Landscape Design

Garden Ideas

Themed Gardens and Beyond

On this page you'll find various themed garden ideas, including:

Themed Gardens

Templates that allow for variation

Although all gardeners are artists in their own way, sometimes thinking up a creative theme for your garden can be the most difficult part of landscape design. It can be tough to choose plants that go well together or arrange flowerbeds in that just-so manner. If you have an idea in your mind but can't envision it in your yard, using a themed garden as a template can help you articulate your ideas into a setting that will look great.

Many people incorporate a themed garden into their landscape because it's designed to give something back to the owner. For example, a moon garden has white flowers and light-leaved plants to reflect moonlight - perfect for the homeowner who works all day and can't enjoy a garden through the daytime hours. Themed gardens also have historical connotations; for example, a French garden, with its geometrically-pruned shrubs and orderly walkways, can call up the expansive palace gardens of Versailles.

When a garden has a focus, design principles fall right into place. Not only that, a themed garden can reflect any interests you have, from bird-watching to growing vegetables. If you're interested in a particular culture, you can design your garden in their style. Many people honor things that are important to them, building a garden around their favorite hobby.

Common Garden Themes

Garden themes can run the gamut from formal, tried-and-true styles to new, innovative ideas. Sometimes, you don't have to design your garden to incorporate an entire landscape theme - you can take a few ideas from one and a few from another, creating a whole new gardening style that everyone will want to imitate. We discuss some common garden themes in this section to start your idea process.

If you really like wildlife, one of the best ways to draw animals to your garden is to plant flowers and foliage that they will enjoy. It's not just about providing food; the best wildlife gardens provide all the requirements that animals need to live: water, shelter and nesting grounds. If you want to build a great wildlife garden but are not sure how to go about it, a butterfly garden is a good place to start. It's a themed garden that will attract not only butterflies but human visitors, too, since butterfly gardens are fragrant and colorful.

If you love Asian-themed gardens, a water garden or a Zen garden will take you away to a calming courtyard. If you want a riot of colorful flowers, try a wildflower or tropical garden. Not only will you see flowers blooming all season long, but the cheery brightness of flowers nodding in the breeze will lift your mood after a hard day at work. Plus, if you combine one of these styles with a cutting garden, you'll be able to grow more of these plants without continuing to buy them.

Formal-styled gardens work well in stately Victorian homes or homes with a large backyard because they require a lot of work and a lot of space to really make an impact. You can put foliage and rock gardens in this category. Although they use minimalist, structured looks to achieve their classy style, vistas need to be created in order for these looks to work.

Lastly, it can be hard to grow a garden when the soil is dry and the climate is uncooperative. Xeriscaped gardens solve this problem. Xeriscaping is a form of gardening that works well in desert-like climates or very dry areas. It uses simplicity and plants that don't need a lot of water to create an interesting effect in even the harshest climates.

Wildflower Garden

Bringing the woods and meadows to you

Gardens, and gardeners for that matter, run the gamut from being very high-maintenance to being able to sustain themselves without much help from anyone. If you love the idea of just planting, watering and watching the flowers grow, then a wildflower garden might be a good choice for your yard.

Wildflowers are considered by many people to be weeds, but they are in fact beautiful flowers that do well in poor soil and water conditions. Most wildflowers are actually native plants, which makes them ideal for hard-to-maintain parts of your yard. The real trick to wildflower growing is to get them situated so that they create a wave of brightness and color.

Preparing Your Soil for Wildflowers

If you've decided to create a new wildflower bed, then the first thing you need to do is some garden weed control. Weeds are wildflowers' one main problem; because the wildflowers themselves can grow quickly with very little resources, weed seeds, which require the same soil conditions, can also grow quickly and copiously. This fast germination can end up choking out your wanted plants. To make sure that this doesn't happen, take these tips into consideration:

  • Dig your new wildflower bed in a place where light conditions are full or partial sun. Wildflowers need different light conditions to grow, so make sure you check the seed packages carefully to give your plants a good head start.
  • Instead of using a harmful herbicide to kill any weeds that are growing in your preferred plot, try a friendly alternative. Either physically remove all of the weeds or use an environmentally friendly weed repellent. Another option is to place a black tarp over your bed for a week or two. This will suffocate the weeds.
  • Don't forget to weed the plot and remove all dead plants before planting your wildflowers.
Planting Wildflowers - What to Choose

When your wildflower bed is ready, all you have to do is buy some seed packages to get started with your planting. Seed packages can be either mixed or separate varieties. Mixed packages cover more ground at 2,500 square feet per 4 ounces of seed. Whatever you choose, make sure that you have enough room to accommodate the growth of your wildflowers, and remember, they can be invasive, so if you don't want to find violets (for example) in a certain flowerbed or patch of your lawn, don't plant them close to that spot. Wildflower seeds are small, so rake them into your soil well to ensure that they're evenly spread over the area. Water them well - don't let the seedlings dry out. Growing wildflowers is much the same as growing grass seed.

What kind of wildflowers should you choose? That depends on the light conditions in your garden. Woodland wildflowers - such as violets, trilliums, asters, columbines, ferns and harebells - need a good amount of shade during the day and do best in dappled-sun conditions. Meadow wildflowers - such as cornflowers, black-eyed Susans, zinnias and candytuft - need full sun with a bit of shade in the afternoons. The best time to plant all wildflowers is in the cooler months of the early spring or fall. Don't forget to combine annuals and perennials because the perennials you plant may take a season to bloom. Some annuals reseed themselves, so you may never have to replant them.

Don't forget to include some paths and walkways through your wildflower garden so that you can view the flowers from all sides and work with them easily. Wildflowers grow tall, so a pathway will allow you stand back from them.

Kitchen Garden

Vegetables right outside your door

What could be better than having your own vegetable garden right at your backdoor or under your kitchen window? With the push for organic food and the expense of getting fresh produce, growing your own has never been a more attractive proposition.

The kitchen garden is by no means new - from the time that man discovered farming, he has always had a small plot to grow his own food. Today, the kitchen garden can be as small as a few containers holding vegetables or as big as a whole yard full of fruit trees, heirloom vegetable beds and even cornstalks. Some people even grow edible wildflowers in their kitchen gardens to garnish salads. There's literally a myriad of planting possibilities.

The history of the kitchen garden is long and varied, since it's always been needed, but in the last century, it was most prevalent during the wars. Victory gardens were grown by citizens wanting to support their fighting men to provide food for the armies overseas. It's been said that at least 43% of the food grown in Victory gardens was sent to the soldiers. As well, some families' sole source of food was from their kitchen gardens, especially through hard times like the Depression.

Nowadays, we can buy our produce from a grocery store, but why pay high prices for vegetables and fruit that you can grow yourself? You can even have your own organic garden! Be vigilant in a kitchen garden's care, and it can last years and years.

Planning a Kitchen Garden

It can be tempting to dig up your whole yard after seeing old, established vegetable gardens featured in gardening magazines and online, but unless you want to see an acre of weeds, the best thing to do is to start small and work your way up every year. If you're starting from scratch, make sure that you weed diligently and start with clean soil. Once you start growing vegetables, any weed seeds left over might overwhelm your produce.

Choose the produce you want to grow. Remember, a kitchen garden will need at least eight hours of sun a day in order for the vegetables to grow well. Choose veggies that you know you'll use - don't waste space on vegetables you don't like. If you want to try a new vegetable, plant a few seeds in a small part of your bed, and then increase the amount next year if you like it. Don't forget to grow herbs; not only will they flavor your food to perfection, but they'll also flower and provide a lovely visual sight as well as a practical use.

