Plan your garden before you dig to save time, money
by Lorene Edwards Forkner
Northwestern retreat, party playground or a fragrant floral paradise — the comforts of home need not stop at the back door.
Save time (and money) by resolving the following simple, but not so obvious, questions before you begin.
What are you actually going to do in the garden? Without exception, every landscape designer I know starts here when working with new clients. Are you looking to create an outdoor entertainment area or carve out a solitary retreat?
"Will you be reading and relaxing, entertaining, really gardening or playing with kids, grandkids or dogs?" asks Bothell, Wash., garden designer Tina Dixon.
When do you intend to spend time in the garden? A handsome pathway with attractive plantings adds pleasure to every day — even if you're on your way to the car and off to work. On the other hand, don't plant a big vegetable garden if you're gone on vacation every August.
Landscape designer Daniel Mount believes gardens should be personal. "I try to determine which plants, colors, even seasons and specific events have special meaning for my clients and work those elements into the garden," he says.
Do you prefer open, exposed space or enclosed, sheltered areas? Take a look around. You may need to call a good arborist or contract with a builder to achieve your goals.
Remember, vegetable gardens and roses love to bask in full sun while play and dining areas are often enhanced by dappled light cast from a nearby tree or shade structure. Privacy issues are a fact of life in city gardens. Artful screening of distractions go a long ways toward making nosy neighbors disappear.
Design for comfort and practicality, not just aesthetics. "If I see one more 'artfully' placed bench out in the hot sun, I will scream," says Boise, Idaho garden designer Mary Ann Newcomer.
Plan and plant for your climate; a rain shelter may extend the use of your deck for months as opposed to a few dry weeks in summer.
Other practical matters include plotting entryways and remembering to accommodate utility and storage space. Even spacious country gardens have issues.
"In rural gardens, access to water is critical as is protecting the garden from critters," says Oklahoma garden writer Dee Nash.
And finally, the "M" word: maintenance. How much time are you willing to allot to the care and maintenance of your garden? Who will do the work? Perhaps Seattle designer Wendy Welch says it best: "Is Martha Stewart ever really coming to dinner?"
With answers in hand, contact experts for advice and assistance to help you realize your dream garden. Saving money is good; saving time is even better. Before you know it, you'll be outside lounging, swinging from the monkey bars, or gathering your first bouquet.
Lorene Edwards Forkner, freelance writer, food enthusiast and garden designer, revels in the seasonal pleasures and broad scope of gardening in the Pacific Northwest. She's the author of "Growing Your Own Vegetables" and "Canning & Preserving Your Own Harvest."