WHEN you buy a new house or decide to improve your old one, you are, of course, concerned with every foot of ground that goes with it, for modern living and modern gardening can make every inch of your property usable and desirable. New methods of soil improvement, grading, fencing and terracing make even sloping, hilly lots, hitherto undesirable, now attractive and choice. Modern chemistry has brought new nutrients to the soil and has provided weapons against the traditional enemies of the garden: disease and insects. Hardier bulbs and seeds make gardens more successful as well as wonderfully vivid. Fabulous hybrids have lengthened the list of flowering trees and shrubs, creating specimens for every colour and design scheme, every type of house and garden. New gardening equipment and materials speed the time-consuming garden tasks. New ways of living bring us into the outdoors, and barbecue meals and comfortable lawn furnishings make a small suburban back yard as luxuriously enjoyable as was previously possible only on a large estate.
Architecturally, today’s house is much more a part of the outdoors than was yesterday’s. Large picture windows, glass walls, glassed-in sun porches and terraces all combine to make the garden a part of the house. Consequently, the view becomes that much more important. A beautiful garden, a luxuriant turf and healthy blossoming trees all add as much to the interior of your home as your draperies or wallpaper. The effort and time you spend on your lawns and gardens will repay you in every way, indoors as well as out.
When you plan your grounds you will be governed by many of the principles you employ in decorating your home. Proportion, texture, colour, line, harmony, and function —these are terms that apply to landscaping as well as decorating. And if you have large grounds you will benefit from careful planning just as much as does the owner of a third of an acre.
Garden books are filled with formal plans for perfect gardens and grounds, but you will want to consider not the perfect garden in itself, but the one plan that will be perfect for your particular family. Analyse your family, its needs and habits; then design your grounds to best satisfy its prejudices, desires and demands.
The thing to do is hold a family council and talk over what you want to do. Of course, you will be governed by questions of cost and available space. Draw a plan of your property in fairly large scale, about 1/4 inch to the foot. Now make a list of the things the family wants, such as a barbecue, tool house, drying yard, rock garden, fences, playhouse, badminton court, better lounging facilities.
Unless you are fortunate and have spacious grounds, you probably won’t be able to work everything into your program—but with Planning, you can do things gradually. You can plan your garden so that it never looks bare and yet is always roomy enough for the additions you intend to make in the future. And some projects will serve more than one function. For example, if you need a driveway and have young children, a blacktop that can be used for hopscotch and bicycle riding will serve a double purpose, and easily justify its cost. Or a fence that cuts off an unpleasant view can also act as a windbreak and a handsome background for a lounging area. A retaining wall can double as a rock garden when planted with hardy dwarf shrubs and other rock-garden species.
Generally, most grounds are divided in three ways: the public area, the area that can be seen from the street; the service area, which includes garage and parking facilities, delivery facilities, clothes-drying equipment, outside storage space and garbage disposal; and the private area, located in the rear of the house. Here is your back yard, available for games and lounging; a terrace or outdoor dining area; the children’s playground and a garden with flowers, fruits, vegetables, walks and, perhaps, pool.
In each division there are things to strive for—and to avoid. In your front, or public area, for example, plan for a minimum of care. Select flowers and shrubs that will help you present an attractive face to the passer-by at all times without any undue fussing on your part, so that when you can’t manage to give as much time as you would like to your grounds, the front of your house will still be presentable. In your service area, plan for off-street parking; for deliveries that can be made without intrusion on the privacy of your lawn or terrace; for a drying yard that won’t be seen from the street. For your private area, use the largest part of your plot; take advantage of existing trees and the shade afforded by your house and garage for lounging spots. Have seats in pleasant corners and screen off the children’s play areas from the rest of the garden.
Needless to say, landscaping can be a never-ending adventure, a pastime that is as gratifying as it is beautifying, for the creation and care of flowers and trees, vines and shrubs, lawns and fences, brings luxury to the home, happiness to the family, and pleasure to all who behold the beauty of a “well-dressed” house.