Now is the time of year when nature lovers—from those with a few feet of balcony to those with acres of lawn—start to think green. Whether you’re leaning toward ornamental trees, shrubs, flowers, or a vegetable garden, a little planning can go a long way to stretch the greenbacks in your outdoor haven.
Craig Jenkins-Sutton is co-owner of Topiarius, which offers high-end, urban landscape and fine gardening services. He says DIY gardeners first need to think about how the space is used. Consider walkways, outdoor dining and lounging areas, and outdoor cooking areas. Those will influence the rest of the layout.
Next, determine how much sun or shade the garden area will get, because that will dictate which varietals stand the best chance. From there, sketch out where to put the trees, if any, first. Then move to shrubs, which can be used to define the garden space. Finally, fill in with perennial and annual plants.
Buy your plants from a local nursery or garden center and not a big-box store, he recommends; plant quality is much better from specialized nurseries. Read the directions and requirements tucked into each pot before you buy.
When picking out vegetation, take into account how big the mature plant will be. For instance, a blue spruce might be just two feet tall at the nursery, but it can grow to be 60 feet tall with a trunk two feet thick. Jenkins-Sutton recommends that gardeners visit nurseries several times throughout the year to get an idea of what’s in bloom and buy plants during the spring, summer, and fall to avoid garden dead spots.
Container gardening is a good way to bring artistic interest to garden spaces of all sizes, he said. Big pots can even hold small trees, such as extra-large ceramic containers from Scenario Home ($3,325).
Another way to bring functional art into the yard while taking advantage of vertical space is to use a trellis, such as one from Terra Trellis ($399), to support climbing plants like roses.
Home gardeners will need some tools. Jenkins-Sutton recommends Swiss-made Felco as the “gold standard” for hand pruners ($71) and lopping pruners ($140), typically necessary for tree maintenance. A digging must-have is a hand trowel ($20).
For gardeners who would rather work with a designer, Jenkins-Sutton said it’s much like working with any contractor. Set a budget and ask for recommendations. Landscaping firms can offer everything from design to planting to continual maintenance, he said. They can design the entire yard or just a small section.
“The number one thing to ask is to see their portfolio. If they don’t have one, they’re behind the times,” he said.
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