If you want a garden that turns heads but don’t want to empty your wallet in the process, do your own landscaping. It’s easy to familiarize yourself with the basic principles of design in order to create the yard of your dreams.
Decide on a theme
Figuring out the theme of your garden gives you a blueprint from which to draw in terms of plants, hardscape and accessories. A cutting garden, for instance, would contain plants ideal for bouquets, such as tea roses, cosmos, zinnias and tulips. Such gardens do especially well in raised beds, which you can easily and inexpensively build yourself using nontoxic materials. Knowing the theme of the garden also helps you pick out accessories. A cutting-style garden, for instance, is the perfect home for a gazing ball and arbor.
Theme gardens can illustrate a favorite storybook and include plants and accessories that play into the idea. Think Dr. Seuss or The Secret Garden. Get your children involved in the process, and create a theme that will grow with your family’s needs and wants.
Draw up plans
Like landscape designers do, draw up the plans for your garden on paper or on the computer. Doing so allows you to make a pleasing design and will alert you to when things aren’t fitting well or if you have empty holes to fill. When the design is still on paper, it’s easy to move things around and eliminate items if necessary. Here is a list of free downloadable programs to get you started. Consider your water sources, habitual traffic patterns your family might use across the area, and necessities (like a grassy area for your dog). Add established trees and buildings, and take a look at the sun’s path over your property to allow proper growth of sun- or shade-loving plants. Think about the size of tools such as mowers or wheelbarrows that need to be moved around the garden area.
Create garden rooms
Just as the interior of the home has various rooms, such as living and dining rooms, entryways and kitchens, effective gardens contain the same elements. Look at your exterior in terms of rooms with various functions. For instance, plan for an outdoor kitchen and dining area, a living room area for sitting and chatting, and consider adding items like lounge chairs and hammocks where you can take an afternoon nap. Don’t forget the spot for the dog, as we mentioned above. Do you need a garden spot that could be gated off from the rest of the yard at times? Plan for a pretty gate or other moveable barriers. Do you need to protect your vegetable garden from deer or other animals? Perhaps you would like a private area for reading or meditating, free from the eyes of neighbors. Here are a few ideas to consider while planning your space.
Blend hardscape and plants
An eye-catching garden does a good job of blending plants with hardscape items, such as pavers, retaining walls, barbecues, arbors and gazebos. You want a good mix of both types of items to create a garden that is functional and aesthetically pleasing. Generally, hardscape items are put in first and then you plant around them. Add sculptural pieces for impact – and they don’t have to be expensive. This Lowe’s video shows you how to cast your own concrete objects. And here are more fun and easy ideas to help you use inexpensive concrete mix to add personality to your garden. Use a variety of mosses and low-growing plants to accentuate a paved area, and find trailing plants for higher, geometric forms.
Consider mature plant size
Educate yourself about the eventual size of plants before including them in your landscape design. Some trees can reach 60 feet tall and wide, making them unsuitable for many home landscapes. Others drop leaves, seeds, or cones at certain times of the year. Root systems could infiltrate sewer or water lines. Removing an overgrown tree can be costly, so make the right choice in the first place to save yourself money and headaches.
You can choose to plant perennial plants (plants that come back every year), annuals (you will have to replace them every year), or a blend of the two. Perennials such as lavender and daisy offer a reliable base, and annuals such as petunia or pansy allow you to change colors and flower types every year for a new and exciting look. Garden stores often offer deals on multiple plant purchases – don’t be afraid to ask for a discount if you are buying a cartload of plants. Also ask about cast-off plants or plants that have been neglected – you might be able to revive them with a good watering or a fresh pot of soil. Talk to friends and family who have gardens – ask them if they have any plants they have divided or removed. Gardeners love to share the wealth of plants and flowers.
Have any money-saving tips to share for doing your own landscaping?
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