How to Design a Garden | Reader Submission

Figuring out how to plan and design a large-scale gardening or landscaping project is a hell of a job. You have to figure in bloom time, heights, color schemes, annuals versus perennials, BI-ennials…one can become paralyzed by the options.

If you have been following along with The Retirement Garden Project, you have read all about how, at 10 months into this project, I have run into a wall. Although many plants already have homes out in the Front Yard Sun Garden, my stumbling block was where the heck to plant everything that is still in a seed packet or started under the grow lights downstairs.

Front Yard Project

This is where we were when we bedded the garden down for the winter.

So I put a call out to the Project Community. And, as happens when you finally get out of your head and open your mouth to ask for help, someone answered. The Fabulous Mrs. Fox, otherwise known as Andrea, answered.

Then she blew my mind into a thin goo. Like a squished slug goo. Or a pile of squished slugs.

This is what she came back with. Color coded by season what?

Mrs. Fox is a gardener with a hell of a lot more experience than I, also living in a place that has all four seasons in spades. Of the “where to plant stuff” challenge and her plan, she says:

I love puzzles! Especially the plant kind, and boy was this a tricky one! After doing a bit of homework on plant height and bloom time I dragged it into Excel and color coded it and everything *blush* wow, so anyways… here’s what I came up with. I color coded for bloom time. Chartreuse is spring, pink is summer, orange is fall and aqua is all three seasons.

This may just be the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. Now I need to make sure that everything will work with sun requirements. In these diagrams, the exposures are as follows:

  • Up: West
  • Down: East
  • Left: South
  • Right: North
There is a giant sycamore on the parkway just below the edge of the diagram and the house continues to run behind the upper right edge. Otherwise there are no other sun obstructions. What do you think, are we going to run into any sun problems?
Andrea's Front Yard Garden Plan

Andrea's Front Yard Plan for The Retirement Garden Project

I have been really meaning to get the Back Yard Shade Garden Master Plan posted, and you can be sure I will be picking Mrs. Fox’s brain even more for that bigger part of the yard. There’s an herb garden back there, part of a vegetable garden and the rest of the flower garden as well.

Be sure to stay tuned this week for a post about how she may have also saved my seedlings. Apparently there was a lot I was doing wrong and the poor things were all weak and spindly.

Project Community Talk

LMTMP-LogoI know I have been talking a lot about this whole Project Community thing lately, and this garden plan was like a sign from the heavens to this agnostic that tells me we are going in the right direction. If this little corner of the interwebs is being visited by people with this level of OCD craftiness, I am doing my job, I am finding a tribe. Not to mention Mrs. Fox and I have a ridiculous amount of things in common.

The only problem with building this sort of community is that many of the kinds of people that would fit so well here are the shy and quiet types (hello!), even sometimes online. I see my Google Analytics numbers, I know how many of you are out there.

So if you have a question or something that’s been on your mind, put it out there! You don’t have to use your real name and nobody but me will see your email (and I won’t tell). You never know who is reading and can help, or who might need your particular brand of crafty or life expertise…

So let’s hear it. Gardening or otherwise, what’s been on your mind?


  1. Andrea says:

    Aww shucks, no need to be so formal Natalie. You can just call me vixen. I am definitely one of the shy ones. I blushed when I read this post.

    • Natalie Webb says:

      We’ll all turn red together then! I have some ginger in my blood, I’m one of y’all. Thanks so much for the plan! I’m dying to show you what I have going for the back yard…