Boundaries – Defining your space
As mentioned in the last post, the word ‘garden’ means enclosure. You are perhaps among those that enjoy a front lawn that is shared with their neighbors…
Other people need more of it, telling the world “This is my space” and “This is where I create my personal world.” To them boundaries imply that this space could be defended; they feel their personal space is intimate only when it is enclosed and when the fences or hedges restrict the access to their home. For them, even the front garden needs to be delineated, marked and enclosed, even if it is only with the hint of an enclosure, such as low fence or a row of shrubs.
If you feel more comfortable with an enclosure, consider that its type depends on your need for privacy or protection, as well as the style of your home. It should complement the house and garden that it protects, in design, scale, level of formality, materials or overall character.
This could also be the opportunity to show off your creativity or personality with some whimsical or artful accents.
Your outside living rooms
Rather than seeing your garden as a static picture from inside your breakfast nook or from your patio, it might be time to view your landscape as an opportunity to create “rooms” for different purposes:
Perhaps you could have a private reading nook? A hammock under a tree might be all that’s needed… Or you have dreamed of a yoga/meditation nook? A small deck or paved area hidden away behind some large bushes might work for that. Or you have fantasies of loosing the old lawn and creating garden scenes that you can discover on an meandering pathway? If there’s too little room for separate spaces, perhaps it’s time to create your dreamy and forever soothing and entertaining pond, right next to your patio?
Now add personality and character (Accents & plants)
In shaping your garden, your fantasies and desires should be your guides: Now is the time to dream and then figure out how to bring your vision to reality.
You might have already assembled many cut-sheets, photos and magazine articles on landscape scenes that have appealed to you, and it will help to examine them for a common theme. I’d note why these images speak to you: Is it the intimacy of a space? The romantic feeling of a nook? The privacy of a green arbor? The intriguing textures of a plant scene? The playfulness of a whimsical fountain and a bench nearby inviting you to sit down with a magazine?
By looking at these images, you can better evaluate your own garden and improve it by giving the whole your personal stamp and style.
For example, a stone ball could be an energetic and self-contained sculpture that’s a whimsical and a forever appealing counter point in the midst of your flowers. A glass ball could add a gleam of light among them, too.
Strolling past a whirligig, or a found object, or … (you fill in the blank) would be fun. This special thing will make you happy and will reveal just a little about your personality to the visitor.
Ideas for colorful plantings abound online or in print in plant books and beautiful gardening magazines, or you can find them in botanical displays (such as the Water Conservation Garden in El Cajon , or the San Diego Botanic Garden in Encinitas), so I’d like to add mainly these ideas:
Shrubs make good “bones”: they are part of the backbone of a garden, can provide privacy and screening; they add the permanence to the otherwise ephemeral plant material; Smaller shrubs and perennials then provide the décor, color, more temporary interest; they remind us of the passing of time and the never-ending cycle of natural processes.
All of these plants are vital to our gardens; but none should overpower them.
Time to plant a tree? (Or: Anchor your home to the environment; it might “fly off” otherwise…)
One of the most overlooked features often missing in gardens, especially in front yards, is a tree that embellishes the home. I don’t mean a tree that’s growing into the power lines or breaks up your driveway… nor a Eucalyptus long forgotten in the back yard, or a Pine tree that’s shedding needles onto your porch or roof either. I don’t mean a monster that has been topped and that can’t throw any shade on your home, in summer.
Trees provide structure and organization to the garden, they add “weight” and character. They give shelter and shade to people, animals and plants; they screen out unwanted views or frame desirable ones.
Here’s what I would look for: A tree, in proportion to your home (for a one story home that means a tree that doesn’t get bigger than 25-30 ft), placed where it cools your home in summer. I would choose a deciduous tree: In winter then the sun will warm your house.
Don’t forget that the height of a tree, say 25 ft, usually means that the roots will spread AT LEAST as wide, but most trees’s root systems spread 1-2 times that far… It’s therefore very important that you plant the tree at a distance of at least half of its height from any structure (foundation walls, patios, walkways, driveways) that could restrict its growth, or where the roots could do damage later down the road.
A tree like that can ‘anchor’ your home to the surroundings and firmly ‘plant’ it in its environment. The tree’s canopy will be a shelter for anybody walking under it; which is why I would try to plant it close to porches or terraces.
Now you’re (almost) there: You can already look for the new hammock to hang in that tree…