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It starts with a plan

James St. John March 1, 2008 Home & Garden No Comments

The intimidating task of developing an attractive, functional home landscape can sometimes be overwhelming. The goal of this article is to guide you through the process of designing and implementing a home landscape plan.

First you need to decide what style of garden you want. Will it be formal or informal? Perhaps you would like an English cottage style or Japanese garden.

It is a good idea to look through gardening magazines, as well as go on garden tours, so you can make notes or take pictures of what you like.  Consult with family members for ideas about privacy features, outdoor living areas (patio, deck, courtyard, etc.), swimming pool, children’s play area, shade, flower beds, vegetable garden, greenhouse, and storage.

This next step we’ll call site analysis. Note existing features such as buildings, driveways, trees, beds, fences, walks, etc. Draw up a scale drawing of the property showing the relevant features. A scale drawing is very effective when you actually start to do the design. Any inexpensive book on landscaping has directions on how to do a scale drawing.

Once you have completed the drawing, make copies of it to draw on. Never draw on the original. You will be drawing various ideas, and need extra copies to try those ideas out.

Make note of the exposure of the sun. Note areas that are shady or sunny, wet or dry.

Things such as the height of windows, the height of house corners from the ground, and overhang widths should be considered.

On the scale-drawing copy, draw circles or ovals to indicate where and how large areas will be.  For instance, a circle would represent where and how large the vegetable garden would be, where the patio would be, where the play area would be, etc.

Try several arrangements until the best one is found.

This step is where you decide how much space different activities and areas will need and where in the landscape they will be located. At this time, you will see how many things on your list you can actually fit into the landscape.

Now, it’s time to decide exactly what shape the areas will have. If you noted flower beds with an oval shape to indicate where and how big they will be, at this point you decide how they will actually be shaped such as a kidney- shaped bed. This is a creative stage.

Although you don’t select the plants yet, you should decide on the characteristics that the plants should have (size, flowering, colour, evergreen, etc.). It will be guided by the previous steps, as well as the style you have decided for the garden.

After designing, you select the components that will be chosen to create the landscape. If, for example, in the first step you selected privacy, in step two it was decided what view needed to be blocked, the third step is the location of the privacy screen, in step four the size of the screen is determined (how tall, how wide) and in this step what the screen will be composed of will be decided.

You may choose to plant a cedar hedge, or build a brick wall or espalier fence. Go through the rough plan, selecting which plants will be used, what surfacing materials, colours, etc.

Cost is a factor to consider when selecting materials . You can choose young plants or established trees and shrubs.

Once you have created this basic framework, a landscape plan should quickly materialize, and there will be fewer surprises later.

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