|The photographer's yard at the height of the growing season.
a garden-design instructor at a community college and a seminar
presenter for Lee Valley Tools, I've noticed that more homeowners
are designing their own gardens. Whether motivated by
budgetary considerations or simply a do-it-yourself attitude,
there's a certain satisfaction that comes from creating your own garden masterpiece.
Start With a Plan
To begin the design process, you need a base plan of your
property, drawn to scale. This should accurately plot the
location of all pertinent features (property lines, vegetation,
grade changes, stone walls, structures, overhead and below-ground
wires, etc.). If you have a property survey, it will help
in plotting many of these elements; however, you will still
need to confirm utility locations with the relevant authorities.
You can plot your own plan using two 100' measuring tapes.
Position the first tape parallel to the house, a foot or two
out from the back wall, and walk the width of the yard. At
this tape's midway mark, position the second tape at a right
angle and walk the depth of your lot. You can now plot existing
features using these two tapes as reference points. For example,
if you want to plot the location of a large oak tree, travel
the length of the tape to the point where you are even with
the tree and note the distance. Turn at a 90° angle towards
the tree and again measure the distance. Mark the tree's location
on your plan. Be thorough, as this analysis is a cornerstone
of good design.
When measuring your property, make note of various opportunities
and constraints that will influence your design. An opportunity
may be an old stone wall that provides shelter and a special
micro-climate for growing unusual plants. An area with several
large trees that cast a lot of shade, or a low area that provides
a damp breeding ground for unwelcome mosquitoes may be constraints.