Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Thoughts on Landscape Design

When we first saw this property I knew this space had potential.  Lots of sun, clumps of trees, an apple orchard, a gorgeous old house.  The shape of it, is simply a large flat rectangle.  Nothing difficult here like steep hills or boggy low spots.  I should be able to put whatever ideas I have into this yard quite easily.  But I'm not an idea person.  I find that I generally lack the ability to visualize.  So though I knew there was potential here I just wasn't sure how to go about making something happen.  I thought that perhaps I would find a design in a magazine or a book that I could just fit into our land.  None of the pictures I saw fit my space though.  So I perused garden blogs trolling for ideas and hoping that something would strike me.  Plenty of ideas and many beautiful gardens but nothing that felt right yet again.

So I'm going to have to do this the hard way.  Step by step and create a plan.  My inner voice tells me this will be a good exercise despite my initial desire to shortcut the process.

One of the first things you hear when you start talking about landscaping and garden design is that it is imperative to know what you want out of your yard.  For instance, there's no sense in designing a children's play area if you haven't got any children.  So you need to take a look at who you are and what your desires may be.

To that end I've compiled a list of necessary items.  These are the Gotta Have items:

  • A vegetable garden.  There is nothing more satisfying than planting a seed and watching it grow and then being able to eat it.  And nothing tastes as good as fresh out of the garden vegetables.
  • Flowers.  I like pretty things.  I like smells and textures and bright smiley happy flower faces.  This will always draw me out of my house into the great outdoors.
  • Clothes line.  Electricity costs a heap here and the wind blows day and night.  This is just good common sense.
  • Compost bin.  I need to feed all those flowers I want to grow.
  • Rain barrel.  Water is quickly becoming our most precious commodity.  Without it we die.  And so do our plants.
  • Place to park the truck and trailer close to the house as possible.  Must be practical.  It snows a lot here and we need to access both of these at all times of the year.
  • Firewood.  When we moved in we installed a wood boiler to replace the ancient oil boiler.  Now space is needed to split and store all that wood.  Must also be close to the house for access in winter.
  • Garden shed.  Need a place to store all the garden tools and paraphenelia.
  • A space to sit out of doors and barbeque.
Some of these items have already been addressed.  There was a garage already standing on the property that was too far away from the house to be of any use for a vehicle.  So this has become the garden shed.  That was an easy decision.  Deciding where to put the vegetable garden was a little more difficult.  I initially wanted it as close to the house as possible.  However, we intend to do some work to the outside of the house in coming years which will be messy.  So I have decided not to garden near the house in the immediate future.  The front of the house looked promising but didn't seem to get enough sun and the septic system is in that area.  The side of the house was also promising but it's on a slope.  Eventually the space next to the garage was decided on because it would be close to my tools, it got plenty of sun, was completely flat and our neighbour suggested it.  Seriously, David told us a pig barn used to be located there and the ground would be full of manure.  Made the decision much easier.

Then there's the other list.  Things that I wish for and desire but aren't practical.  This is the Dream List:
  • Cutting Garden.  A place for flowers and green stuffs strictly for filling vases.
  • Wisteria Arbor.  Who doesn't dream of being able to walk through an arbor dripping with purple blossoms into a magical garden on the other side?
  • Herb Garden.  I just like the sound of a herb garden.  I think of hot afternoons, gravel paths and scents of lavender on the wind.
  • A shady spot with a hidden bench.  This property is very open.  No matter where you are people can see you from the road or from their houses.  I'd love to have a hiding spot.
  • A fountain.  Maybe located in that shady nook.

Well perhaps the fountain could be on a slightly smaller scale than the one above.

The idea is that your landscape design should be functional.  It should take into account your needs and the attributes of your property.  It should also appeal to your personal sense of style.  When you think of a fountain what do you picture?


  1. I love the house. However you landscape be sure not to hide the house behind to much flora.

    Other than that, go for the large fountain. It could double as a rain barrel.

  2. We used the Google Earth photo of our plot, to plan with. (Being in darkest Africa google hasn't yet updated to show us the house we built) Gives you a better idea just where and how big your existing trees are.

    Don't forget to work on an interesting view from the windows you usually look thru. That kitchen window? Plant a few trees, make somewhere inviting to sit, flowers to pick, with a small pool. Then when you despair of EVER getting anywhere with your garden, you sit there with a cupertea admiring your house and think ... This Is Nice

  3. @LifesHighway - Thanks for the compliment. We're not the only ones who like it because it seems EVERYONE stops to gawk at it. In the last couple weeks tourist season has begun and I've actually seen cars parked on the road staring. (I have no yard art yet so I know they're not looking at that!) So I have to admit, my temptation is to hide it. Or at least create a spot where I can get some privacy.

    @Elephant's Eye - Isn't Google Earth amazing?! We used it extensively when we were house shopping. Excellent point about the view from the windows. Right now I find myself drawn to the windows on the south side of the house. The big birch trees are located there and I love watching the branches waving in the wind and the birds hopping about in them.

  4. Looks like you have a lot of hard work ahead of you! Your going about it well though. Lists are important! I share many of your wish list items, and am still trying to figure out ways to fit all of those ideas into my space.

    Fountains are neat, but my ideal is slightly different. Have you ever thought about a pond? Not necessarily one that holds fish, or even plants(although those are neat too), but something with an area for water to pool, and possibly a bit of a waterfall. Nothing could be more soothing.

    Don't forget to create a good place for you to sit and enjoy all of your hard work!

  5. You are one smart homeowner and I bet the final outcome will be exactly what you desire.

  6. @Laura - lots of work but much to look forward to as well. I have considered fountains and ponds. I like the sound, the coolness, place for bugs and birds. Ideally I'd love a stone trough with some sort of fountain. But I also worry about wasting water. Maybe that's silly, I don't know much about creating ponds. Perhaps there isn't as much wastage as I think. Part of why it's on the 'dream' list.

    @Tina -Thanks for the positive thinking! I sure hope things will come together. I worry that all my hodgepodge of idea won't be very cohesive but only time will tell.

  7. Marguerite, as a landscape designer I recommend that you put pencil to paper and draw everything out. It is much easier to erase something that does not work than it is to change it once it is constructed.

    Start by tracing your steps as you come home with groceries and get them from the car to the kitchen.

  8. You're on the right track! Trust your instincts! It's your garden - do what makes you happy! As a landscape designer, I often tell my clients to deal with problems first: bad views, privacy, wind, too much sun, no sitting area, etc. You've got the room - don't skimp on space for patios or beds. You want a cutting garden - that's your flower garden, same thing! We talk about planting in 'drifts' in garden design, plant in odd numbers. In a small residential lot, we might put three of something in a clump, but you've got the space to do five or seven, keeping with the scale of the property. Enjoy the process!

  9. @Aagaard Farms - Hello, you're from Brandon! What a lovely town. We passed through there on our way across Canada last year. I completely agree on the scale idea. Having been in a small garden previously the temptation is to plant just one or two of everything and small stuff. But I love that I can buy big trees and plants here without giving it too much thought. In fact, the small shrubs that are here seem a touch out of place.

  10. Marguerite, I'm always impressed by those who can look at their property as a whole and develop a master plan. I just don't have the vision to pull it off. What has worked for me has been to work on one section of the property at a time. I've also found that, over time, my wish list has changed. For example, I used to think that I wanted to have a cutting garden -- but as the garden has grown, I find that I can cut all the flowers I want from my existing beds. I hope you'll share your plan as it develops. -Jean

  11. I wish I had some wonderful suggestions for your but alas I am not a landscaper! We have lived in our house for almost 15 years and are just now getting around to doing something more than more the pasture grass!

    I can't wait to see what you do...your home is stunning! Kim

  12. It’s good that you had an idea of what you want to see in your garden, which is always a perfect place to start on a huge project like this. Well, a lot has changed over the last two years. Hmm, were you able to cross out your ‘Gotta Have list?’ I’m hoping to see some updates!

    1. Hi Shona, I had to reread my list and was surprised to see how much I have accomplished. Kinda great to look back and feel good about all that's been done. The gotta have list is indeed basically taken care of - although some of them could be improved on. Unfortunately the dream list hasn't even been touched!