Situate your garden close to your house - you won't want to go out and tend it if it's too far away from your door. Kitchen gardens work well for big yards, but you can grow vegetables in containers even if you have only a balcony to work with. If you have the space and you're a beginner, don't dig more than 25 by 25 feet, or you'll have too much garden to handle. If you are concerned about wild animals eating your produce, you may want to protect your garden using a garden fence. Make sure you examine your vegetable plants at least twice weekly throughout the growing season to check for insect infestations or disease.

Wildlife Garden

Providing for our furred and feathered friends

Although we plant gardens primarily for our own enjoyment, the flowers and plants have the ability to attract other visitors as well. If you find that animals and birds are coming to your garden, it means that you have the conditions needed for their survival. Flowers and shrubs provide a much-needed natural meal for many wildlife species in your area in addition to making your yard look beautiful.

Wildlife includes birds, butterflies, insects and other wild animals. In order for them to survive, they need a constant source of plants, fruits and seeds at different times of the year. It's been proven that native plants, those that have grown in North America since before European colonization, are actually the most beneficial for birds and animals. If you're going to have a real wildlife garden, you'll need to provide a source of water as well.

Planning a Wildlife Garden

To plan a wildlife garden, you should first and foremost make sure that all the elements that birds and animals will need are in place. These include a source of water, tall trees for nesting, ground cover or shrubbery for shelter and a variety of plants and flowers for food.

To attract birds and butterflies, you should plant a border or flowerbed with flowers that typically have a lot of nectar. Flowers and fruits bloom at different times of the year, so it helps to plant a number of different plants that will provide the birds and animals with a source of food all year round. Raccoons and chipmunks will eat berries and different plants, such as yarrow, candytuft, clover, asters and sumac.

It helps to remember that if you are interested in animal care, birds and animals require different amounts of food at different times of the year. The spring and early summer are nesting and breeding times, so female creatures need extra-nutritious food to build up their strength for bearing their young. Winter is a bad time of year for wildlife because food reserves are low and scarce. Planting with these needs in mind will ensure that your wildlife garden will sustain the creatures through these hard times.

Don't forget, you can also supplement a wildlife garden with a tray of seeds or fruit for the wildlife you want to attract while you're getting your garden started. Our sister site, *BirdFeedersDirect[http://www.birdfeedersdirect.com], gives you some tips on what to feed birds in your area.

Cutting Garden

A space for your best plants

If you love to have fresh flower arrangements in your home, you might be interested to know that if you had a cutting garden, you could have fresh flowers all season long to create bouquets for your dining room table. A cutting garden is a special place where you can plant your favorite plants and take cuttings for flower arrangements or to give to friends. These types of gardens can actually be planted with kitchen gardens - they're not meant to be attractive, just a place for a hobby florist to harvest their favorite flowers.

Planning a Cutting Garden

Allot a certain portion of your garden to flowers that you want to take cuttings from. You can choose to plant a mixed seed package, much as you would if you wanted to plant a wildflower garden. Many beginner gardeners plant their cutting gardens using this method. However, if you plan to do this, keep in mind that you won't be certain of what you're going to be growing. If you want specific flowers, you can check with your local garden center to find the flowers that will give you the best cuttings.

When you plan your cutting garden, you should aim to plant at least three different types of flowers at a time. These include:

  • A spire-shaped flower type: These will add height and texture to a flower arrangement and often form the basis of a truly beautiful bouquet. An example of this type of flower would be a hollyhock.
  • A round-shaped flower type: These will be the body of your flower arrangement. You don't need many; round flowers in a bouquet are normally the biggest, best and brightest from your garden. An example of this type of flower would be calla lilies.
  • A lacy or finely-flowered plant, like baby's breath or ferns: These will fill in the spaces in your arrangement and provide a backdrop for showier flowers. An example of this type of flower would be achillea yarrow.

Cutting gardens should be harvested when the flowers are budding, not when they're fully out, or else you'll have droopy arrangements. Cut the stem on a slant, using scissors for softer stems, pruning shears for woodier stems. The best time to cut flowers is in the morning - don't forget to put them directly into water. To keep flowers fresh, cut them again under water and strip off any leaves that will be submerged in the container.

