"HOW On Earth" – Published in Pink Magazine – January 2010

Setting the Foundation for your Dream Garden

“Nature has undoubtedly mastered the art of winter gardening and even the most experienced gardener
can learn from the unrestrained beauty around them.”
Vincent A. Simeone

I look forward to January and the New Year with its promises of a fresh start, a new beginning, a resolve for a better way of life. January to me is the most optimistic month, full of hope, dreams, and plans. The holiday season has past and with it the generosity of our hearts in giving to others. January is a time to commit to ourselves, to turn that love inward and reflect on the beauty within each of us. I enjoy reviewing my year in all areas of my life and drawing from that to create my intentions for the New Year.

We can look at our gardens in much the same way. The new seed and nursery catalogues arrive giving us gardening daydreams. January affords us the time to reflect on our gardens and make changes for the coming year.

This month, I invite you to think about your dream garden. Maybe it’s a tropical paradise at your backdoor, or you’ve always wanted a water feature. Perhaps you are new to gardening and this is the year you want to give it a try, even enrolling in a class. Maybe there is a garden that you have always wanted to visit or a gardening club you have thought about joining. A change could be as simple as using a color in your garden that you have never used before or trying a new plant. Whatever your ideas and visions, let’s make a commitment to implementing them this year.

The Garden in January:

Looking at our gardens in January is like looking at ourselves naked, our faces without makeup. Our landscapes are not as colorful and lush this time of year, which allows us to really see the bare bones of our gardens, making this an excellent time to plan and design new spaces. We begin with creating the structure and foundation. Structures can include remodeling, decks, walkways, arbors, pools, and everything requiring building. People often make the mistake of not starting and completing this process first, before any plants are installed. I always recommend waiting until all construction is complete. Even if the remodeling is on one side of the house, and you want to get started planting in the front, please wait. Construction requires ample space to store materials, park vehicles, place dumpsters. New plantings are much more vulnerable to the trampling, tarp coverings and paint splatters than old established greenery. Think of it this way, you wouldn’t start buying an entire new wardrobe a week or month before you were beginning a new health plan.

Foundation plantings are like the clothes that are classics, the black suit or dress in your wardrobe. They might not be the most exciting but they stand the test of time. With plants, they are the shrubs that are evergreen, tough and look great all year round. These are the plants that act as the backdrop, the screening, the framework for the fun accessories we then adorn. When designing the foundation, think in mass. Simple is best here. Cleaner lines are produced by massing one variety of plant material instead of using one of everything. Resist the urge to buy all of your favorites.

My Favorite Foundation Plants

Boxwood 3-4’ height, evergreen, slow growing, deer resistant
Dwarf Yaupon 2-3’ height, evergreen, slow growing, native, deer, pest & disease resistant
Anise 10-25’ height, evergreen, deer resistant, native, good screening
Ligustrum 12-15’ height, evergreen, good screening, glossy foliage, white flowers in spring
Wax Myrtle 15-25’ height, evergreen, native, great bird habitat, good screening, deer resistant
Pittosporum 4-12’ height depending on cultivar, evergreen, beautiful glossy foliage, lemony fragrant spring flowers
Hawthorn 3-4’ height, evergreen, dark green foliage, showy pink or white flowers in spring
Podocarpus 20-40’ height but easily maintained at 4’, evergreen, columnar shape, deer resistant, classic Charleston garden plant
Viburnum 6-20’ height depending on cultivar, best all around shrub, deer resistant, very dependable
Azaleas 4-12’ height depending on cultivar, evergreen, showy flowers in spring

A Fresh Start: Where to begin:

Creating a vision board is an excellent way to begin creating a new landscape for the year ahead. I love this process and it has been a very successful tool in my life. I use a cork board and then cut out pictures of landscapes, pots, plants, outdoor showers, interesting and unique walkways or anything that really catches my eye. I place the vision board in a place where I see it everyday. Keeping your dreams fresh and alive insures them to being realized.

Join me next month as we continue our journey through the world of landscape design.

Classes in ecology and gardening:

www.uscb.edu. Under “quicklinks” click on “Osher Lifelong Learning Institute”

Become a Master Gardner: Master Gardener class in office Conference Room – starts January 5, 2009; March – June, 2009 Master Gardener Class in Hilton Head


Magazines for garden and landscape design inspiration:

Garden Design

Fine Gardening

Carolina Gardener

Garden Gate Magazine


Gardening Club Information: