|The renovated front yard.
Over the past six years, my husband Richard and I have transformed
our small suburban garden in Ottawa, Ontario (American zone
4/Canadian zone 5a), into an idyllic retreat. Here are some
things we learned along the way.
For reasons of budget and sanity, it makes sense to do things
in stages, especially when planning a complete makeover. It's
important to start with a good design you can follow from
start to finish.
Most public libraries have a selection of garden-design books
that will introduce you to the basics. If you choose to be
your own designer, measure carefully to avoid the unpleasant
surprise of a design element not fitting its allocated spot.
Alternatively, you can consult a professional designer. For
an additional fee, he or she will develop an original design
and professional drawings. A good designer should not dictate
garden fashion; instead, he or she should help you combine
functional elements that match your budget, suit the ways
in which you plan to use your garden spaces and take into
account the amount of time and energy you are prepared to
devote to ongoing maintenance.
With a design in hand, it's time to decide what to do first
and whether you should do it yourself (DIY) or you should
hire help. Taking a job on yourself, even if you have the
necessary skills and tools, can take longer and cost more — sometimes
a lot more — than initially calculated.
Deciding whether to DIY or to hire help means balancing your
skills, time and energy against a realistic budget. Our compromise
was to hire help for the highly skilled jobs and for those
requiring backbreaking labor.