As a professional landscape designer, I have written several articles and posts about how important it is to prepare a plan before you create and build your landscape and garden areas.  But do we, as designers follow our own advice?

What I mean by a plan is something mapped out on paper or computer. After all, that’s how I was taught in school and it is also the way I operate in my life. I am a planner type personality — not at all a spontaneous; shoot from the hip type of person. So preparing a master plan for a landscape from a big picture perspective comes natural for me.

When I cruise through neighborhoods, checking out everybody’s front yard, it is frustrating to see so many landscapes that are obviously unplanned or simply poorly designed. Plants are placed in the wrong places, typically overgrown for the space, a hodgepodge of species, or a complete disregard for any sense of design at all. You’ve seen it, that barren desert look with all gravel and maybe a few shrubs that can survive without an irrigation system.

What about my own yard? As a professional designer, should my yard be the best on the block? Clients will often remark, “I bet you have a beautiful yard”. Well, truth is, I did in the past, but not in my current residence. I have only been in it for 3 years and am dealing with all the previous owner’s poor plant choices, overgrown natives and other design issues.

I did prepare a plan of the entire yard when I was thinking of building a koi pond, a perimeter wall, a spiral staircase and other projects that could not be easily designed in my mind by simply visualizing them on the spot and building them. Items involving hardscape, electrical, plumbing, grading and elevation issues are best put on paper. In fact, for certain items, I am better working from a plan view perspective than 3D in the space itself.

What has evolved over time is that I stopped designing anything on paper and have designed everything so far based on simply being in the spaces and pondering various design ideas over time. Living in the space allows me to do that, something I cannot do for my clients.

I have a collection of sorts of Buddha statues spread around the yard. I brought these from my previous house and have found suitable spots. They are  not oversized statues and so I have placed all of them on some kind of raised platform or pedestal in order to make them more in scale with the surroundings. I also have accumulated more and more bamboo, some in the ground and some in containers. Much of the yard is in a natural state with local species of Juniper trees, Pinon Pines, Manzanita and scrub oak. An Asian feel blends well with the natural surroundings.

I do have a couple of Celtic items though, a 5 foot tall Celtic cross and a couple of gargoyles although there is no semblance of an Old World or Medieval style around the landscape. The cross fell over the other day when the support brace broke. I repaired it and decided to relocate it to a suitable spot in the yard so we could enjoy it more than where it had been.

It was a hard decision, choosing a spot without having thought about it before. Just the kind of mistake people make when they don’t have a plan. Everywhere I considered placing it; you could see something Asian and mixing these two styles just didn’t sit well with me.

The good thing about accessories and pots is you can rearrange them as your design ideas evolve.

I ended up placing in next to a grouping of pots on my deck and although another Buddha is within view, it is separated enough to justify. In design terminology, this is often called an eclectic style.

My own yard is a work in progress. I am continually walking through each space considering how I can enhance the overall function and feel. Just as the spaces change over the seasons, my thoughts evolve as I become more and more attuned with the yard, the light, the plants, the views and my needs. Usually I end up doing nothing as it seems I enjoy the process of designing in my mind until I come up with an ideal concept. Things change and so I allow this process to happen before I act upon my ideas and start any kind of construction or rearranging.

So there is a kind of plan, it’s just not something I need to put on paper. I am able to visualize my plan in my head, take my time and allow things to change. That is the pleasure of not following a plan. Nothing is set in granite and design ideas are as fluid as my thoughts.

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