Fragrant Garden

Beauty you can smell as well as see

The most beautiful part of the garden isn't always just the sight of the pretty flowers - other senses take effect when you plant a fragrant flowerbed for all to enjoy. Fragrant flowers don't just smell nice; they also can invoke feelings of peace, excitement or clarity, just to name a few. Aromatherapy is a long-practiced art, and now you can indulge in your favorite floral scents naturally, without having to buy them at a store.

Planning a Fragrant Garden

When you start planning a fragrant garden, you'll need to keep a few things in mind. For one, you'll need to gauge how much wind blows through your space and which direction it tends to come from. If the wind blows your plants' heavy scent directly across your patio or into your neighbor's yard, you might want to consider another spot for your fragrant garden. Scented plants can be wonderful, but if you know that you or someone around you is sensitive to smell, you might want to locate your flowers in a special place that you can visit, as opposed to having a nearby garden that constantly gives off an overpowering perfume.

Consider also what kind of fragrant garden you would like to have. This will depend on when you normally use your garden space. Are you at home more during the day or at night? There's no point in planting a fragrant garden if you're not going to be there during its peak hours.

If you're a daytime gardener, you might want to plant your fragrant garden with plants that do their blooming in the daytime. These include roses, clematis, wisteria, dianthus, lilies, iris, hyacinths and lilac. This way, you can sit in your outdoor room and enjoy the sweet smell of your flowers.

Moon Gardens

If you're home more in the evenings, you might want to consider planting a moon garden, a flowerbed with plants that reflect the light of the moon. These technically include flowers and plants that are white or light-leaved, but they also include those that release their fragrance at night. Many beautiful moths and other insects will be attracted to the night-blooming plants such as Missouri primrose.

Plants that are suitable for a moon garden include moonflowers, angel's trumpets and four o'clocks. These plants, besides being beautiful in the moonlight, also have a beautiful fragrance. Remember - you'll need to give your eyes and senses at least 10 minutes to adjust to the darkness in order to truly appreciate the moon garden.

Plants for Fragrant Gardens

Appreciation of fragrance is subjective, so your selection of fragrant plants will depend on your personal preference. Scents range from sweet and cloying, like that of lilacs, to spicy and musky, like that of sage.

It's not always the flower that the plant's scent emanates from. More often than not, the foliage is the provider of scent. Most herbs, for example, are perfect examples of this. The aroma is even stronger when the leaves are crushed; therefore, these plants are best planted near the edge of a path or walkway. As you walk past, you may crush a portion of the plant, releasing a delicious smell. Don't worry about hurting the plant because most of these foliage plants are hardy enough to withstand some minor abuse. In fact, you can even buy fragrant ground covers that are meant to be planted in between paving stones.

Foliage Garden

More than just a pile of leaves

If you think flowers are pretty but overrated, or if you want to create your own woodland paradise, then a foliage garden is probably the right type of garden for you. More and more people are turning to the beauty, texture and monochromatic tones of a foliage garden. Not only do they create a completely different look to a yard, but they're also perfect for those gardeners who have the time to carefully look after every plant. Foliage gardens work great for yards that are mostly shady during the day and can be a cool haven from the bright color and full sun of a wildflower bed or tropical garden.

Planning a Foliage Garden

A foliage garden isn't set up the same way as a flower garden is; in fact, thinking of your garden as a blank canvas will help you to effectively plan it. In an art painting, there is always a foreground, middle ground and background. Foliage gardens work the same way - there's always an understory, or shade-loving ground cover; a middle story, or average-height grasses and small trees; and an upper story, or shrubs and trees. You can have a running theme through your foliage garden, with similar textures and colors, or you can combine contrasting plants to create a truly interesting garden. With a foliage garden, you can go formal or woodland - it all depends on your tastes.

