People are often surprised to hear that this is the best time of year for landscape planning. There are many reasons for this fact — which I will get to — but before you can plan, you need design inspiration. The best place to start is with your childhood. Getting in touch with what you cherished about where you grew up can quite often lead to the best, most personal, and comforting designs.
I was reminded of this fact a couple times recently. Being a big fan of Project Runway and rooting for the talent of Anya, I love seeing how her Trinidad home is often evident in the work she does. She translates the colors, and lush plants of the tropical island in the patterns that she chooses. And the cut of her clothes, even when she isn't designing Caribbean wear, has the sense of the exotic. You can literally see her childhood in her creations.
Similarly, in the most recent issue of Leaf, there is a story about Kari Lonning who is a basketmaker of Norwegian descent. Throughout most of her life she has spent summers with family on a remote island in Norway. The landscape of this island and the inspiration she takes from it are clearly evident in her extraordinary basket designs.
For my own self, while I live in New England now, I find that I am most happy with designs for my garden that reflect my Colorado roots. Grasses and the flow of the plains and the aspen trees in the mountains are what stand out in my 'Colorado' mind's eye.
Grasses are a bit of trend in landscape design so interesting varieties are increasingly easy to come by and I have enjoyed mixing and matching different plants to create interest and the same flow in my own garden. The aspens have proved a little more difficult. I have purchased 5 saplings to date....and I have killed 4 (we are still rooting for the 5th) and I am beginning to think I may have to come at my aspen dreams from a different angle. Design inspiration doesn't have to be literal, so I am forced to think what it is that I love about the aspens. For me, it is the fluttery leaves that turn yellow (and other pretty colors) in the fall and the groves of white stems. In New England I am going to try Ginko trees (to get the leaf look) and Birch trees to get the white stems. It won't be Colorado but it will be inspired by it and that will make me happy.
Where did you grow up? What do you remember in the landscape that you would find comforting or inspirational? Start there as you begin to design you perfect garden.
And finally, back to why this is the best time to be thinking about all this:
1) The successes and failures of this growing season are fresh in your mind - so get them down on paper and work out solutions for next year - before you forget things.
2) If you think you are going to need to hire help, designers have slowed and schedules for contractors in the spring are wide open. Book help now and you will likely be able to complete your project in the early spring, before the summer season when you will really be able to enjoy it.
3) thinking of summer and making plans for a garden is one of the best ways to get green thumbed people through the short dark days of winter.