Friday, March 22, 2019

Make Your Garden Much More Than What You Plant

A wooden table in the foreground with flowers and a metal watering can on it . In the background are lights in the tree and a light-colored house with the windows lit up.

This week I came across a delightful book, The Cocktail Hour Garden by C. L. Fornari
A clear sparkling liquid in a glass and a lime on a wooden table with lemon, lights and a clear vase with flowers in the background.
Although this book is chock-full of beautiful pictures, clever ideas and delicious-sounding drink recipes, it's the over-arching theme that grasped my attention and imagination. Fornari advocates for taking some time at the end of the workday to put down your devices and sit outside and just relax in your garden, either with other people or as some alone-time. Refreshing alcoholic beverages are optional, of course; but there are some really interesting plant-infused libations that you really owe it to yourself to try. There may even be some that have ingredients you can directly source from your yard. The point is that a yard or garden should be not be seen as a set of chores or just as a food resource, but instead should be actively enjoyed in and of itself. It doesn't matter if your outdoor area is expansive or small, an important way to get maximum enjoyment from it is to design and plant for your specific taste and how you want to utilize the space. As you begin or finalize your plans for this year, consider the following:

Black couches with lime green cushions under a black perugula in a walled patio area. The are plants in beds along the wall and growing in circles on the wall.
Think outside the box- Most of us would not wear dated clothing or use a computer from 1980, but we give little thought to updating our landscaping. Get rid of the shrubs-around-the-foundation-and-lawn-to-the-curb model and experiment with shape color, and plants that are new to you. Here are some excellent suggestions for starting a new garden design or renewing the one you have.

Green plants growing in containers along a purple wall .You be you - It pays to remember that your garden is your creation and that means you can grow, plant, paint or embellish whatever and however you want. Want to grow just white flowers? Grow just white flowers! Want to paint your patio floor? Here’s a video that shows how. Want to grow up a brightly painted wall? Do it! Whatever pleases you most and adds to your enjoyment should be what you choose to do.

A patio with white walls and plants in blue pots growing up and down all around the place.Create dimension - Use walls, tree branches, staircases and hangers to create a multi-layered growing environment that envelopes you in its beauty. This will give your eyes a variety of scenes to feast on as you relax with your favorite beverage.

Year-round enjoyment - To keep your garden glorious and accessible throughout the seasons, it’s time to move away from short-lived seasonal blooms and embrace plants(or even a series of plants)  that are long-lasting. Year-round gardening is a win-win; you have continual beauty and/or bounty and our valuable pollinators will have a food source week after week. With the addition of cooling fountains and cozy fire features, you will have an all-season backyard retreat.

A sepia-toned picture of a woman sitting on the ground in a small teepee with plates of food on the rug around her.
Not all walls are bad - The addition of shades, privacy walls and curtains can delineate and glamorize a specific part of your yard. They can also give you additional growing options by providing shade where you want it. Add a rug to the mix and you have outdoor lounging at its best.

A multicolored hummingbird perched on pink fuzzy flowers with green stems.Bird watching, anyone? – If you are a bird lover, but are unable to get away to appreciate these flying treasures, lure them to your yard instead. Designing a bird-friendly garden need not be complicated, but the various species are geographically and seasonally specific. The Audubon Society is a great source of information if you don’t know where to start. Here in southern Arizona we are lucky to have an abundance of hummingbirds and people come from around the world to see them. Hummingbirds are in everyone’s yard here, intentional plantings or not.

A round wooden door in a hillside with flowers and a table and chairs in front of it.
Perhaps you want a Hobbit garden.
Critters in the garden – Watching the walking and crawling creatures that inhabit your garden is not only fun and fascinating, it can give you a very good idea how healthy the environment you’ve created is. However, there are some inherent drawbacks in planting for wildlife as this often means you are simply supplying food for them. Gardeners everywhere know what a cute bunny can do to a vegetable patch. Here in southern Arizona most people know that javelinas love pumpkins (see them at work on one here) and no one wants to invite them to any party. Check out what Nathaniel Wheelwright, author of The Naturalist’s Notebook has to say about all this here.

Get a little country: If you enjoy a cowboy or country aesthetic and/or you want to try something inexpensive and environmentally conscious, consider a straw bale garden. This alternative to container growing has great potential for areas that have little to no soil but need a little pizzazz (like along a curb or driveway). The possibilities are literally only limited to your imagination.

Two children facing away from the camera on to wooden chairs on a green lawn.Address problems ahead of time: Many common garden problems can be stopped before they begin. For instance, you can apply weed barriers before landscaping, and choose plants with an eye to pest control. You can have it all - a beautiful garden that is easy to maintain.

I’ve given you many idea trails to explore, but while you are planning your garden don't forget that the bst idea is to simply enjoy your garden. Working hard to create an area of relaxation seems just wrong. So, step back and slide your way into this. And remember, sometimes less is best and all you really need is a comfy chair and the right company.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Submitted by Pam

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