"The beginning of wisdom is silence,
the second step is listening"
Starting a Garden begins well before the first shovelful of dirt is turned over!
It begins with answering some key questions that will infuse your garden with a deep spritual unity.
What is it that causes someone to discover the soul of a garden? What makes it memorable? How does it become grand, or intimate, or personable, or quaint?
Some gardens you will never forget. Others are forgotten before they are left, or worse yet, never noticed! What is the difference?
Each foundational decision when starting a garden contributes to a final picture which beguiles or offends the senses.
Decisions about spatial organization, hardscapes, plant materials, vistas, art, structure and service areas collectively define a space that is pleasing or unappealing, depending upon the degree of success in blending these key decisions.
Learn about important foundational decisions!
How to Identify Your Goals
Draw a Garden Plan
Leverage Garden Light
Garden Drainage for the Wet Spots!
Identify Landscape Drainage Issues!
Dealing with Heavy Clay Soils!
Think about the gardens that stand out to you!
Perhaps it is a memorable trek beneath the boughs of giant cedars, where the quiet majesty of the woodland causes you to hush in reverence.
Or perhaps it is a quiet pond that invites you to stay and watch the herons play, or perhaps the riot of colorful plants that rival the gardens of Van Gogh or Monet?
There is a common thread among memorable gardens. Each of them capture the soul of a space and magnify it through the use of nature's bounty. Each is a creation, and yet is it dictated by the land upon which it rests. The canvas of nature can be molded, but not effectively replaced.
Capturing the inner muse of the land is a fundamental in creating a memorable garden.
Even on a small city lot, there is a spirit of place that can be captured.
Manmade objects enhance or detract from the landscape but nature forms the structure beneath it all. The land is hilly or stony, flowing or rugged, dry or moist, and nothing we can do will truly transform it.
We can shape the land, but it is defined and kept in bounds by it's surroundings. When we build structures, if they are not in keeping with their surroundings, they cannot be made to look appealing, even with the most gracious of treatments.
Learn how to prepare your soil for planting!
Types of Soil
Even if we flatten it, bulldoze it, and fill the low spots with landfill, still then, the definition of complete is dictated by the surrounding natural environment.
Gardeners who ignore this fundamental principle when starting a garden do so at their own peril. Things that are out of place always looks out of place, while a thing in it's place produces a sense of rest.
So the first principle of design when starting a garden is to study.
Capture the inner muse of your garden space
and get it working for you!
What are the feelings that a place invokes? What are the elements that make up the current landscape? If all the manmade structures were stripped away, what is left?
This may take some time and real thought to identify. You may need to watch for days, weeks, or even months to discern the quality of light, the flow of water, or the play of the wind over the trees. Each of these elements is a teacher. Each of them instructs you by showing you the spirit of a place. Listen to the spirit of the land before starting a garden.
Once you have discovered that spirit, it is then time to begin editing the landscape. Now you are able to view the house, the driveway, the trees that have been planted and the neighboring views within the context of their surroundings, and as each element is reviewed decisions can be made that will provide you with a memorable and well planned garden.
Starting a garden without this sense of place identified is less likely to result in a truly successful design, and may never achieve the desired effects. Even if this step is successfully eliminated when the design is first conceived, in the end it must be completed or the garden spaces may never come to rest.
In the finest garden designs, nature shapes the overall ambitions of the gardener.
The canvas is the earth, the materials are nature's flora and the rocks of the fields, the backdrops are the heavens and the mountains and the water. With the beauty that surrounds us we create more beauty.
The most delightful garden designs are simply borrowed from nature.
If this is true, then the strongest approach to staring a garden plan is simply that of observing nature and the human spirit, making decisions that please the senses and collecting these choices into a design that preserves an integrated, spiritual, and emotionally motivating surrounding.
We are not the creators of this natural beauty, rather we shape what already exists in nature to our purposes, to serve our needs and to please our senses.
Good designers take advantage of nature as the principle model upon which to build a garden design. They allow the existing natural characteristics to form their basic design, and then whittle away at the liabilities that are less pleasing and build upon those that strengthen its best characteristics.
A unifying theme is developed that pleases the designer and supports our most basic desires for function and aesthetic.
This new vision is what then guides the garden designer. The principles of design then enhance that vision as the designer works through the creative thinking processes.
Now that you have identified the "inner muse" of your garden, you are ready to begin those first real steps toward establishing a memorable and satisfying garden design!
Ready to go? Get crackin' by clicking the links in the right column above!