Small Gardens: Choose Perennials!

Small Gardens: Choose Perennials!

Perennial plants in a small garden maintain order and are easy-to-care-for.

A small space needs a strong design and judicious plant selection: It needs a big impact!

A small garden with perennial plants will have a lasting effect and will require little maintenance.

Summary: Get it Done in Four Stages or DIY

  1. A landscape designer provides several versions of a plan that includes hardscape, trees, bushes, and plants.
  2. The homeowner chooses one version or a combination.
  3. A landscape contractor executes the entire design or builds the hardscape and plants accent trees and bushes.
  4. The homeowner completes the project with the small plant material.

If you opt for a DIY project instead, once the hardscape is built, planting can be done in stages. Begin with the larger and more costly specimens because they will anchor the space.

As the project progresses technically and evolves visually, new ideas might come up: Be focused on the intended use of the garden. Keep in mind children and/or pets!

How to Use Ideas from Garden Magazines and Websites

A landscape designer must know what you like, or time and money will be wasted when his proposal does not reflect what you had in mind.

Make a scrapbook of photographs or magazine clippings, and bookmark garden designs from websites. Give this collection of vignettes (ideas with all the components) to the designer, or create your DIY sketch:

  1. Create a sketch of your garden.
  2. Select a vignette for a particular location.
  3. Trace it, or paste it, at the desired location on your garden sketch.
  4. Repeat the process for another area.
  5. If you traced instead of pasting, make copies of the sketched design.
  6. On each copy, add colours to show seasonal foliage and perennial blooms.

Vignettes might incorporate a path, a retaining wall, some water feature, or a shady corner. Remember that less is more and choose only one or two complementary garden décor such as:

  • A cast-iron antique urn and a salvaged small gate
  • A birdbath or birdhouse and a harbour
  • Garden sculpture and decorative stepping stones

Keep in mind that the plants shown in a vignette might not be adequate for your climate. Get advice from nurseries for appropriate substitutions.

Have Fun Choosing Plants with the Gardener’s Colour Wheel

This clever tool lets you understand how colours work together through contrast and harmony. In a small garden colour selection must follow basic rules:

  • Combine three colours, including foliage, for harmony and an illusion of space.
  • Expand the palette with variations of the same colour for a monochromatic effect.
  • Choose trees, bushes, and roses that bloom in the same family colour.
  • Create the right depth by placing dark colours and rough textures in the front.
  • Extend space by placing light colours and fine textures in the back.

Plant with a Purpose

Before going to the nursery make a list of the varieties of bushes and plants needed, for which exposure, for what purpose (privacy, flowers, fragrances, fall foliage) and keep in mind that:

  • Plant repetition over several areas creates continuity
  • Plants with vertical interest create dimension.
  • Bushes growing flat against a wall enlarge a garden space.
  • Vines hide the rigid lines of privacy fences.
  • Mature plants need replanting sooner.
  • Plants must match their hardscape (pond, arbour).
  • Plant colours are best coordinated with the pots they grow into.

Know your Trees, Perennial Plants and Topiaries

True: Knowledge can prevent mistakes, but equally true: Plants can fail in any location. All you can do is to choose plants for a reason:

  • Perennial plants with interesting foliage bridge the seasonal gap.
  • Deciduous bushes contribute to the glowing colours of autumn.
  • Bushes with colourful stems create visual impact in winter.
  • Evergreen bushes with needles contrast nicely with leafy textures.
  • Bushes with berries offer off-season interest.
  • Annuals help to experiment before planting perennials of similar effect.
  • Ground covers leave space for specimens such as topiaries.
  • Non-deciduous trees give shade and year-round privacy.
  • Climbing vines provide flowers at eye-level and fragrance.

When your garden is taking shape and you begin to feel a connection, trust your instincts. Your garden should awaken your own senses to replenish your mind and your soul.

Designing a Small Garden Begins with Good Planning

Designing a Small Garden Begins with Good Planning

A successful landscape for a small garden must begin with a clear plan whether it is done as a DIY project or by a landscape designer.

A small garden designed by a professional will convey harmony and balance, which can also be achieved as a DIY project with a clear course of action. Online garden designs and publications are good resources for ideas, or for a whole project, but achieving a valuable impact on a limited space requires discipline.

Ideas from Landscaping Magazines, Garden Shows, and DIY Books

Online garden designs will help visualize the potential of the space whereas inspiration can be found in specialized publications, and garden shows.

Small Garden by John Brookes proves that balconies, terraces, courtyards, and small backyards can be transformed into havens for relaxing, meditating, entertaining, or for enjoying luxuriant vegetation.

Small Spaces, Beautiful Gardens by Keith Davitt explains how to rehabilitate a soulless garden by eliminating the negative, enhancing the positive, and injecting personal style.

Practical Techniques for the Home Gardener by Judith Adam is an ingenious guide with basic design techniques for small or large projects.

