It’s the New Year, when we take stock and make pledges to improve our lives. While putting together your resolution list, don’t neglect to review your outdoor space. How can you make your garden more attractive, usable, and inviting this year? Here are ten tips to get you started creating a great garden that your family and friends will enjoy.
Make a design plan – Most people think a great garden is all about the plants. A garden is more than just a collection of plants; in fact, plants are not the first thing you should think about when trying to create a garden. A great garden starts with great bones. In design terms, “garden bones” refers to the structure of the garden – the architectural elements, pathways, and garden beds that give the space its lines and form. A garden with good bones will draw you into the space from one point of interest to another.
Why not take a look at the design of your garden and determine if it works for you? If it is not working, one of the best steps you can take is to have a design plan drawn up. Many plant nurseries or landscapers will do a plan for free if you purchase plants from them and/or have them install any new landscaping. Even if you want to do all the labor yourself, you will save money in the long run by starting with a professional design.
Create a sense of privacy – The best gardens are serene, relaxing, private places where you can unwind and reboot. Make sure your design plan includes enclosed spaces – garden “rooms” where you can feel secluded and safe. Privacy can be created by utilizing garden structures such as fences, walls, gates, trellises or arbors. Soften the structures with the addition of trees, shrubs and flowering vines to further enclose the space and add a sense of mystery.
Provide comfortable seating and dining areas – Make your garden more inviting by providing relaxing places to sit and eat or just while away a summer day with a good book and a glass of sweet tea. Benches, swings, chairs, dining tables, and cushy pillows will encourage your whole family to get outside and enjoy each other’s company. Depending on your budget, add a simple barbecue grill or a lavish outdoor kitchen with lighting and outdoor fans, to expand your home’s usable space.
Throw some shade your way! – You can’t enjoy a garden in the South in the summer without some shady places, so plant some trees. Not only are trees beautiful, but they provide numerous benefit. Trees shade us from the sun, shield us from the wind, moderate the temperature, purify the air, prevent erosion, create privacy, attract wildlife, increase property values, and add color and interest to our landscape. Wow – what other plant can do all that! In addition to trees, consider adding patio covers, awnings, and umbrellas to your entertainment and seating areas for additional shady comfort.
Strive for seasonal interest – A great garden offers something of interest all year long, not just in the springtime. Select plants that provide color, texture, and form in each season of the year. Blooming plants add the “wow” factor, but don’t forget plants with colorful foliage. During the winter, you will especially appreciate evergreen shrubs that add a pop of green when much else is dormant. For ideas on plants for each season, go online and check out the Georgia Gold Medal winners, exceptional plants that thrive in our climate.
Add more detail with focal points – A focal point draws the eye and gives you something visual to savor and enjoy. When you look out the window into your garden, you should always see something interesting. It can be a showcase plant, a piece of garden sculpture, a birdhouse, a wrought iron gate, a trellis, arbor, garden bench, artwork, a water feature – anything that appeals to you and draws the eye. The best focal points can be viewed from several directions. Focal points are particularly needed during the winter months, but don’t overdo them. A few well-placed ones can make all the difference in the character of your garden.
Capture the mood and music of water – Every garden needs the sound and movement of water to make it sing! Flowing water masks street noise, attracts wildlife, and enhances the sense of serenity and calm in your garden. You can design an elaborate Koi pond with waterfalls or just add a simple fountain with a small pump that plugs into an outdoor power source. Whatever your budget, find a place for a water feature in your garden!
Encourage spaces for kids and pets – Children today need a break from technology and a better acquaintance with nature. If you have kids, think of ways to get them outside to enjoy the garden. You can cultivate a lawn area for children and pets to romp, build a tree house for climbing, or dedicate a garden bed for youngsters to do their own planting. Do your kids hate vegetables? Studies show that children who grow their own food will eat what they grow. So, let them grow a vegetable plot or provide them with containers for planting herbs and flowers. Make a “teepee” out of bamboo sticks or branches, plant with vines, and create a private garden room for your children to hide out and dream away a summer day.
Make a place for wildlife – Is a garden really a garden without birds or other wildlife? Birds, butterflies, bees, and other critters add movement, color, sound, and entertainment to your outside space. You can encourage more wildlife to make your garden their home for a season, or as a permanent resident, if you include the necessary elements to attract them: water, food and shelter. A birdbath, and native plants and trees, provide the essential ingredients for wildlife to thrive. Add some birdhouses and feeders and enjoy the show!
Reflect your personal style – Your garden will stand out if it reflects your uniqueness and style. Add nostalgic pieces from your family history or feature your own personal collection of watering cans or garden gnomes! Something unexpected or whimsical, like a fairy garden, is always remembered. When all is said and done, a great garden is one that reflects your personality and interests – and functions so well that you and your family are drawn outside to enjoy it each day!