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From the Ground Up | The ideal garden: Plan it, then plant it

Planning your yard and garden like a work of art takes time. - File photo
Planning your yard and garden like a work of art takes time.
— image credit: File photo

Superstition: A woman who drinks salvia flowers simmered in wine or eats a bee will never conceive.

Making a yard look the way you envision it takes patience. Even if you buy full-size flora, gardens, like fine objects of art, take on a patina with time that can’t be duplicated. Start the planning process by sitting and observing your “garden to be” at different times of day throughout seasons. A shady lot in the winter might be the opposite when the days grow longer and the sun is higher. Once you have an idea of light conditions you can let your fantasies take flight. The first step is making a map of your yard. It is best to use graph paper and some kind of scale. This sketch will become your “greenprint” and you can refer to it time and again. Ongoing plans prevent you having to transplant a fruit tree that is about to bear for the first time because you’ve planted it right where the swimming pool goes.

The plan should include placement of the house, walkways, hillocks and immoveable features. Take measurements of these permanent fixtures and plot them onto your paper. Now, you want some colored pens and tracing paper. Tracing paper allows you to try out different arrangements without mussing up your original map. Tracing paper works well for ongoing plans. Each stage of your plan can be drawn on its own piece of tracing paper. As each addition to the plan is finished it can be placed on top of the subsequent drawing until through the top page you can see the completed picture.

Write down both common and botanical names for your plants because many professionals only deal with botanical names to avoid confusion. The search for botanical names will also aid in your research of the plants’ individual needs.

A budget along with the master plan is a great way to stay on track. This is simply because gardens, like many large projects, tend to be completed over time as finances become available.

Here are some other very important questions to ask yourself: What do you want your garden for? What purpose will it serve? Do you want to simply enhance your house or make a proclamation? How much time and effort do you have for the garden? Will there be an irrigation system installed? These answers will affect your choice of flowers and shrubs. You aren’t going to plant a bed of thirsty annuals if watering isn’t automatic or a favorite chore.

This is when you want to enlist help. Go to the Internet or library as well as to experienced gardeners. Write down questions as they occur to you and take this list along when buying at your nursery or growers. Ask every question you can think of. If you’re a good customer, knowledge isn’t just, free it’s happily given. WU

Tip: If you are making a major change or addition like pools, gazebos or the like, get some linemakers chalk. Draw the shape where you’re planning the change. The temporary outlines will give you a chance to view it from different angles outside and inside the house.

Questions or comments? Contact From the Ground Up's Pam Tempelmayr at

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