The world of COVID, the Pandemic and three surgeries have caused me to refocus my priorities. Once a full-time salesperson, I was consumed with working. Now it is time to further explore my creative side by expanding both my photography, my garden design and gardening. By way of introduction, if we’ve never met, I’m Robin and my garden is six (6) years old and I started with a blank slate when we moved to this property. I have been gardening all my adult life and have a background in Landscape Photography, Interior Design, Garden Design and Horticulture. I am amazed when I look back on my photos at just how much the garden has evolved and changed. My goal with any garden space is to have it appealing in all four seasons. So let’s dig in!
Gardens can reflect your personality and be an extension of your home so make it interesting all year. Combining trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals, grasses, bulbs and even herbs and some vegetables make a design more cohesive and give it year-round appeal. This makes for great fall color! I love to use lots of complementary color schemes but I’m not afraid to put in an unexpected pop of color. My go to color scheme is typically white, pink and purple but I love to accentuate it with pops of yellow.
Some things to consider: how big or small of a garden do you want to create; will you do the work yourself or do you need to hire either a designer or just physical help. In either case, I highly suggest you live with the space before you begin. What may seem like the ideal spot for a planting bed may turn out very differently than you planned. For instance, when I bought my property I had no idea that water would be a major, ongoing issue. There is a natural constant flow of water that I have now spent years trying to fix.
Consider where rain collects; where does the wind blow; the snow collect and is plowed; where is the sun or shade? There are many variables to consider when designing your garden and sometimes we have to change our plans based upon how things evolve like climate change is now showing us. In my garden for example, my shade garden is now much sunnier due to trees that fell or had to be be removed.
I have started many new gardens from scratch and you just keep learning by trial and error, research and sharing ideas with other gardeners. I will try in these blogs to share some of what I’ve learned and am still learning while travel is still limited. For reference, I am in Zone 6 (but frankly more like a 5B) since we are high on a windy hill here in Connecticut on about an acre and a half. Since I’m not headed anywhere just yet and I know many of you have followed my travel blogs I hope you’ll consider following my gardening adventures.
Be realistic about what you can handle yourself. It is pointless to plant a huge garden if you only have a spare hour a week to maintain it. Also if you don’t have tons of time don’t plant high maintenance plants that require constant watering, deadheading etc.
Experiment! It is a good thing! This year I am moving out of my comfort zone and trying to start seeds using the winter sowing method – YIKES! I am also trying out raised beds for the first time. There are many books on gardening styles and plants to get you started and I love to peruse them often. Beware though of the addiction in early spring when the garden centers start putting out those plants too early and we are so eager that we buy all sorts of plants that cannot go outside yet.
Over time my gardens have changed drastically. The bones are still in place like trees and major shrubs but I’m amazed how much has changed although there is always something interesting to look at. Things are often out of our control due to weather, or deer, rabbits and voles- pesky critters! Look outside to site your gardens and plan a space that will allow you to get out and sit in the garden. Remember that in the Northeast we are viewing our gardens for many months only from our windows. Try to plan for at least something interesting in all four seasons. One evergreen can make the winter garden interesting and please consider planting to support wildlife like birds, bees and butterflies. We will talk more about that another time.
The famous gardener Piet Oudolf said: “You don’t want to look down on plants; you want to be surrounded by plants. When you are enveloped by a garden, it’s a much deeper experience. You become more a part of the world around you.” Even a very small space can provide this.
I like to repeat plants for masses of color and effect and this can be accomplished even in a small garden. Plan focal points- something that draws you further into the garden and creates a backdrop for smaller plants.
Trees can be the bones of the garden. Consider using a Japanese Maple with its airy leaf structure that grabs your attention and can be a great spot to underplant lovely annuals that extend the season while covering for shorter lived perennials. Another great example that provides three season interest is a Serviceberry (Amelanchier). It begins in spring with delicate white flowers followed by berries that the birds love and in fall lovely auburn foliage and is a relatively small tree at about 10-30′ tall.
I’ll be the first to say I don’t always follow my own advice but please plant the right plant in the right place! Don’t plant a tree that grows 25′ w in a spot that can only handle a 10’w tree. However, when you are first starting a garden on a new property as I did in my current garden six years ago I highly suggest planting trees immediately as soon as you can afford them and as large as you can. However, having said that smaller trees are easier to transplant and typically adapt quicker to their new home. They are the major bones and structure in your garden and take the longest to mature. It’s like choosing the accessories for the living room before deciding on the sofa. These are hard to relocate so plan as they really define the garden. Will you want small trees, large evergreens or large specimen trees and what will your yard accommodate? I planted a Fir, Norway and Blue Spruces, Viburnums, Hawthornes, Crabapple, River Birches and a Kousa Dogwood years ago and they are more than twice as large. (See overhead opening photo- that Norway Spruce is already doubled in size)
Do you need garden inspiration? Consider attending The Garden Conservancy Open Days in your area, also check out local gardens like The NY Botanical Garden, Wave Hill Public Garden, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Chanticleer, Longwood Gardens, Tower Hill Botanic Garden or smaller gardens like Elizabeth Park in Hartford, CT. Check out gardeners on You Tube like Laura at Garden Answer, or Erin at The Impatient Gardener, Instagram and Pinterest and make a vision board with images you love and plant combinations that appeal to you. In this series of blogs we will continue to explore garden design and inspiration and how to tackle certain situations that might arise.
If you are in Connecticut my Garden will be open to the public on June 4, 2022 through The Garden Conservancy Open Days program along with another garden in town and several in the surrounding Litchfield area. Registration is on-line through The Garden Conservancy starting April 1st for June gardens. Here is a link to register for my garden: https://www.gardenconservancy.org/open-days/garden-directory/garden-of-robin-lensi
See you in the next blog and hope to see you in my garden! I hope you will consider following my blog 🙂
Did you miss my previous blog: Bring on Spring! Oh the Possibilities