Garden Design Tips



Five years ago, Dan the Man and I had a swimming pool installed in the then-barren backyard.  Yes, our unstated intention was to entice the grandkids over to Grandma’s and Grandpa’s, but we’ve probably enjoyed it more than they have.  Because of the expense of the pool, though, we were unprepared for the costs of landscaping.  So I randomly installed pass-along plants and made good use of cheap seeds.  It looked nice, but it still needed more structure and less haphazard-ness.  So I went on a quest to learn about garden design.

I began by watching a free online lesson from Craftsy ( entitled “Transform Your Garden Design.”  The instructor taught me to take digital pictures of the beds I wanted to plant and then print the pictures out in grayscale.  The idea is that removing the color helps you focus on the foundational components of the garden — what areas need height, which areas had room for larger plants, for example — without the distraction of color.  You then make your design sketches right on the photo, as seen in my design plan below.


CRAP ALERT:  I know it’s a horrible photo.  But this simple step made a big difference in helping me reposition existing plants and shop for new ones, know the sizes I needed to buy, and settle on where each plant would ultimately be planted.

To ensure that I had a easy-to-maintain record of my new garden plan, I started a small notebook (really just copy paper in a three-ring binder).  In the notebook, I put the plans described above and all of the tags from the plants I bought.  I taped the tags on the top to serve as a hinge so I could read both sides.


Now I have a record of the plants around my pool.  I can use the tags as a reference, if needed, and I will also use the notebook to keep track of what works, what doesn’t work, and what refinements I might later make as my garden matures.

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