Another year has quickly passed, and the cycle of the seasons keeps rolling on, even if the thermometer says it’s 70 degrees in January. In a typical winter, we would see freezing temperatures, maybe some snow or at least a cold rain, and bitter winds. We still might though, since the season doesn’t really end until late March. However, with the warm days in December and early January, one may see a few pops of color before their due time, like snowdrops, hellebores, or spring blooming camelias. Pansies and other cool season plants are also staging a comeback.
It’s still a perfect time, though, to plan your garden for the coming growing season. Luther Burbank, an American botanist and horticulturalist, once said, “Don’t wait for someone to bring you flowers. Plant your own garden and decorate your own soul.” Words to live by in my book. So, let’s talk a little about garden design and tips to help you plan your own garden.
Probably one of the most important items to consider before planting anything is determining what type of soil you are dealing with. There are different methods to do this, from a simple texture test with your hands, or a percolation test to see how fast it drains, to a soil test done in the lab through a local extension service. If you are already versed in gardening, you probably know your soil attributes through experience.
Next, observe the other horticultural conditions that exist in your yard. What path does the sun take? Is there a low, wet area? Is the yard often exposed to winds? Answering these questions will help you make better plant choices.
Pick a theme. This could be based on color, say a monochromatic scheme. Or maybe a garden based on texture would suit better. A specific garden style could also be a theme such as an English cottage garden, or one based on low water availability, called xeriscaping. Maybe your garden will be based on attracting pollinators and birds, always a popular one.
Use design elements such as line, repetition, emphasis, and massing. These same design elements can be found in other artforms as well. If you are an artist in drawing, painting, or architecture, try applying the same principles to your landscape. Once you realize that your garden is a living and ever-evolving piece of art, your perception of it will forever change.
By implementing these design elements into your yards and private spaces, the year ahead will provide you with beauty and art in every season. The best part is, it doesn’t need to be done for anybody else but you. Yes, you can invite others into your world, even share in its bounty. But the garden will always be there for the moments you need it most, for meditation, contemplation, and decompression.
I called this article “Love You,” because it’s truly important to take care of yourself, especially in these current, unpredictable times. And if you’re okay, then you are better able to help others.
Maybe 2020 can turn out to be the year of loving yourself. Why not start with planning a garden and feeding your soul? In the immortal words of our Queen, “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?”
I love you, and let’s garden together! ▼
Eric W. Wahl, RLA is a landscape architect at Element Design Group and president of the Delaware Native Plant Society.