A well landscaped yard can add value to your home; but if you have never gardened before this is guaranteed to be an overwhelming and daunting task. But just because you’ve never done it doesn’t mean that you can’t. Like any other skill, there is learning required and it’s done by baby steps. The first things that I would say to a beginner gardener is:
- You CAN do it.
- Ask questions: Learn. Research. Talk to people and ask lots of questions. Be a student and don’t be afraid to inquire. There’s no such thing as a dumb question.
- Break everything into bite sized chunks, one step at a time.
- Every year you will learn new things, so take good notes.
- And Remember: Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Landscaping is about location, location, location:
- Get to know your yard intimately – be a student of your yard, observe it well.
- Know the lie of your home – where is north, south, east, and west?
- Know sun & shade areas – how many hours of sun does each area get?
- Observe buildings & fences that influence sun exposure.
- Note wind patterns.
Layers of Landscaping
1. Hard-scaping – the elements of hard-scaping (we made up this word) are the things in your gardening space that are permanent.
First identify the elements that cannot be changed.
- This starts with your home – know the direction it faces and observe how many hours of sun each area receives. Also get an idea as to how the wind moves in those spots.
- The next thing to note are other permanent features like sidewalks, patios, fences, other homes and buildings that would have an influence on your gardening area. Do they cast any shade? Does any structure make the wind blow and tunnel past constantly?
And then think about items you would like to add – it’s always easier to plant around a focal structure and it’s good to get these things in place before you start putting in plants.
- Would you like to add any sidewalks or pathways?
- Would you like to incorporate things like a pergola, water feature, pond, or garden room? What about an outdoor kitchen & dining room? Wouldn’t THAT be awesome?
- Others added features are less extravagant like raised beds, benches, old wheel barrows, unusual containers, wishing wells, trellises, and obelisks that offer structure to grow gardens around.
2. Tree-scaping – (we made up this word too). Look around your yard and see what types of trees and shrubs are growing and what their potential for growth is. There are good books and websites, and of course, neighbours and tree experts to help you identify your trees and shrubs. If you are starting with a clean slate like a completely unlandscaped area, trees and shrubs are a good place to start because they provide structure and a backdrop to your surroundings as well as fill in large spaces. Don’t limit yourself to only growing ornamental trees, research some fruit producing trees that work well in our area.
3. Perennials – Perennials are plants hardy enough to nap through our winters and reappear in spring.
- The perennials that survive in our area are those which are assigned a horticultural zone rating of 1-4. Check out our blog called Be in the Zone
- Perennials generally have a distinct season of bloom & can be classified as spring, summer, or autumn bloomers. Some, actually very few, are continuous bloomers – but these are great to incorporate in the landscape.
- Perennials are also divided into sun perennials & shade perennials. Some do both.
- Perennials are a great 3rd layer in the landscape because they provide structure and stability to garden beds from year to year.
- We have many perennial blogs you can check out on our website like: Fifteen Fab & Faithful Perennials, Planning a Perennial Garden, Shade Garden Solutions, Sun Tolerant Hostas, Late Blooming Perennials, Clearing Up Some Clematis Confusion, Comparing Peonies. Take some time walking through our website to learn about perennials. Go. Explore. And learn.
4. Annuals – This fourth layer of landscaping provides constant colour. Annuals are flowers that bloom all summer long.
- Annuals are not hardy enough to winter over in our area and hence, need to be planted yearly or ‘annually’ – that’s where their name comes from. Some annuals are actually classified as ‘perennials’ but in our area they can’t survive the winter so we use them as annuals.
- Annuals provide a continual pop of color to the garden as perennials bloom and fade in their season of colour. Annuals also add continuous colour in hanging baskets and containers.
- Annuals are divided into sun annuals and shade annuals and some do well living in either location.
- We have many blogs on our website that talk about annuals. Here are a few suggestions, but are by no means exhaustive of the blogs we have: How to Choose the Right Hanging Basket, Caring for your Hanging Basket or Container, Cool Weather Lovers: Pansies & Violas, Pairing Annuals & Perennials, The Differences Between Annuals & Perennials, Maintaining With Mulch, Garden Maintenance: Why Deadhead?
5. Decorations – And this last layer of landscaping is about adding whimsy to your garden with decorative pieces. This would include things like garden stakes, decorative pillows or throws for a garden bench, ceramic or metal figures, birdhouses, lights, and bird baths to add a little bit of fun to your garden and encourage bird habitat. We have just one caution; and that is to use this layer with care, so your garden doesn’t turn tacky. A little bit of fancy goes a long way.
Check out our blog called 6 Ideas to Make Your Winter Garden Sparkle that talks about popping in some decoration into a garden in the dead of winter.