Of all the mistakes I've made in my garden over its 26 years under my direction, there are two that I won't be repeating in my next garden. (Here's my recent post about selling my house and moving on.)
1. Neglecting to take "before" photos is something I've regretted a gazillion times over the years. It's simply impossible for visitors to imagine the jungle-like state of my back yard when I moved in – I barely remember it myself. This sole photo from 1985, while documenting the ugliness of the rear facade, faces away from the jungle. It didn't occur to me then to photograph the chaos. (Also, I wish I'd taken some shots without me in them.)
But for my next garden I quickly grabbed these photos from the realtor's slide show about my new rowhouse, and I took a bunch more as soon as my offer was accepted – before all the leaves dropped.
The perfect-size-for-me-back yard is, except for a few azaleas which will soon be offered to anyone who'll dig them up, a blank slate. Goody! On the right is the view from the back door, where my new screened-in porch will go. I've coveted these bug-free oases for years now and soon I'll have my own!
Below, the front yard is all lawn with a few more azaleas (the default shrub for the Mid-Atlantic, no matter the exposure). Like the azaleas, the lawn is doomed, to be replaced by some seating for sure, but what else? That brings me to the next mistake I won't be repeating.
2. Not getting design help. Now to be fair to my 1985 self, I did enlist the free services of a nursery's designer for my back yard, and have thanked her a bazillion times for creating the bones of a great design and steering me toward great shrubs I'd never heard of (because they aren't azaleas) like Viburnums, Pieris japonica and cherry laurels. But I had a small budget and most of my current garden has been a DIY job, design-wise and plant choice-wise, and my mistakes still show.
Especially challenging has been my small front garden – small spaces being much harder to design than larger ones – and I hated the result until finally (after nine years) I paid all of $250 for a fabulous design that transformed not only the front garden but this gardener into the avid one I've been ever since. (Here's my 2006 post about the transformation and the landscape architect who made it happen.)
This time around, every square inch of my manageably sized garden will be professionally designed before the first daffodil shows its face in March. Terraces and paths will be created and the larger plants installed before I start playing with the small stuff. Can you see the determination in those italics?
Of course I'm still a cheapskate, hoping for great results without paying much for design help. The good news is that garden writing, as underpaid as it is, attracts the occasional freebie and I've been offered free design services, as long as I credit the designer with a link. (No problemo!) Then I'll no doubt be posting the designs here and soliciting feedback from our very talented readers (and crediting them, too, if I use their suggestions.)
See, I'm already anticipating that whatever design I'm presented with, I'll be fussing with it and making it as weird and personal as the garden I'm leaving behind.
Your mistakes, please?
So help me out here. What would YOU do differently if you were starting all over in your garden, or starting a new one?