Friday, January 8, 2016

Your Garden -- Planned or Evolved?

These are the planning days, planning for the season ahead, but my planning is limited to a few new plants and shifting old ones around. My current garden has been established for almost thirty years and didn’t have much planning in the first place days, more a case of adaptation as requirements changed. The front yard received more consideration, but the back had to evolve somewhat on its own as it passed through a number of unavoidable stages.

It started out as an unfenced, blank palette, then once enclosed by a solid barn board fence it held a small vegetable plot. It was a children's playground with equipment for a while, then after the addition of flowerbeds along the fence, followed by patios, pathways, and a pond, it gradually filled in until the lawn is barely large enough park a wheelbarrow.

The flowerbeds expanded drastically, trees grew, many shrubs and perennials were tried and died over the years. I made many mistakes, but most things have worked out, despite deviations due to the eccentricities of the head gardener, and more than anything, it brought me a lot of joy in the process. Certainly, had I planned it more directly, it would probably look like a different garden, but then any blank space can be designed in a million different ways to create a garden.

If you are in the early stages of developing a garden, either by design, evolution, or adaptation, there are a few things that are best considered that will prove helpful, and at the same time will avoid costly or annoying errors, especially with trees and shrubs.

Choosing the right one for the right location is essential. I have one tree that could have been better placed, and although it's not entirely without merit, I could do without it, but any change now would require drastic action, as in a chainsaw and shrieks of dismay from bystanders.

Apart from felling, trees and large shrubs are like heavy furniture that isn’t easily moved, and unlike a couch they improve with age, making them even harder to part with. And they grow, slowly maybe, but a small suburban yard isn’t the place for a monster maple. Too often, trees are planted much too close to the house where they can interfere with drainage or even cause structural damage, so before planting any tree, seriously consider the location and potential size of that skinny sapling in the pot. For a large tree, four or five meters from a building is a good guideline.

A lot of work has been done in creating smaller, compact trees and shrubs in recent years, which are much more suited to a smaller garden. An advantage of incorporating smaller trees and shrubs into a design means there’s room for more plants. And if you do find you’ve planted one of these smaller shrubs in the wrong place, they’re a lot easier to dig out and move.

Good planning is important, but it’s only part of the final result as a garden is a living thing, never static, and will constantly attempt to thwart the designer. I’ll leave you with the words of  Scottish poet, Rabbie Burns, whose birthday is on the 25th: "The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft agley". (go often askew).

No comments: