Add a theme to make the garden of your dreams

Personalizing our “stuff” is commonplace.

We put family stickers on the car, download unique cellphone ring tones, accessorize — all to highlight our individual styles.

Why not extend that into the customization of your yard? The space around your home should have a theme that makes it personal to you, even if, or maybe especially if, you live in a cookie-cutter neighborhood.

With a judicious use of plants and hardscaping, you can turn the landscape into something uniquely yours.

It’s highly satisfying to live surrounded by a space that speaks to who you are as an individual. Are you proud of your heritage? An Italian garden is easy to create here in the


Or consider Greek, Middle Eastern, Spanish, French, Australian and just about any other warm climate.

Are you a Shakespeare buff? You could have a Shakespearean yard filled with plants mentioned in his plays and sonnets, and a sundial for a touch of the Elizabethan age.

Consider a yard full of plants mentioned in the Bible — easy to do since many of them thrive in the Southwest garden.

Elizabeth Przygoda-Montgomery, owner of Boxhill Landscape Design in Tucson, Ariz., has created a number of themed gardens. “Very popular in Tucson are the Mexican Barrio-style gardens,” she says. “Owners love colorful flowering plants, walls with bright elements, wrought iron and tile work.”

However, homeowners shouldn’t be afraid to think outside the box. “I’ve designed cottage gardens with a Texas flair,” says Pam Penick, owner of highly rated Penick Landscape Design in Austin, Texas, noting there are many native plants that evoke English cottage gardens.

“Designing a themed landscape is much like designing any other landscape,” says Philip Leveridge, owner of East Side Patch Design Services, also in Austin. “I discuss with the clients the look they desire, then I work out the aesthetic aspects, bearing in mind requirements of the plants involved.”

Leveridge creates traditional landscape plans, but also uses technology to create an almost three-dimensional graphic rendering of what the site will look like. “The clients really appreciate the visual graphics because many are not familiar with the plant materials, and can’t visualize the combinations with the same inner eye as design professionals,” he says.

While many clients request low maintenance and deer-resistant landscapes, incorporating a theme can take it to the next level. “When a client asked for a yard that ‘felt cool,’ I jumped at the chance to design an ice garden,” Leveridge says.

He filled the landscape with cooling white and silver plants and added a koi pond with a pump to create the refreshing sound of running water.

Having a theme precludes your yard from being an amalgam of whatever ended up there. It would have a unifying underlying concept — your stamp on your space.

Editor’s note: Learn more about maintaining and caring for your lawn and landscape with Angie’s List Guide to Landscaping.

About the author: Dr. Jacqueline A. Soule has been writing about gardening in the West for nearly three decades. Her latest book, “Father Kino’s Herbs: Growing and Using Them Today,” is available through the Western National Parks Association.

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