So, you’ve designed your garden. The sizes and positions of flower beds, the separate potager, the terrace for entertaining, plants, shrubs and trees have been sourced, and because I’m the eternal optimist, you’ve finally committed to a compost bin. In general, you’re ready to create your own bit of paradise. But hang on just a minute. Have you taken care of the details? Remember –
It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.
A garden can appear to be lovely but in order for it to function well, there are several details to consider. Some are obvious and some quite subtle. You’d be surprised how often both kinds are overlooked. Based on my experience, I’ve come up with a rough list. Here we go –
1. Access to water from the various parts of your property. Even if you have installed drip irrigation, it is a good idea to have multiple sources of water handy. Unless of course, the garden is fairly tiny and a single hose would be adequate to reach everywhere.
2. Are there well marked paths connecting the areas of the garden? These don’t have to be permanent paths of stone or brick. Simple pavers or gravel/wood bark marking the trail would do. Personally, I’m not big on anything that can be painful underfoot. Just remember, weeds will grow and need to be diligently controlled. Pavers should be placed so they are easy to step on without demanding too much of a stretch of the leg.
3. On the subject of paths, It has been said that the ideal width is where two people can comfortably walk side by side. I generally ensure that a wheelbarrow can be pushed along without any trouble. Edging the paths is a matter of taste and style – do you like it a bit wild with plants spilling over or more formal and restrained is up to the gardener.
4. If you are madly in love with swathes of grass ( I’m not judging), and you entertain regularly, bear in mind that shoes with heels are not happy at all walking on such a surface.
5. Now we come to steps. Chose material that is neither too slippery nor too rough. Wood and certain types of stone are best. A friend of mine once called me over to see her new ‘Moroccan’
terrace. I arrived to see gorgeous, handmade Moroccan tiles covering the surface of the terrace and steps. It was too late to tell my friend she’d made a big mistake. Needless to say, this area was treacherous even when slightly wet and entirely unusable all through the winter.
6. There are ideal dimensions when building stairs. The height of the risers should be 7 inches, the depth 11 inches, the width no less than 36 inches and the stair rail between 30 to 34 inches above the step.
7. The garden should be designed to heighten the senses. Plant aromatic herbs and fragrant plants where they can be enjoyed as one passes by. I also like placing plants like roses, jasmine, lilac and wisteria near the house so they can send their fragrance through open windows. Similarly, plants that encourage our tactile nature should find themselves within easy reach of a visitor.
8. Every garden should have several places to rest or just stop to look at a view. Benches, statuary, water features are all critical elements in a well designed garden.
9. If possible, add features like hammocks, chaise longues that invite one to nap, read or day dream. Umbrellas and trees can provide shade.
10. It is best if the vegetable garden is within picking distance from the kitchen and outdoor cooking area. If that is not feasible, at least keep some culinary herbs near by.
11. In your entertaining space, apart from the dining table, keep additional surfaces where guests can put down a drink while they scrutinize your prize worthy roses or eggplants or hydrangea. Otherwise, for days afterwards you will be unearthing glassware from the oddest areas. Balanced in the fork of a shrub, upturned over a branch, nestled in the boxwood, in a flower pot …
12. In planning your garden, consider ‘borrowed’ views to visually expand your garden. Furthermore, try to ensure that the garden looks interesting from all directions. There will be a natural way in which you like your visitors to walk the garden. The reverse walk should be pleasant as well.
13. For yourself, the perennial gardener, keep tools like secateurs and favorite weeder close by. I also keep a collection of vases to plunge freshly cut flowers in them right away. A few not so so precious ones are kept so I can send a friend home with a bunch of peonies and such.
14. Finally, keep your garden as a true reflection of yourself.
This list is by no means complete. It is a good start. And sometimes the end. It’ll do. By all means add other thoughts that seem compelling to you and I have overlooked. Do please let me know?
(c) 2013 Shobha Vanchiswar