Tom Karwin, On Gardening | Continuing with landscape design – Santa Cruz Sentinel

In our latest column, we focused on introducing garden development. This can be done in a timely manner in early winter.

You can download this column from the Sentinel archive:

As I outlined in that column, if you are going through the early stages of garden development, you should include (a) an annotated scale map of the area to be developed, and (b) the plants and structures you choose to keep (but not those). is obtained. (c) plans for the overall layout of the yard; (d) new walkways or other hardscape required for the new layout;

Congratulations. That took more work than reading my column!

The next part of the garden development process involves landscape design and plant selection.

Before tackling these topics, please note that today’s photos are not meant to represent aspects of garden development. Illustrative photographs are irrelevant, as they involve personal tastes and aesthetic approaches. Reading magazines and books, and searching the Internet for ideas and inspiration can help.

With all that in mind, today’s photo is a seasonal view of the garden. It portends some winter flowers and some spring flowers.

Anemone Seedhead Anemone (Anemone hupehensis) produces attractive fluffy seedheads that birds use in their nests. An example of this is the pink hybrid “Alice”. (Tom Curwin)

Let’s get back to the garden development process.

First, let’s recognize that both garden layout (discussed above) and landscape design involve aesthetic choices as well as practical considerations. Here we treat garden layout as the preliminary stage of garden design, dealing with the size and shape of garden beds, walkways between those beds, and other hardscape features. The next stage in landscape design deals with the spatial relationships of plants.

The third stage is the selection of the plants that will be explored next.

While we may discuss these topics separately, they are intertwined and garden developers should keep them all in mind and switch focus when necessary.

landscape design

If you are developing multiple garden beds, you can have different designs in mind for each bed. For current purposes, beds intended for edible gardening are outside the scope of today’s column. We only deal with decorative landscapes.

This low-growing shrub (Grevillea lanigera "coastal gem") blooms in clusters of pinkish-red and cream flowers from winter to spring.  (Tom Curwin)
This short shrub (Grevillea lanigera “Coastal Gem”) has dense pinkish-red and cream flowers from winter to spring. (Tom Curwin)

The design process may start with planning the view (the area you want to see) and the screen (the area you don’t want to see).

You can see all the gardens, but there may be some that are of particular interest. Make a list of areas you would like to see in particular, areas that you would like to incorporate into your landscape design. These include areas visible from within the residence, near patios and decks, or other selected locations within the garden layout.

Also, consider “borrowed landscapes,” or attractive views outside your garden near or far. Plan your landscape so that these areas are visible and may even be surrounded by garden plants.

Then list the areas you want to be less noticeable. Possibilities within the yard may include trash storage areas, air conditioners or generators, yard work areas, pet enclosures, and more. Such areas can be shielded from view with well-placed shrubs or trees and made practically accessible.

White Australian Fuchsia (Correa "ivory bell") produces drooping, bell-shaped flowers from winter to spring.  (Tom Curwin)
White Australian fuchsia (Correa “Ivory Bells”) has drooping bell-shaped flowers from winter to spring. (Tom Curwin)

Identify the “borrowed scenery” that you don’t want to show. These may include utilities, industrial facilities, or neighboring properties that may be blocked by fences, tall shrubs or trees. Screening decisions should protect the aesthetics of landscape design and should not discourage community contact or support seclusion.

Landscape design can be based on any of the recognized garden styles, including traditional, formal, regional, naturalistic, and ecological. Adopting a particular style in a landscape can bring the challenges and satisfactions of implementing that style and the distinct character of the landscape. .

Various styles are described in garden books and magazines. We can’t include such descriptions in this column, but interested gardeners have quick access to online descriptions of the various styles: a Google search for “garden style” will find a huge number of his websites. is displayed. One example is, which outlines his four broad categories of garden styles.

A short list of landscaping rules can guide plant placement while categorizing the many possibilities for garden layout and garden style.

• Rule 1: Determine the mature size of the plant before planting it in the garden.

• Rule 2: Leave space for plants to avoid interference with adjacent plants or walkways.

• Rule 3: Place taller plants behind or in the middle of garden beds so that shorter plants are visible.

Record your landscape design on a drawing of your garden layout, showing individual plants labeled with their categories, such as ground cover, small shrubs, large shrubs, vines, small trees, and large trees. These labels can be your own sketches, or if you have digital graphics skills, you can use botanical symbols available on the internet. For example:

This exercise will focus on the type and number of plants included in the design, rather than the specific plant selections that will be covered in future columns.

Enjoy your garden!

Tom Karwin is Past President of the Friends of UC Santa Cruz Arboretum and the Monterey Bay Iris Society and Past President and Life Member of Monterey Bay Area Cactus & Co. Juicy Society, and Lifetime UC Master Gardener (certified 1999–2009). He is currently a board member of the Santa Cruz Hostel Society and active in the Pacific Horticultural Society. To see daily photos from his garden visit
566511763375123/. For garden coaching information and an archive of previous On Gardening columns, visit

This Australian shrub (Grevillea "kings celebration") grows 5 to 6 feet tall and 6 to 8 feet wide and has spider-like flowers. It is a multi-stage hybrid of selected Grevillea species.  (Tom Curwin)
This Australian shrub (Grevillea “Kings Celebration”) grows 5 to 6 feet tall and 6 to 8 feet wide and has spider-like flowers. It is a multi-stage hybrid of selected Grevillea species. (Tom Curwin)

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