Now that we’ve highlighted the elements of good design, it’s time to outline a plan. Consider the site and surroundings, your objectives for the space, plant preferences, the design elements of color, form and texture; and the principles of order, unity and rhythm. Thinking about all these aspects at once can be challenging. That’s why we put it on paper.
Follow these five steps for successful design, outlined by Tracy DiSabato-Aust in “The Well Designed Mixed Garden”:
1. Draw a base map of your landscape area to scale on graph paper with pencil – so you can erase if needed. Graph paper with four squares to one inch equates to each square being one square foot in the garden.
Indicate existing plant material that will stay, plus windows, doors, unsightly meters or air conditioners that need screening. Draw paths, walls and other hardscaping that will be retained or added. As you do this, think about existing colors, textures and style of the house, fencing, hardscaping and landscape. Think too about where you want focal points.
Place tracing paper over the graph paper. Trace the bed or border outline on tracing paper. If you want to alter your design plan, a clean sheet of tracing paper is all you need.
2. Draw in structural plants, starting with trees. Trees, shrubs, hardscaping and large artwork are considered the bones of the garden. Site trees with circles indicating mature width. They are dominant features, so use them to anchor corners, as an accent or as screening. Choose trees with mature heights suitable for the size and scale of an urban landscape. This is essential when planting under utility lines.
If you use evergreens as a screen or hedge, consider planting a bit closer together (five feet, rather than six, for a tree that reaches a mature size of 12 feet). This will create the screen sooner.