Why not try a Zen twist in your foliage garden? Many non-flowering plants come from Southeast Asia originally, and a garden planned around Zen principles can be a stunning addition to any yard, especially when paired with an outdoor living room of Asian design. Don't forget to include a garden bench among your foliage so that you can sit in the shade and admire the beautiful textures and tones.

Plants for Foliage Gardens

It can be difficult to know where to start when you're planning a foliage garden. What plants look best together? Which ones will grow in your area? Normally, when you're choosing plants, your local garden center can help you decide what combinations you'd like to see in your yard. You can also read a book about shade-loving plants so that you'll know exactly what will work and what won't.

Shade-loving plants tend to have larger foliage. This is Mother Nature's way of ensuring that the highest amount of chlorophyll is exposed to the sunlight to provide photosynthesis. The flowers of these plants tend to be small and often white or very pale. Some of the most common shade plants for foliage gardens include hostas, ivy, foxgloves, hellebores, ferns and holly.

When creating a foliage garden, try to contrast the different colors, shades, and textures of the foliage to make a tapestry of leaves. Make sure you know what kind of soil, light and wind conditions you have in your preferred space - this will make a difference to your garden.

Butterfly Garden

Attracting colorful insects to your yard

Your garden is a place of peace, splendor and life - why not share it with the wildlife in your area? Butterfly gardens are beautiful places that allow you to commune with nature while still enjoying the color and fragrance of your flowers. Attracting butterflies to your yard won't just give you something pretty to look at; it will also help in the pollination of your garden, and it will provide a home for many of these wonderful insects.

Planning a Butterfly Garden

Butterflies drink only nectar and standing water because their mouth parts are shaped like a tube. Caterpillars have chewing mouth parts, so they'll require foliage to eat during their growing stages. You should aim to have a variety of food and nectar plants in your butterfly garden, as well as a source of standing water, such as a shallow bird bath. Try to anticipate the butterfly's needs throughout all its stages of life, and you'll see the insects fluttering around your garden all season.

Make sure that the butterflies have enough shelter from predators and the weather. You can do this by planting shrubbery or ground cover in your yard. If your yard is exceptionally shady, butterflies probably won't come to visit because they need sunny open spaces in order to revitalize themselves. If your yard is mostly sunny, you can provide some butterfly houses for the insects to shelter in when the weather gets very cold. You can also provide a nectar feeder, but natural food is always best for butterflies.

Flowers for Butterfly Gardens

Butterflies need nectar-producing flowers in order to live. You can provide this basic need by planting:

  • Asters
  • Milkweed
  • Marigold
  • Bee balm
  • Butterfly bush
  • Lilac
  • Verbena
  • Sweet pea
  • Sunflowers

Many of these plants are also quite beautiful and colorful, so you can enjoy them along with the butterflies. Remember, native plants are best for attracting wildlife, and they make an attractive garden, too.

Make sure that you avoid using insecticide - this will severely harm or even kill the butterflies that you're trying to take care of. Even herbicides can hurt butterflies, so if you want to keep them coming to your yard year after year, keep it all-natural.

Formal Garden

A touch of class in the backyard

If you adore the English gardens and French gardens found in castle grounds throughout Europe, or if you are amazed at the symmetry and geometry of Versailles' palace gardens, then you might want to consider adding a formal garden to your own backyard.

Contrary to some belief, formal gardens don't have to be huge, elaborate expanses with lots of elements. They can be simply designed, carefully executed flowerbeds with geometrically cut shrubs and manicured displays of your favorite flowers. Formal gardens allow you to manipulate nature to your specifications and standards of beauty. They're the perfect manifestation of your superb gardening skills because they allow you to have a garden like those found within gardening magazines.

