Gardening as Process: Zeroing-in

At this point, you should have a bubble diagram that shows: Your planned activity areas, both hardscape and plantscape; an inventory of what will be left once you’ve moved, or removed, what you don’t like; and a rough indication of where you want various types of new features and plants --- trees, shrubs, perennials, and annuals.

For some, the next step is the most difficult: Choosing how you want your garden to grow. Do you want to look out on masses of a specific color? Do you want to collect a variety of the same species of plants, such as roses, or hostas? Do you want to create a particular kind of garden, such as an alpine garden, a Japanese garden, a vegetable garden, or a cutting garden? Do you want the garden to have a casual look, like a swath of rough grass and meadow? Or do you favor a formal look with edged beds or parterres framed with boxwood?

Each of these choices calls for a different selection of plants. Once you’ve made these decisions, it’s time to break out the reference books and plant catalogs to create a list of what to buy and how much it all will cost. This is your wish list.

Next, add up the cost of everything on your wish list. Even if you can afford everything on the list, think about how much time and effort it will take to install it all. Can you get it done in one growing season? If the cost is too far beyond your budget, or the work can’t all be done in one season, consider breaking your plan into more manageable phases. If you choose this route, plan to install any paths, rock walls, structures, or other permanent features first. Construction is messy work and your plants won’t survive the disruption.

Don’t buy anything that’s not on your list. After a winter spent looking at leafless branches, it’s easy to be tempted by every colorful flower in the nursery and, before you know it, your garden will look nothing like your original vision.

Stay focused and follow your plan; it’s the map to the garden of your dreams
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