I often get asked if I do garden designs. I am not a professional designer and have not been trained in garden design. Like most gardeners, I plant what I like and if I don't like something, it either gets moved to another place in the yard or to a new home in someone else's yard.
Some people have what garden writer and author Allen Lacy calls, "The Gardener's Eye." I was lucky enough to be involved with a gardening message board on a computer network in the late 1980s and early 1990s, at the very beginnings of the Internet and before most people even knew about email. My computer at that time had no hard drive. Programs were stored on five and a quarter-inch floppy discs, which weren't disc-shaped at all but were square and flat and fit into a slot on the computer's base. We used our telephone line to access the network and once connected, could discuss topics with other people who shared our interests.
Lacy, as well as other accomplished gardeners, would answer questions and converse, just as people using message boards do today. The gardener's eye, according to Lacy, "is an artistic vision, an aesthetic experience, a recognition of beauty."
I would compare his description to a person who can sit down to a piano and begin playing music without having had a lesson. They don't necessarily have to be taught, they just know the beauty of what is in front of them and without missing a beat, simply jump in and create a vision.
I do not think I have a gardener's eye. I simply know what I like and it may or may not work or even be what a professional designer would put together. I learned about gardening by doing it and by spending many hours browsing garden centers, reading and rereading my favorite authors, going to seminars and programs presented by professionals and my favorite of all, touring public gardens. My training, with the Ohio State University Extension Master Gardener program consisted of the science of gardening, how-to and hands-on experience as well as where to find information. But it was in my own back yard that I learned more than anything else and I suspect that is the same with most backyard gardeners.
Which is why my answer to the question, do I do garden designs, is generally no, I do not, but if you want to figure out how to plant your own garden, you simply have to just do it.
According to gardener and writer Janet Macunovich in her book, "Design your Gardens and Landscapes," you should first ask yourself a few questions. These include:
"Where have you seen a garden you liked" and "what did you like about it?"
"What are your favorite colors in flowers? Fragrances? What flowers do you especially like or dislike?"
Macunovich also advised looking through magazines at garden pictures and asking yourself what you particularly like or dislike and how do you plan to use that part of the yard where the garden will be?
When I plan a new garden, I also ask myself a few questions that I think are important. The first is the site where the garden will be located. Is it shady, sunny or a combination of both? How is the drainage? Does water accumulate there after a rainstorm or does it drain easily? How much work do I want to do in that garden?
The most often asked question I hear from people isn't where to start a garden or how to get it started, but what exactly should I plant? It can be overwhelming when garden centers are filled with thousands of plants from which to choose.
There isn't just one answer. Everything else has to be considered. What do you like? What are your favorite colors or what plants will enhance the design of your house? Do you like tropical looking plants or desert plants? Are you looking for something low maintenance or do you like puttering around in the garden, deadheading and pulling weeds?
Over the next few weeks, this column will address those questions. Keep reading.