It's Just Around the Corner… 1

Time to Plan Your Garden

The calendar says that March 21st was the first day of spring. The days and nights are now of nearly equal length, the ski areas are closing and a sense of renewal is in the air. After a long, snowy winter, we are all ready for longer days, warmer weather and more color in our landscapes.

This is a great time to think about and make plans for the upcoming season. As soon as the snow is gone, when the ground is no longer frozen or muddy, you can begin to work in your garden. In our area, this means that south-facing beds, which get more direct sun for more hours, will probably be ready for clearing and planting sooner than those on the north side of your house.

So what do you want to change this year?

It’s usually a good idea to start with a plan, then first prepare the “hardscape” – the terraces, planter boxes, rockscape and features that lay out the garden. This hardscape defines how people move through the garden; they give the space distinctive levels, beds and planting zones.


  • Unity refers to bringing the landscape together. Colors, textures and shapes are coordinated to blend and contrast.
  • Rhythm makes a garden dance. This is often achieved through repetition of colors, plants and shapes. This can provide a sense of movement.
  • Balance can be accomplished through symmetry. Think of the landscape or garden as a scale. Large elements, such as trees and shrubs, are often used to create balance.
  • Focal Points draw attention to a unique component such as a sculpture, entrance gate, ornamental tree or other element. In container gardens, focal points are usually a special flower in the center of the pot.
  • Proportion refers to the relationship between landscape elements. It is important to consider what the mature size of different plants will be. Planting a native blue spruce too close to the house, for instance, will in time make for an unbalanced landscape, not to mention causing other problems over time.
  • Allure is the element of surprise. Hidden features may entice the viewer to explore the landscape. Diversity in plant material, or a garden gate or an archway, adds allure.
  • Function means purpose. Vegetable gardens are planted for food, while landscaping around the door or sidewalk can be used to welcome people to your home.

Incorporating some or all of these principles into your landscape can be achieved over time. The most important thing is that you love it. Everyone has their own preferences, be it for certain colors, shapes, or fragrances. You should never let someone else tell you what you like.

Author Lynn Dwyer, co-owner of Dwyer Greens & Flowers, teaches classes and workshops and mentors gardeners. Learn more at