Monday, 14 January 2013

Winter garden planning - you know it makes sense!

If you haven’t started thinking about your garden for this summer then now is the ideal time to get stuck in! My advice is that preparation and planning is what is crucial, so time spent carefully thinking about what you want from your outdoor space will make your garden the best it has ever been. Winter time is difficult for those of us who love to spend time in our gardens. We try to cheer ourselves up by endlessly flicking through those seed catalogues, which are by now heavily embossed with biro ticks or rushing out to the garden centre the minute the weather starts to pick up to buy trolleys full of plants, which turn out to be wholly unsuitable for the space you don’t really have! 
Hold fire on the quick fix plant buying - it can turn out be a costly mistake; start thinking instead about the structure and functionality of your garden and putting a plan together. Snuggle down on the sofa and start making lists of plants and plant combinations that you would like to include and look at books, other peoples gardens and the internet for inspiration. 

What to consider

Winter is a great time to look at the structure of your outdoor space as there is less foliage about to distract your views. Structure is the key to any well designed garden, it is the backbone that holds everything together. A good framework is crucial to make sure that all the elements you would like to include work in harmony with each other. Structure is the well-proportioned layout of borders, patios and lawns, the positioning of garden buildings, pergolas, planters, sculptures and even architectural plants. Trees, hedges and fences are also important structural elements and should be carefully selected and placed. The best advice is keep it simple, use strong shapes and lines and use plants to soften. 

What you want from your garden and how you use it is also very important. Understand how, when and who uses the garden. Does your patio area take advantage of the late afternoon sunshine? Is it big enough for your family and friends to sit comfortably to enjoy alfresco dining? Think about the view from your house, can you see the bird feeders or is next doors overpowering planting scheme distracting you?  Can you move through the garden with ease or are the pathways blocked, uneven or too tight? Its not fun to fight your way past that group of overgrown shrubs, which could incidentally be taking up space that could house a lovely gazebo!

Are shrubs taking over?

What are the focal points?

    A Gazebo is beautiful addition to the garden and a focal point!

    Here are some questions you may like to consider:

    • Do you have adequate space for entertaining and is the patio in the right spot?
    • Do you need pathways to get to parts of your garden?
    • Have you considered focal points and vistas?
    • Are your eyes distracted by the neighbours loud planting scheme?
    • Do you need to cut back or remove overgrown plants?
    • Are you making the most of the space you have?
    • Do you need a covered area or gazebo to dodge the sun (more likely the rain)?
    • Are the borders wide enough?
    • Are the border and path shapes too fussy?
    • Do you need more or less storage?
    • Is the garden being taken over by children’s play equipment?
    • Do you have all-round interest?
    • Are you looking for more privacy from a busy street or neighbours?
    • Is this a space suitable for small children or teenagers to be comfortable in?
    • What time of day will you be using the garden? Morning, afternoon or evening?
    • Would you like to attract more birds and butterflies?
    • Are you trying to create a view/s from inside the house?

    Does your garden lack form and structure?

    A simple curve will add form and structure to your garden...

    Do you have too much paving?   
    Lawn and border planning will give you
     the right proportions.                               

    Don't DIY it, call in a professional?

    For the inexperienced, bringing all these elements together can be daunting and I haven’t even touched on the lighting, planting and the seemingly endless choice of pavers and gravels!

    Don’t make the mistake of thinking it is easier to tackle the garden piecemeal at either the planning or building stages as this can result in costly mistakes; features can be incorrectly positioned or scaled, budgets are blown on one area rendering you unable to complete the project. Materials are often arbitrarily selected and fight for presence instead of creating a garden that flows and pleases. The good news is that employing an expert can actually save you time, money and a whole lot of stress in the long run.

    A holistic approach is the only way forward and if you want your garden to be a success in terms of improving your enjoyment of your outdoor space and enhancing the look and value of your property, then employing a garden designer will be money well spent.  A garden designer will bring their trained eye, and extensive knowledge of plants and materials along with their flair and a few trade secrets.  Working within your budget they will provide a paper plan to scale which will reflect all the things that need to be considered, as stated previously,  to create a wonderful space that you will enjoy. The plan will allow for any problems or concerns to be sorted out prior to the work being completed. Contractors will also be able to quote accurately from a scaled drawing.  

    So strike while the iron is hot—be prepared for spring and summer and start creating that wonderful garden you have always dreamed of!

    Author Melanie Smith - Gardenplan Design 


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