Gardeners might look at their gardens with a mix of disappointment, desire for a delightful display and despair.
The gardener might have recently acquired the garden from someone who neglected it, or neglected it his/her self. (Life can dissuade even the most ambitious gardener.)
Renovating a garden can be a formidable challenge, leaving the gardener baffled and frustrated.
Such situations call for a plan. Here are suggestions for the early stages of a process to take control, build confidence and produce evidence of progress. These initial steps create a foundation for actual landscaping; hands-on work happens a little later.
Draw a Diagram of the Property
A scale drawing of the entire property supports the design and installation phases of the renovation. Show the improvements: house, garage, driveway, walkway, pond, walls, outbuildings, etc. Show large trees and other significant plants that definitely will remain in place, but omit all candidates for removal.
Indicate which direction is north, to aid in planning for sun exposure.
Indicate major changes in elevation with contour lines that trace equal elevations, or with a separate drawing of a side view of a slice through the property. Visit ongardening.com for an example of a garden elevation change diagram.
This diagram (or “base map”) might be drawn on graph paper to ease measurements, and should be rendered in black ink to enable clear photocopies. Make several photocopies for sketching design ideas.
Decide on Basic Design Concepts
Write down your intentions to, for example, commit to organic gardening, establish a drought-tolerant landscape, adopt one or more thematic approaches to plant selection, or establish a wildlife-friendly environment. This exercise helps to provide direction to planning the renovation, but it can be revised during the project.
Establish Objectives for the Finished Landscape
Envision how you will use the landscape: outdoors living, with parties, barbeques, etc.; recreation for children or adults; growing fruits and vegetables; or simply enjoying horticultural displays. Write it down.
Set Priorities for Development
Break the renovation project into steps that are manageable in terms of time and money. Begin by visualizing the overall design of the landscape, emphasizing the hardscape elements: pathways; planting bed borders; stairways or walls (if there are important elevation changes); outbuildings, etc.
Subsequent priorities could focus on either specific zones within the landscape, or desired features.
These early actions will contribute greatly to the larger goals to take control, build confidence and demonstrate progress. Selecting and installing plants happens after investing in these preparations.
Here is good example of a base map for a residential landscaping project. This image comes from Washington State’s Department of Fish and Wildlife, which has a web page on Landscape Design for WIldlife. That’s an interesting topic, too, but the base map has value an an example for a wide range of landscaping projects, including renovations.