Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Renovation: the Evolution of a Garden - Garden Designers Roundtable

Members of the Garden Designers Roundtable are discussing landscape and garden renovations today.  I hope you enjoy the conversation!

When I hear the word renovation I immediately think: evolution. Landscapes change immensely over time, as do the needs and desires of those who use the space.  A new landscape is a leap of faith that is built with the anticipation that a particular vision will be fulfilled. When a garden is first installed, the hardscape is pristine and we can’t wait for the plants to grow to their full potential.  Over time, however, what seemed to be a perfect plan becomes, instead, a perfect storm of changes that no longer work for us practically or aesthetically.

Here are a few of the clues I look for when assessing a landscape for renovation:
Growing conditions
  • Plants are no longer blooming or their growth is elongated/spindly because their once sunny setting is now shaded. (Or the opposite; shade has been replaced by sun.)
  • Plants are encroaching on walkways, windows, roof lines, etc., because they’ve outgrow their designated space.
  • Plants are stressed due to water restrictions and/or irrigation failure.
 Hardscape conditions
  • Damaged or uneven surfaces that present a hazard to moving through the space
  • Failed retaining walls
  • Faded, stained, or discolored surfaces.
  • Broken or sagging fences, gates, arbors, or stairs
  • Drainage problems
 Human conditions
  • Changes in lifestyle
  • Changes in aesthetic tastes
  • Changes in gardening interests and/or values
  • Changes in physical capabilities
 My job, as a professional landscape designer, is to find solutions to these situations that can incorporate as much of the existing landscape as possible (I don’t classify an entire scrape-off as a renovation), and that meet the goals of the owner. In the following example, the homeowners’ primary concerns were to enhance their entryway, create easy access throughout the landscape, and develop a large vegetable garden.  Here are a few before and after photographs of the project, which was installed by the owners from my design.
Before:  a welcoming entry and a seating area were lacking
After: a new deck/porch and...
... an entry walk, and refreshed garden plantings

Before: home renovations created a need for new access and plantings for the extended side yard

After: the perfect place for raised gardens and a destination seating area
After: walkways serve as a unifying element throughout the landscape
Regardless of the size and scope of your landscape renovation needs, remember that evolution is inherent to the living world and that as gardeners we should embrace it and celebrate it!


Anonymous said...

Great point you made about gardens evolving. Our own renovations will do that too! I liked your checklist of criteria.
Good also to see a project and what you have achieved. That veg area is the full works!
Best Wishes

ivette said...

Oh, Jocelyn, you are so right on. A garden is an evolving space, unlike our interiors, and needs a "nip and tuck" every once in a while! What a lovely project - you addressed the clients needs so beautifully. That is the kind of face lift I LOVE seeing!

Debbie/GardenofPossibilities said...

Jocelyn, You're so right, a new landscape is a leap of faith and no matter how well-planned out a new garden is, there are bound to be issues that need to be tweaked. I love your after photos, the way you combined beautiful and edible is inspiring.

Susan aka Miss R said...

Besides the incredible and easy to understand advice, I loved seeing the before and afters of this project. All too often people think they need to have a big house to hire a designer...not so. Look at the transformation you enabled! BRAVO.

Genevieve said...

Not only are your words and advice helpful, but the photos give us real insights as to how you tackle these kinds of changes. Very nice.

Pam/Digging said...

Right on with the front-yard sitting area. I love those! And I like how you framed the spaces in the veggie garden with those wooden arbors.

Jocelyn H. Chilvers said...

Thank you all for your kind comments!
The real credit goes to the homeowners who committed themselves to the project, took the time to do things right during the installation phase, and are now maintaining it beautifully.
Great ideas can only take you so far; great gardens are always a work in progress.

susan morrison said...

Nice post, Jocelyn! I'm a people pleaser and a problem solver by nature, and one of the most difficult things for me when I first began designing was not over-promising. I've finally learned I have to be frank with clients about the reality of how a garden changes over time (and not always in good ways). I think it's great your clients were able to do so much of the work themselves. The more vested someone is in the process, the more likely they are to appreciate the final results.

Liz said...

I like how you've approached this as the natural evolution of a garden. No landscape remains unchanged.

Carolyn Gail said...

Great advice and amazing before and after photos of the landscape.

ScottHokunson said...

Great post and great pics Jocelyn! You comment regarding incorporating as much of the existing landscape as possible, is really key to great renovation, or should I say the "Evolution" of the garden.

Rebecca sweet said...

I love how you've broken your process of analysis into three categories: Growing, Hardscaping and Human conditions. Thanks for walking us through your process with such beautiful before and after photos!