Types of Formal Gardens

The phrase "formal garden" is a blanket term for any garden that has two or more of these features:

  • Water features - be they ponds, waterfalls or fountains
  • Terraces
  • Pergolas
  • Geometric design
  • Symmetry, either in the design of the shrubbery or in the design of the flowerbeds
  • Topiary - many of the best formal gardens have creatively and meticulously manicured topiary animals or figures
  • Bosquets - these are formal plantations of trees, found mostly in castle gardens
English Formal Gardens

These types of gardens are less formal than their cousins of the French Baroque style, but English gardens have several elements that make them part of the formal garden category. The term "English landscape garden" was coined in the 18th century to refer to those gardens designed in the English style.

English formal gardens normally always have a garden pond with a bridge and tend to be built on a grander scale, with focal points in the distance to create a vista. They include a lot of romantic, classical elements, like Palladian pavilions and intricate terraces. They can incorporate any type of plant but are mostly famous for their expansive rose beds and water lilies.

English formal gardens are built to delight the observer and provide interesting surprises for him or her to discover. They can include statuary, but they are more likely to include imitation ruins after the garden fashion of 18th- and 19th-century manors and palaces. You may also find a grotto, or sunken garden, or a sylvan theater, which is an outdoor theater set in a woodland or natural setting.

French Formal Gardens

When one thinks of formal gardens, this type of garden probably comes to mind. French formal gardens have been the gold standard since the time of Louis XIV - the palace gardens of Versailles are some of the world's most beautiful examples of formal gardens. Baroque ornamentation combined with symmetry and order makes these gardens intricate, interesting and ultimately magnificent.

French formal gardens are always known by their geometrically cut shrubbery. Sometimes, they even include mazes cut out of a stand of shrubs or tall hedges. They also include many examples of topiary, either in the form of animals or simply in interesting geometric shapes. These gardens also include a lot of statuary, sometimes designing a garden around a single statue or group of statues.

A parterre is a tightly edged, carefully controlled flowerbed that can include flowers but mostly includes shrubs or hedges. French formal gardens use parterres, or knot gardens, to create the effect of symmetry and design. Many parterres are simply elements of a larger garden blueprint.

Zen Garden

Communing with nature

The Japanese style of gardening is gardening's latest trend, and nowhere do you see it more than in Western Zen gardens. Whether you want to keep exactly to Asian gardening rules or just want to incorporate some Japanese elements into your own garden, you'll get more than just ideas when you start your own Zen garden - you'll learn the Japanese gardening philosophy.

Asian gardens have a running theme of nature. It is a Buddhist belief that experiencing nature can bring one closer to truth. You won't see any Western formal elements in a Zen garden; the garden is made to showcase and work with the scenery that's already present. A single path runs through the whole space, leading the observer to different features and giving him or her a chance to stop, sit and reflect on the work of the gardener, the sounds and sights of nature and the beauty of the natural canvas that the gardener has set before him.

Traditional Zen Gardens

A traditional Zen garden, in its simplest sense, is a "dry" garden. Sand can be used, but if you want to remain canon, then you need to use finely crushed gravel or stone. Large rocks are placed throughout the space in no particular fashion, and the garden is edged with a stone or wooden ledge. The gardener or observer takes a rake and creates patterns around the rocks, finding their own meaning in the designs that they create. Zen gardens can include some statuary - usually a turtle or other good-luck animal that's placed in an inconspicuous place at the side of the garden. Sometimes, stone lanterns are placed among the rocks to light the garden at night.

If you want to create a Japanese garden, then you can use some Zen elements in your planning. Japanese gardens rely on color, texture and shape to convey beauty, but they're never placed in anything other than a natural fashion. If formal gardens utilize symmetry and geometry, showing the manipulation of nature by man, then Zen gardens use asymmetry and flowing shapes to show that nature is king.

You can include a water feature such as a pond, a running stream or even a waterfall, but the water must be as pure as possible - no muddy banks allowed. Bridges, natural stone or wooden, are commonly used to take the viewer through all parts of the garden. Like a foliage garden, a Zen garden uses an under, a middle and a top story to showcase different plants. Sometimes, a pavilion is placed among the plants so that the observer can sit and reflect on the beauty they see.

