At this time of the year sometimes it seems like the only gardening we can do is in our heads. This makes planning a great way to get that “gardening fix” and to begin preparations for next year’s landscaping projects. Whether you have a new design you want to develop or perhaps an upgrade to an existing space there are several concepts that you can use to your advantage. Regardless if you’re a beginner or a gardener with more experience these garden design hacks should help you take your garden to the next level.

The first hack you should have when preparing your design is to think not only about how you want your garden to look in the spring or summer but how it should look in the fall and winter too. A well-designed garden is one that has appeal all year round even though it certainly won’t look the same from season to season. Evergreen shrubs or a strategically placed structure like a cottage garden themed shed complete with window boxes can help tie your garden together throughout the year.

A second design strategy is to use the concept of repetition throughout your garden. Perhaps that shed that was mentioned previously has a shutters or roof shingles that are similar to your home. This helps create unity between the home and garden. You should also use this concept when considering your planting materials. Repeating colors creates cohesiveness and can be accomplished by using the same plantings from place to place or perhaps using the same color scheme but with different plants. For example, purple plantings could be perennial salvia in one place and dahlias in the next spot.

While repetition is important because it pulls the landscape together another design hack is contrast as it is also a vital component of your garden design as it creates visual interest. For example, your purple flowers will be accentuated when they are planted next to gray lamb’s ears or silver dusty miller. This contrast can also be accomplished by different shapes like pairing the purple flowers with a yellow ornamental grass or a large leafed elephant ear.

While you are thinking about repetition and contrast another hack you’ll want to keep in mind is mass plantings of the same plant create large blocks of color and help a plant get noticed. Single plant specimens, particularly if they are small in size, can easily “disappear” in your garden. For example, plant 3 blue lobelia plants together and they might not be easily seen but plant 12 of them together and they create and ocean of blue that is hard to miss, particularly when white sweet alyssum is planted next to them for contrast.

Finally, while you are building your design keep easy to take care of in mind. You want your garden to be a place you can enjoy and if you’re spending all of your time weeding and watering it doesn’t always leave time to enjoy the benefits of all of the hard work you have put into turning a design into reality. Some examples of things you can do include using larger plants like shrubs and trees in your design and including perennials so you don’t have to plant as many annuals. If you want roses in your garden maybe use knock-out roses that require far less care than a tea rose might. Less lawn means less mowing and mulching can mean less time spent watering. The bottom line is to make sure you create a design that will help you build “your happy place”!

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