Steele: Winter garden dreaming and scheming

With all your lists in front of you, begin by setting priorities. Your budget may eliminate some ideas.

Winter is a great time to dream and make plans for your landscape.

Over the last few weeks I’ve talked about evaluating your garden’s performance during the past season, things to consider when planning changes to make it more water-wise, and determining what to include in your landscape.

With all your lists in front of you, begin by setting priorities. Your budget may eliminate some ideas.

A scale drawing is helpful to plan how to best fit everything in.

If you have a survey with the footprint of your house on it, copy from that. Mark windows so you know where the views are, and exterior doors for pathway location.

Mark in other structures and significant large features such as trees that you intend to keep.

Then using tracing paper and coloured markers you can make bubble diagrams of where you want to place the things on your list.

You can do a separate layer indicating wind direction, light, good and bad views, etc. to have over the scale drawing and under your bubble drawings.

Keep trying new possibilities on more tracing paper until you get something you like.

Then you can make a working plan—again using tracing paper. This will be more detailed.

For example, the sunny area you designated for a vegetable garden may now be laid out more specifically as raised box beds with areas of fruit trees and berry bushes on the perimeter.

If you have included a flower garden or any other garden with a lot of smaller plant varieties, details of what plants you want where are best drawn up to a larger scale.

There are many landscape design books in the library that explain this process in detail.

Be sure to consider long term costs, factoring in maintenance, water, labour, mulching, and replacement costs for plants that die, etc.

Planning a garden for the long term can save a lot of money.

For example the highest water and maintenance item is the lawn which is mowed and edged weekly.

In contrast, a well-spaced, mulched area of shrubs or ornamental grasses generally requires maintenance once a year.

Following the Seven Principles of Xeriscape is an excellent way to create a long-lasting, economical and beautiful landscape.

This will reduce water use and can eliminate chemical and pesticide use.

Far less time will be spent mowing, trimming, weeding and watering.

Plants are in their ideal conditions so they thrive.

They are spaced so they can grow to mature size and not need constant pruning.

There are many resources at our website to help you plan your sustainable landscape.

To avoid being overwhelmed, start small—either in the area that bothers you most or what will give the most pleasure.

The value of your home will be increased with an attractive, water-conserving landscape.


Gwen Steele is executive director of the non-profit Okanagan Xeriscape Association. Learn more about Gardening with Nature and plants for the Okanagan on the association’s website.

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