Besides the obvious that elements in the garden are forever changing with the weather and the seasons, the design of a garden is never finished. Although I am a landscape architect and I draw up plans which are a static image of a garden, I have never believed that any garden will match the plan I have drawn. That’s because gardens are created over time and the plants are always at a different stage of their life cycle. They will never all be the size that the plan represents all at once.
Did you know that in a plant nursery, the labels on the plants will state the adult size of the plant but it is not actually the maximum size that plant will grow to? It is simply the average size it might be when it’s growth slows down and it looks the best. i.e. for a tree, the label size will probably state its 10 year old height, a shrub its 5 year old height and a perennial it’s 1 or 2 year old size. That’s the size I draw them on the plan so we give them enough space to grow. It’s a bit like a teenager becoming an adult. You have to allow enough room for them to grow but after about 20 years old, we can continue to be much the same size and then still grow and change more slowly.
Back to the original topic. Gardens are never finished and that’s ok. If I design a spectacular garden for a client, I don’t expect they will go ahead and have it constructed all at once. Half the enjoyment of gardens for some people is working on it. Chipping away at it as energy, weekends and funds allow. The landscape design is simply a guide to refer back over the years so that at any given stage of a garden’s life, it will still be a coherent place to use and enjoy. You don’t even have to follow the plan exactly. What the designed plan allows you to do is have a vision of what goes where and how it will work. From there it is much easier to make adjustments to suit. For example say a plan has the tool shed, compost heap and council bins drawn in. You might buy a tool shed that’s a bit bigger and decide not to bother with a compost heap. That’s fine, what matters is the service area has enough room to be functional and is positioned in a sensible place with easy access to the roadside and out sight from an entertaining area.
Over time our lifestyle changes. We’re out more often or home during the day. The kids need space to explore and tear up. The dog has puppies and then the teenagers want to have friends over. The mother in law moves in which means keeping her occupied in the vegetable garden. Life changes. Gardens change too. But having a good design to start with will allow those changes to happen easily. Whether you’re an avid gardener or not doesn’t matter, you outdoor space will always be changing and you can modify it in anyway at anytime. Even expert gardeners who’ve lived in the same house since they were born will still be altering bits and pieces until the knees give way and have someone else do it for them.
The definition of a garden is simply a plot of ground that has a border around it; a boundary. So everyone has a garden whether it has plants in it or not. A garden is not necessarily about the plants, it’s about the space you use. Even if you rent the place you live and the landlord pays for the upkeep of the property, you still have a garden to enjoy. No matter what you want to use your garden for, you can always have a plan and work on it over time. It never has to look like the plan so long as you have a plan to guide you, that’s all that matters.