How Does Your Garden Grow?

Are visions of mowing a green lawn or dining among tiki-lit tropical flowers part of your home-owning dreams?  Your outdoor space can be a critical part of your overall living space.  But before heading to the nursery, step back and think about how the outdoor environment will fuel your life both literally and figuratively.


A garden takes an investment of energy, labor and money.  When designing your landscape and outdoor living space, ask these questions:

  • What is your home site like?  Sunny, windy, hilly, shady, flat etc.
  • How do you plan to use your landscape?  Cutting garden, verdant oasis, a grassy kids play area, vegetable or herb garden, etc.
  • What style of garden do you like aesthetically?  English garden, Mediterranean, sculptural, desert etc.
  •  What kind of microclimate is your home located in and what are its seasonal advantages and limitations.
  • How involved do you want to be in the upkeep?  Is gardening a passion, do you have the time for yard work, or are you going to hire gardening help?    

Once you’ve answered those questions, look at the components to having a successful landscape. If your site is hot and windy, yet you want an English garden, find plants of that genre that can tolerate those conditions. But, more importantly, reconsider the English garden if you don’t live in the flats and have little time to spare.

Garden Elements

Some ideas to consider when planning an outdoor environment:

  • Plant for the view from the various points of your home. Make a focal point for the eye to land on. When going from one space to the next, have something beautiful or interesting to look at in the transition.
  • Use paths with seating, install sculpture, low walls or plants to create structure.
  • Plant many pieces of the same plant to create a mass effect. Too many different plants dotting a space can create a “jellybean” effect, where the eye doesn’t know where to rest because there is too much variety.
  • For a stimulating garden, use contrast. For example, yellow with purple, will make each “pop”.
  • For a calm garden, use a similar and complementary tones and textures.

In choosing plants for your landscape palette, think about color, texture and movement. Make it a three dimensional experience. This is your opportunity to paint your perfect living landscape. Enjoy the process!

A Word About Water

We are in the part of California that is part of the Mediterranean climate. This is defined as the areas that are 45 degrees above and below the equator and include the coast of California between L.A. and San Francisco, Central Chile, the tip of South Africa, the Mediterranean basin, and a bit of Australia. All of the areas experience wet winters and dry summers.

With several years of drought behind us, water is precious and can be expensive.  Water is one of the most important considerations when planning your style of garden.  The English garden requires a lot more water than a Mediterranean garden. Look at plants that adapt to the dry summers we have in the Bay Area.  Check out what is growing in your neighborhood and in local gardens and parks. Consider installing some type of rain catchment system or using “grey” water to nurture your plants.

A garden can create a happy place around your home. It can add immeasurable emotional joy and concrete home value. Think about how you will use it and how it can feed you and you will find the answers to how your garden should look.

Many thanks to Kellee Adams of Dig-it Landscaping for planting the seeds of the ideas for our garden. Kellee can be reached at for further questions on how to make your perfect garden grow.