National gardening associations will advise on guides specific to an area or purpose (for example, the Western Sunset books series).

image - Small Garden

Small Garden

Preliminary Steps for Planning a Small Garden

Homeowners usually assume that a small outdoor space is too limited for a “real” garden. The following steps identify the characteristics of the project and will help the planning:

Decide on the function of your garden:

  • Relaxing (water feature, lounging chair setting)
  • Entertaining (barbecue, seating area)
  • Playing (kids sandbox, small wooden play structure)
  • Gardening with flowers(small garden shed, small compost bin)
  • Growing vegetables (raised beds, irrigation system)

Identify the micro-climates areas of your outdoor space:

  • Sunny
  • Light shade (2-3 hours without direct sunlight)
  • Partial shade (4-5 hours without direct sunlight)
  • Exposed to wind or frost
  • Protected from the rain (under eaves)

Observe the existing garden, or those in the neighbourhood:

  • Make a list of well-established perennial plants
  • Notice appealing bushes and trees
  • Consider the loss of privacy from deciduous trees
  • Notice the hardscape (paths, arbours, fountains)
  • Get inspired with Planting Guidelines for a Small Garden

Resist the temptation of a quick makeover:

  • A small scale garden needs a well-defined structure
  • A mistake with the hardscape is expensive to correct
  • An unprofessional look adds no value to a property

View the garden from inside the house:

  • Envision the view from the main rooms
  • Consider privacy needs
  • Create a sketch with landscape-lighting

Collect pictures to help a landscape architect or to keep the DIY vision on track:

  • Pictures that strike a chord, perhaps a Japanese garden or a water basin
  • Ideas bookmarked in specialized publications or online landscape designs
  • Clippings from garden magazines
  • Photographs from trips, or from gardens with interesting plant selection

Consider carefully the overall budget:

  • A small scale landscape can be surprisingly costly
  • Remember that the “investment” will be enjoyed from close look
  • Visit landscape suppliers for options and guidance

Last but not least, if the project follows a move to a house with an established garden, experience it through the change of seasons before tearing everything apart.

With this planning in mind, the next step will be to sketch the site: A Small Garden Needs a Strong Design.

A Small Garden Needs a Strong Design

A Small Garden Needs a Strong Design

Only a good landscape design will give a small garden harmony, function, and value.

After the ground-breaking step of planning for a small garden, next is the sketching of the site. Called site survey by landscape contractors, according to Fine Gardening “A site survey shows you what you have.” In a DIY landscaping project, this is the time to be logical and practical.

Learn About Landscape Design Online or with Landscape Design Software

Brief and to-the-point, courses and software in landscape design for DIY projects focus on preventing mistakes: Correcting a bad design is never included in the budget.

A large garden speaks for itself with large elements. Since it cannot be visually embraced at once, the eyes move around noticing the features that create its appeal.

But, a small garden immediately shows its harmonious character or its lack of it. If it was well-designed, the eyes will pause with every step, scrutinizing and looking for the clues that make its charm.

Creating a Small Urban Garden versus a Country Garden

A sketch shows existing features, perhaps a large tree, a garden shed, or landforms. The location influences the perimeter of a garden. An urban setting might be impacted by buildings, a lack of privacy, and regulations.

Conversely, a country setting might blend with the scenery beyond, and increase its potential. In each case, the sketch must fit the location.

Garden Structures and Going Green Functions

Functions can be planned for changes:

  • A sandbox convertible into a pond
  • A raised bed suitable for growing culinary herbs
  • An arbour fitted as a swing set

Going green can be:

  • A small compost bin
  • A retractable clothesline
  • A rainwater collector

Outdoor Living Requires Adequate Space

Space needs to blend, yet skimping on the size is not an option. In its special publication, Small Space Gardens, Better Homes and Gardens recommends a minimum width of 12 feet for a patio and a minimum height of 10 feet for a pergola. After all, chairs should be pulled back without an unpleasant encounter with a thorny rose bush.

A Fountain Water Feature and More

A fountain requires the proximity of a water outlet for maintenance. The vegetation might need an irrigation system. And, water outlets in adequate locations are practical to hose garden furniture or shower a muddy dog.

Image - Fountain Water Feature

Fountain Water Feature

Designing with Garden Features

Features are enhancers that must be carefully chosen, or the impact will be lost:

  • The garden shines at night with DIY landscape lighting with solar energy and low voltage lights.
  • The garden unfolds and appears larger with curved walls or paths that create motion and flow.
  • Natural stone or wall systems divide the space to create distinct areas and interesting contrasts.
  • Structures, a rose-laden arbour, add dimension and charm by concealing part of the garden.
  • Groups of 3-5 decorative pots of a single colour for impact give a focal point.
  • A sculpture keeps with the theme to avoid clutter and creates interest or whimsical touch.
  • Illusion duplicates a view with a mirror, adds depth with a white wall at the far end, and mystery with plants in a dark corner.

