Plant With the Long View

For years I had a vision of what my front yard could look like. The house was newly-built, and had no landscaping other than a half-hearted attempt to grow a lawn. 

(c) Kathleen Thompson

(c) Kathleen Thompson

Because we had little money after we bought the house, I had to do the work myself. 

I knew I wanted plants in front of the house, and didn’t want a straight row of bushes lined up like soldiers. I also had to be careful of deer, as they are prolific and eat a lot of my favorite plants.

Eventually I decided on a plan, and planted. I didn’t like it, so I moved things around. Then I realized that part of the problem was that there was a huge space between all the plants. They looked so tiny and sparse up against the house. Planting them the proper distance apart to make room for growth made them look silly for a very long time. It was difficult to be patient.

Some things died and were replaced – sometimes with the same thing, and sometimes with something different. I went for hardier varieties, and plants that required less maintenance.

Then there was the pruning. The biggest project was the Kousa dogwood. It is a beautiful specimen tree. It displays white flowers in late June – early July and red berries in the fall that feed the birds. The leaves turn red, which creates beautiful autumn color. The only problem with this tree is that it has a growth habit similar to a bush, yet grows tall enough to look like a tree.

I decided to prune it like a tree, with the leaves concentrated on branches up high and the branches spread out full. I had never done this before, so it was a bit of an experiment. I had a vision of how I wanted the tree to look and nothing more.

First I cut the branches going into the middle so they wouldn’t cross over each other. Next I cut the low ones to encourage the high ones to grow. Last, I trimmed it into a pleasing shape.

It took many years, but my vision finally become reality. Not without problems and adjustments along the way, but a reality nonetheless. The bushes aren’t being eaten. They have filled in. There is almost always color. There is balance.

The best is that dogwood tree. It does look like a small tree. It fits in the space. It has a lovely shape, and gets tons of flowers. It makes me smile every time I look at it.

(c) Kathleen Thompson

(c) Kathleen Thompson

Seven lessons from my landscaping experience
1. Have a vision or goal in mind
2. Experiment and adjust. Sometimes it takes more than one try to realize the vision
3. Plant with the long view. It takes time for plants to reach maturity and fill in. It also takes time for our plans to come to fruition.
4. Enjoy the process. Don’t just look forward to the flowers. Enjoy the process of trimming and transplanting.
5. Prune out what is not contributing to the design
6. Be prepared for winter kill. Not everything makes it. Either dig it out or nurture back to health. Know when it is no longer viable. Don’t spend time nurturing what is clearly dead.
7. Enjoy the fruit of your labors. Sit under the tree. Walk around and enjoy the garden from all angles.

What life lessons have you learned from gardening? Share by clicking here.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Paul Sabaj

    Just wanted to say what a great post and advise. Really gave me a lot of ideas. Ok as for the gardening the thing I learned ie to get help when you need it. Going it alone can be a pain in the but but if you have some help the journey is fun. Well that’s the way my wife gardens. She always gives me a call to do the lifting while she does the creative process. I never really liked gardening until I did it with a friend. Also composting has become my passion. Looking forward to the future posts. Thanks
    P.S. I also reallt like the design of your page .

    • Kathleen Thompson

      Hey Paul, do you have any composting tips? I live in the woods, so pretty much just throw everything out in a huge pile and wait until it turns to dirt. It takes a long time. Do you plant vegetables or mostly ornamentals? You are so right about gardening being more fun when you do it with someone else.

      • Paul Sabaj

        My wife is the big planter and I’m the muscle. We only had time this year to do a little planting as I’m playing Mr. Mom and my wife is working on her Doctoral Degree. We did tomatoes and it was a bad year. Also moving from Chicago to Boise Idaho it has taken a lot to learn what works here as it’s a high desert. As far as composting I did the usual three bin system. I really like the black tubs that you rotate and cuts the composting time in half. Also I have been seeing the local restaurants doing in house worm composting to reduce the waste. Out here in Idaho they are very in tune with organics and the whole recycle thing.
        I really looking forward to your future posts. Btw have you gone to any of the seminar events. I went to the New Media Expo and it was great. It was the super bowel of blogging and podcasting.
        Also if you are looking to do more internet marketing you might check out Russel Brunson’ s Protege course. It has 14 DVD of his live event. It was great to get a ton of info. My friend found a copy at a thrift store but I have seen them on Ebay for under 20.00
        Have a great week.

  • Paul and Kathleen, you both inspire me! I do not have a yard that looks like yours, Kathleen. I have a yard that looks like somebody who hasn’t set aside time to tend to it. In fact, I haven’t event done the basics of mulching my front bed for 3 years now! Yikes.

    Okay, taking lessons from other posts of yours, Kathleen, I’m setting aside time for personal development and now time to take care of my yard. Yes… put the big rocks in first is what I’m finding is most difficult for me right now.