Most people don’t think about their gardens in winter. Who wants to be out in the cold more than they have to? But if you’re looking to change your landscape next summer, winter is a great time to consider your options without the distraction of foliage or flowers. Grab some paper and a pencil and come with me on a little landscape soul-searching.
First, look out your windows from indoors. What do you see? Does it please you? Now go outside and tromp around. With fresh eyes, envision what people see when they walk or drive past your house, when they walk to your front door, and drive up your driveway. What do you see when you collect the mail, take out the trash, take your kids to the bus, or walk the dog? Really look. Do you like what you see, or is it lacking? Why? Jot down all your thoughts.
Next, assess how you use or want to use your outdoor spaces. Do you have children who need play space? How about a dog? Do you want to entertain outdoors? Do you enjoy grilling outdoors? Do you want to grow edibles? Do you intend to play lawn games like badminton, bocce, or croquet? Or is having a relaxing oasis more your speed? Add these thoughts to your other notes.
It’s critical to note the physical attributes of the property too. How much sun do various parts of the property receive? Are there areas where water ponds after a rain? Are there other drainage problems? Where are all the structures on the property—house, garage, shed, children’s play house or tree house, pool, driveway, vegetable beds, septic system, gas and water lines, overhead wires, etc.? Making simple sketches helps record these important points, or you can use a copy of the survey you received when you bought your home and draw on that.
Now take your survey copy and lay tracing paper over it. Using different colored pens or markers, draw lines that represent where you drive and park your car on the property, the pattern of where your pets move around, the path you take to pick up your mail, place your trash for pickup, where your kids play, how they walk to the bus stop, how visitors travel to your front door, and other pathways that might occur on your property. This exercise can reveal faults, eyesores, and difficult access paths in a landscape.
Note the style of your house and think about garden styles you like (cottage, formal, modern, etc.). This is the time to dream and have fun. Websites like Pinterest are great for helping you find the garden styles, colors, and detail you like. Magazines and books are great resources too, as well as real gardens you may have visited. Keep track of things you like to help guide a style for your new garden space, either scrapbook style or electronically.
Taken together, your notes and sketches synthesize the facts about your landscape as well as your thoughts, desires, and needs for it. You can use these materials to come up with a list of changes to make: pathways to remove or change; eyesores to screen; spaces for play or lounging to create; or more pleasing views to establish.
With all your thoughts and ideas recorded, come next spring, you’ll have a starting point for creating a landscape that pleases you and suits your needs.