I spend many hours throughout the year just standing and looking out a window or sitting on the grass and staring at the gardens. In my mind's eye I'm looking into the future and imagining how it would look if I changed what I currently see.
|The "before" picture.|
My house rests on a few acres of land in an equine neighborhood. Many of our neighbors have horses and our property is designed to comfortably support them. My wife had a few horses in years past, but we have no plan to raise them again. My challenge is to build the gardens I love with the spacious opportunities, without diminishing the ability to board horses; if we sell the house in the future, subsequent buyers may want to have horses.
Though I have a lot of space to work with I must keep things constrained and controlled. I can't turn the entire property into gardens. Most gardeners operate under one constraint or another. They have limitations of space, water, money, time, or one of the many other things that get in the way of enjoying gardening.
Developing a garden plan is the best way to deal with your constraints. As I stare out my window, I typically focus on just one area, the plot I'll develop next. I imagine what it could become and jot down ideas. I take measurements of the space involved and draw a simple plan. As weather, budget, and time allow, I break ground and start creating. While I continue gardening chores in other areas, my primary attention is the new beds.
I try to record every step of the process photographically. I think you can learn much from your before and after pictures. There have been gardens that I developed over many years and gradually forgot what it looked like originally. Being able to see an image of what you started with can give you a great feeling of accomplishment. It can also remind you of original intent, because plans change as you progress.
The bed in these photos took most of the summer to develop. The original space was overgrown with prairie grass, Aspen shoots, and weeds. I spent time digging out the aspens and weeds after mowing the grass. It took an entire day with the help of a dozen friends to dig up the sod and add soil amendments. Over a period of two months, new annual and perennial plants were added. Another full-day project added wood borders. Mulching the plants was a continuous process as new ones were added. It looked good at the end of the season, but the real evaluation comes this year, the second year when the plants will be larger and give me a better sense of what else needs to be done.
|Changing the landscape.|
I have a good idea what I want the bed to look like. I chose bushes that will grow four feet high and flowers that will fill in the areas around them. I grouped Daylilies on one end and Penstemons on the other. Colors should flow from yellow and orange on the left to pink and purple in the middle and red on the right. Petunias grew on the borders in the first year for their color, but will be replaced by low-growing perennials in future seasons.
It already looks better than the haggard appearance in the beginning. I imagine I'll be adding, moving, or removing plants every year in an effort to make it look better still. As the plants change and my desires change, the bed will change. I'll enjoy every aspect of the transformation.
|Much of the work is done with more to do.|
Everyone has an opinion about what is best in the landscape. Some gardeners love expansive lawns. Others want no grass and only flowers. Many want a mix of gardens with roses, tomatoes, and pansies adding their values. Regardless of personal preferences, few houses come with intact gardens that match the wishes of new owners.
Whether you hire someone to do the work for you or do it yourself, enjoy the process of creating and developing new garden spaces. Even if it's just a few feet of ground where you remove the sod and plant periwinkle around a new birdbath, enjoy the time when you look hard at the space and imagine what it can be. Write your ideas down and draw a plan. Take photos of your efforts. At the end, step back and take pleasure in what you've accomplished. Then do it all again in a new space.