Getting Started-Placement & Plants

Photo Credit: Kathy Diemer

Picking a Spot:

The first step in creating your garden is selecting a place to plant it.  Generally speaking, the best places to install a garden is in the area(s) most traveled and viewed.  For example: along walkways or driveways, next to patios or pools, by an entrance (foundation planting) or at a property line to add privacy.

I always recommend starting small, as you can always add on later.  Most of my gardens have been started this way.  I mark out the area I want to plant and then dig out by hand any weeds or grass.  Although this is the most labor intensive way to do it, it seems to work the best for preventing future weed invasions.

I usually add organic compost to a new bed because it helps retain moisture and provides nutrients for the soil.  You can do this by spreading a thin layer on top of the area (follow instructions on bag) and use a shovel or fork to work the compost into the soil. Once this is complete, add a heavy (3 – 4 inch) layer of mulch to prevent any weed seeds from planting themselves in your inviting new area.

Note:  The mulch decomposes each year, so you no longer have to amend the soil with compost.

Selecting Plants:

This is where developing a relationship with a local nursery comes in.  They will be the best resource for guiding you to the most appropriate plant material for your location.  First, you will need to determine what your sun exposure is to provide the best climate for your garden to thrive in.  Full sun is considered 6 or more hours per day and shade is considered 6 and under.  That said, it’s a grey area.  If your 5 hours of sun is at the hottest time of day, most shade plants will not tolerate that.  Opposite for sun lovers, they prefer the stronger later day exposure.  As with everything pertaining to gardening life, you will have to experiment to see what does best in your conditions.  I constantly challenge the rules, sometimes planting shade lovers in more sunny sites.  As long as the soil remains moist in that particular area, I can get away with it.

If you plant near an area that will be in close proximity, I recommend choosing at least one fragrant plant or shrub! Viburnums and dwarf lilacs are just a few choices for this and you can under plant them with later blooming lilies.  See my article about fragrant plants:  for more suggestions and design ideas.

To ensure that your garden is easier to care for, plant shrubs or small trees first and then add a few perennials to fill in as needed.  The shrubs will add structure and texture for all seasons and will require minimal maintenance once established. Consider selecting plants with delicate foliage for closer viewing and more dramatic textures and colors for the distant garden.

Remember to think about height when planting.  If you want to create privacy use taller shrubs.  If you want a garden that you can view over, make sure you plant dwarf shrubs that won’t get too tall.

Note:  I prune most of my shrubs annually to keep them neat and prevent them from muscling in on each other.



  1. Lorraine says:

    Kathy is my sister-in-law and the inspiration to my becoming a crazy gardner. I am clearly a novice compared to her, but one can dream!! For years, while visiting my mother in CT, I secretly tried to plan my scape to Sherman to go see this beautiful garden. It was a delight no matter what season, and I must say that I truly miss the seasonal treat of pulling up to their driveway in the summer to see it in all of its glory. My son Jack compares all gardens to Aunt Kathy’s. One time at the NY Botanical Garden, he asked me if the gardens there were as nice as Aunt Kathy’s. I told him Aunt Kathy’s were pretty close!! Even though Kathy has a love-hate relationship with garden tours, any one who considers themselves as avid gardener needs to see this beautiful garden in bloom. I promise you will go home and start digging up and moving all of your plants, trying to duplicate the beauty that you just saw in this incredible garden.

    • Thank you for your kind words! At least you’ll be able to keep up with my garden, despite the distance. I’ll be putting on new pix & text twice a week. Love to you all~

  2. Kathy…your gardens were glorious so many years ago, i can only imagine how delightful a stroll through them must be now!!! i can only wish i had such a Green Thumb as you…your dedication and love shines ever so brightly! xo

    • Thank you, Carol! I would love to have you visit if you’re ever in the area! Please stay in touch. XO~Kathy

  3. Kathy, Those of us that were privileged to see your beautiful garden this year, were thrilled with how you had transformed previous farm land into fascinating little islands of texture, colors and varieties which also surprised and enlarged our concept of plant combinations, We felt like we had been transported to a gardeners wonderland and conjured up how we could bring some of the charm of your garden home to our own. You are an artist as well as a fine gardener. Thank you for sharing your garden in this blog. Sherry

    • I truly appreciate your comments, Sherry. My wish is to inspire others and I’m so glad that you went home with lots of new ideas. Please keep visiting my blog and pass it on to your gardening friends! All the best, Kathy

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