Inside Out Design.
There is one very important thing you should do before starting any garden design project.
Stare out the windows. I mean it.
Really stare, or at least look very closely.
Too many designers start outside the home with no thought given to how the garden will look from inside. For many of us in colder climates a good deal of time is spent enjoying the gardens from inside so designing from the inside out just makes sense.
My goal when designing gardens is to create a feeling of seamlessness between the inside and out. And the best way to start is by looking out the windows. Make careful note of what you see or don’t see. Pay attention to light patterns. Notice how the sun and shade change depending on the season. Ask yourself questions. What is the wind like? How does the garden change when the trees leaf out? Is there a spot your eye naturally goes to? Would that be a good spot for a focal point? This is a great exercise to do now while it is still too cold to be in the garden.
I learned this design lesson firsthand when I moved into my dream home three years ago. The property came with a large amount of (untended) land. The gardener in me wanted to rush right out and start planting all the exciting material I had been dreaming of that my little previous garden could not hold. As hard as it was, I refrained and chose to live in the home for a bit and I’m glad I did.
Over time, as I looked out the windows, the property spoke to me. Not in some weird way but rather in a very simple language.
The border garden said, “I am too narrow….3 feet is not wide enough to support the mixed border you want.”
The hill out back said, “I need to have stone steps to make it easier to navigate and a blanket of daffodils would look good mixed with the vinca I am currently wearing.”
The front yard said, “I am too busy, you need to simplify so the bones of this beautiful home can shine.”
When I looked out the windows I could see what the gardens needed. My favorite window is in the family room and it is about 8 feet by 5 feet and frames the back garden. I observed how the golden shaft of the setting sun cut through the trees and realized it would be the perfect spot for a paperbark maple (Acer griseum). Now when I see its peeling cinnamon-colored bark backlit by the sun I am in heaven. And I am glad I waited.
I know the weather is getting a bit warmer and we, as gardeners, are itching to get outside. But the soil is still too cold and wet to work.
So why not get a head start on a great design and stare out the windows instead?