One that you want to spend every free minute in?
For a successful home landscape design that brings you enjoyment, peace and comfort, take these ingredients:
- Dream it (and now’s the time to pull all the stops)
- Determine your needs (i.e. what you can realistically do); assign required space dimensions to each element
- Define your style
- Draw a plan (or get landscape design help)
- Remove and keep only what’s desirable (f. ex. a shade tree) and put it all together
It’ll work for you, too, with this recipe! Here’s how we did it for Rachel’s garden:
1. Dream it
When I first met Rachel she had come with her garden club to visit a garden that I had designed. She complimented me on the beauty of the design and asked if I’d be interested in helping her with her yard: She didn’t think much could be made of it since it was so small, but could I come to see it anyways?
Rachel, at her wonderful age of 83, is a very active member in a few different clubs, and as we talked it was apparent that she had a clear idea of what she dreamt of:
- Have more friends over and entertain them in her garden.
She hoped for a space in her garden in which to serve some light foods and drinks, surrounded by color and beauty. The lawn wasn’t comfortable anymore to walk on, and over the years the shrubs had been disfigured and pruned into boring blobs; many had just disappeared and had never been replaced.
- Where would I create this entertainment space, since the yard was so small?
- And would there perhaps be room for a lounge chair in a reading nook?
- And could she have a fountain, or other water feature?
- And would we have enough room still for many flowers and interesting textures?
- The entire yard was enclosed by a 5 ft wall not high enough to block out the neighbor’s window. Could we make the garden more private without blocking her view of the ocean?
2. Determine your needs (i.e. what you can realistically do); assign required space dimensions to each element
The first thing I asked Rachel was to define and tell me about how she planned to entertain her friends:
- Would she want to sit down at a table and serve food there?
- And how many people would she like to seat?
- And where would the food be served from, since the main kitchen was upstairs, on the first floor?
We determined that she wasn’t going to serve hot food but only salads and finger foods prepared in the smaller downstairs kitchen in her guest apartment. This way she wouldn’t need any tables to sit down as most people (mostly groups of up to 10 to 15 people) would be standing or strolling through the garden; some seating could be provided with benches.
(Note: To seat 4 people around a table we would have needed at least 10 sq ft ; this seems to be the bare minimum, and if you need circulation space around it or your chairs are a bit oversized, 14 sq ft for this dining area would be needed.)
However, to accommodate these groups, two “entertainment” areas would be best, and I suggested to allow for each about 12 x 12 ft : This would allow room for benches, some additional (temporary) seating if necessary, and still have enough planting space around them to soften all. Also, these spaces would need to be connected with easy pathways. (Inviting people to stroll from one area to the other would be a perfect way to display plants to be discovered on the way.)
Since most of her friends are elderly, the pavement under foot needed to be safe, which in my mind excluded any materials with uneven surface such as flagstones or gravel.
This left stabilized/compacted DG (decomposed granite), concrete, tiles and interlocking pavers; which one would we be using?
Examining her house and garden for elements that would help define the style of this new backyard landscape design, I noted these clues:
- The main assets of the existing garden were a mature Pine tree in the corner that provided lovely shade (unfortunately pruned very unprofessionally but not beyond repair); also two mature fruit trees in the other corner, and a beautiful view of the ocean, in between a couple of roofs in the neighborhood. We would try to keep the mature trees.
- Enclosing the garden was a 5 ft wall that had the potential of making it more private if it could be raised in a few critical areas?
- Architectural style: Her house is a Southwest/Perceived Spanish 2-story building with white stucco and red tile roof, and an upstairs balcony from which she views her garden and the ocean.
- There was an existing, albeit small patio paved with grey concrete; any new pavement would need to harmonize with it since we there was no budget to remove this pavement.
- About Rachel’s preferred style: The strongest clues as to Rachel’s taste were, as with so many design clients, visible inside the home: She loves Mexican and Southwestern art, as displayed everywhere in terracotta tile floors, furniture, colorful cushions, glazed ceramics, paintings and souvenirs from the Southwest. Red tile was used everywhere, and the walls surrounding her garden are reminiscent of a Spanish courtyard whose surrounding walls allowed a beautiful view of the ocean.
We have now assembled the first ingredients of this recipe . For how to put them together for your dream garden, please read my follow-up post.