“Show me your garden and I shall tell you what you are,” claimed Alfred Austin, Victorian poet. As a landscape designer, I understand his claim: our front and back yards are an extension of ourselves. They truly reflect our personalities and our connection with nature.
Does your landscaping express your personality? Extroverts display their outgoing nature with bold design choices and strong colors in their gardens. They enjoy the attention that their vibrant landscape draws from friends, neighbours and passers by.
Introverts seek to create quiet oasis in their yards and prefer subtle shades of greenery for their personal outdoor space.
You can spot outdoor enthusiasts and their love of wilderness by their drifts of wild flowers and tall grasses. Environmentalists often go lawn-free and create habitat for wildlife. They prefer natural or recycled materials and fill their small yards with drought tolerant and native plants, to conserve water.
What draws all gardeners together is the common joy and excitement they share in watching their gardens grow. Plants bloom, give off heavenly scents and provide nourishment for birds and butterflies. Nature is relaxing and even healing.
Since most of us purchase our homes from others, we inherit someone else’s landscaping that may not reflect our own personality or lifestyle. The property might even just be a blank canvas of lawn. Design changes to the landscape can give new life to yards that don’t suit us. Think high-maintenance, outdated style, or yards that lack that welcoming feeling.
Sometimes it is not personal preference but necessity that screams for landscape changes. Poorly installed landscaping and badly placed plants can do costly damage to both homes and yards. Incorrect grading can trap water next to your basement; trees with shallow roots can crack pavement and foundations if planted too close. Overgrown branches can limit vital airflow around your home, while improperly installed hardscaping can rot wood siding or cause your home’s brick to spall.
Whatever your reason to put your own imprint on your yard, the first step is to think about how you enjoy spending time outdoors. If you love entertaining, a deck or patio with a seating arrangement could become your focal point. For those who prefer to read outdoors, creating a private, shady reading nook with shrubs and perennials can be your inspiration.
Next, collect images of your dreamscape. Tear sheets from landscape magazines, snap photos from around the neighbourhood or surf the web for pictures. Internet sites like Pinterest can be a great way of collecting images and create idea boards. What you put in your yard should be in proportion to the size, shape and architectural detail of your house, as well as fit the character of the neighbourhood.
There are multiple factors to consider when creating a landscape plan. That’s why I firmly believe it is crucial to start with a detailed landscape design. I highly recommend tapping into the expertise of a professional landscape designer or architect to produce a creative and functional plan.
Here are some pointers about what should go into your landscaping plan. Well-designed landscapes create inviting outdoor living spaces and curb appeal. Your front yard should welcome you home and the backyard should be your own private retreat.
Well-designed gardens create multi-season beauty. The Red Osier Dogwood is a great
example: the red bark in winter adds colour, then big clusters of tiny white flowers appear in spring followed by decorative berries in summer, and to cap off the season, the leaves transition to crimson reds and burgundies.
Plants need to be carefully selected to create shade as well as to add year-round colour and variety. Every shrub and perennial has its right place based on its requirement for light and water. A good plan includes fuss-free and non-aggressive plants, to save time on maintenance later.
Besides the view while sitting in the garden, the view from the street – curb appeal – is also important. Framing the pathway with garden beds instantly gives the entrance a sense of welcome. A small sitting area next to the front door lets visitors know they can relax and can be a wonderful place to enjoy a book and greet neighbours on a Saturday morning.
A strategically placed garden connects you to nature indoors. A good landscape designer will ensure great views from both inside and outside your home.
Landscape designs also contain vital information that will save your time and money.
They will show you the grade of the soil. Good drainage does more than just prevent soggy plants. It prevents water from going into your home or possibly worse, into your neighbours’ basement. To achieve good drainage, you may need to change grading, create terraces or install below surface drains.
If you are doing the work in stages, a landscape design will explain what order in which to proceed. While it may seem obvious to some, installing electrical conduits and paving often comes before planting.
Think of a landscape design plan as your yard’s blueprint. It will ensure that your garden will reflect your personality. That may mean creating a showplace, a calming sanctuary or fun-loving entertainment hub. A great landscape plan will avoid worry, expense and let you enjoy life outdoors and all your yard has to offer.
Article originally published in the O.S.C.A.R. newspaper