"The Wise Gardener!"
The Sensual Pulse of the Tropics!

Paul, "The Wise Gardener's":

Here's how to do it, Fellow Gardeners!

America's #1 Net Gardener Gives His Expert Advice!  Read thewisegardener.com & learn!

'Tis time, gardening friends, that we look at our gardens with objective criticism!!  No more excuses!  Is THIS the "best" you can do?  Are you shaking your heads, "NO?"  Well, are you?  I am looking at the TWG Florida yard, and I see some minor blunders even around here!!  Let's ALL see what we can do to improve our own personal garden views!

In landscaping, the most boring distance between two points: is a straight line! 
The Wise Gardener, yours truly, cannot even THINK straight!   Most of us, (forgive us, estate owners), have just too little land around us to waste with bad landscape design!

Think of what area around YOUR home looks the most pleasing, uh, oh, now...What area looks like absolutely NO thought went into its planning.  Yes, YOU, dear reader, try it.  I did, and was pretty alarmed by what I saw.  It wasn't the worst it has been, but with a little more imagination, it WILL BE so much better, indeed!

I suggest, dear readers, a few no-fail tips:

1. Use colour prudently: only ONE colour per area (or complimentary floral or leaf colour combinations)!  White makes yards look bigger, (red more intimate), incidentally.  This is NOT a "tossed salad"-effect you are creating!  All green, all white, all pink themes, etc.  You get the idea!

2. Don't think straight (lines, that is!):  Boring, unimaginative, smaller-looking!  How many paths in parks, as well as public gardens, are so inviting because they meander, and weave about!  Your landscape is a mini-park, or botanical garden; could yours be interesting enough for people to pay admission, to view?  Be honest, garden friends!  Remove those "hard angles around your various garden beds.

3.Increase the use of interesting shapes as ground-cover in lieu of GRASS!  Rocks, "chattahoochee" pebbles, wood chips, smoothed river stones, odd "signature" plants. (not too many, however!), living ground-cover plants, vining plants, etc.  Grass, is too high maintenance (for most people), and a horribly greedy "water-guzzler!"  (Sorry, lawn fertilizer companies, my apologies!)  Use restraint in devoting areas in your yard to lawns!  All these other under-used materials add texture, subtle colourations, are low, or no maintenance, and give a "woodsy" feel to your yard areas. Try some of these OTHER ground-cover materials this year...You'll be a convert away from large expanses of grass turf lawns .

4. Add height, where there is NONE!  We live here in South Florida (a reclaimed swamp!)  Synonym: flat like a tire without its air!  We KNOW flat!!  Solution:  bring in what nature short-changed us on!  It's easy to create mounds, or berms, for interest in your garden.  Create these mounds with soil, mulching materials, or small rocks.  Plant one (or a group of three shrubs) on this mound as a "focus", or point of interest.  This is "eye candy" and is a truly never-fail technique!

5. Speaking of the appropriate number of plants that should comprise a well-designed group of shrubs (or trees on a larger scale), in a garden bed, remember it's better to be ODD!  Plant in groups of 3s, 5s, 7s, etc...with one specimen plant as "focal point"   You DON'T NEED two of the same specimens as focal points; it looks amateurish!

6. Unless a plant you are attracted to is a veritable "knock-out," use much restraint!  Buying too many "one's" of anything looks unplanned and very unprofessional!!  Just a few "specimen" plants, in a yard go a long way!  A plan is much more professional-looking if only a few well-chosen plant types are properly utilized throughout your property! (interspersed here and there with a few gorgeous "specimen" plants.

7. Water is a treat for the senses!  Remember: a beautifully-crafted pond, a waterfall, a stream-bed or brook, an in-ground pool, or lake  (natural or manmade!) is a garden asset, indeed!  Accent these water features with a few boulders, river stone areas, and a shrubbery and tree "frame", and you've got a magnet that will surely be the "core" of your yard!  Everyone will want to take a closer look to admire this enchanted nook.  In all water features, (of course, other than in a chlorinated swimming pool!), try you hand at stocking them with several varieties of water plants, ie: lotus, water lilies, papyrus, etc.  You might, then, wish to invest in several long-lived "finny friends": goldfish, or Japanese koi!  They are life, and you'll want to watch them move about for hours!

And, in Addition:

Here are 5 Blatant Design Blunders, And How You Can Avoid Them, Friends!!

It's a common scenario. You fall in love with a plant and buy it on the spot. You bring it home and plant it. During the course of a few months to several years (depending on the severity of your blunder) it becomes more of a disappointment than a joy; or worse yet, it's dead and gone. There's nothing like a lesson from the college of hard knocks to help a gardener remember a costly mistake. We've reminisced about our most costly blunders in terms of dollars and aggravation--but most importantly--time.

Example: Large trees or shrubs planted too close to a dwelling, underneath power lines or too close to each other with no real regard for size at maturity. They look fine for a while but as they reach maturity could possibly crack the foundation of the house, or become especially dangerous in wet weather as parts begin touching live electrical lines. This is dangerous and should be called to the attention of your utility company.

Solution: Find out how large the plant will grow before you select the space; better yet, talk to an expert from a reputable local garden center who can tell you how large the plant will grow in your area.  A general guideline for placement of trees near buildings: height at maturity divided by 2 = distance in feet from planting hole to dwelling.  Randomly placed trees and shrubs aggravate the lawn mower. If the person who mows lives in your household, you should do your best to keep them happy.  Mowing is not gardening; it is a chore for most and an awful one in a large yard in the heat of summer.  Random plantings in lawns could aggravate your mower into a state of aggressive behavior. As with all rules of design and behavior, there are exceptions. 

Solution: Patches of lawn integrated with the continuous bold curves of garden beds are far less offensive than sharp angles causing disruptive and time-consuming stop and go mowing.  Limit your lawn plantings to a few select specimens and keep the lawnmower in your life enchanted with your design abilities and delighted with your garden.  Garden elements located away from where they could be enjoyed the most. There are two problems with this; the plant is out of sight and out of mind.  Not only can you not enjoy it daily, you may not be able to care for it properly if it's beyond the reaches of the watering hose. This goes double for ponds, fountains, fragrant plants, bird stations and kitchen gardens located too far off the beaten path.

Solution: Position fragrant plants and water features so they can be appreciated at entries, along frequented walkways, in sitting areas or near windows.  Ideally, kitchen gardens should be in the sunniest space closest to the kitchen.  No consideration for vistas from indoors. 

Example: If you spend a lot of time in the kitchen--why is your view of garbage cans?  Your view from a tiny bathroom window is of your neighbor's bathroom window.

Solution: Every time you don't consider the view from indoors, you've missed a chance to showcase your garden.  Windows are especially rewarding for placement of bird stations and water gardens.  No consideration for vistas from seated areas.

Example: Everything is almost perfect in your design and you've been working on it for months.  You can finally afford to buy the outdoor furniture and place in that space--it really looks great from where you're standing, but you haven't thought to look *out* from it. You finally sit in the space, and realize your view looking out is of your neighbor's dog house, garbage cans or clothesline.

Solution: This is a major problem for gardeners simply because so few of us take the time to actually sit and enjoy. Before placing outdoor furniture, locate a favorite spot in the garden that offers the best of views, sound and fragrance. Then make it your own.

There's definitely many topics to cover, but this is course: LANDSCAPE: 101!  There will be more to follow in subsequent months of TWG, but these will give you all, dear gardeners, a "good start"!  Let me know what you're attempting to change...and the results.  My bet is that you'll be pleased by the difference, or my name isn't:

Paul, "The Wise Gardener!"