Some of us are born with a talent for gardening; others come to gardening later in life. Whether you are experienced or a novice, there is still much to learn in order to be able to create and maintain a successful garden.
Mastering some basic rules will help lay the groundwork for a garden that rocks.
Successful gardens are healthy and thriving. They lift us up and create joy. They are places where practicality and aesthetics are wedded. A garden must work well within its local conditions and the framework of your life.
Many studies have shown that time spent in nature benefits us by lowering stress levels and making us feel better emotionally. A garden that focuses on plants rather than hardscape like pools, patios and decks can be an extension of nature. Gardens give us the satisfaction of creating and tending a special place with our own hands. They are places where we both give and receive.
Imagine sweet fragrances wafting, soft leaves rustling in the breeze, shade on a hot afternoon and an ever-changing array of flowers embroidering the yard. Imagine, too, the joyful songs and forms of bright yellow goldfinches against the clear blue sky, a velvet upholstered bumblebee on a purple salvia, butterflies like snips of tapestry and hummingbird duels over crimson blooms — all elements of life you have nurtured. Gardens can be your own personal paradise.
As we move into the fall season, there are specific tasks and planning to consider. Here are 12 important seasonal to-dos excerpted from my new book, “Ground Rules: 100 Easy Lessons for Growing a More Glorious Garden,” (Timber Press).
1. Become your own garden designer. Now that the season and plants are declining, this is a great time to consider what worked well structurally in your garden and what did not. Developing a plan is relatively simple.
First consider the necessities of access to the front door, front yard and backyard. Make paths wide enough for two people to walk side by side. Decide where they should begin and end.
Do you like straight lines or curves? The journey should be as beautiful as the destination. Do you want privacy or an open yard that all can see? You can screen or filter the view with plants rather than fences.
Is there a place for a fountain, bird bath or bench? Think about a seating area. Do want a lawn for the kids to play on? Surround it with planter beds. Where should the vegetable garden go? What do you want to see when you look out the window?
Using hoses, landscape flags, lines of flour or spray paint, mock up locations of paths, seating areas and beds — live with them, then make necessary changes before beginning the work.
2. Plan for a long season of interest. When selecting plants for your garden, choose and combine those that bloom early in the season, midseason and late season — for interest and flowers as long as possible in the year. Bulbs are a great, long-lived item to add for very early blooms as well as early blooming shrubs like manzanitas or daphne. Christmas roses (helleborus) bloom for a long time in winter. Summer has too many plants to mention, but late summer and fall still offer many opportunities for a beautiful garden.