Montgomery column: Designing a garden – Lifestyle – The Pueblo Chieftain

“I never before knew the full value of trees. My house is entirely embosomed in high plane-trees, with good grass below; and under them I breakfast, dine, write, read, and receive my company”
– Thomas Jefferson, 1793

Due to staying home with the pandemic the past six months, I have done some major work in the garden. I had not realized how some plants needed a good pruning and a few plants had even outgrown their space and needed to be moved. I had shrubs with a lot of dead wood that needed to be taken out and I could not believe I did not notice this before. I got out old photos of areas in the garden and was amazed at how the garden had slowly changed.

As I have been working, I would have to remind myself to follow some basic principles of design that have helped me over the years. I started out as a collector and realized years ago, I needed order to my garden and to have some “bones” or structure in some places where things were lacking.

Some of the things I try to remember are not to make it too much of a “hodge-podge” of plant material. Variety is important, but do not overdo it. Balance, proportion and unity are important. You need to think about a garden as an extension of your home and think about how you decorate a room. You use some of these same ideas when making a room in the garden.

You need different shapes, sizes, texture and form. If the entire yard were all the same, it would not be very interesting. It is good to balance things in the garden. If you have something on one side of a path, repeat it to give some balance on the other side.

If you are starting from scratch to landscape an area or just making some little changes, you start with trees. This could be trees that are in place now or the trees that you want to consider adding. They could also be borrowed trees that overhang your property from a neighbor’s garden. Trees are the main landscaping feature. Start with letting the trees you have or are considering planting be the first thing to guide your landscape.

Trees set the stage and give you different options when planning. You can use them to have dappled shade, woodland shade or have deep shade if you want to create a woodland garden. Trees can help you divide areas into rooms.

The second thing to consider is the “bones” of the garden. Good gardens have good bones and winter is a good time to see this. The greenery that catches your eye or architectural elements like walls, fences, patios, pathways or arbors are the solid elements of a garden. Make sure you have enough greenery to give your garden an attractive look in the winter months.

The third thing is to make sure your garden has some unity, consistency

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