Curating Your Landscaping
Click the Button above to download the worksheet You can follow along with the video above or read ahead below.
Step 1 - Activities
Take a moment and picture your everyday outdoor activities and special activities. On the worksheet we added some common ones but don’t be afraid to write in those quirky ones. In my family we always like to play Kugg, a viking stick game.
The reason we start with the activities is that your landscapes spaces are meant to be used. They can be beautiful but unless they have some sort of purpose it’s unlikely you’ll be spending much time in them. The purpose might be to look great from inside your home, in that case skip to step two!
This could simply mean, I like to walk from my back door to my compost pile. If you are an avid sunbather we want to start there so we don’t plan out a full shade garden. Like wise if your passionate about birding you’ll want to add some trees for them to perch in and plants that feed them.
Step 2 - Events and Gatherings
Similar to activities but with an added quantifier of size. Think about both the weekly amount of people in your household and regular guests. For example if you host regular family dinners and have eight people that’s important. A large party can be spread over many smaller spaces but those intimate gatherings need to have a permanent home.
Think about upcoming life events, is there a big birthday or graduation on it’s way in the next 3-5 years? Do you have a regular reunion with friends and their families? An annual neighborhood BBQ or dance? Time of year is important here as well. If you’re a big winter holiday entertainer that can factor into how you plan your landscape. Outdoor covered areas and winter plantings might be a great idea.
Step 3 - Prioritize
This is where the hard part comes in. On the worksheet we provide a framework for you to start prioritizing your areas. Also giving a space a name can help to define it’s role. The outdoor living room will be much different than the side meditation garden. Most of the zones we break down are activity driven or by location.
Be honest if you have a front yard that makes you cringe when you get home that’s a five. We all have different aesthetics and standards so don’t worry about comparing your list to your neighbors. Although this might be a great conversation starter for your family members or roommates. One person’s perfection can be another disaster. A neighbor of mine was an avid organic gardener, she tore out her from lawn and added straw bale raised beds. A month into the rainy season the straw bales were bulking and sprouting and another neighbor was tearing his hair out. He just saw rotting ugly looking hay bales where she saw bountiful organic matter.
Step 4 - A bulldozer or a rake?
Figure out what level of action you need to take to get your yard where you want it. Do you need to call in a contractor to regrade your whole hillside with heavy equipment or just pop down to the hardware store for a rake? Once you know whether it’s a planning, installation or maintenance project you can call the right person in to help.
Here’s a quick example of each:
Design (aka. Make a Plan) When someone calls me up they need help figuring out what they want or where they want it. This can be either with a successful landscape or a blank canvas. The design phase is all about having a plan. Similar to this worksheet getting down what you need to do before mobilizing the other two. So look at that you’re already a step a head of everyone else!
Construction is when you need to make a decent alteration. Whether you have a formal design or just know what you want this would be a major update. Think re-doing a whole section of the property or adding a big structural element such as a retaining wall.
Maintenance will be seasonal and on going. This is where things area getting over grown, leaves are piling up and weeds are sprouting from everywhere. Maintenance has the biggest impact on the longevity of the previous two and should be like going to the gym or eating healthy. It’s better to do it consistently a little at the time but you can do a big push to get back in shape.
Step 5 - Have a Budget!
I know this is easy for me to say as the designer but truly having a budget in mind before starting a project is hands down the most important gift you can give yourself. No matter if you’re doing it yourself, hiring a professional or getting the community together to help. Set a reasonable limit, expect a project to go about 10-20% over that number, either embrace the extra cost or plan on setting your budget a little lower than you can really afford.
Phase it in! This is easy for me to say because once you have a design it’s a piece of cake to phase it. But really as much as it’s great to have everything in all at once phasing can have it’s benefits as well. Make sure you know where your heading then chunk the project down into manageable time slots.
The most important thing is to have fun with the process and get to enjoy the final product. Make sure you’re creating a place you are going to love spending time in. Hopefully these tips make the process of getting from here to there a little easier.
What event did you identify in Step 2 that you’re most looking forward to this year?
Personally I’m excited to host a summer dinner for friends and colleagues out in the garden. I’m aiming for mid-summer when all my cutting flowers are blooming and the weather is perfect in the evenings.