With another cold Northwest Ohio winter just getting started, it’s hard for area gardeners to imagine they’ll ever get their hands back in workable soil. But this downtime can be put to good use planning any changes you’d like to make in your garden and landscape this coming spring. The cold of winter is the perfect time for gardeners to dream, scheme, and determine whether their outdoor spaces are planted to their best advantage or not.
Assessing the scene
First, consider the plants that are currently visible in your garden. Are enough evergreens worked into the landscape to provide a year-round framework? Does your landscape contain enough plants with winter interest, such as ornamental grasses with attractive seed heads or ornamental trees and shrubs with an interesting branching habit (e.g., contorted filbert) or colorful berries or bark?
If these elements are missing and, instead, you’re looking at a bare and colorless patch of ground, plan to make a few changes when the planting season finally arrives. If designed properly, a garden should be a happy diversion all year round, not just in the spring and summer.
Next, think back to the way your landscape looked last growing season. What would you do differently? Were the plants appropriately spaced with shorter plants toward the front of the beds and larger ones toward the back? Or were they growing on top of one another with no thought to size? Were all the blooms concentrated into a few short weeks in the spring? If so, a little research will help you choose plants with varying bloom times so you can have color from spring right through fall. Does your yard or garden need a little more privacy from the prying eyes of neighbors? Perhaps a hedge is in order. And how about the element of water movement? Would a small, tasteful fountain or pond make your garden more enticing (to you and wildlife)?
Drawing a landscape design
Once you’ve answered all these questions and determined the types of changes you’d like to make, it’s a good idea to get your thoughts down on paper. By drawing a simple landscape design, you can combine all your new ideas with the existing plantings to create one cohesive layout to work from. Come spring, you can take the design to your local garden center and use it as a shopping list as you pick out plants and other items. Of course, you’ll also want to refer to it when you install your new plants to ensure proper placement and spacing.
To get started on your design, you’ll need some graph paper, a few sharp pencils, a tape measure, and some good gardening reference books, magazines, websites, etc. Weather allowing, measure each area you intend to modify as accurately as possible (or, take the measurements from existing blueprints or plans of your home and property if available) and make a simple sketch on the graph paper based on your measurements. Assume each block on the graph paper is equal to one square foot or whatever scale works best for you.
Sketch in the perimeter of your house or any other permanent structures you intend to plant around, as well as the outline of your existing planting beds. You might need to measure from several points along the front of irregularly shaped beds in order to transfer the shape accurately onto the graph paper. Be sure to draw in any objects or obstacles you might need to work around (or would like to obscure with plant material), such as gas meters, air-conditioning units, mature trees, and, of course, any established plants. Also, draw an arrow on the design to indicate where north lies and make a note of any areas that get an inordinate amount of sun or shade. That way you won’t end up planting sun-loving plants in heavy shade or vice versa.
Next, it’s time to hit the books. Try to find some good gardening reference materials that provide information on plants’ care requirements as well as their ultimate height and spread. When sketching in the plants you’d like to add to your garden or landscape, be sure to draw each one to its mature dimensions to avoid overcrowding and make sure each plant is hardy enough to make it through our local winters.
Keep in mind that it doesn’t matter how professional the design looks as long as it’s legible to you and the measurements are clear. Of course, you do have the option of having a professional draw up your design. Some garden centers even offer this service to their customers for free provided they eventually purchase their plants there. ❦