As the days grow shorter, the weather colder and snow starts to cover the ground, it can be difficult to think about outdoor living spaces. But, in reality, this is the perfect time to plan your gardens, patios and walkways for next summer. It is a great activity to fill winter voids, and it will also keep you thinking of warm, sunny days to come. Last winter, the Master Gardeners of the North shared a presentation by Melinda Meyers called "Plant the Garden of Your Dreams," and addressed this very thing. Master gardener Tom Jerow also shared some planning tips and tricks to help everyone plan their perfect outdoor living space.
Planning from the inside out
Jerow mentioned that most people, and he agreed he is guilty of this himself, when planning their outdoor gardens and living spaces, think first and foremost about what people see when they walk by or when they approach the house. They give little thought to what they will see, as the homeowner, when looking out the kitchen window, for instance. While it's great to have an interesting view and things to see while we're sitting outside, he said, we also need to think about what we see from inside the house.
He then showed the group how he planned an outdoor area at his own home. Melinda Myers, who presented to the group via video, mentioned taking a picture of an outdoor space and having that picture blown up. From there she used tracing paper to trace the major features such as trees or buildings onto that part of the landscape.Then, she could add any plants, hardscapes, or other features she wanted to the landscape on the tracing paper. If she changed her mind, she would simply make another tracing, and rework her plan. Jerow said he used this technique, but made more of a three-dimensional rendering. He showed how he made it work from looking out the window by a sitting area inside the house. His tracing paper was on the window, where he would be looking out as he sat in the house. He traced the main landscaping features and hardscapes (driveways, walking paths, etc.)onto the paper. Then he was free to add whatever plants and other features he could dream up as a garden plan for the next year. to the picture he'd created. He said it helped him to see things more as they would look in real life, in 3-D. He, too, could start over at any time by simply using a new piece of tracing paper. This technique would work for any outdoor space, he stated.
Jerow also said January is a great time to take pictures of outdoor living spaces because it will show what features are in what locations, and what the area looks like when there are no plants visible. He said including things such as trestles and other garden features makes an outdoor area more attractive, even in the cold of winter.
"Things like this trestle, or the other ornamental pieces," he said, "add something of interest. They give the eye something pleasing to land on." He said many people also do not think about what their outdoor spaces will look like in the winter, but that with a little planning, they can be just as attractive in the winter as in the summer.
Blooms are great, but textures and architecture last all season
When many people think of gardens, they default to what flowers they would like to plant and the color patterns they want. Jerow went on to talk about the brevity of blooms.
"What I really wanted, was to have my orange poppies bloom with my Blue Irises," he said of his own garden. "I love blue and orange together, and I really, really wanted that for this garden space." He paused and smiled. "But, the reality is that poppies only bloom for like three days. That's all the time you get!"
His point was that blooms can be very fleeting, and choosing colors to compliment each other can be difficult if they bloom at different times. It is also important, to many people, to have flowers that bloom throughout the season. Jerow stated that most seed catalogs do have ready-made plans, however, that gardeners and outdoors people can use to create a garden that blooms from spring to fall.
"The plans are already put together," he said. "They are put together by professionals. The plans are great because they make it really easy. They tell you how many plants you need and how to space them."
"You want to think about what blooms at what time of the year," he said. "You want to make sure you have color throughout the whole season. But the reality is that blooming times can be fairly short. That's why paying attention to texture is so important."
He said using plants whose leaves were different colors and textures was important to the aesthetic appeal of an outdoor space throughout the whole season. Landscaping plants come in a variety of shades of green as well as reds, blues, yellows, and other colors. All of these things can add visual interest before blooms come and after they are gone. He also recommended using only native plants for outdoor living spaces so that gardeners were not accidentally introducing invasive species into the environment.
Planning your outdoor living space
Winter is a great time to think ahead to spring and what you would like for your outdoor living space. Whether you take a picture of the space you want to freshen up, or you trace your yard on a piece of tracing paper from inside your window, either of these will give you a good starting point. Checking out some of the pre-made garden plans online or in seed catalogs can give you great ideas, too, even if you don't follow the plan completely, he said. Adding architecture and lawn ornaments to garden areas is a great way to keep visual appeal throughout the year. Jerow said not to be afraid to try things. Nothing has to be permanent. If you find other ideas that you like better, you can work them in, or even change your plans, because working on tracing paper makes it easy.
Anyone interested in learning more about how to plan their outdoor spaces to get the perfect look and feel they want is encouraged to attend a Master Gardeners of the North meeting. They are held on the third Tuesday of every month during the winter at 6 p.m. at the Oneida County Senior Center or to contact Tom Jerow at 715-369-6875 or email Tom at email@example.com.
Beckie Gaskill may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.