By: Tom Nugent, Landscape Architect
What gift will you give your garden this holiday season?
How about the gift that allows for the subtle interplay of garden elements—light, movement, vitality and viability?
This enduring interplay is what landscape architects call timelessness. The concept of a garden being timeless is what gives it flexibility and harmony, and makes it self-sustaining throughout its biological life cycle.
When considering a new garden, many homeowners seek a low maintenance garden to save cost. From a designer’s perspective, if a garden is planted strategically and with proper bed preparation, drainage, and irrigation infrastructure, the maintenance requirements and costs can be greatly reduced. However, all gardens require some regular care to thrive and that’s where the sustainable design can impact the overall cost.
As a landscape architect, design is everything. Nevertheless, without nurturing, proper maintenance and care, even the finest master-planned garden will suffer.
A timeless garden is not eternal. It is perpetual. That means that your backyard garden is organized into ecosystems where the death of one plant allows the life of another. The more diverse your garden is, the more stable it will be. This is the key to its timelessness; it is a garden that is without end or beginning and always changing.
While thoughtful design, use of sustainable design principles, proper soil preparation, and choosing the right plant for the right spot will create a perpetual flow, all gardens will require some tweaking and adjusting as the plants and systems mature.
For example, a bright and sunny front yard may have once been the perfect spot for a drift of vibrant roses and verdant swaths of St. Augustine turf. But over time, as tree canopies grow to provide more shade, the site becomes more appropriate for shade loving ferns, camellias, and possibly hydrangeas.
In addition to relocating plants, changing flower beds, removing shrubs that are past their prime, and rethinking your garden according to changes in available light, weather is going to impact how your garden grows. Unusually harsh weather conditions can damage plants. Years of drought conditions may affect the health of large trees, causing decline and death. Freezing temperatures may kill off some shrubs and groundcover, such as Asian jasmine and even St. Augustine turf…when it warms up, these areas will require refurbishing.
A timeless garden is adaptable. When children are small, swimming pools, sports courts, play structures, and lawn areas are desired elements to have in the garden. However, when the children grow and leave, many homeowners can enhance the enjoyment of their gardens by redesigning the space to fit their empty nest lifestyles. The large swimming pool that provided years of enjoyment may be more suitable for a covered living area for outdoor entertaining, an outdoor kitchen, fireplace, or even a small fountain or water feature.
Design and grow your garden to please yourself, to suit your needs, and to create a timeless outdoor area that will transcend trends and become a healthy environment teaming with life.
Happy holidays from our garden to yours.
About the author: Tom Nugent specializes in design-build. He is a Registered Landscape Architect and member of the American Society of Landscape Architects. firstname.lastname@example.org