Planting is the Last Step

Selecting the right plants can be the bane of a gardener since nature usually has the last word. Choosing perennials will maintain the backbone of a small garden and require less maintenance.

How to Identify the Time Period of an Antique Chair

How to Identify the Time Period of an Antique Chair

An antique can be dated by its marks, the materials it is made of, and the history of its ownership. Follow these tips to identify a genuine antique chair.

There is no denying the excitement of buying an antique piece of furniture and bringing some history into your home.

Without expertise in antiques buying and selling, however, it is easy to be told that you are buying something of greater value than the item is actually worth. A chair can be described as “antique” but not actually come from the time period that the dealer claims.


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Tips to Identify the Time Period of an Antique Chair

image - Antique Chair

Carved Antique Chair

Contact an antique appraiser and ask them to come along and inspect the piece with you. They will give you an independent estimate of the value of the chair, and what historical period it dates from.

Check the surface, the fittings and the upholstery of the chair for wear and tear, fading, warping and sun damage. An antique appraiser should be able to roughly estimate the age of the chair by the evidence of wear and tear on its surface.

Find out as complete a history of the chair as possible from the owner. The more that they can tell you of its journey through time, the easier it makes your own research. Find out where it was manufactured, where it may have travelled to, how many owners it has had, and how the current owner came upon it.

With this information, you can check the details against an antique catalogue. The place and date of manufacture should coincide, and where the chair was moved to in the intervening time might coincide with trends in its popularity, which an antique catalogue will also detail.

The maker’s mark is a key piece of information about an antique. This is a stamp or emblem, a date, and possibly the initials of the individual who crafted it or the company who manufactured it. This information will tell you what manufacturer the chair was made by when it was made, and even what style it was crafted in. Knowing the maker, the date and style of the manufacturer make it possible to pinpoint exactly when it was made.

Sometimes with antiques, the maker’s stamp or mark has been added fraudulently, claiming that the piece belongs to an earlier period of history than it actually comes from. An antique appraiser will check that the features of the chair — carving, the curvature of the woodwork, the upholstery — do match the date of the apparent maker’s mark.

Check that the style matches the furniture design trends of the period that it is claimed to have come from. There are books available in libraries, or photographs available online, that will show the features of different furniture styles and trends throughout history. Always verify your own estimate with an antique appraiser.

DIY Woodworking 101: The Fundamentals of Starting a Home Based Woodworking Hobby

DIY Woodworking 101: The Fundamentals of Starting a Home Based Woodworking Hobby

Mastering woodworking as a hobby or full-time profession is must more simple when sticking to some basic woodworking strategies.

Woodworking is an art that has been around since Adam vacated the Garden of Eden and had to take care of his family on his own. The first documented evidence of the workbench goes back to the Roman Empire.

In addition, today’s modern DIY woodworkers use not only manual hand tools like chisels and wood planes, but also electric woodworking equipment like wood routers and electric circular saws.


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The Home-Based Woodworking Shop

All DIY woodworkers must have a workshop of some size or another. In most cases, a room in the basement or a corner of the garage is the first workshop the DIY woodworking enthusiast experiences.

No matter the size or location, two things must take center stage; the dust collection system and the air ventilation system. If wood dust and gases build up, then they become both a fire and health hazard for the woodworker and those around the workshop.

The DIY Workshop Storage Solution

Do-it-yourself woodworkers need adequate storage space for both supplies and woodworking equipment. The best way to design storage space without encroaching into other areas of the home is to use ceiling space for wood stock, or seldom-used supplies, and the square footage found under most workbenches.

For hand tools and other equipment or supplies, build wood shelving or cabinets along the wall above the workbench or woodworking floor equipment.

image - DIY Workbench Plans

DIY Workbench Plans

The DIY Workbench

A woodworking shop can be located anywhere, a woodworking enthusiast can place a workbench; a space as small as a closet, and as large as ½ of a two-car garage. However, the best workbench is one large enough to allow the DIY woodworker to enjoy their wood project, without the stress of parts falling off the workbench.

In some woodworking shops, there are two main workbenches, the bench used to build and sand the project and a finishing workbench for the final finish and drying.

DIY Woodworking Safety

The DIY home-based woodworking shop is peaceful refuse, where creative ideas give shape to finished projects. However, it is also a place where accidents will occur based on the very activities taking place. There are a few things, which every woodworker can do, to cut down on accidents.

Read the instruction manuals on each piece of woodworking equipment in the woodshop. Focus on personal safety by wearing eye protection, and thin leather gloves to protect the woodworker’s hands from splinters, cuts from standing saw blades or hazardous finish removers.

Moreover, make sure all electric equipment is in fine working order, and no cords laying in standing liquids.

Woodworking as a hobby or a profession is the most relaxing of all art forms and when mastered can bring generations of joy to the master artisan. Take time to master one woodworking tool at a time, and keep good notes in a journal detailing your mistakes, successes, and unique techniques, so the next generation of woodsmiths can care on the craft.