Planning is one of the best tips for creating a great garden. For some gardeners, this involves studying the angle of the sun to maximize the sun's effect. To others, it simply means carefully planting tall flowers at the back of the flower bed and short flowers at the front.
No matter what your notion of planning a garden is, it may be best to begin with a paper drawing of your current garden, noting the location of existing perennials, shrubs and trees. Next, "move" the plants that did not do well in previous seasons or became overcrowded to more suitable locations. Then, armed with a list of new plants you want to introduce into the garden, sketch out where you will plant them.
Remember, too, the mature size of plants. While you may buy an 18-inch shrub, planting it in the perfect little spot this spring, it may grow to a height of 5 feet with equal width in a few years. So, keep working your garden plan until you are satisfied. It is easier to erase a plant on paper than it is to dig it up from the soil and place it somewhere else in a few years.
Casually study your garden plan for several days. Then, walk through the garden with sketch in hand, making adjustments to the design as needed. Consider the natural life cycle of plants. For example, the dying foliage from spring bulbs can be camouflaged by placing summer blooming perennials, such as daylilies, in front of them.
During one of your strolls through the garden, note where you stop to admire it and the places that offer some of the best views of your garden. Perhaps you'll want to place a bench or simple seat at those spots to make the pause more inviting and the view more comfortable as you and your visitors enjoy the garden.
If planning a garden on paper seems daunting, much less bringing it to life in the soil, begin your venture by browsing through gardening books, magazines and mail order garden catalogues. You will discover dozens of tips about site selection, techniques (complete with how-to diagrams and step-by-step instructions) on soil preparation and proper planting, as well as suggestions on plant choices and the use of colors. Most offer the novice and expert gardener just about everything needed to create a visually pleasing garden. The desired end result, of course, is a beautiful, well-planned garden.
The suggestions in gardening books are valid, and the payoff may indeed be a carefully constructed garden. Yet, gardens are not only about flowers or vegetables. They are about life and the gardener's soul.
I believe truly beautiful gardens are more inspired than planned. I admit to be taken with gardens that reflect the spirit of the gardener, ones that cleverly intertwine plants with meaningful connections to the life of the gardener into the scheme of things. Truly beautiful gardens evolve and unfold as the gardener grows and evolves.
Some people begin gardening as a utilitarian venture, planting vegetables and fruit. Others set out to make the world more beautiful for future generations. Some gardeners fuss over microclimates. Other gardeners, with a vague notion of a garden plan, merely go with the serendipity of it. Whatever your gardening motivation and whatever your planning style, plan your garden on paper so your garden will look good. And, if you want your garden to look beautiful, plan it in your heart as well.
Note: The Journal-World is looking for gardens to feature throughout the spring. If you have a feature idea, e-mail Garden Spot columnist Carol Boncella at firstname.lastname@example.org