The key is not to feel overwhelmed or intimidated by what is growing on in your outdoor spaces. Especially if a yard has been neglected for a length of time, the confusion and profusion of plants can be daunting. It is obvious that the garden needs putting in order, but anything but obvious where to start. “Weeding” doesn’t begin to cover it! Actually this starting position is not as problematic as it might seem. The key is to look attentively at what is actually there: are there shrubs, trees, perennials that you might want to see more clearly? Are there obvious weeds that are choking more desirable plants? And then just start with the most obvious. The guide should be your desire to enjoy particular plants (for their shape, leaves, blooms, fall colour, bark). Any change you make that increases your satisfaction is a successful gardening action. It really doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks about it. The only risk is that you lose a plant that you later wish you had. But most plants can be readily replaced; the exception are larger established shrubs or trees, so consider carefully before you remove them. While you can usually buy replacements, these will often take years – and in the case of trees, decades – to reach their mature size. Make other changes first so that you can assess the situation more clearly.
If you can’t decide whether plants should be kept, cut back, or ripped out altogether, get a friend who gardens to take a look, or hire a gardener to give you an assessment of what you’ve got in your yard. On an initial free consultation, I can identify and label your plants, make some suggestions about what to keep and how to move toward having the garden you want. My goal is to have you feel excited about the potential in your yard, especially when you are seeing mostly the problems. I haven’t seen any yards that don’t stimulate my imagination of what the garden could be. The next step I recommend is to look at lots of pictures of gardens, in books, garden magazines or online. Images of gardens in similar climates to our own will be most helpful, but this need not be the main criterion in your exploration of garden styles. What appeals to you? What seems like a direction that your garden could move toward? As well, consider the ways in which you would like your garden to function: do you want an eating area? A place to sit and do nothing? or to work? Do you need screening from neighbours/unsightly views/other intrusions? Do you need utility areas (for compost, water/rain barrel, garbage bins)? These should be extremely convenient: it is hard to overestimate the importance of having these amenities as easy to use as possible.