Conisder landscape design ideas to create an outdoor space that suits your lifestyle. If you love comfort and utility, low-maintenance fruits and vegetables, wide paths for strolling, shade trees and plenty of seating could be what you need. If you find the challenge of growing prize-winning dahlias a relaxing way to unwind, dedicate plenty of space for them. Quirky lanscapes can include statuary, koi ponds, unusual lawn furniture and swaths of wildflowers. Whatever your interests, consider landscape design ideas that are suitable for the technical assets and limitations of your space.
First, analyze your landscape. Note how much light and moisture different areas receive. You can grow shade-loving perennials such as heuchera and annuals like white impatien flowers on the dark side of the garage, but plant sun-loving flowers and vegetables like zinnias and tomatoes in areas that receive sun all day long. Evaluate potential challenges such as rocky slopes and giant trees. It is often easier and less expensive to incorporate challenges into your landscape design rather than work against them. Intersperse alpine plants between the rocks on the slope, pull out beautiful stones to feature them and add patches of moss to create a rock garden. The large tree smack in the middle of the backyard could be the ideal shady spot for your picnic table. Send samples of your soil to your local university cooperative extension for testing. They can tell you if you will need to amend your soil for planting, and how to do so.
Next, decide how much time, energy and money you want to spend on the landscape. If you have the means, you can hire gardeners to maintain any landscape you desire. In this case, consult with them about the best place to locate your giant turtle pond or the small apple orchard of your dreams. If you're going it alone, think about how much time you want to spend watering, pulling weeds, mowing the lawn, harvesting vegetables and managing wildlife, pests and disease. Pots of herbs, vegetables and edible flowers on the back porch coupled with a moss lawn is a very easy landscape for a cook who wants a garden as a means for fresh produce but hates weeding and mowing. A compost enthusiast who dreams of growing her own heirloom cauliflower may need to forego a lawn in favor of a giant, southern-facing garden where she can experiment with organic growing techniques such as companion planting, cover crops and integrated pest management. On the other hand, if you love the idea of that organic garden but have no time to spend weeding on the weekends, build raised beds near a door to your home, so you can slip out easily each evening after work and pick a tomato or two without changing into grubby clothes and dealing with an infestation of clover.
Consider big changes carefully. If your children can't live without the annual family volleyball tournament, think twice before building a giant gazebo in the middle of the yard. Planting a row of fast-growing trees you spot in a garden catalog may be an appealing idea when you are tired of looking at your neighbor's junk car collection. However, sometimes too-good-to-be-true sounding plants like dirt-cheap shrubs that grow several feet a month are actually problematic invasive species that will invade the neighborhood, fighting native plants for resrouces and destroying the homes of the wildlife and insects native to your area. Research major changes well, talk to your family, run ideas by your neighbors and consult local building codes before you make a costly, time-consuming and potentially environmentally damaging mistake.
Know your USDA hardiness zone. Your zone determines what plants will survive the average lowest winter temperatures in your area. Disappointment will result when you order gorgeous blooming tropical shrubs from a catalog and plant them in Maine. In regions with cold winters and hot summers, you can grow colorful blooms that evoke the tropics as annuals, knowing that they will die at the end of the warm season. You can also bring certain trees and potted plants indoors for the winter, and bring them back out again the following year. Try growing Meyer lemons or Seville orange trees in pots on a porch then bringing them inside near a sunny window for the winter. Outfitting large pots with castors or placing them on rolling platforms makes transporting them easy.
Make the lanscape yours by selecting plants and structures you love. Once you have outlined your ideas and selected a few to pursue that suit your taste, budget and lifestyle, think about how specific details will work to create your desired effects. A brand new pond can be lovely when you include water plants such as lilies and tall water grasses. Consult books with plenty of photographs of traditional Japanese gardens to select shapes, colors and styles of plantings and structures that can translate well to your space. For edible gardens, consult local nurseries to ask what types of vegetable seedlings, fruit shrubs and trees they will stock, and when. Decide if you have the patience and interest to start a few varieties from seed, indoors, in the winter. If you are planning several borders of mixed annuals and perennials, look around the neighborhood to see what color, texture and size combinations appeal to you--and what don't. Visit historical gardens in your area for a living example of what can thrive given enough time and attention.
Keep a gardening journal to note how your landscape design ideas are panning out. If you wanted a field of poppies near the shed but ended up with a sandy, weedy patch of dandelions, your notes on when and how you planted the seeds will be useful to you in analyzing what went wrong. You can also note your successes and your ideas for next year's garden.
Keep up with new ideas in the gardening world by subscribing to gardening magazines, joining local plant societies and following gardening blogs. Connecting with gardeners in your area often leads to tips and tricks that are specific to the opportunities and challenges you face in your landscape. Additionally, plant exchanges among gardeners are common, allowing you to experiment with new varieties for free.
Following these guidelines for planning ahead and tailoring your landscape design to your needs, you will be able to make the garden of your dreams a reality.