What I Want In A Garden Design

I think I’m ready to meet with the garden designer now.

I've thought it all through and now I know what I want in a garden design.

I want a garden that leads you along from one section to another with good transitions, personal touches and lots of plants. I’ve defined these five “wants” as the garden elements of Wanderability, Placeness, Well-Plotted, Gardimacy, and Hortiful.

What else could a gardener want in her garden?

A pond? Oh, maybe. I’m ambivalent about ponds. I’ve seen some I like but I certainly don’t want to dig the hole for one. I also don’t want to worry about leaks in the pond liner. But a small pond might be nice if it was well-plotted and someone else did the digging.

A lawn? Yes! I still want some lawn. Goodness gracious. Where has everyone been? I don’t want to give up mowing the lawn. Plus it adds some wanderabilty to the garden.

A vegetable garden? Of course. In every garden I’ve had, the first thing I did was figure out where the vegetable garden would be, and then I planned out the rest all of the other “placeness” in the garden.

A miniature garden? Yes, and I have one now, full of gardimacy. I assume it will stay where it is, but if a design called for it to be moved, I’d be wiling to sneak out in broad daylight some day and move it while the garden fairies were sleeping.

Perennials, trees, shrubs, containers, annuals? Yes, all of these. I’d like my garden to be hortiful, absolutely. Oddly enough, I don’t seem to have any ornamental grasses in my garden. At least right now I don’t, not since I removed the invasive ribbon (or was it zebra?) grass and that tough as wire Japanese blood grass.

Colors? Yes. But not much red. I should go through the new book The Gardener’s Color Palette by Tom Fischer, photographs by Clive Nichols (Timber Press, $12.95)* and mark the colors I like the best. Hmmm. Maybe I should go through all my gardening books and magazines and mark the pictures of gardens that I like the most? Or not. I'll just explain what I want.

Oh, and how could I forget the five secrets to achieving happiness in your garden? My garden design needs to incorporate all five of those secrets.

I think I’m ready to meet the garden designer now.

*(I received a free copy of this book to review. I haven't had a chance to do that just yet, what with sitting around thinking about garden design and secrets to happiness in the garden and looking out the window wondering when the snow would melt because I really haven't done any gardening since winter set in, about the week of Thanksgiving, and yes, that's been three months ago.)


  1. Hello Carol - this is great series of posts, leading through the process of 'what do I want from my garden' - I loke it a lot. It helps me to think about my garden coming season.

  2. Yes, you sound ready. I hope you're going to show us maps of your garden before and after. I always love to see maps.

  3. Carol, I think you have put into words what a lot of your readers want from their gardens, I know I was nodding and saying "yes, yes" as I read each of these posts. I think I will be referring back to these over the years and if you put them into a book I will buy it! Good luck with you garden designer I am sure you will have an enjoyable time.

    Best wishes Sylvia

  4. Dear Carol, You really do seem to have done your homework very thoroughly indeed and to have organised your thoughts in readiness for meeting with your garden designer.

    I do hope that the meeting will go well and shall look forward to hearing what the next steps you will take are.

  5. Carol, I'm impressed by how much you've put into this. Your garden designer will be so thrilled to work with such a a knowledgeable client. Good luck on the design and keep us all apprised.~~Dee

  6. Will the design include winter interest, so that when you're looking out the window wondering when the snow will melt, you'll have something interesting to look at.

  7. Carol, I'm looking forward to seeing what you will end up with after the visit from the garden designer.I love looking at design maps.

  8. I so love your garden words! I want my garden to be those same things - you've said it well!

  9. I've been designing gardens for 20 years, 10 professionally, and have never come across a better list for describing the key qualities of a 'gardener's garden' than "Wanderability, Placeness, Well-Plotted, Gardimacy, and Hortiful." Granted, few of my clients are avid or knowledgeable gardeners with a flair for words either (that's why they hire me). Thank you so much for sharing; I imagine you will be quoted often and warmly. And I hope you'll share your experience working with a designer; you know the 'peanut gallery' will have feedback!

  10. Well said, Carol! I sometimes get so busy, the garden is just another chore. You've reminded me of why I began gardening in the first place, and the creative joy the garden offers.

  11. I think a small pond would be well worth your while. The sound of moving water will make the garden even more hortiful!

  12. This has been a wonderful series. I think my own garden will end up evolving on its own. I can already see holes in the original plan I came up with, elements that are missing. I'll take it one day at a time and see how it goes, with your posts giving me some guidance :-)

  13. Thank you everyone for the wonderful comments, and the suggestions. I will keep everyone "posted" on the progress with the garden designer and design.

  14. Your post is mentioned on the Facebook page for Garden Designers Roundtable, Carol. I imagine few of us have ever had a client as well-prepared as you seem to be.

    I wonder if a disappearing fountain might be something you'd like, rather than a pond, which necessarily has more maintenance? I'm craving one myself, both for the movement and the sound of the water. And I want one that has a flat place so birds can bathe.

    Just curious--are you getting a plan only or having some or all of the work hired out?

  15. Great design ideas! Now is the time to plan your spring garden. This is all I've been doing for the past two weeks. Right now, I'm trying to figure out which insect control method to use for my vegetable garden. I found this organic insect killer online. What do you think? http://www.saferbrand.com/store/garden-care/5102

  16. You must be a designer's dream, Carol, because you already know just exactly what you want in a garden! I'm glad to know I'm not the only one, though, without any ornamental grasses--I love their looks, but before I plant any I want to make sure I get something I won't regret later.

  17. I received a free copy of Tom Fischer's Color Palette book and did review it. One of the things I liked about it was his naming specific varieties of many plants, so I can actually look for that specific beautifully colored flower.


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