How to design a garden retreat
Have you ever dreamed of creating a certain style garden? Jean did,…she sketched out her dream and made it happen. Guest post by Flea Market Gardener, Jean Smith, who lives and gardens in Michigan. Check out her delightful blog, For Dragonflies And Me.
Creating A Garden Room: My Bistro Garden
I had a vision when we purchased our abandoned old farmhouse. I dreamed of flower beds abounding, greeting my family and friends as they drove up our lane. I imagined a cozy front porch surrounded by lush colors overflowing like wide open arms ready to whisk you into their beauty… I wanted a place where peace was felt in simple things that was a reflection of me.
I’m often inspired while paging through gardening magazines and browsing garden sites… then suddenly stumbling upon that perfect element… looking with a wistful eye for anything that will shout out, ‘Here I am! I’m what you’ve been looking for!’ …yet with an unspoken realization that when I find it, I fall in love and I’ve got to have it… but as I read on I discover the lucky owners found it at a flea market or antique shoppe- no resource shopper there! Yes, I think we’ve all been down that path a few times too many… at least I know I have. Which brings me to the story of my Bistro Garden and how it acquired its name. You see I’d been dreaming of a little bistro table and chairs to set in one of my gardens and patiently looking for a couple years… yes, years.
I knew what I wanted and I was willing to wait until I came across just the right thing. Then it happened! One day while out boutique shopping, A.K.A ‘garage saleing’ I found it- a petite black wrought iron table with two matching chairs! “Perfect! Just perfect!” I thought… and the price was right- twelve bucks! Oh yeah, that baby was coming home with me and I knew right where she was going… The Bistro Garden!
The set now sits on a small patio that I lay using old silo stave’s that were discarded behind the barn foundation at our first farm. I’d taken several of them when we moved thinking I would eventually use them as stepping stones in a future garden… gotta have a vision! Anyway, I laid the stave’s and then used concrete as a ‘grout’ between them. I loved it… it said, “This looks like Jean!”
Here are tips that I’ve used over the years in creating garden rooms from planning to completion… is it ever done though?
1. Draw a plan. It helps if you start on paper. Knowing the size of the space will aid you in choosing the plants as well as the hardscape elements you’ll be able to incorporate.
2. Think dimensionally. Stand and look at the potential garden space at different times of the day from all directions. With pen and paper in hand, draw it out. Consider which direction will be front, sides and back. Also note the amount of sun and shade during the day, which will help in determining the plants.
Questions to ask:
- Will the garden space be up against a building, in a corner or free standing in the middle of the yard?
- Do I want the space to be visually appealing from the road or from the house/building?
3. Hard scape elements. The style of your garden will determine these as well as the flowers you choose. Do you want to have arbors, bird baths, water elements, sculpture or paths. These should be implemented before planting is done.
4. Choose your plants. I always think of what I have in my other garden rooms that can be divided- that much less to purchase. Also, think of what some friends and family may have- they’re usually glad to share and trade!
Factors to think about when choosing your plants include height and width at maturation, sun/shade and soil requirements.
Consider seasonal blooms. You’ll need to plant your spring blooming bulbs this fall. Choose plants so you’ll have continual color through the seasons.
Here is my rendition of The Bistro Garden as it appears today:
Legend For “The Bistro Garden”
This bed is just over 150 square feet including the narrow strip.
1. Day Lilies- 10 bushes. Mix of yellow and orange which bloom at different times.
2. Iris – 1 large clump – approx a 30″ diameter
3. Hydrangea- white old fashioned
4. Spirea- 1 bush- pink
5. Peony 2 pink bushes
6. Delphinium- mini blue
7. Hosta- 2 variegated, 1 Blue and 1 green
9. Bleeding Heart
10. Large Pot- I typically purchase a large petunia basket and plant in this pot- instant WOW!
11. Birdcage- Again a garage sale find – only five bucks!…matched perfect with the bistro table set. I typically do one of two things in the birdcage: a) plant morning glories or sweet pea around the bottom and let it climb or b) put potted sweet potato vine inside and let cascade down.
10. There are typically white alyssum cascading over the rocks along the edge.
- There are tulips planted in between the lilies. While the lilies are growing the tulips are blooming; by the time the tulips have faded the lilies hide them. There are also crocus and grape hyacinths mingled here and there.
- To the left of the Iris’s is a five year old red climbing rose
No matter what you decide to do in your gardens, just remember that the most important thing is that they say they belong to you!
More from Jean’s garden: