s It is always advisable to have comprehensive garden plan before beginning the construction so that the house and other structures can be integrated with the garden.

A properly planned landscape could be akin to a screen-saver which changes every few seconds. Only, in the case of a landscape, the transformation is not so digital, or so dramatic. Constantly evolving, the garden planned with an eye for aesthetics will change from year to year, season to season, or even day to day.

Most people start thinking of the landscape plan after all civil structures are finished. However, it is always advisable to have comprehensive garden plan before beginning the construction so that the house and other structures can be integrated with the garden.

Garden development is more an art than science and hence there is no fixed pattern in which to design. But one has to remember that landscaping is more than just planting some shrubs and trees. It involves creativity, basic knowledge of plants, and also aesthetics. By blending the natural and manmade elements of your choice, you can personalize your garden, which is exciting, rewarding and inspiring. It provides long-term benefits and lets you bring forth your imagination.

How to begin?

If you are planning a new garden on a virgin plot, a wish list of features should be noted down, as to the components to be incorporated. On the other hand if you are refurbishing the existing one, it is important to note the features you would like to retain and feasibility of installing new components.

If you do not have ready ideas for the design, looking through books, magazines, web sites or making visits to other gardens may inspire you to decide the style of garden you like. For bigger gardens it is better to engage a professional landscape designer.

Proper analysis of the site should be made as a first step to garden designing, duly studying the site conditions from various view points, as each site is unique by itself.

During the analysis you should consider the conditions like soil, slope, noise, shade, rocks, winds, pollution, areas which require softening, existing plants, staircase / steps, circulation (for the people or vehicles to move around), underground and over ground utilities.

Style of the garden

Style of the garden should be decided at planning stage. Basing on your preferences, shape and extent of the area, you can go for either formal, informal garden or combination of the both. The garden in front of a house should be impressive, but accommodate a driveway for the car and walkway to your front door.

While you assess your needs, conceptualise the utility of different areas, whether public, private or service, which helps you in achieving the garden style.

Other factors influencing your decision may include the neighbourhood, future expansion plans, architecture of the house and the affordability of maintenance. Aesthetics have priority in the entry areas, where as functional garden like kitchen garden or fruit orchard may be placed in the back yard.

It is better to make a sketch of the plot, so that all your ideas can be put to scale on a paper.

Also, drawing to scale will help in arriving at the quantities of paved areas, lawns and plant material. It is a good idea to put design on graph sheet.

While making the plan you should keep in mind certain basic visual concepts of design such as Lines and Curves (for creating lawns, driveways, paths, hedges, line plantings), Colour and Texture (good mix of hues and surface structure in selecting plants as well as other garden elements), Form and Shape (architecture of plants and other garden structures).

The choice of right plants gives character and beauty to a garden. Plants also do an excellent job of softening the harsh concrete structures, screening undesirable views and creating private areas. Select the plants which create good impact throughout the year. While choosing plants and deciding planting plan, you should consider their size on maturity, colour, texture, shape and cultural requirements such as water and light. The selection of plants and their placement will make the difference between a good garden and a shabby one.

While designing the home garden, you must keep in mind that house is always the centre of attention. Plants and other structures of the landscape should complement the house and not compete with it. Use plantings of shrubs, palms and creepers to highlight the beautiful parts of the house and not to hide them. Select plants of varied heights for the foundation plantings (greenery developed along the peripheral walls of the house) to elevate the structural elements of the house.

Clutter the plants basing on the slope, light and moisture availability. Plan it in such a way that lawn, ground covers, flowering annuals, large perennial shrubs, trees are rightly placed in different locations.

You can use potted plants and hanging baskets for garden decoration, especially when the plants cannot be grounded due to certain reasons. Planter boxes not only elevate the plants, but also become ornamental elements in the garden.

Hard landscape

As per the need, you can incorporate the hard landscape components which include driveways, walkways, planter boxes, trellises, gazebos, umbrellas, arches, arbours, fences, lighting, play equipment, small bridges, water features, and seating in the garden plan. Sculptures, rocks, pottery, fountains, and artefacts can be the ornamental elements.

(Next week: Executing the garden and its maintenance)

[The author is a forest officer and presently Additional Commissioner (Urban Biodiversity) in GHMC and can be contacted at ‘nchandramohanreddy@gmail.com]