Also don’t overlook the importance of focal points and accents. Focal points, whether they’re plants, decorative elements, or views, highlight specific areas of the garden. Accents add pops of interest throughout the space.
Before rushing to the nursery or lining up a landscape contractor, take the time to look at what you have and how you want to use your space. Start with a wish list. Write down all the ways you wish to use the space, even if they seem to clash. Your list might include a play space for the kids, a dog run, an area where adults can relax, a spot for grilling, a cutting garden, and fruit trees. Think about amenities such as an outdoor kitchen, fireplace, or water feature. Also think about the practicalities, such as where you’ll keep the gardening tools and the lawn mower.
Once you have the basic outline of your space on paper, indicate areas of sun and shade, as well as other factors such as prevailing winds, wet and dry soil, and high or low spots.
Remember that climatic factors change throughout the day. Areas that are sunny in the morning may be in deep shade by afternoon, or vice versa. Sun patterns also change with the seasons; in summer, the sun is higher and casts less shade throughout the day. Winds may be stronger in the afternoons and evenings, or in spring or summer. Soggy areas in winter may be fine for planting in spring through fall. You’ll also want to find out about any government or homeowner regulations that might affect your plans.
Today’s smaller yards often don’t allow the luxury of areas devoted to a single purpose. Even so, it could be possible to create any number of functions in a small space. Consider doubling up: Combine the grill and fireplace with a seating area; mix flowers and vegetables in raised planters that also serve as walls for a patio or deck; cover a child’s sandbox with a wood top that becomes a deck and seating area. Also look for nooks and crannies to make a difference: A simple bench with pillows tucked to the side of a patio can function as a retreat; raising a deck just a step or two provides additional seating along the steps.
Once you’ve decided what goes where, make a final map. Change the bubbles to specific outlines of the features, such as the size of a patio or the exact curve of a garden bed. If you’re unsure about how things will look in real life, use props like stakes, chalk, gypsum, or folding chairs to lay out areas in your garden and then make adjustments.
Lastly, look for the final decorative touches that make your garden unique. Garden furniture is the obvious starting point, but also look for containers, lighting, and water features. And don’t forget special touches like birdhouses, colorful walls, and even art.
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