It’s more than just dimensions and features

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A garden is a paradise; somewhere to sit and dream that feels safe and welcoming; a wildlife sanctuary and a place to recharge your batteries and soul.


My dreams of how to plan a garden almost always take place in the winter.  That’s when I am forced to slow down and really look at how my garden works.

Sometimes, it’s not obvious with all the green growing plants in place; you can only see where you can improve the design of a garden in the winter when the leaves are off the trees, and the sun shines brightly, revealing all the flaws. 

The bones of a garden are most easily seen then.

I do my best thinking gazing into a bonfire; this is when the ideas flow and thoughts are free to wander through my mind.

In some cases, my best successes have been almost magically produced, with an accidental discovery or a sudden revelation. 

My Winter Comfort Zone consists of a bonfire, sketch pad, and cozy blankets…

Many times, one great idea hinges on the ones that have gone before, with a serendipitous and often mind blowing leap of intuition.  I call this ‘designing by the seat of the pants’, and I doubt if it’s a recommended method, or taught in higher education.

If you’re trying to figure out how to plan your garden, you need to look deeper, and figure out what you really want from your garden. 

It’s also important to recognize what the feeling your garden will evoke in you and in your visitor.  Should your garden be a peaceful and tranquil sanctuary?  Or a bustling and energetic place, designed to tease and entice the visitor to explore?


Planning a garden can be done on paper, with every measurement accurate, and every path, folly, gazebo and wall accounted for. 

If you’re like me, this part never seems to match up with the actual garden. 

Ideas come to me while I’m building a patio, or planting a shrub and the plan can change on a whim.  Don’t be afraid to let your garden design itself.


Many of my xeric gardens are pretty much left to their own devices; once they’re built and planted, the bulbs, perennials and succulents have to fight it out amongst themselves – only the strong survive, and it’s survival of the fittest for that particular spot, whether it’s sunny and hot, or shaded. 

Many plants, like the ones in the picture above are happier in a slightly shaded area in the heat of the day – they can take sun if they’re well watered, but in drought they prefer shaded afternoons.

Planting them among rocks and near rock walls helps them to survive long dry spells; the tiny amount of moisture that collects under the stones is enough.

See more compatible hardy succulents for your xeriscaping:

Whether you’re seeking the odd and unusual, or something reliable and classic, this list will give you some great choices; click on the plant:


If this is your year for growing a fabulous garden, don’t let anything stop you; a tiny budget, no water, little time to garden; all these things can be overcome and you will never look back once you’re enjoying your oasis.