Re-engineering is a popular buzz word today. Corporations use it to describe changes they are making in their market focus or their corporate structure. Basically, it means taking a look at where you are and reassessing what you can do to capitalize on what you have. And what holds true for established corporations surprisingly holds true for the established home garden.
As landscape matures, things change. Trees get taller and cast deeper shade, bushes outgrow their original compactness and places in the garden. People's lifestyles change, and that area given over to a sandbox or a swing set may no longer be needed. Or you may have purchased an older home with mature plantings that no longer work, or at least they don't satisfy you. The time comes in almost every landscape plan when "re-engineering" is the way to go.
To start re-engineering a garden you have to take a hard, honest look at what you have. Because changes in the garden can happen subtly over years, you might overlook the obvious, such as an increase in shade or a physical change in your garden. For example, maybe you added a deck and now traffic patterns have changed, or you took down the swing set and the focal point of your garden is now in the wrong place, etc. Pretend you are the new owner of the house and garden you are surveying, and look at it with as much objectivity as you can.
A Fresh Look
Is there an orderly look to your garden, or has it just "happened" over time? Even "natural" gardens have a plan behind them that keeps them looking natural instead of wild. If there hasn't been a plan, this the place to start. Depending on the size of your garden and how elaborate you want to make it, you can plan it yourself or call on professional help. Even if you call on a professional, do have some plan in mind as to what you want your garden to ultimately look like. Take one area at a time and think about how you want that to look, and then move on to the next area. If your garden doesn't naturally break into "areas," think about creating them by varying garden bed sizes, shapes and what plants they will contain. You may want to add a garden bed or two, or take some beds out.
Back to the Drawing Board
A planned garden doesn't have to happen all at once. If you develop an overall plan, you can work on one or two areas at a time, and save work on other areas for later in the year or even until the next season or two.
In evaluating your existing garden, you may find that some plants don't perform as well as they used to. It could be that they need more light. Consider moving these to another area of the garden and finding new shade tolerant plants to replace them. Begonias, impatiens and other shade tolerant plants can give a bright show of color where petunias no longer perform well.
Dealing with Shade
If you are uncertain about how well a plant will perform in a problem area, plant one or two plants of the types you would like there (in the ground or in a container) and test them for one season. Next time around, plant more of those that did well, and test some others for future plantings. Many gardeners annually try out "new" plants on a small scale before really committing any amount of time or money to them.
Solving more site problems in your garden makeover.