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Marin IJ Articles

Give your landscape a makeover

  • Dot Zanotti Ingels
  • Garden design has always been a passion of mine. I worked as an interior and patio designer and came to realize just how important it is to make our outdoor spaces as inviting and functional as the inside of our homes.

    The principles are really the same, and we are generally the same people whether we are inside or out. We know what we like and what we are willing to do in terms of work and budget to make it happen. I am sure you have noticed that when you see the curb appeal of a home you will often find the same appeal to the home's interiors. If your landscape does not speak to you, it is time for a rehab.

    The question is most often where to start. A good place to begin is by listing your goals for the space. Do you need more privacy, noise reduction, a better entertaining space, a place to play or exercise, a haven for animals and insects as well as yourself? Do you want more sun or more shade or have concerns about the cost of maintenance in terms of time and water use?

    It is best to work with what you have because it is very difficult to force Mother Nature to change. Embrace your fog, wind, heat, sun exposure, deep shade or frost for what it is, and move on from there. The size of your property is also what it is, whether you are managing a deck, a small urban space or an acre.

    Each landscape is a creation unique to its designer. You do not need formal training. You just need to know the basics to consider, know what you like and be willing and able to give it a go.

    As you make your lists of what you want and how the wish list will fit the realities of your space and lifestyle, it will become clear to you where to start. It may be a patio, a fence or a tree. It may be a vertical element so you can make the most of a small space. It may be an examination of your soil to determine what you can grow naturally or what may need to be done to support the plantings you desire. It may be making a multiyear plan to accommodate your time or budget constraints. There is a lot to be said for letting your landscape unfold gradually. Any hits or misses are spotted early and then not repeated.

    And, of course, the Marin Master Gardeners are here to help you. On Oct. 3, you also can glean some insights from landscape designer and best-selling author Rebecca Sweet, who has a new book, "Refresh Your Garden Design," that will be out in October.

    With Sweet's guidance, any gardener can learn the secrets of creating harmony in their landscape. She will demonstrate how to break down traditional garden design principles into easy-to-understand and easy-to-implement solutions for your particular garden. She will show inspirational photographs that highlight and reinforce real-life situations.

    It's a presentation that likely will inspire green thumbs of all levels to get out and freshen up their gardens.