Garden designing…or not

I’ll be the first to admit it. I’m not a designer. I’m sooooo not a designer.

I’ve got two blank-slate gardens, one in front, and one in back. I’ve done the requisite first step and made a sketch of the property with all of the permanent fixtures marked.Then I started sketching in some very basic ideas. Here’s the front of the house:


I love English cottage gardens, so I envision the beds being packed with cottage-garden plants. I’d like a flowering climber on either side of the front door (clematis, especially), with densely-planted flowers all along the front underneath the bay window and other front window.

Where I run into trouble, however, is figuring out exactly which plants I’d like to grow. The problem is that I don’t yet know any of the local garden centers. We moved here last September, just in time to watch our neighbors’ gardens begin to fade for the season. I wasn’t here in prime planting time to see if the local garden centers carry the same-old, same-old favorites, or if they have something a little more unusual. Yes, I want to plant rudbeckia. Yes, I want to plant echinacea. A rosa rugosa, too. But will they carry anything a bit different?

So, I think a large part of my design work will have to be done a bit…creatively. I think I’ll need to establish my basic principles—overall color scheme, height requirements, square footage to be planted with any given height plant, etc. And then I’ll have to just go and see what they have. It’s so frustrating—I want to have a picture of the garden in my mind NOW, not wait until April or May to see what I can lay my hands on….

The back garden is going to be a long-term, many-years kind of project. Here’s a photo of my sketch, which is probably too small to read anything.


At the left edge is the back wall of our house and the driveway. We have a big pine tree with a small hot tub underneath, which my husband wants to enclose with an ever-changing firewood wall. (If he’s willing to stack it all, he’s free to be as creative as he’d like with it!) There is an old, disconnected, built-in gas barbeque just to the right of that—we’ll be taking that out in the spring. That whole side of the garden—from the house at left to the shed on the right—is in shade much of the day. The other half is quite sunny.

So, my thoughts are to keep a grassy play area for the kids in the lower left with a vegetable/fruit bed in the lower right. (We will be installing a fence along the boundary of the lower edge of this picture, and will be planting raspberries and grapes.)

In the shady area, I would like a whimsical woodland garden for the kids. I’m not sure how this will develop, but I was very inspired by the garden of Eddie Foisy that was featured in Better Homes and Gardens magazine Garden Ideas and Outdoor Living. His garden has stone castles that he built, and his careful selection of plants makes he garden simply magical. I was thinking about some kind of woodland fairy garden in the area near the hot tub, with a sunny fairy garden closer to the shed in the sunny area. Or maybe a model village, inspired by Bekonscot

More on this as my ideas develop further.


One Response to “Garden designing…or not”

  1. I had a plan. Then lots of wonderful people gave me plants that I’d never heard of and my garden now is a bit of a mish-mash but I love it. I like the idea of a whimsical woodland. My grandkids love the garden I have that they are free to play in.

    I’d suggest picking up a copy of the Upstate Gardener’s Journal and the 2008 directory to see the ads of the nurseries in your area.

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