or you are just disappointed. If your garden is not what you hoped for, maybe it’s time to work on your garden design. Here are some suggestions:

Color wheels, colored pencils, markers and templates make designing the garden easy on paper. Use a scale of 1 inch =10 feet in drawing your design.

First thing to do is find what you like. Spend time studying magazines, books and online pictures for ideas. Visit friend’s or public gardens to see what they have done in their gardens. Start a folder with pictures of plants, trees, garden art, furniture or other things you like. Talk to other family members as how they would use the landscape space. Maybe they would like to grow vegetables, entertain or just have an area to relax and enjoy nature. Establish a budget of how much you can spend for everything. Consider how much maintenance it will take to keep the garden up and can you do the work or will you need to hire someone? After you have ideas to work with, draw your garden plan.

Consider focal points in your garden like the fountain in this picture. Select shrubs and trees with interesting color in leaves, bark, flowers and stems. The red stems of the shrub in the picture give great color in the winter.

In designing, create areas for composting and storage that are out of site in the garden. Include pathways that are wide enough for two people to walk side by side. In your design, notate where water, electrical and other utilities are located and lighting conditions. Always consider color, balance, variety, unity, enclosure and focal points in your plan and remember that “Less is More”. Too much in a garden can overwhelm the eye. There are some wonderful books that will explain these concepts. Take the time to draw out your garden design on paper. Pencil works the best, because you will make changes as you draw. Your drawing can be very simple or computer generated. Use a scale of 1 inch = 10 feet when drawing your plan.

Color is important to the garden and it needs to continue throughout the growing season. The use of warm colors to cool colors works well in this garden design.

After you have your design, lay out your garden beds. You can use landscaping paint and a garden hose to shape the beds. Remember to do a soil test before planting. When selecting plants, read your plant tags as to zones, lighting conditions, water needs, height and width. Select plants that can give you four seasons of color. In selecting trees and shrubs, look for interesting bark, fall foliage color, flowers and interesting leaf color. In flowers, look for perennials with interesting leaf color, leaf texture and blooms. Remember that flowers provide color for a short period of time but leaf color can give lots of color far longer. Add colorful annuals for that burst of color. After you have laid out your garden shape, set your plants into place according to the plan. Stand back and take a look and if needed you can make some final adjustments before planting. Plant in drift and short plants to the front with taller plants to the back of the bed. Make sure your new garden is kept watered till it is established.

When designing your garden add in structures, garden art, lighting, pathways and a large variety of blooming plants.

A good garden takes planning and time and with time a beautiful garden will be the result.

Debbie Clark is a North Carolina Master Gardener.  Visit her blog at: