Create a garden design to suit your Northeastern home's needs

Create a garden design to suit your Northeastern home's needs

Warm weather is steadily arriving in the Northeast. From Washington, D.C., to Maine, the growing season will soon follow.

At this time of year, even nongardeners get the itch to plant something. And you don’t have to have a green thumb or do your own landscaping to enjoy the creative benefits of the garden.

Many landscapers have clients who want small areas where they can have fun with plants. From raising a few vegetables or planting impulse annuals to providing spaces for children, these homeowners want a place to play.

By working with a professional garden designer, they can have those experiences in ways that meld with their overall landscape.

The first step is to meet with a designer and clarify the garden’s intended use. “It’s to the homeowners advantage,” says Toni Ann Flanigan, owner of highly rated Philadelphia Gardens in Philadelphia.

Flanigan says that she uses these meetings to dig for details, so she can help people define how they’ll use their landscape.

“I ask them how many dinner parties they will have and how many guests?" she says. "Do they want to use their garden as a place to read the paper on Sundays? Do they want to use it for cocktails in the evening?”

The location and size of a property doesn’t preclude having the garden the client desires. “We’ve planted unusual plants strictly for attracting birds and butterflies,” she says. “And that was on the 25th floor! It was a complete success. Birds, bees and butterflies all enjoy this 7-foot-by- 10-foot space.”

Designers suggest that their clients use groups of containers to experiment with plants, including edibles.

“More people are planting vegetable and herb gardens than in the past,” says Kathy Curtiss, president of highly rated Doug Curtiss Landscape Designing in Southborough, Mass. “Most of my clients put their herbs in containers.”

In addition to growing things that capture their fancy, many homeowners are also interested in providing places for children to play. Designers look for ways to provide these spaces without detracting from the overall landscape plan.

“We designed a garden that had a good pile of dirt hidden away for the clients’ son to play with his Tonka toys,” Flanigan recalls. “That boy even got toy construction cones and set them up while we were installing the garden. He was very much into the building process!”

These professionals agree that the best gardens typically evolve. “We usually discuss budget and long-term goals and then go from there,” Curtiss says. “Many times landscaping is done in phases, so there is available space left for future projects.”

Flanigan adds that some homeowners intentionally space things out over the years for budgetary reasons.

Be it over time, in containers or in hidden spaces, garden professionals know that any landscape can be designed to include places to have fun.

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

About the author: C.L. Fornari is a writer, garden consultant, professional speaker and radio host who is dedicated to creating beautiful landscapes and successful gardeners. She gardens on Cape Cod, blogs at, and offers other garden articles at

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