This month, the Garden Designers Roundtable is taking a timeout for a reality check – those garden design ideas that you know will cause problems down the road, yet wind up in the plan anyway. The following are a few of the ways my clients and gardening friends have turned a blind eye to reality. (Okay, and me too.)
Reality Check #1: You live in a house, not a magazine
No one enjoys flipping through the pages of a glossy shelter magazine more than I do, and they can be a great source of inspiration. (I heart you, Sunset!) But avoid designing a new garden that will only look its best under perfectly pristine conditions. Believe me, if you have kids, pets, outdoor hobbies or spend time outside on a regular basis, your garden will attract the clutter of everyday life, exactly the same way your kitchen table is scattered with sunglasses, coffee cups and yesterday’s mail. Be realistic – include outdoor storage in your design, and don’t go with a layout plan or plant selection that requires a rigorous adherence to perfection to look its best.
Magazine version of a casual outdoor space
Real-life version of a casual outdoor space
Reality Check #2: Objects in the mirror are larger than they appear
Years ago, I designed a back yard for clients who had their heart set on a large swimming pool and an oversized barbecue island, appropriately called the Big Kahuna. Space was tight, but I managed. (If you’re wondering, the swimming pool cleared the setback requirement with only inches to spare.) But other requirements kept creeping in. How about a spa? And definitely a lawn, even if it’s small. When they requested a firepit at our final concept meeting, it was time for a reality check. Sure, I said, but only if we put it in the pool. The takeaway: avoid the “thing-y” backyard – don't try to stuff too many goodies into a small garden. Figure out what will truly add to your enjoyment of the space, and forget the rest.
Reality Check #3: Zone denial
I’m guilty of this one. Just because Brugmansia won’t overwinter successfully in your Sunset Zone 14 garden doesn’t mean I’ll have that problem. Zone denial is particularly insidious during summertime nursery trips, when the gratification is instant, and winter seems a lifetime away. But just as it’s always a mistake to buy your jeans a little too tight, fingers crossed you’ll lose those extra five pounds by the night of the party, winter will arrive on schedule, just like it does every year. Do your best to fight temptation and stick with plants that thrive in your climate.
My brugmansia in September, artfully framing a view of my garden
My brugmansia this week, artfully framing nothing.
To see what other Roundtable designers have to say on the topic, including special guest and landscape architect David Cristiani, check out these posts: