Several times throughout the year I remind you to take a picture of your garden. Now, when things are slow and there is time to think about our gardens and plan our next growing season, look at the pictures and see what you like and don’t like about your yard.  With most of the plants taking their winter nap, it’s a good time to decide if changes need to take place.

According to Sunset Landscaping Illustrated, landscaping professionals claim these four guidelines are your best guarantee of a quality and durable design.

Unity. Think of your landscape as one large piece rather than a bunch of scattered features. All the parts of the garden should work together. It’s suggested that you use just a few harmonious colors and a limited number of plant varieties.

Balance. Using color, form or mass are different ways you can create balance. In more formal landscapes, you might see mirror images on either side of a front walk, clipped hedges, and geometric shapes.  An informal design still has balance but it’s not symmetrical. An example would be a large tree on one side with a grouping of several smaller trees on the other, more plant varieties and more color. The look you’re after in an informal design is still balanced so it’s important to make sure an informal design doesn’t look lopsided


Proportion.  Is your small house being eaten by a huge blue spruce?  Do you notice that the pair of dwarf weeping cherries look ridiculous in the front yard of the mcmansion?  That’s what proportion is all about.  The plants and structure should be in scale with one another.  We all realize that young plantings are going to be smaller. Because of the long- term issue with plants, the key to good planting is to find out what the mature size of your trees and shrubs will be. If you can’t imagine the mature size of the little 2-inch caliper tree you’re buying, go look at several mature trees. Knowledge of mature plant size is essential to any good planning and planting.

Variety. To keep a landscape from becoming monotonous, choose plants in different shapes, shades and textures. Curved pathways, water features and garden art are a few ways to bring some variety into the garden. To quote Sunset, “ the balance between the principles of unity and variety is difficult to achieve, but well worth the effort

Design principles are good to keep in mind. Even better, in my opinion, is the love of your very own garden. If you don’t love yours, think about the guidelines. Maybe a small tweak here and there will be just the solution you’re looking for.

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