Japanese Zen is about bringing you closer to nature; therefore, keep nature in mind when you begin your design.

Tropical Garden

When you don't want to beat the heat

Many people in northern North America long to vacation down where tropical gardens reign supreme and the heat makes everyone feel relaxed, but for those who actually live down south, tropical gardens are the norm and creating them can be a lot of fun. What are exotic plants to northerners are plentiful in those hot climates, which makes creating a colorful, varied garden less of a challenge and more of a hobby.

Tropical gardens are lush and beautiful, drinking up the heat and humidity of the southern climate. In fact, they're one of the most beautiful parts of going down south. Flowers are big and colorful; plants have big, distinctive leaves; and combining and contrasting is easy. Tropical gardens are very showy, so they can accent an otherwise nondescript house and property. If you live in a climate where tropical plants only live through the summer, you can make a tropical garden container that will brighten your front stoop or balcony.

Planning a Tropical Garden

If you're in the mood for colorful blooms and variegated foliage, then you need a spot where the light conditions are full to partial sun. Tropical plants also need a lot of water, so if you don't have a good watering system, be prepared to lug a watering can to water your hanging baskets or containers. People in humid climates won't have to worry as much about watering, but if you let a tropical garden get too dry, it will die out. Tropical plants range from palms and cycads through bananas and ginger to fuchsia and bromeliads.

Will Tropical Plants Survive a Winter Indoors?

If you want to preserve your tropical garden, you can try to winter your favorite tropical plants indoors. Not all plants will survive the harsh, dry conditions of a heated house through the winter, but if you have a particularly valuable plant and want to keep it alive, you can try this method. Another option is to bring your tropical plants into the garage or shed. Make sure that you constantly keep the soil moist, or the plant will dehydrate. Take the plants in before the first frost, and see our page on moving houseplants for steps on moving the tropical plant indoors.

Remember, if you take care of your tropical plants, they could last you many seasons. Hey, if you can't go to the tropics, why not bring the tropics to you?

Xeriscaped Garden

A beautiful garden with half the water

For those that live in extremely dry climates, growing a garden that stays alive can be quite a challenge. You're pretty much limited to desert-loving plants, like cactus - and sometimes they're not exactly the look you want to create in your yard. Is there a way to create the garden you want in a place where you have to water almost constantly in order to maintain a lush look?

Xeriscaping is a way to create a beautiful garden utilizing several techniques that will allow you to keep the soil moist and your plants alive for seasons to come.

Principles of Xeriscaping

Xeriscaping is a concept that has grown up over the years since the continent was settled. Because of North America's predominantly European culture, plants that require a lot of water have been brought to this continent and subsequently planted in people's gardens, whether they could withstand the local climate or not. As time has passed, the population in the American Southwest has far outgrown the water resources, and gardens that are water-loving have been forced to languish as the cost of watering ornamental plants has gone up.

The principles of xeriscaping are relatively simple, but you have to combine them in just the right way to get the concept to work for your garden. It's all about balancing resources with the garden's needs and creating a beautiful garden on a budget.

Xeriscaping principles include:
  • Practical turfing - Use grasses and ground cover that won't suck your water supply.
  • Careful landscape planning and design - Don't grow a garden that spans your whole yard if you live in an area where water is expensive.
  • A good irrigation system - If you're concerned about water cost, check with manufacturers for a cheaper option.
  • Soil replacements - Use soil-less mixtures, compost, etc.
  • Mulches - Use these to cool the soil and enrich it with nutrients.
  • Proper plant selection - Grow plants that have a low water requirement.
Plants for Xeriscaped Gardens

Plants that don't need a lot of water work with a xeriscaped garden. These include cacti, succulents, sand verbenas, acacias, agaves, artemisias, bougainvillea, birds of paradise and lantanas. Check with your local garden center to find the best plants for your space - the horticulturalists there can advise you about landscape design and plant combinations.

