5 garden Must Haves
How to define what you need in your garden
A place to sit and relax
A place to be with friends
A place for your children to play
A place to store things in
A place for plants
A place for your dog if you have one
Of course I will say that you should always get at least a consultation from a professional designer. If nothing else, so you get all your wish list items in order and “edit” them as one of my favorite clients likes to say I help her do. Don’t be afraid to invest a little money even if it’s a paid consultation because a $250.00 consultation is a drop in the bucket compared to either a mistake you made from something you didn’t think about or an idea you could have easily implemented had you been aware of other options outside of your own.
So categorically, there are many things we want to do in our gardens so how do we narrow them down based on a variety of factors?
First of consider how much space you have. I mean if you want a “lap pool” but you don’t have room, cross it off the list and move on, don’t languish and get stuck.
We all need a place to it outside and relax, should that space be mobile for flexibility? Maybe you want a built in bench or a seat wall or a banquet. Do you want a couch? If so what shape should it be? L shaped a couple of love seats, a chase on one side with a 3 cushion on the other. There are many choices. How much sun do you have? If you don’t have much, perhaps you need a fire feature. Do you want a propane one, a natural gas one or simple logs in a metal bowl? Maybe you just want some loungers and a hammock (two person or one person).
Now that you’ve thought of your sit and relax style, how much space do you need to do that and how many people typically will be in the space? In other words, if you are building a patio to accommodate certain furniture, it of course relates to the number of people you will be having over. I mean if you have a dining table for example and you want to be able to extend it from 4 to 8, you better have enough patio to accommodate all 8 people and the additional chairs to do so without “falling” into a garden bed or off the edge of the patio. So there is a spacial relationship to consider.
If you are thinking of a place to be with friends usually that will be larger than your family space and less intimate. Generally speaking, intimate seating is for 2 to 4 people not 4 to 10.
If you are thinking of a place for your children to play, keep in mind their age and the things they like to do. I only bring this up because play structures can be expensive and they can take up a large amount of space. If you don’t have a large garden, maybe you can for go a large play structure and consider keeping that as an outing with the children instead. Also, don’t invest in a fancy tree house or something so custom that as the children outgrow them, you will be stuck with teenagers that used to hangout outside, but now have nothing but old childhood outdated equipment. My thought is, your basic lawn and now actually artificial turf and some area to play with a ball to kick or a place to throw the ball around should really be enough in a home environment and will really stand the test of time.
Let’s talk storage….. The more you have the more you will fill it up so approach this area with caution and an awareness of human nature. First of all lets face it, Tuff sheds are ugly, but practical. If you can’t have a cute shed, then you should plan on installing it ideally where it won’t be seen. Now if that’s not possible, try to put the door on the side and put the solid wall facing the garden. I know that sounds counter intuitive, but if you put the door facing the garden it’s always going to look like an ugly storage shed. If you can turn it the other direction then you can install a hanging garden or plant tall screening plants in front of it etc., then no one will even know it’s there! If you have a handy person in your family or friend circle, building a shed which is a great basic building project, is a great way to have control over the color and shape and storage features inside. A bold color is a really fun way to make boring beige have new life. My only thought about color is, if you do it, do it! Stay away from forest green and beige. Only paint it if you feel compelled as it’s another place you will have to spend time maintaining.
A place for Plants: Plants are living things and as a result, you can’t just place them outside and expect that they will just live. So, if you have a shade garden stick with shade loving plants, sun loving plants in the sun. Most people get this concept. But, what I am interested in is the appreciation for how plants create a feeling. For example if you want a lush, full garden, then you need to pick plants with large leaves, arching shapes and full growth habits. Shapes, are very important. I use the term “architectural” a lot these are plants with a simple, upright growth habit like a flax. These kind of plants are great as modern looking mass planting, they have that “look” and can also double as “masculine” or “architectual” element to anchor a planting bed. Why do cottage gardens feel the way they feel? Well because they are full of feminine flowers with lots of pretty colors and a variety of colors. Typically you won’t see a flax in those gardens because that’s not the “feeling” that the cottage garden has. So when you see a garden you like, photo it and study what the feeling is that you get from it. If you get distracted when you go to the nursery, remember, ask yourself if that plant supports the feeling you are trying to achieve, if not, then put it back and refocus.
A place for your dog: Well, I’ve talked about this before, but really, a dog needs shade and a place to use as a restroom. Other than that, you can always take your dog to the dog park for a walk or exercise, should you not have room for a play area. Really you need to determine what you want to do with your dog at home and then provide the space to accomodate that. For more information visit my blog about creating dog friendly space in the garden.
Have fun and Get into your Garden!