Plan Your Perfect Garden Now

photo of bungalow with foliageAdmiring gardens at their summertime peak? Grab your camera. Now is the absolute best time to capture pictures of the gardens you love. Note the patios, the pathways and the layouts you’d like for your own garden.

  1. Trees. Note the ones with sizes and shapes that would work in your garden. Do you want filtered shade over your patio at this time of year? Look for trees with a vase shape that grow large enough to do the job and observe which plants are thriving and which plants are struggling beneath these trees, including grasses and ground covers. While we often ignore evergreens in the summer, this is the perfect time to check out which ones blend or contrast with the summer colors in your garden. Does a lone conifer look like someone forgot to remove the Christmas tree?  It might need companion plants around it. If a tree is out of scale, dwarfs the rest of the garden, or creates too much shade, think about replacing it with a more suitable tree or using its space in a completely different way.
  2. Shrubs. Look at shapes and foliage colors and keep an eye out for shrubs look gorgeous even in yards with brown lawns. Note which shrubs stay neat-looking and which rapidly overgrow their places in the landscape and threaten to take over a yard without constant pruning (these include some lilacs, camellias and rhododendrons.
  3. Perennials. Now is the time to scrutinize the ornamental grasses, rosemary, lavender, and large sage plants that are so popular for water-wise gardens. Observing them in summer will remind you that most of them need large amounts of space, even if the ones you plant in the spring start out tiny. If you see any of these looking too large and ragged, it may be because they are played out and need to be divided or replaced with new plants. Keep an eye out for plant combinations that are unusual or striking and could make beds more exciting.
  4. Foliage. Speaking of color, be aware of leaf color — the small, shiny dark green leaves of a box-leaf azara or the large leaves of a magnolia add very different notes to the garden than the icy blue sprays of an Arizona Cypress. Silver-blue shades impart a sense of coolness even on a hot, sunny day. If you are looking to brighten a shady spot in your garden, consider planting a tree with glossy leaves that reflect light, such as the Japanese Aucuba plant (Aucuba japonica).
  5. Styles and traditions. This is also a good opportunity to observe garden styles. Are you drawn to a sleek, modern look or something that has tropical feeling? The Windmill palm (Trachycarpus fortunei) fits right in around a tiled patio, but will it look out of place at your home. If you have full sun and good drainage in your garden, you might like a desert style, with lots of silver/gray foliage bordering a rustic stone pathway. A classic English cottage garden is lovely in summer, but can you tolerate the barren look during its dormant season. An edible garden is fun and can produce superior fruits, but do you have the soil, the sun exposure, the space and the inclination to take care of it all summer?

The key to successful garden design is getting a sense of your personal style before you meet with a designer or go plant shopping. Summer is the best time to “window shop” your neighborhood. Take pictures and make a “look book” of your favorite gardens. You’ll be glad you did when you sit down to plan your garden in March

For more information about garden planning, please contact us.