Renovation: the Evolution of a Garden - Garden Designers Roundtable

Members of the Garden Designers Roundtable are discussing landscape and garden renovations today.  I hope you enjoy the conversation!

When I hear the word renovation I immediately think: evolution. Landscapes change immensely over time, as do the needs and desires of those who use the space.  A new landscape is a leap of faith that is built with the anticipation that a particular vision will be fulfilled. When a garden is first installed, the hardscape is pristine and we can’t wait for the plants to grow to their full potential.  Over time, however, what seemed to be a perfect plan becomes, instead, a perfect storm of changes that no longer work for us practically or aesthetically.

Here are a few of the clues I look for when assessing a landscape for renovation:
Growing conditions
  • Plants are no longer blooming or their growth is elongated/spindly because their once sunny setting is now shaded. (Or the opposite; shade has been replaced by sun.)
  • Plants are encroaching on walkways, windows, roof lines, etc., because they’ve outgrow their designated space.
  • Plants are stressed due to water restrictions and/or irrigation failure.
 Hardscape conditions
  • Damaged or uneven surfaces that present a hazard to moving through the space
  • Failed retaining walls
  • Faded, stained, or discolored surfaces.
  • Broken or sagging fences, gates, arbors, or stairs
  • Drainage problems
 Human conditions
  • Changes in lifestyle
  • Changes in aesthetic tastes
  • Changes in gardening interests and/or values
  • Changes in physical capabilities
 My job, as a professional landscape designer, is to find solutions to these situations that can incorporate as much of the existing landscape as possible (I don’t classify an entire scrape-off as a renovation), and that meet the goals of the owner. In the following example, the homeowners’ primary concerns were to enhance their entryway, create easy access throughout the landscape, and develop a large vegetable garden.  Here are a few before and after photographs of the project, which was installed by the owners from my design.
Before:  a welcoming entry and a seating area were lacking
After: a new deck/porch and...
... an entry walk, and refreshed garden plantings

Before: home renovations created a need for new access and plantings for the extended side yard

After: the perfect place for raised gardens and a destination seating area
After: walkways serve as a unifying element throughout the landscape
Regardless of the size and scope of your landscape renovation needs, remember that evolution is inherent to the living world and that as gardeners we should embrace it and celebrate it!

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