Garden Design Tips for beginners - How to Think about Your First Garden | PITH + VIGOR by Rochelle Greayer

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Garden Design Tips for beginners – How to Think about Your First Garden

Here is a little garden design advice for anyone who feels like a beginner…

Making a garden should never be less than deeply fulfilling experience. There is no need to feel overwhelmed by landscaping plans and plant choices. The task can be approached in much the same way you might a kitchen update.  

As a garden design teacher, my goal is to share with you ways to create outdoor areas that, like our interior rooms, charm our design sensibilities. The garden needs to be comfortable, appealing to our personal taste, and reflective of our individuality.  I hope to fill you with endless inspiration. I want to give you an understanding of plants. What makes them grow and look beautiful together, and some context about why the nature that surrounds us matters.

Get your head in the Garden Game - Advice for starting Lespedeza thunbergii
“Wait, turn the car around, what is that plant?”

A great garden welcomes you in the same way that a wonderful hotel envelops you and sweeps you away to another place. Great gardens are adventures. They’re filled with discovery and exploration. Your garden education should take you on a similar journey that will arm you with skills to create your own adventure.

To create a garden that is a perfect reflection of you (and whoever else lives in it with you), you must insert yourself into the experiment. 

Henry David Thoreau wrote, “its not what you look at, it is what you see”. You must look at the garden as an opportunity to transcend the ordinary. Don’t be afraid to express yourself and do whatever crazy thing you might always have thought wonderful.

Get your head in the Garden Game - Advice for starting Lespedeza thunbergii
“OMG, it is gorgeous! I’ve never seen this fall blooming beauty before, what the heck is it?”

Supposedly, smell is the most powerful sense for drawing us back to a particular place and time. But I think gardens and plants have remarkable time-machine powers.

Gardens and landscapes regularly take me back to when I was a kid. Building grasshopper graveyards with little stones in the dirt. Counting the shades of green on my grandmother’s Montana ranch. Sniffing nettle (thinking it was mint) only to learn of its powerfully painful effects on my nose.  

These adventures, that start with plants, are so valuable for us as adults and even more important to build into our children’s lives. As our children mature into full grown people, they need a foundation to not only embrace the responsibility of cherishing our environment, but also to maintain their own happiness.

We go outside to grow things, breathe fresh air, regenerate and relax. Trying to conquer forces, such as storms and pests, that will act against all our best garden design intentions, is counter to what we seek in nature.  My biggest garden design tip: It is much wiser to recognize that you are just one part of the design. And no matter what your initial vision may be…the final outcome will never be just as you intended.  But if you learn to work as a team with the garden, it will be better.

Get your head in the Garden Game - Advice for starting Lespedeza thunbergii
Lespedeza thunbergii (ID courtesy of an instagram friend – garden makers are the nicest most helpful people)

I want a garden to live in. One that reflects my character and taste as much as the things I wear and the rest of my home.  

But a garden is a specific kind of challenge, it changes, and has a life of its own and that presents challenges in a way that no other design or artistic practice does.  A garden has to weather, well, the weather. It has no roof and walls – though you can define them if you want to – and the confines, arguably, don’t even stop at the property lines.   

Stuff lives in a garden. Things move and change all on their own and they evolve intricate relationships with the other things around them. (Whether you, the garden-maker, likes it or not).  When you think about a garden’s ecosystem in this way, garden design resembles some sort of Frankensteinian experiment in evolving beauty.  Which is, of course, exactly what it is. 

Get your head in the Garden Game - Advice for starting Lespedeza thunbergii
And that is a short story about how I discovered my new favorite plant. What will you discover and learn and what new stories will you tell as you design your garden?

If I achieve one thing while you are my garden design student, it will hopefully be to inspire you to imagine something more. More for your garden. And more for the way it can feed your desires and provide an extraordinarily satisfying place for you to live, play and relax. But also more for all of us and the world we live in.

See you soon,

P.S. If you joined one of my courses – you have made it to the end of my little virtual scavenger hunt. By now you should, for sure, have your login details and course confirmation in your inbox. If not, check your spam folder or promotions folder. But if you still don’t have it email me at customerservice@pithandvigor.com and I’ll help you sort things out ASAP.

Get all my garden design tips! Learn more about my two signature course – The Garden Design Lab and the Planting Design Boot Camp. (The planting design course is a subset of the bigger full Design Lab course). Visit my shop page for a selection of niche garden lectures. (Including a few by me that you can access for FREE!).

P.P.S. You might also enjoy this post that also has some great garden design tips for anyone who is just getting started – The Books You Need to be a Successful Garden Maker

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  1. Daphne says:

    Interesting plant with nice color. I assume that picture isn’t from the American Midwest, as Lespedeza thunbergii is listed as an invasive plant by the Missouri Botanical Garden website. Not going to be planting it in my garden here in Indiana.

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