Creating Your Perfect Garden

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In the years since I grew up I have learned quite a bit more about gardening. I have learned to look for plants that are not only eye appealing, but that can thrive in the climate where I live. I have also learned to avoid plants that are poisonous where my pets and children will play. Then there is the consideration for family members with allergies. I know, it sounds like a lot to think about, but in the end, it is worth every minute of research.

Of course, when starting a new garden or reviving an old one, you need to decide a lay out. How do you want it to look. Are you going for a landscape with mostly lawn and a few flower beds placed through-out or along the edges? Or maybe you want a garden with no lawn and meandering paths through beds filled with your favorite flowers. Whatever your desire, you need to put something down on paper to decide how you want it to look. Nothing fancy, just a quick schematic drawing showing your yard and where the flower beds will go.

One of the most important things to think about before planting anything is how you will water everything. If you are creating a garden filled with plants, are you going to want to water them by hand all the time? That could easily become an overwhelming job. A simple drip system will not only allow you to water all your plants at one time, but it will also give you more time to tend your garden in other ways while helping to conserve water. A drip system allows you to water each plant for a specified period of time without the waste of water run-off. In California, we have dealt with drought enough that many gardeners look for drought tolerant plants and ways to conserve water while still having stunning gardens. Once you have decided on your watering system and your layout, you are ready to choose your plants.

When I see a yard like the one below I see potential. This is what the back yard looked like when we bought our previous house.

When we bought the house, the fountain did not work and was filled with Koi fish. You can’t see it in the photo but there was trash in all the plants and there were weeds everywhere. Sorry, I can’t find the after photo but when we were finished, the entire patio went up to the side of the house and was brick pavers . We put in new lawn, replaced the fences, and planted new flowers around the edges of the lawn. It felt like relaxing in a park and was one of the big selling points when we moved. Here is a photo of the fountain. it worked when we were done but the photo was taken when it was frozen one winter.

Okay, now you need to decide what you want to plant. Trees are always pretty, but when selecting trees, be sure to think about where and how much shade you want, and whether or not you want to clean up leaves in the fall. My favorite trees are Japanese Maples and Redwoods, but there are so many trees that are stunning to look at and provide ample shade.

Consider any existing plants before you go out and buy new ones. Many plants can be moved to a different location if you don’t like where they are currently. Also, when looking for plants, you can use your family or friends as sources for cuttings. Some plants, such as Geraniums, allow you to take a cutting and grow a new plant. Doing this not only adds beauty to your garden, but it also saves you money. Other plants such as Day-lilies, allow you to separate them at the roots , creating several smaller plants from one large one. We did this a few times in previous gardens and it works wonderfully. We have also taken plants from neighbors who were redoing their gardens and didn’t want them any more. I would tell you to decide what you want for plants and flowers before you go, but I have found that every time I do this, I can never find the plants I want and end up with a wonderful variety from the nursery anyway.

One of my favorite things to plant is bulbs. They are so much fun because it is like getting a little surprise every time they bloom. When I plant a garden , I look at scents, textures, and flowers that I can cut if I choose to put in the house . Roses are another favorite of mine. They come in so many colors and scents and can add beauty just about anywhere. For scents and texture I prefer Lavender and Jasmine.

Everyone has their own opinion about how a garden should be planted. My husband and I constantly disagree about this. I think that they are most beautiful when plants are mixed up and just planted anywhere in a nice mix. My husband prefers plants in a neat organized pattern by size, etc. We always compromise and the end result is wonderful. Some of the most stunning gardens I have seen are ones where you feel like you are getting a surprise every time you walk by them. An unexpected flower in the middle of a group of bushes, a lovely scent that catches you as you walk by, leaving you wondering just what kind of flower that was. I once saw a garden filled with beautiful flowers , and in the middle of it all was a corn stalk. I’m not sure if it was a volunteer or if it was intended but the effect was charming.

One of my favorite flowers that my mom planted when I was growing up was the Naked Lady or Amaryllis Belladonna. This is a flower that is similar to a bulb that has long slender leaves throughout the fall and winter, those leaves die off and long stems grow up from the ground. On these stems bloom the most beautiful ( in my opinion anyway) flowers with a wonderful scent. They get the name Naked Lady because when they bloom, there are no leaves anywhere on them. I have wanted to plant these ever since i left home but haven’t been able to find them since.

As with anything else, a lovingly tended garden will provide you with beauty for many years. Gardening can be a very relaxing hobby as well as a very rewarding one. I plan to continue gardening for as long as my health allows and look forward to many years of enjoyment from my flowers.

I have had the pleasure of visiting many stunning gardens from Hearst Castle to the Botanical Gardens in Fort Bragg but the ones I enjoy the most are the ones right in my own neighborhood. The joy comes from seeing people working on their own flower beds and gardens making them what they want and enjoy. Even if you don’t have a yard, you can always plant a garden with potted plants, even in your own house or apartment . I have learned from my grandma to make due with what you’ve got. The ground at her house now is too hard to dig through so she plants a wonderful garden in different sized flower pots around benches and bird feeders.

Enjoy your gardens, they will help you relax when you most need it.

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