Rock Garden

Rocks are the focal point

Where's your favorite place to be? Your garden should reflect the places in nature that you love the most. Different gardens will be special to different people, but if you like a more rugged look as opposed to a pretty wildflower meadow, then a rock garden is the right choice for your yard. Rock gardens are reminiscent of mountain scenery; they use rocks and alpine flowers and plants to recreate a space akin to Heidi's mountaintop. If you've got the time and the desire to build your own mountain garden, then you'll enjoy planning a rock garden.

Planning a Rock Garden

Rock gardens have been around since the late 19th century, but British homeowners started the rock garden craze in the 1920s. These gardens work for someone with a small garden space; rock gardens give an impression of height rather than space, so someone with one large rock and a few plants growing around it can still have the illusion of a mountain field in a small corner of their yard. Rock gardens have never gone out of style, and many people will include natural stone in all their garden planning.

To start, you'll need some rocks (obviously). These rocks can be any shape or size, from stones approximately the size of a child's head to large boulders. If you have trouble finding rocks or can't acquire them naturally due to preservation laws, you can find them at a garden center. Beware - you'll need some help to lift the bigger rocks! Sometimes, organizations in your area may sell rocks for charity, so you may be able to purchase them this way, too.

Alpine plants are those that typically grow in the Alps or in other mountainous regions. They normally require very little soil and are hardy, being used to growing in very harsh conditions. They tend to be tiny, but with beautiful blossoms.

These plants include:
  • Bristlecone Pine, the oldest species of pine tree in the world
  • Alpine Phacelia
  • Moss Campion
  • Wild Potato
  • Bear Grass
  • Avalanche Lily
  • Blue Clematis
  • Speedwells
  • Jacob's Ladder
  • Globe Flower
  • Thistles
  • Dogwood
  • Larkspur
  • Scottish Bluebell
  • Purple Loosestrife
  • Spreading Phlox
  • Alpine Asters

Planting them around the rocks or dividing the plants by region to create regional "mountain ranges" often makes your design extremely interesting - especially when you can explain to viewers what "mountains" they're looking at.

Water Garden

For this garden, just add water

Yards that are hard to cultivate or grow lawns over can be extremely uninspiring to the average gardener, who would like to see beautiful flowers and lush foliage. If you're one of these gardeners, why not turn your hard-to-grow yard into a waterscape? Ponds, streams, waterfalls and fountains don't only look absolutely beautiful; they also cool your space during a hot summer and bring a sense of peace through the soft sound of trickling water. Plus, you can have your water and flowers, too - many water plants and flowers look colorful and pretty resting atop your gently swirling ponds.

Planning a Water Garden

If you have an existing pond or waterfall, then you can skip down to the section on which plants to put in. If you don't, then you need to build one. Ponds come in kits with the liner, pump and accessories included, or they can be built from scratch, a sometimes more expensive option. It's always best to have a professional install your pond unless you really know exactly what you're doing - you don't want to end up causing an electrical problem with the pump. If you plan to get fish, these can be bought at any pet store or garden center. For more information on ponds, visit our sister site,*GardenPonds101[http://www.gardenponds101.com].

An important part of having a water garden is to keep the water moving. In fact, this can't be stressed enough. With the threat of West Nile virus all over North America, you can't afford for your pond to be a source of standing water. If you don't want to install a fountain or waterfall, get a water wiggler - these are battery-operated devices that sit on top of the water and create ripples, just enough so that mosquitoes can't breed. This is also important if you have a bird bath in a wildlife garden.

Plants for Water Gardens

Water plants and flowers live off the nutrients that they get from the water, and they can also act as oxygenators for the creatures and other plants in your pond. You can choose from water lilies, lotuses or irises. They'll all provide beautiful color and blossoms in your ponds through the day and close up at night.

Some varieties include:
  • Hardy lilies in different colors
  • Tropical lilies - day-blooming
  • Louisiana irises
  • Lotuses - actually the typical "water lily"
  • Anacharis
  • Duckweed
  • Water hyacinth