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Let Your Landscape Plan Evolve

Container gardens are a great way to start.

Everyone who plants or pulls up or mows anything in their yard is landscaping. You don't have to do it intensely. But if you do it wisely, every action can work for good. You have probably seen some people who work very hard and never quite come up with a beautiful landscape because they don't have a plan.

While it is still too hot to do much outdoor work is a great time to sit inside and work on planning.

The first rule is to enjoy the process. Landscaping may be something you feel you have to do, but if you go about it right you will find it much more fun than work Remember that it is your yard and you can do whatever you want with it (depending on the limitations of the homeowner's society--which you can work around). For the time you live in this house, the yard will be your immediate world, the only part of the world over which you have this much control. Make the most of it.

Much of the planning will be done in your head and you can do it partly while you are doing other things like driving to work or cleaning the house. You may even get some good ideas in your sleep.

To start your pot of ideas simmering, "Look it over before you louse it up," to quote a wise professor I once had. If you are new to a property, do not do anything expensive or drastic if you can help it for the first year while you live through a cycle of seasons.

Even as your plan evolves, you can plant annuals, perennials, and small shrubs for fast and lasting color.

That doesn't mean that you can't do any gardening for a year. Dig right in with annuals and perennials that you can move if necessary. Plant a few fruit trees that you know for sure you want and one or two shade trees if you have none at all. Take cuttings from other gardeners to get some stock started.

Get some shrubs started but buy small ones that you can move or keep in the container as you finalize your plans. Set them around where you think they'll look good and see how they like the spot. A container garden will may be a good choice for some areas the first season. Just don't forget to water.

Visit public gardens often with an open mind, a pencil and small notebook, and perhaps even a camera. Look over the gardens you pass as you walk or ride through the area.

Write it down. Make notes of when what is blooming, what plants, fruits, and vegetables you like best, what combinations, any special varieties. Carolyn Wildes, whose garden we featured earlier this year ( see Planning Pays in Wildes Garden), has one of the best systems I've seen. She has one notebook with pictures from magazines or of gardens she has seen with ideas, plants, and products she likes and may want to use in the future. She has another notebook that is a journal of the development of her garden from the beginning to the present with photos and lists of plants and varieties and notes of how they are doing at various times. Something like this can save you much time, work, and expense.

Consider your trees first. Plant for some shade but not too much.

We'll have more tips soon.

Consider trees first. If you don't know what yours are, find out before you cut anything down. Also find out before you let anything grow up too large for you to remove yourself. Birds and wind will plant some trees that you will treasure and many that you should prune out as seedlings: extra oaks, popcorn trees, golden rain trees, palms, Brazilian pepper trees. Take samples to the extension office if you need help with identification.

Look up before you plant a tree or let one grow. Especially with the threat of storms, we don't want to be the cause of loss of electricity. Plant tall trees well away from utility lines and roof lines. Under the lines and closer to the house you can plant small trees like citrus that will never get tall enough to cause trouble.

Write down what you want from your yard. Entertaining? Sanctuary? Privacy? A clear view of the house? Vegetables, fruits, a play area? What do you need in the way of service areas? A place for dogs or to work on cars or park a boat? Landscaping can make all of that fit in a fine looking garden.